2018 Josh Meier Photography Iowa Calendar

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It’s that time of year again, and I’m happy to announce that my 2018 Calendars are now in production and pre-orders are being accepted! I’m really excited about this years offerings; again two versions- one being all Iowa scenes and the other “All Over” with images from the US and International locales. You can get a preview of the Iowa Calendar images here, as from November 18-29 I will be making daily updates to this post, highlighting a new months image and providing a little backstory for each photo.

(Click here for “All Over” preview)

Calendars are $15 each plus 3.95 shipping. For additional information or to order, PLEASE CLICK HERE…

Pictured above is the cover photo for the Iowa edition. It features a lovely stand of purple coneflowers, found along the Macbride Recreation Trail near Solon. Iowa was once covered in tall grass prairie and summer bouquets such as this would have been found in abundance across our sweeping expanse. Unfortunately this is no longer the case, as it is estimated that less than one tenth of one percent of our virgin prairie remains. On the bright side though, there is an appreciation here amongst nature lovers, romantics, and conservationists for what once was; and with it a growing prairie restoration movement.

 

January-

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In keeping with what is always one of my greatest photographic ambitions, I love to share photos of Iowa side by side with those from other beautiful destinations, just to show people that despite stereotypes we live in a very special place here. Therefore I often have some overlap between my two calendars by including a couple favored Iowa scenes in both versions.

The January 2018 image is one of these cases. This image, the lead off feature for both calendars, was taken at sunrise on New Years Day, 2017. It was shot on the Cedar River at Cedar Valley Park (located between Tipton and West Branch) and is the result of ice that had broken up when the river thawed, and then refroze in a cold snap. I could think of no better way than to usher in a new year than to be out in nature before dawn; and watching the landscape come to life as Canadian geese stirred with the rising sun and a bald eagle soared above.

February-

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The February image in my 2018 Iowa Calendar features Little Paint Creek in Yellow River State Forest of beautiful Allamakee County. Known as the Driftless Area, the landscape here was never touched by the glaciers that shaped much of the Midwest, and boasts stunning characteristics unique to the region. Towering bluffs, cool flowing trout streams and heavily wooded hollows make it an outdoor lovers dream. If you’re an Iowan who has never ventured to this area, you have yet to fully appreciate what beauty our home state has to offer. I highly recommend that you get yourself there soon!

March-

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Here is another image serving dual purpose in my 2018 Calendars, gracing both the cover of my “All Over” edition and featured for the month of March in the Iowa version. As I mentioned the other day, it has a little extra sentimentality for me. It was taken on my Dad’s farm west of Tipton, and this lone cottonwood has watched me grow as I have passed beneath it countless times since my days of youth; wandering “back in the hills” as we always called it in search of adventure through the rolling pastures and along the banks of Rock Creek. I have photographed this tree many times before, but this past winter it again became a focal point because of its beauty and easy access- just a hop, skip and a jump out my door. For the week or so prior to my sons birth I set out every morning ahead of the dawn, intent on photographing the sunrise, just in case that would be the day he was born. I just had it in my mind that it would be cool to provide him a photo of sunrise on his literal birthday. Ultimately my plan didn’t work out. My wife went into labor on January 29 at about 4:30 in the morning, he was born at 7:34, and neither one of them had the patience to let me run out and shoot the sunrise in between! So no, I didn’t get a shot from that day… but I have some great ones from the days prior, and this turned out to be one of my favorite images captured last year.

April-

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The April shot from my 2018 Iowa Calendar features a view of the Coralville Reservoir, as seen from the spillway at Lake Macbride State Park. Located between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, the Macbride-Coralville recreation complex is a favorite local hangout, offering ample outdoor opportunities ranging from fishing, to hiking and mountain biking. It is a real treasure in this part of the state.
Despite what you may have seen on the internet, the flow here is not a waterfall. Not a natural one, anyway. Again, it’s a spillway where the outflow from Lake Macbride pours into the reservoir. It’s manmade, as are about half of the so-called waterfalls on the written for views “tour Iowa’s best waterfalls” list that has made it’s rounds on Facebook the past couple years. It’s still a very beautiful site and worthy of a visit, but those misleading clickbait articles annoy me… I’ll step off of my soapbox now.

