On October 4th, 2011, Ronn, on his way home from a late night editing session at his studio in Ester, Alaska, captured this photo in the early morning hours. He passed by the location then decided to return and make the image as it had been stuck in his head for years. He then posted it to Spaceweather.com.
This is where Marketa, who was half the world away in Iceland at the time, spotted the photo and with a little searching made another Aurora friend on Facebook. The two of them had occasional conversations about the Aurora conditions on other sides of the world and complimented each other on beautiful Aurora photos but didn't interact a lot until Marketa came to Fairbanks to see the Northern Lights.
Marketa didn't announce that she was coming and Ronn was left to discover it when he saw Marketa's post on Facebook talking about what an amazing concert she'd attended. "Wait, what!?" he thought to himself, "Those guys just played here last night. She must be visiting Fairbanks." Sure enough, after a conversation he discovered that Marketa was indeed here. Always excited to meet new people from other places and cultures, especially someone who'd seen Aurora in other parts of the world, Ronn excitedly invited Marketa to join him for coffee or an Aurora outing. He must have been a bit too eager because Marketa politely declined, multiple times... Eventually, she finally agreed to venture out and chase the lights with him and colleague Casey Thompson.
They met at the bottom of Ester Dome and after a brief interaction, all three drove to the top of the dome to find the Aurora. Once there, everyone unpacked and Casey led the way as Ronn and Marketa walked side by side talking about the differences and similarities of shooting conditions in Fairbanks vs Iceland and about her Czech background. Ronn mentioned that he knew a bit of the language but noted that the only words he knew shouldn't be said in front of a lady. They both giggled about it as the strolled down the hill as Marketa taught Ronn a few nice words to say. Though the two wouldn't admit it to themselves or one another for some time, Casey later said, "I never believed in love at first sight until I saw the two of you meet." It turns out, he was quite right.
The two of them continued to photograph Aurora together throughout the season, neither one admitting to the other how they felt. Neither was in any position to pursue a relationship, but as it were, Lady Aurora had other plans. Eventually their bond became too strong to ignore and they were nearly inseparable. They tried to stay away but always to no avail.
One night, while Ronn was deciding to take an early night at home since clouds had taken over the night sky. Marketa sent him a text explaining that he simply must come out and photograph with her because she had finally brought the cocoa and Bailey's. He’d always teased her about it being her turn to bring the warm drinks and nothing is better on a cold winter night than Hot Cocoa and Bailey’s. Left with no other choice, Ronn ventured out to spend the evening photographing Christmas lights at Pioneer Park and occasionally sipping spiked Hot Cocoa. Despite the obvious affection they felt for each other, still nothing was said and the tension kept building.
In mid December, while attempting to photograph the lunar eclipse at the Parks Monument above town, they waited patiently in the vehicle for the clouds to clear. Ronn decided that Angus (his Black Lab companion) needed a bathroom break and stepped outside to throw snowballs for Angus to chase. Marketa, seeing her opportunity, jumped out of the truck and began lobbing snowballs at Ronn. Not willing to miss an opportunity himself, Ronn grabbed a handful of snow and chased her giggling until he caught up with her. When he did, he grabbed her, rubbed the snow in her face and the two found themselves embraced. Finally able to breathe, they stood holding one another tightly for an eternity neither able to let go now that contact had finally been made.
Against all odds and against all the reasons they had to stay separated, the two simply could not. They spent every possible moment together sharing music, stories, stares, kisses and of course Aurora together. They had finally each found the other soul whose edges matched up perfectly with their own. And so, they began to defy all odds, social rules and logic, and begin building life together.
Armed with a Sapphire Ring (Marketa's favorite stone) in his pocket and a few songs they'd fallen in love over loaded on the iPod, Ronn drove Marketa to the top of the Parks Monument where they'd first confessed their love to one another and after a slow dance he confessed his desire to spend his life with her. Fortunately, this time she did not decline and they began to plan a wedding that would manifest to fit perfectly into their story.
In true fashion to their origins, the two decided that to make it their wedding, Aurora most certainly must be involved. They decided that because they wanted to get married underneath the Northern Lights, they would get married on the first good Aurora night after mid October. This meant setting an exact date would be impossible but they were willing to make it work. They created a Facebook event for all their local friends (most of whom were fellow Aurora Chasers and understood the insane idea) so they could alert folks with as much notice as possible when the event would take place.
They asked Casey, the friend who had been with them when they met, to be there wedding officiate. You see, in Alaska, you can have a friend commissioned by the state to marry you. The only catch, the court needs a date! When planning your wedding around the Aurora, setting a date is impractical. After much discussion with several of the court clerks, it was decided that to be legal, Casey would simply have to be recommissioned every single day until The Lights came out and the marriage could take place. Ronn and Marketa went back to the court house every day for almost 2 weeks to file the paperwork. The last week of which they started to commission Casey for the following day as this would give them from midnight to the following midnight.
The lack of Aurora wasn’t entirely negative. In fact, it left them extra time to consider options for the ceremony. They talked about the possibility of having their wedding in front of the Aurora Camera at Poker Flat Research Range so that family and friends around the world who weren't able to physically be there, could still attend. It would be a challenge but they had some amazing friends who might be able to help make this dream a reality. They contacted Dr. Neal Brown, friend, Aurora expert, rocket scientist, mentor and former director of Poker Flat to inquire about the possibilities of making this happen. A few days later, through Neal’s incredible graciousness, they were granted access to the building where the Aurora Cam is housed to have their wedding.
With this amazing blessing and still no Aurora, they finally decided that it was time to have a wedding, with or without the Northern Lights. On October 24th, 2012 they put out the word that it was go time. After Ronn finished teaching his night class, he stopped by Safeway for some flowers for Diana, his soon-to-be daughter, to arrange into a beautiful bouquet for her mother. They then rallied everyone to the meeting spot at a local grocery store parking lot and together a small group of close friends composed of mostly Aurora Chasers took the 30 mile trek to Poker Flat.
Unfortunately, upon arrival shortly before midnight, the Aurora was still nowhere to be found and the forecast didn't look any better. Determined to make the most of things and be happy for each other, Ronn and Marketa got ready anyway. As Marketa went inside to get dressed, Ronn began unpacking camera gear. He set up a tripod and looked out into the dark sky and was surprised to see a familiar, faint glow low on the horizon. Within minutes, the sky lit up with the magical dance of the Aurora as if someone had flipped a switch. And so despite the temps reaching -10ºF, shortly after midnight the ceremony commenced. After being pronounced by Casey, the two had their first kiss as Husband and Wife beneath the exact enchanting force that had brought them together. Many beautiful photos were created and then it was time to warm up inside for a few minutes. Ronn surprised Marketa with a toast over Hot Cocoa that friends had stopped for and Bailey's that he'd slipped into his camera bag since it was his turn to bring the drinks.
They spent the evening with good friends beneath the Northern Lights photographing the amazing show and have been doing the same ever since.
Courtesy of KTUU.com
Live Aurora Cam Wedding
Thank you for throwing snow at me that night my love. I'll forever cherish that moment and every moment with you since.