It was to be the wedding Katie Ferland dreamed of for more than a year — set to the backdrop of mountains and vineyards on a picture perfect autumn day in the California wine country.
And strangely, in its unexpected way, it was — although the picture that would best capture the day was not the expected portrait of a happy couple sharing a first kiss in the Valley of the Moon.
Instead, the impeccably dressed newlyweds standing in a vineyard looking stoically into the lens like an iteration of Grant Wood’s American Gothic painting, but without the pitchfork, and wearing face masks, became the defining photo. And it wasn’t just for the young couple’s memory album.
Wedding photographer Karna Roa pulled out the shot from hundreds and hundreds she snapped that Saturday while smoke from the raging Kincade Fire to the north hung over the nuptials of Katie and Curtis Ferland at Kenwood’s Chateau St. Jean Winery.
On Sunday, a day after the wedding, Roa, who lives in Castro Valley but grew up in Sebastopol, was feeling physically and emotionally spent. Her parents in Sebastopol were being evacuated, and she had lost power at her own home, forcing her to find a friend who still had electricity so she could download the irreplaceable pictures on a hard drive.
Impulsively she posted to social media the face mask shot, snapped just after the ceremony. She wrote this understated description, figuring the photo spoke for itself: “Beautiful wedding at Chateau St Jean yesterday. This lovely couple flew from Chicago for their gorgeous destination in the wine country.”
The irony of the blonde bride in her elegantly fitted strapless Berta gown with her supposed to be radiant face covered by a mask, was not lost on anyone who saw it. People began to share. And share. And when Roa added the hashtag #KincadeFire, the photo began flying around the Internet. By Monday, Roa and the Ferlands were being interviewed by most of the major television networks.
Roa was taken by surprise and feeling shaken by attention she never anticipated.
“It’s my responsibility to take care of those images, and I found a friend who had power,” she said. ” I went over to her house and sat down and while I was waiting for the photos to copy I thought, ‘Why don’t I find that one photo that encapsulates the duress people were under? The out-of-towners who were there in the middle of this. The air quality was terrible, and the sun was red. And that was what really was happening.”
Ferland, a 32-year-old medical care social worker from Chicago, began planning her wedding a year ago. But she had really been fantasizing about the Wine Country ever since she visited in 2017 for her 30th birthday, just a week before the firestorms broke out. They had luckily just missed the terror and devastation that ripped through the upper Sonoma Valley, burning homes and at one point, bearing down on Chateau St. Jean.
Being from the Midwest, she and Curtis, who is in sales, were worried more about rain than fire, and California seemed like a good bet for an outdoor destination wedding in October.
As for fire, she said, “I’d joke and try to brush off worries figuring hopefully it won’t happen. And it’s exactly what happened.”
(c)2019 The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.)
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