May-

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The May image featured in my 2018 Iowa Calendar is another from the beautiful Driftless Area in the Northeastern corner of the state. Malanaphy Springs can be found in its namesake nature preserve just a few miles outside of Decorah. A gentle, well maintained trail leads you through a scenic hardwood forest about a mile to the spring; and there you arrive at the top of this lovely waterfall pouring about 10 feet to the Upper Iowa River below. We don’t have a lot of natural waterfalls in Iowa, but this one is the real deal and between the gorgeous falls and the pleasant hike to it, it’s my personal favorite. Next time you’re in the Decorah area take some time and check it out!

June-

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Continuing with the breakdown of images that make up my 2018 calendars, the June photo is another that earned it’s place in both the Iowa and All Over versions. They don’t get much closer to home that this, as it was taken on 220th Street west of Tipton, about 50 yards from where I sit typing this now. Free time has been virtually nonexistent this year with my wife engrossed in PhD work and a newborn son commanding lots of attention, so unfortunately my photo opportunities took a serious hit. I could honestly count on my fingers the number of times I’ve shot outside of Cedar County in the past 10 months. But on this summer evening with the passing of a wicked little storm, I sensed a change of light in my periphery. I rushed to the window to witness this most amazing sky then looked to the west and saw that the sun was dropping beneath the cloud cover. Cris and Caden had each other occupied allowing me a few minutes to grab my camera, race out to the road, and fire away. It was a wonderful reminder that you don’t always have to travel to exotic locales to be awed by the wonders of nature. Sometimes you just have to steal a minute and step outside your door!

 

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2018 Josh Meier Photography Calendar

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It’s that time of year again, and I’m happy to announce that my 2018 Calendars are now in production and pre-orders are being accepted! I’m really excited about this years offerings; again two versions- one being all Iowa scenes and the other “All Over” with images from the US and International locales. You can get a preview of those images here, as from November 18-29 I will be making daily updates to this post, highlighting a new months image and providing a little backstory for each photo.

(Click Here for Iowa Calendar Preview)

Calendars are $15 each plus 3.95 shipping. For additional information or to order, PLEASE CLICK HERE…

The above photo is featured on the cover of my “All Over” calendar, and also finds its place as the March image in my Iowa edition. It reveals a lone cottonwood tree at sunrise, captured on my Dad’s farm west of Tipton, Iowa. This photo is special to me for both it’s simple beauty and sentimentality, as it was taken in the days preceding the birth of my son last winter.

 

January-

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In keeping with what is always one of my greatest photographic ambitions, I love to share photos of Iowa side by side with those from other beautiful destinations, just to show people that despite stereotypes we live in a very special place here. Therefore I often have some overlap between my two calendars by including a couple favored Iowa scenes in both versions.

The January 2018 image is one of these cases. This image, the lead off feature for both calendars, was taken at sunrise on New Years Day, 2017. It was shot on the Cedar River at Cedar Valley Park (located between Tipton and West Branch) and is the result of ice that had broken up when the river thawed, and then refroze in a cold snap. I could think of no better way than to usher in a new year than to be out in nature before dawn; and watching the landscape come to life as Canadian geese stirred with the rising sun and a bald eagle soared above.

February-

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The February image in my 2018 “All Over” calendar comes from Bryce Canyon National Park in Southwest Utah. This enchanted landscape provides an other worldly view as visitors stand on the canyon rim and gaze upon towering rock spires which rise from the depths below. These formations, known as “hoodoos,” are the result of water and time, as liquid and ice has eroded varying rock types at different speeds over the course of thousands of years to leave us with the uniquely shaped configurations seen today. It’s a magical scene at any time of year, but in winter with the white snow contrasting against red rock, it is especially spectacular.

