...and they all lived happily ever after.

Nikola Smernic has had an experience similar to one that we suspect you’ve had. You share a magical moment, or a lovely afternoon, with a perfect stranger… and you neglect to get their name… or you lose their email address… or the $5.00 bill with their phone number on it blows away in the wind. The magic is over; you missed your opportunity to consolidate what might have been a life-defining relationship, and, desolate but wiser, you move on.

Smernic can relate to most of that story, except for (in his case) the implausibly happy ending that attached itself. [Here’s his version of the story.]National Geographic Award-Winning Photo

And what follows is our condensed version. As with any good story, this one is best experienced as a series of chapters.

Chapter One: The Photograph

National Geographic Award-Winning PhotoOnce upon a time, while vacationing in New Zealand, Nikola Smernic shot a photo of a street pianist playing his own compositions, with a little girl sitting on a wall watching him. It was a fantastic shot, but since Nikola and his girlfriend were in a rush, they neglected to get any contact information from the musician.

Chapter Two:  The Photograph Wins a Prize

Months afterward, the fateful photo did pretty well for itself, placing among the top ten images submitted to the 2013 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest. One result of this newfound notoriety was that the award-winning photo received exposure all over the world.National Geographic Award-Winning Photo

Chapter Three: The Pianist

And who should chance to see the photo, but the piano player featured in the picture, whose name turned out to be Mathias. He messaged Nikola, and the friendship that missed happening in New Zealand, got a second chance to happen over the internet.

Chapter Four: The Little Girl

And a few days after that, Smernic received an email message from the mother of the little girl in the photo (whose name turned out to be Jemma). Mom attached another picture of her daughter with Mathias the piano player. The result of this message was that all three parties to the magical moment were able to be in touch with each other and begin a regular correspondence.National Geographic Award-Winning Photo

Chapter Five: The Wicked Witch

Just kidding. It isn’t that kind of story. Only happy, magical things happen in this story.

Chapter Six: The Magical Music

When Nikola sent a framed copy of the award-winning photo to Mathias, the pianist reciprocated by sending his four albums of original piano instrumentals to Smernic. The photographer was so enchanted that he obtained permission to use Mathias’s music on his photography website and wedding photography slideshows.National Geographic Award-Winning Photo

Chapter Seven: The Wedding

…because all of the great stories end with a wedding.

The ever-unpredictable Divine Will turned out to involve Mathias traveling to Croatia at about the same time that Smernic and his lady love had scheduled their nuptials. The happy result was that they were able to invite Mathias to not only attend, but to provide the music for their wedding!National Geographic Award-Winning Photo

Epilogue:  Jemma Revisited

Mr. and Mrs. Smernic are eagerly looking forward to reconnecting with little Jemma and her Mom when they return to New Zealand. After which we can only assume that all involved will live happily ever after.

National Geographic Award-Winning Photo