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12-photos-of-2016_staatsA new year – a clean slate.  And yet I find myself marveling at the past year.  To encapsulate the year with one photo for each month is a challenge.  2016 was filled with new adventures, new sights, and an appreciation for the people that surround me as well as the beauty that’s available to us each and every day.  I wish you all a new year of wonder and joy, amazement and appreciation, happiness and love.

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Leo the cat 10532_StaatsSome friends have been away for the weekend and asked me to take care of their cat.  Leo is a big fluffy guy, all of two years old.  He’s been welcoming to me every time I’ve walked in the house, anxious for my attention and wanting to play.  With all the toys he has, he seemed to really like my sandals (probably because they were something different and they were full of the outdoor smells of grass).  He’s not one to sit still for very long, so it was a challenge for me to photograph him.  As any pet photographer knows, you need a fast lens and a lot of patience to capture a compelling image (as well as being down on their level rather than photographing from above).  I especially like this image of Leo as I think it captures his curiosity and his alertness.  Of course in the next split-second after I pressed the shutter button, he jumped down to the floor and was off to his next adventure.

Ed's 99th birthday_Staats 9838It’s not too many times that family can gather to celebrate someone’s 99th birthday, but we were fortunate to have that opportunity tonight.  With a full table of family from near and far, we toasted Ed on achieving his birthday milestone.  Thanks to a fun “quiz,” we learned that a car cost $625 when Ed started driving, and we listed many things that have come into existence during his lifetime including TV, cell phones, space flights, and computers.  99 years is good reason to celebrate.  Here’s to the upcoming year, Ed, and we’ll all look forward to gathering again next year to celebrate #100.  Happy birthday!

A tulip presence 9170_StaatsThe in-between season of spring — when we hope for the colors that were vacant in winter.  Spring in Minnesota is volatile, swinging from snow to rain to warm to cold.  We’ve experienced it all this past week, but we also know that spring will prevail and color will return.  I was craving some of that color and resorted to store-bought tulips (since the ones in the ground are barely one-inch shoots right now).  Every time I walked by the tulips I was reminded that spring will come, that warmth is around the corner, and that the Easter tradition of hope remains a part of us.

Spring dawn over Lake Johanna 9247_StaatsSpring has been fickle here in Minnesota.  From cold to snow to rain to warm – we’ve had a bit of everything this week.   I’ve already heard the welcome return of the red-winged blackbirds singing, and the lake ice has started to diminish.  I was at Lake Johanna yesterday before sunrise. The winter air was crisp and cold at 19 degrees when it hit my face and hands as I got out of the car, but my ears could hear the geese and the ducks that were splashing in the open water near the shoreline, and in the distance a woodpecker’s repetitive hammering was contributing to the song.  With all this cacophony the sun was illuminating the eastern sky in pinks and orange.  It seems that everything is in anxious anticipation of the season of spring.

Dawn over Jack the Horse Lake_StaatsLast week I shared a sunset photo from our northern vacation.  As beautiful as the sunsets were, I was equally amazed at the sunrises.  We were staying on Jack the Horse Lake – a quiet lake with only a few cabins and houses and only one resort.  The stillness of the morning, while the sun was yet to rise, was wonderful.  The air was calm and the lake’s surface was like a sheet of glass.  Off in the distance I could hear an owl making its presence known, and eventually the loons would add to the chorus.  Slowly the sky would turn from black to a deep rose color, then to a pale pink and eventually to a brightness of yellow as the sun cleared the horizon and the distant shore, all the while reflected in the mirror-like lake surface.  It was a wondrous and delightful way to greet the day.

Love before leaving_StaatsI had the very special opportunity to photograph a woman and her chocolate lab today.  There is a wonderful love and communication between them, especially after the seven years they’ve shared together.  She had told me of a ritual they have before she leaves the house in the mornings.  Bella, the lovely lab, sits at the top of the stairs as the woman puts on her shoes to get ready to leave.  They then sit down together for a heartfelt good-bye, a nuzzle of love, and some carrots are left for the dog who obediently waits until she’s told she can eat them.  Then it’s on with their days as the woman heads off to work, and the dog patiently waits for her return.

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