March-

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The feature image for March in my 2018 “All Over” calendar comes from the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. This unique and beautiful area is known for its hexagonal shaped basalt columns that appear as a walkway leading out to the North Atlantic and disappearing into the sea. Legend has it that the “path” was constructed by an Irish giant named “Finn MacCool” in order to fight a rival from across the channel in Scotland. Things get a bit hazy from there, as in one version of the story Finn is straight up victorious, and in another he hides out of fear when he realizes the Scottish giant is larger than expected. In the second legend, Finn’s wife disguises him as a baby, and when the Scottish challenger sees the size of what he interprets as Finn’s son, he flees in horror thinking the father must be even larger yet, and destroys the crossing in his retreat. Regardless of the geologic or mythologic origins, the location is absolutely gorgeous and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

April-

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The April photo in my 2018 All Over Calendar comes from Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park. This idyllic and often photographed scene features a picturesque barn set against the jagged peaks of the Tetons. The barn and neighboring structures were built by Mormon settlers who moved here from Salt Lake City in the 1890’s. Unlike other western pioneers, the Mormons established their homesteads in close proximity and relied heavily on community to eek out a living in this harsh environment. As pretty as this scene is, it’s hard to visit and not imagine the difficulties of homesteading here, especially during the winter months.

May-

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May in my 2018 calendar takes us to idyllic Mossbrae Falls; a magical site in Northern California. You might say this one is a bit off the beaten path as accessing the falls takes a little effort, and isn’t entirely legal. To get there one must overlook No Trespassing signs and venture about 20 minutes along an active Union Pacific train track, bordered on one side by a high canyon wall and on the other a steep drop to the Sacramento River. But despite the risk (the purported $300 fine might be worth it, just don’t get hit by a train!) the hike in is enjoyable and this waterfall might be the most amazing I’ve ever seen! Created by several springs seeping through a mossy wall it is a unique and tranquil sight that won’t soon be forgotten.

June-

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Continuing with the breakdown of images that make up my 2018 calendars, the June photo is another that earned it’s place in both the Iowa and All Over versions. They don’t get much closer to home that this, as it was taken on 220th Street west of Tipton, about 50 yards from where I sit typing this now. Free time has been virtually nonexistent this year with my wife engrossed in PhD work and a newborn son commanding lots of attention, so unfortunately my photo opportunities took a serious hit. I could honestly count on my fingers the number of times I’ve shot outside of Cedar County in the past 10 months. But on this summer evening with the passing of a wicked little storm, I sensed a change of light in my periphery. I rushed to the window to witness this most amazing sky then looked to the west and saw that the sun was dropping beneath the cloud cover. Cris and Caden had each other occupied allowing me a few minutes to grab my camera, race out to the road, and fire away. It was a wonderful reminder that you don’t always have to travel to exotic locales to be awed by the wonders of nature. Sometimes you just have to steal a minute and step outside your door!

Follow the Puppet Strings

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The following was submitted as a Letter to the Editor and printed in the February 22, 2017 edition of our local paper, The Tipton Conservative.

Like many Iowans, I am extremely disappointed with last week’s legislative action to dismantle the collective bargaining powers of public employees. This legislation will adversely impact the lives and careers of many of my friends who are teachers, or who work in the public sector. It will force our young professionals to think twice before embarking on careers here rather than pursuing better opportunities elsewhere. It will hurt our rural communities, where school districts and public works are often primary employers. Down the road this could very well lead my wife and I to question if the quality of life I grew up knowing, due largely to the value of Iowa’s public education system, will remain; if this will still be a great place to raise our child, and if it’s truly in our family’s best interest to settle here permanently.

