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  1. Photochemistry powers numerous processes from luminescence and human vision, to light harvesting. However, the elucidation of multidimensional photochemical reaction coordinates on molecular timescales remains challenging. We developed wavelength-tunable femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy to simultaneously achieve pre-resonance enhancement for transient reactant and product species of the widely used photoacid pyranine undergoing excited-state proton transfer (ESPT) reaction in solution. In the low-frequency region, the 280 cm −1 ring deformation mode following 400 nm photoexcitation exhibits pronounced intensity oscillations on the sub-picosecond timescale due to anharmonic vibrational coupling to the 180 cm −1 hydrogen-bond stretching mode only in ESPT-capable solvents, indicating a primary event of functional relevance. This leads to the contact ion pair formation on the 3 ps timescale before diffusion-controlled separation. The intermolecular 180 cm −1 mode also reveals vibrational cooling time constants, ∼500 fs and 45 ps in both H 2 O and D 2 O, which differ from ESPT time constants of ∼3/8 and 90/250 ps in H 2 O/D 2 O, respectively. Spectral results using H 2 18 O further substantiate the functional role of the intermolecular 180 cm −1 mode in modulating the distance between proton donor and acceptor and forming the transient ion pair. The direct observation of molecular structural evolution across a wide spectral region during photochemical reactions enriches our fundamental understanding of potential energy surface and holds the key to advancing energy and biological sciences with exceptional atomic and temporal precision. 
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