by Libby James
photo by Libby James
Stacey Mead grew up in the foothills of Northern Colorado with a love of nature and the outdoors. “It’s in my DNA,” she says. Mead loved to take her grandmother, Miriam Moreng, to spend time at Diamond Peak, the family ranch near the Wyoming border as often as they could. On one such journey, Miriam hopped out of the car, dug a hole and planted a cactus, “just to see if it might take,” she said. She was 89 at the time. Miriam’s grandfather, Otto H. Tittman, was one of the founders of “National Geographic,” a fact that is not lost on Mead, his descendant whose passion is nature and wildlife photography.
At age 33, after a series of jobs ranging from bank teller to property manager and CNA, Mead now knows exactly where she’s headed. It’s a juggling act, caring for a growing business and her 16-month-old daughter, Miriam, named after her great-grandmother. Mead calls it Wolf Eyes Photography to honor her love of wolves, developed during several years working as a volunteer at the Wolf Sanctuary in the foothills north and west of Fort Collins. “I like to think that I have a balance between my artistic side and my business side,” she says. “It’s important to me to be organized. I keep a personal and a business calendar and a third one that meshes the two.”
While she has never forsaken her love of the natural world, her journey to becoming a full-time professional photographer has been circuitous. “I’d like to see a piece of Colorado beauty in every home, whether it is my photography or someone else’s,” she says. “I love nature. I love wildlife. I love fresh air and sunshine. I understand that we live in a complex world and I love unearthing it in my camera.”
Mead grew up in LaPorte, at the base of the foothills with a mom who raised most of the family’s food in her garden. She attended schools in Fort Collins, Wellington and Campion Academy in Loveland, where she boarded for a couple of years before returning to Fort Collins to graduate from Poudre High School. She remembers checking “National Geographic photographer” when filling out a career assessment at school when she was about 10.
She had small cameras when she was young, including a Polaroid. But it wasn’t until 2008, when she was laid off from a job, forcing her to sell her home, that she was able to buy her first professional camera. She traded in her home for an RV, which she lived in for a time, freeing up some funds to buy a good camera. Because she was out of work, she had free time to pursue and refine her photography skills.
The dream of making a living at what she loved was planted when someone asked if they could buy her photo of a broken down truck on the family ranch with the sun behind it.
She began to see possibilities. And she set to work creating her own website (www.thewolfeyes.com) and learning the ins and outs of social media to promote her work. She visited local businesses and offered her services. She sought out coffee shops in the area and found several who welcomed displaying her work on consignment.
Today she offers a range of products from framed and standalone prints to calendars and greeting cards. Her photo services include head shots, real estate photos, and food and retail product photos. She takes photos on-site or in a studio setting, and while she favors natural light, she has the equipment to supplement as needed.
Her work can be seen at Nature’s Own in Old Town, Fort Collins, Me Oh My Pie Shop in LaPorte, Vern’s Restaurant near Bellvue, Dazbog Coffee Shop in Loveland, Creekside, Fossil Creek and Fort Collins nurseries, Gulley Greenhouse and Bath Gallery, Beavers Market, Mountain Avenue Market, all in Fort Collins.
Mead has been wandering outdoors since she learned to walk but she has never had a strong desire to travel to faraway places. She finds an abundance of beauty close to home and for her, that is enough. “When I was 15, I went to Washington state to visit my dad. I went to Oklahoma twice. For a little while, I lived in Longmont. That’s it,” she says.
But every weekend in the summer, she and partner Quint Smith pack up their daughter and head for Diamond Peak Ranch, where they camp for a couple of days. Mead brings her camera and never fails to find a treasure trove of photographic splendor.