As saddening as it is to consider the 184,000 Iowa families likely to be hurt by this measure, it is equally infuriating to understand how this all played out. Despite earlier claims that they would only consider minor tweaks to the State’s 43-year-old collective bargaining rule, Republican leaders capitalized on House and Senate majority to gut the law completely. With little warning or consultation, exploiting rarely used procedure to limit floor debate, and while thousands of teachers, firemen, police officers and concerned citizens pleaded to be heard, the bill was raced through both chambers in a thinly-veiled attempt to limit public awareness and outcry. None of this was in the true interest of Iowa workers or reflective of Iowa values. Instead, it was the direct result of union busting tactics born of dark money and out-of-state interests. Governor Branstad eagerly signed the bill less than 24 hours later, behind closed doors but in the company of Drew Klein, a henchman for “Americans for Prosperity” –the shady, ill-reputed Koch Brothers funded Super PAC.

Worse yet, this is only the beginning. Bills still pending in this legislative session include plans to eliminate the Iowa Department of Education (SF 29) to end current retirement offerings for future public employees, including teachers, fire fighters and police (SF 45) to ban teachers from speaking out on education matters (HSB 47) and to eliminate the tenure system in our universities and community colleges (SF 41.) Each of these proposals are suspected derivatives of think tank drafted template bills, adapted from a national playbook and created to push the agenda of shadow organizations. And each attack, if approved by our lawmakers, will cause reprehensible harm to thousands of hard working people who represent the best of what Iowa has to offer.

It’s time for voters to wake up and realize what’s going on; not just in Iowa but all across the nation. The greatest threat to our democracy and to our livelihoods is not illegal immigration. It’s not the welfare system or affordable health care. It’s billionaire greed and blind partisan support. And until we hold our elected officials accountable, it will continue to prey on our working class and thrive on our apathy.

Josh Meier
Tipton

 

Links to the bills mentioned above and currently pending (at the time of this writing) in the Iowa legislature that will impact public education. If you scroll down to the end of each bill you will find a section that offers a more concise explanation.

SF 29 Eliminates the Iowa Department of Education
SF 45 Ends access to current retirement programs for newly hired state employees
HSB 47 Prohibits teachers from speaking out on education matters
SF 41 Eliminates tenure system in Iowa universities and community colleges

And finally, this video courtesy of Iowa Senator Matt McCoy provides a little more insight to what is happening in Iowa and across the nation, thanks to Citizens United, the Koch Brothers, model legislation, and our very own Governor Terry Branstad. Click Here.

Best of 2016

For the past few years I have enjoyed following along with what has become an annual tradition for many photographers, the Jim Goldstein “Best of… Photo Project.” This is an opportunity for hobbyists, serious amateurs, and professionals alike to reflect on their work and experiences of the past year and to share a sampling (usually what they feel are their 5-10 best or favorite images) with the rest of us. It’s also a chance for photo lovers to discover new talents, make new friends, and join in camaraderie for networking and inspiration. Each season I look on with great appreciation for those who have shared their collections, and honestly every year for the past several I’ve had the intention of doing the same. You know how it goes, though. The holidays hit, I finally have a chance to catch my breath after a busy show season, I’m generally months behind in my edits; and somehow I manage to let the opportunity slip away. Until now, that is…

Somehow this year I am a just little more on top of things, at least in a photography sense. Now don’t let that fool you. I still have a couple thousand images from trips this summer and fall (Northern Rockies and New England) that I need to finish processing, and do believe there are a few gems in there that would have been included here if they were ready. I only disclose that because I don’t want any of my regular readers to grow concerned- in no way have I suddenly become organized or managed to entirely catch up! But I am at a point where I feel comfortable contributing this collection as a fair representation of my work from the past year. For good measure, I also put together an Honorable Mention series, which was posted the other night and can be viewed HERE. It’s never an easy task, selecting your favorite images, and even now I feel like maybe some of those should be swapped out for some of the shots you see here; but it’s all in fun so I’ll let the original selections stand.

