Happy Seventh Wedding Anniversary – PXL Short
Today, I’d like to share a short story about love and finding the right person. Today, I celebrate my 7th anniversary with Debra, my wife, and best friend. I consider myself a very happy man and have had an incredible life and career doing what I love.
I have known Debra for around 13 years and we have a relationship that grew slowly as we got to know each other. I was very busy with workshops that put me on the road for nearly two weeks or more every month, and it was a challenge to get to know her under such conditions. But time moved forward, and eventually, I took her on a workshop or two. Our first one was a glorious trip to Death Valley.
A little over seven years ago, we were sitting at the dinner table and it surprised me she didn’t have a passport. It turns out she was born in Germany at a military hospital. Both of her parents were in the military and somewhere along the line, they had lost Debra’s birth records. So, she never applied for a passport as there was no need and it would be pretty difficult to get the papers.
So, at the dinner table that night, I told her that if she got a passport, I’d take her to Antarctica and marry her. It was just one of those things that you blurt out in life and think nothing more of it.
A few months later, at the same table, she slid an envelope across the table. Lo and behold, there was a passport inside. Debra, being Debra, jumped through hoops and all sorts of bureaucracy to get the documents and the passport. Wow, this was great.
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I now realized I had made a promise, and I intended to keep it and make it one of the most incredible weddings I could think of. I had a friend in town, Nancy of Nan Design, who is a very creative jeweler. I went to her with sketches and photographs of the rings I wanted her to design and create for us. Keep in mind that Debra knew nothing about this. I just didn’t want to shop at a jewelry store.
I asked Nancy to design my ring to represent the face of a glacier. Debra’s ring was a little more complicated as I wanted the engagement ring to be a separate ring that interlocks with the wedding ring. One would be yellow gold and the other white gold. To make the ring really special, I also wanted it to represent an iceberg. Nancy figured a way to use a raw uncut diamond and mount it such that it looked like an iceberg. She did an incredible job doing just that.
All of this time, Debra did not know what I was doing. I now had the rings, and I needed an occasion to finally pop the question. I had dinner one night with Debra’s dad and asked him for permission (I’m old -fashioned, I know) and he just kind of laughed at me. He was that way about these things, so I took the laugh as his blessing to pop the question.
At an extended family’s Thanksgiving gathering in 2014, I got on my knee and in front of the whole family, asked Debra to marry me. Of course, she said yes, and it was all fun after that. I was so relieved I went and had a second helping of Thanksgiving dinner. Any guy who has proposed before knows how nervous they are walking around with a ring in their pocket ready to pop the question.
We set a rough date for an Antarctica workshop in February 2015. Somewhere on that trip, we would find the right place and hold a wedding ceremony on the continent. Rockhopper Workshops was running a workshop for this trip and we sold out the entire ship, so we had 60-plus photographers, many of them close friends. The captain was going to officiate the ceremony and the expedition team would select the location.
The location was finally determined to be Neko Harbor on the continent. The weather forecast looked great and everyone was excited. On February 4th, the women on the ship took over the observation lounge, and the men headed to the rear lounge and the bachelor and bachelorette parties got underway. The parties were rather mild but a lot of fun. The whole ship’s crew and expedition were part of it — the trip was kind of like one big party the whole time.
Everyone on board was dedicated and passionate about photography and we were seeing and photographing some pretty cool locations. There was a great vibe going through the ship. The Antarctica 21 team decorated a couple of Zodiac boats with flowers and bunting and on the morning of February 5th, 2015, the ship commenced landing procedures for an onshore wedding.
Once everyone was on shore, it was time for the men to leave. Michael Reichmann, my best man; Christian Fletcher, the ring bearer; Art Wolfe, my other best man; and the ship’s captain loaded onto a Zodiac boat and headed to shore. There, we waited for the bride. Debra got her own Zodiac with Jackie Ranken, the maid of honor, and joined us. While they were on their way in, a whale started to follow alongside. I’m telling you, it was pretty magical and a good sign. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
Debra was escorted onshore by Morten Jorgensen, the expedition leader for this trip and he presented her to me. All of the guys wore bow ties and Debra was dressed in a tutu. The ship’s captain performed a really nice service with penguins walking and chirping in front of us. When it came time to put on the rings, our ring bearer managed to drop the rings onto penguin poop-covered ground. The poop was pretty extensive and we had a good laugh. However, I would strongly suggest that if you need a ring bearer, you look for someone else other than Christian Fletcher. He’s a helluva photographer and friend but not a very good ring bearer.
Art Wolfe was great as he went around to all the ship’s bathrooms, gathering the silk flowers in each bathroom. He made a beautiful bouquet, only as Art could. After the ceremony was over and as we were being introduced as man and wife, the entire mountain behind us had a giant avalanche. It was incredible as the side of the mountain went sliding into the sea. You had to wonder if there was divine intervention. That was a sight one doesn’t forget.
After a bouquet toss, Debra and I had a three-hour private Zodiac cruise deep into Neko Harbor with our Russian friend and extreme Zodiac driver Ruslan Eliseev. Ruslan is not only an amazing photographer but an amazing Zodiac driver. For hours, we went all over this amazing bay and saw whales, leopard seals, penguins and so much more. We drank champagne and had the time of our life. Ruslan even found us a piece of ice with a heart in it. (So romantic).
We returned to the ship for a luncheon reception put on by the crew of the Ocean Nova. It was an amazing lunch with a cool cake. They all came out with musical instruments and played Filipino songs for us.
You just can’t make this up. The crew of the Ocean Nova, the expedition staff who are now close friends, Antarctica 21 who made it happen and all the folks on board made this a day that will always be in my mind and heart. It was the best day of Debra’s and my life.
Tonight, Debra and I will go out for a quiet dinner and reflect on the last six years together as husband and wife. This website and so much more wouldn’t have happened without her support and love. Every day is fun with her and we are having new adventures all the time. We have a dog and four cats who make up a big part of our family and a giant community of photographer friends around the world. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Thanks for allowing me to share this with you. Please consider joining one of our Antarctica trips. We have one in February 2023 and are planning a big one for November 2024. And a final thank you to Debra for getting me. She understands what makes me tick and puts up with all my craziness. She’s the best!
Just One More Thing
Upon our return, we visited the courthouse to file the papers and get our marriage certificate, and our papers were rejected. Turns out a wedding performed in Antarctica by a Finish ship’s captain that wasn’t ordained in Indiana wouldn’t be accepted. Turns out that Debra’s mom knew a Quaker Minister who said for breakfast he would sign the papers. We met him at a Bob Evans restaurant and bought him a big breakfast. He then took us out in the lobby of the restaurant and did his thing and signed the papers. Below is our true official wedding photo of Debra and I at Bob Evans restaurant. Like I have said before you can’t make this stuff up.
Photography is my passion and has been for 50 plus years. My career in photography has allowed me to travel the world, meet some of the most interesting people on the planet and see things I could never have dreamed of. My goal is to share the passion of picture taking through photographs and teaching with as many people as I can, hoping it brings them as much joy and happiness as it has me. I do this through photoPXL.com, this site, as well as Rockhopper Workshops, and other projects, as well as teaching as Artist In Residence at the Indianapolis Art Center.