Pierce Cedar Creek Institute Completes Dream Photography Project

Michelle Skedgell had a dream of seeing the beauty of the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute captured on film. Her dream was to have a photographer capture the same shot of specific locations on the Institute grounds through all four seasons. She had proposed it to other photographers over the years, but had not found a taker, until she accidentally ran across Bob sitting on the door sill of his van with a camera around his neck in the summer of 2017. One thing lead to another, and before long, Michelle, the Meppelinks, and Biological Field Station Manager Matt Dykstra were scouting locations for shots. That was the start of the Meppelink’s two-year photography odyssey.

“We did a lap of the grounds with Michelle and Matt,” said Bob. “We took our first shots that day and we took the very last picture this October.”

Since the beginning of the project in the summer of 2017, Bob and Mary estimate they took 40 trips to the Institute grounds and captured 4,000 shots. As they developed the project, the Meppelinks learned many lessons about the seasons and the passage of time.

“What became quite moving, as we went along, was that this passage could be captured with a camera as long as you are willing to keep going back to the scenes, humbly, as on a pilgrimage,” said Bob. “Nature unveils that passage of time through the changes it reveals, but it requires patience, and a lot of walking!”

Mary Meppelink was overwhelmed by nature’s beauty and how to capture it.

 “To see this country of nature, I needed many different types of lenses, similar to the multiple lenses of a bug, which allow view upon view, from every possible angle and viewpoint,” said Mary. “One set of eyes would never be enough to see all there is to see – sights waiting to be explored and uncovered.”

From the beginning to completion, the project took two years and the end result are 20 four-season shots taken from the same specific location and five single shots.  The husband and wife team were drawn to specific locations, including Cedar Creek, Brewster Lake, Aurohn Lake, and the boardwalk. 

In addition to being inspired by the passage of time and nature, the couple learned how much they loved working together. Bob said they do not carry two cameras because one person needs to be looking at nature and the other through the viewfinder.

“We pass the camera back and forth,” said Bob. “We don’t want the whole trip to be through a viewfinder, so it’s better to see with eyes to look for potential shots while the other person is taking shots with the camera.”

Executive Director Michelle Skedgell is hoping many others will be inspired by the project.

“I’m looking forward to sharing this project with visitors to the Institute and hope that it will inspire a love for nature,” said Skedgell. “This project has been a labor of love for many years, and I hope it will live on to capture the imaginations of generations to come.” She added, “I am so grateful to Bob and Mary, for taking the time and making a huge effort to document the beauty of the Institute through the four seasons. They did it all – at no cost to the Institute, and what we have will be a treasure forever.”

Visitors can see the art exhibit, “Cedar Creek Through the Seasons” at the Institute’s Visitor Center from December 15, 2019 – February 28, 2020. 

Reflecting on the finished project and the passage of time, Bob Meppelink said, “The passage of time is not simply the movement of a clock’s hands, nor the turning over of calendar pages – the passage of time is a palpable thing, measured in subtle or dramatic changes; the birth of the new, and the death of the old.”


Pierce Cedar Creek Institute is a nature center, environmental education center, and biological field station located on 742 acres with nine miles of hiking trails ten miles south of Hastings, Michigan. The Institute’s mission is to inspire appreciation and stewardship of our environment.