That said, here is my inaugural contribution to the Jim Goldstein Photo Project. Many thanks to Mr. Goldstein for the great work he does in putting this together. Like I say, I’ve enjoyed looking on for years and am grateful for this chance to throw my work into the mix. And for anyone interested, once the submissions are gathered a list will be compiled with links to all of the entries. I’ll pass that along here and through my social media channels- so look for that in the coming weeks and prepare to be amazed by some of the awesome work that this project elicits.

And now, in chronological order, my Top 10 images of 2016…

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Tidal Stream, Newport Beach, California

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The Watchman, Zion National Park, Utah

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Old Barn, Yellow River State Forest, Iowa

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Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

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Malanaphy Springs State Preserve, Iowa

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Lake Macbride State Park, Iowa

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The University of Iowa, Iowa City

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Hidden Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana

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Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

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Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, Maine

 

Of course, with the reflection of a year passed it’s only natural to look ahead at what’s to come. 2017 is going to bring great change to my life, as my wife and I prepare to welcome our first child in just a few short weeks. What will this mean for my photography? Only time will tell. But while travel will certainly be limited and other priorities will soon dictate my day-to-day, I do intend to carry on in some capacity. I’ve always been a strong believer in living and leading by example, and I want my child to understand the necessity of passion and perseverance in life. When it comes to career success, nature photography is no easy gig. But I’m going to keep trying; keep working hard to improve and fighting to find a way- if for no reason other than proving to my child that we never give up on our dreams.

Happy New Years, Everyone!

International Day of Forests

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March 21-

Today we celebrate the International Day of Forests, an annual event created by the United Nations in 2012 to raise awareness of the many functions that forests perform which are vital for life on Earth. In addition to providing habitat, food, medicine and acting as carbon sinks to reduce the acceleration of climate change, forests also play a key role in supplying us with freshwater. This essential service is recognized in 2016 with the event theme “Forests and Water” in honor of that ecological relationship.

According to the UN International Day of Forests Event Page

-75% of the worlds accessible freshwater is supplied by forested watersheds and wetlands

-Roughly a third of the worlds largest cities rely on forests to protect drinking water supplies (for example, New York City draws much of its water from wild lands in the Catskill Mountains)

-Forests act as natural water filters

-Nearly 80% of the worlds population lives in threat of impeded access to clean, fresh water

Unfortunately, even with modern understanding of the complex interrelations between forests and watersheds; or the almost universally accepted knowledge on the realities of climate change, deforestation still occurs at a staggering rate. Our planet loses an area roughly the size of England each year due to timber harvest and the clearing of forested lands. This exposes vast watersheds to contamination, destroys entire ecosystems and contributes almost as much in total CO2 emissions as the global transportation sector.

While it’s going to take a monumental effort to reverse such a trend we’ve got to find a way. It falls on each of us as consumers to do our part and to live in a more sustainable manner. Please educate yourself on the impacts of deforestation. Reduce, reuse, and recycle paper and timber products. When necessary buy only sustainably sourced lumber. And know where your food comes from. Avoid products that contain palm oil or other ingredients that contribute greatly to these problems. It may take some individual effort to get informed and to break old habits, but there really is no other viable option. The future of our planet (and specifically the life it supports) depends on it!

Edinburgh Christmas Market

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Wrapping up my weeklong feature on last November’s trip to Edinburgh today with a look at the Christmas Market. Edinburgh goes all out in this annual tradition, hosting a six week market full of food and craft vendors and carnival rides that runs from late November to early January. We were fortunate, having traveled over the American Thanksgiving holiday, to be here toward the start of this years celebration.

The lights and decorations filling Princes Street Gardens are a sight to behold, especially with a giant ferris wheel and the sixty meter tall “Star Flyer” towering with the gothic Scott Monument over the market below. Dozens of vendor booths line the concourse selling traditional foods and mulled wines along with a variety of handmade wares ranging from glass ornaments to woolen tapestries. It’s an appropriately festive scene, so if you’re considering a winter visit to Edinburgh you may want to schedule accordingly.

If you go, however, I would recommend to make sure that your appetite is in order. I’d say of our experience the only downside came of my own undoing; though not intentionally… I guess this could be considered something more biologic in nature (or sinister, as it felt at the time.)  Let me preface this by reminding that at this point we’d traveled through three countries in three days. In this stretch I went from my normal relatively healthy eating habits at home to airport fast food to airline food to pub meals in Ireland and Scotland. Throw in the stress and fatigue of travel, and by this, the third night of our trip when we visited the Christmas Market, my stomach was in absolute fits.

As noted, the market was full of culinary delicacies. Fried foods, candies, assorted meats, gooey cheeses- you name it, you could probably find it there. To be entirely honest I’ve always been more of a sustenance eater; I like what I like and I’m content with a simple meal. I don’t generally mind trying new things, but at the same time I don’t get particularly jazzed at the chance to do so. My wife and her family on the other hand do. I wouldn’t go as far as to call them “foodies” per se, but they certainly like to have fun and indulge in experiential grazing.

We made our way through the market, going from one food stop to the next. At seemingly every option, one of our group would stop and ask about the cuisine, purchase a sample and pass it around. Like I say, I felt sick going into the evening so the smells alone- while presumably delightful given normal circumstance, had my insides churning. Every time I turned around somebody was sticking a new food in my face, and I had to continually decline- an act of borderline treason when in company of the Wallace family. I fell to the back of the pack, partly as an evasive maneuver and part because my gait had slowed considerably in utter fear of the gastrointestinal event I thought might occur. The pain in my gut was horrendous, and I waddled along doubting that the night could possibly end in any way other than with me as the laughing stock of Scotland.

Finally I had to pull Cris aside and explain in no uncertain terms what could transpire. I had control of the situation for the moment, but just one single bite could disrupt that balance of power. While these intimate details did surprisingly little to dissuade her own appetite, my wife took mercy on me and found the compassion to try and act as a buffer.

“Here, pass this to Josh…”

“No, he doesn’t want any.”

“Well then give him some of this…”

“He says he’s not feeling well.”

“Oh come on, it’s so good…”

“He’s not hungry.”

“Will he try a gallon of haggis?”

Unfortunately Cris drawing attention to the situation brought the unintended consequence of strengthening their resolve. My in-laws, bless their hearts, always try so hard to make sure I fit in. In this case, however, their eagerness to accommodate only made things worse.

“Well he has to eat something. Here, how about one of these eight pound bratwursts.”

“No thanks,” I quietly declined.

“Oooooo. Check out this funky bread slathered in goat cheese. That might be interesting…”

My head shook violently in reply.

And so the night went, and so sometimes it goes, when traveling with your spouses family in a foreign land. Gratefully I can report that no actual tragedy would occur, just a lot of bloating and general awkwardness. In hindsight it was fun to see them enjoying themselves and I still feel guilty for being the “Debbie Downer” of the evening- but I’ll gladly take that over the alternate ending that I unlikely could have ever lived down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, Mom!

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February 10-

Okay, so I rarely shoot portraits and I’m generally horrified by the notion of sharing my attempts, but today is an exception as this post goes out to a special birthday girl- my Mom, Vickie Meier.

She’s a woman who has always opened her heart and unselfishly given everything she has to provide for her family’s every whim. She taught us how to live and how to give unconditional love; and at times I can’t help but step back and marvel at the joy she brings her grandchildren, now teaching them the same. (Pictured here is my niece Melayna, one of her Grandma’s biggest fans…)

I could go on and on, but I know she’ll probably read this on her afternoon break and I don’t want to make her cry at work. Instead, I’ll just say Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you with all my heart and will be forever in debt for all that you’ve given and all you continue to do…