Journal - M&D Hills Photography


Welcome to our personal journal.

Our goal is to share with you our unique take on a variety of subjects as well as stories of our personal adventures and memories of life here in the Smokies. We hope to give you a glimpse into our world, what drives us, and also a little bit of knowledge about the areas and subjects we encounter along the way. Feel free to share your comments at the bottom of this page.

Welcome 2018!


Happy Holidays!

Click below to view our 2017 Video Christmas Card.



"Rise Up"

November 28, 2017


Over the years Chimney Tops has always been one of our favorite areas of the park.  Even more beloved it became after it was ravaged by fire a year ago today.  On this drizzly, Fall day we were especially moved as we pulled into the overlook and the song "Rise Up" by Andra Day played on the radio.  As the song proclaimed:


And I know you feel like dying

But I promise we'll take the world to its feet

And move mountains

We'll take it to its feet

And move mountains


The words resonated within us as we gazed up high.  While the summit of Chimney Tops has been damaged, scarred, and will never look the same, there are signs of renewal and resurrection all around.  Mother Nature has a way of healing herself even after being the victim of such unspeakable harm.  We have faith that this pinnacle, as well as the community of Gatlinburg - cherished by so many, will once again, "Rise Up."


"The Heart Remains"

August 8, 2017


Several weeks ago we spent some time at one of the overlooks at Roaring Fork.  It was an area that was greatly impacted by the firestorm, as was much of that entire region.  As we hiked and explored we were struck first by the devastation, the charred remains and skeletal trees; reminders of what once was a thriving, healthy forest still etched in our minds.  Overwhelmed at what appeared before us, we couldn't help but be moved by the rebirth and renewal all around.  Wisps of green dotted the landscape.  This area may never be the same, (at least not in our lifetime) but we're certain of one thing... nature takes back its own.  Upon returning home we loaded our images and looked through them, reliving all of the emotions of the experience.  It wasn't until recently that the particular image below caught our attention because initially we didn't notice.  While one may be more inclined to focus on the destruction, the heart-shaped rock in the foreground concluded what we had known all along.  Our hearts will forever remain heavy for what once was, but our love for these Great Smoky Mountains and its promising future lives on.


Springtime in the Smokies

April 14, 2017


With Spring fever in the rearview mirror, the celebration has begun.  The birds are singing with enthusiasm as we revel in the beauty around us.  The healing process is evident here in the Smokies as people pick up the pieces and begin their lives anew.  What was a terrible tragedy just a few short months ago hasn't altered your love a bit as countless numbers of you are returning to one of your favorite destinations in the entire world.  In spite of the hardships this community has endured, the Spring of 2017 has been one of the most incredibly beautiful we've ever witnessed.  Masses of wildflowers are returning in a blaze of glory and the dogwood and redbud trees are sharing their splendor as well.  Many are blooming among the affected areas as if to scoff and prove that rebirth will prevail.  We are still in awe of the generosity of spirit that thrives in these mountains - near and far.  For many of you, your love runs deep, coursing through your veins. 

It's going to be one of the most magnificent Springs yet...

we can feel it.

And we're more excited than ever.


Happy Spring to one and all.

-Matt & Delia


Happy New Year!

Music by: The O'Neill Brothers

"How Beautiful"

This video showcases in chronological order some of our favorite moments and memorable experiences from 2016.

May 2017 bring you lots of love, laughter, bountiful blessings and lasting memories.


With our best wishes,

~Matt & Delia


*Best viewed in HD and large screen format if you have it. Don't forget to turn up your volume.*


Gatlinburg Firestorm 2016

Click on each image above to read our personal perspective of the Gatlinburg Firestorm and the Aftermath. 


"Clingmans Dome Spring Sunset"

April 2 , 2016


We suffer from a bit of insanity, there we said it... the first step is admitting it, right?  That evening, at the spur of the moment we decided that we should race up to Clingmans Dome for the sunset.  It was a breezy and comfortable 58° in Gatlinburg, so prepared with our knowledge from previous experiences we knew there could be vastly different weather conditions up top.  We grabbed a couple of mid-weight jackets and headed out feeling quite adequately prepared.  Upon arriving at the top, the setting sun was breathtaking, as was the weather.  The temperature had plummeted to the high twenties with wind gusts near 50 mph making standing and keeping the tripod upright a challenge.  With no hats, gloves, and the wind chill nearing single digits, we attempted to keep our shivering at bay and take steady shots yet were presented with another problem - we were losing the feeling in our fingers making manipulating the camera harder than ever.  Once we felt that we might have at least one decent image, we retreated to the shelter of our SUV.  With the heat cranked we began to slowly defrost as we made the trip back down the mountain, reliving and laughing at yet another memorable experience.

  And that, our friends, is why we love springtime in the Great Smoky Mountains!


"After The Storm"

May 6, 2015


We spent several hours photographing baby cubs deep in the woods on the most beautiful spring day in Cades Cove.  Late in the day a dark cloud appeared and we felt a few raindrops fall, and as we discussed our options, our decision was made for us... suddenly we were in the midst of a torrential downpour!  In an effort to protect our equipment we had no choice but to make a run for it.  At a breakneck pace we navigated over logs and thru a trail that then had begun to flow like a stream.  As we continued on, it seemed to be raining even harder, which seemed impossible, when suddenly we realized it had actually begun to HAIL.  After a rough pelting from above we finally made it to our vehicle, muddy and completely drenched.  We immediately dried off our gear and ourselves and drove away laughing at what we had just experienced - this wonderful memory we won't soon forget.  As the sun began to set we looked back and saw its warm glow being reflected in the wet roadway as it continued its path toward the horizon behind "The Tree".  Such beauty proved to us that there is always a silver lining in every cloud, or cloudburst one might endure. 


The Year In Review - 2015

Music by: Mark Baldwin

"Above All"

Out of the thousands of images we captured in 2015,

we narrowed it down to a handful of favorites that we have assembled here for you. 

We hope that you enjoy our retrospective journey

through this past year and look forward to many more

memorable moments in 2016.

Happy New Year!


~Matt & Delia


*Best viewed in HD and large screen format if you have it. Don't forget to turn up your volume.*


Bear Challenges

May 6, 2013


We wanted to take some time and share a story with you.  It's rather long but contains an important message so we ask that you please find the time to read it.  The mother bear you see in this photo was born in Cades Cove.  It was her home, and the only home she knew.  In January of 2013 she gave birth to three healthy cubs, and many who visited the Cove would see them on occasion.  When bears are seen by the loop road it always, and we mean ALWAYS, stops traffic.  Understandably people are excited to see them and want to try and capture the moment with their cameras.  This particular day was no exception.  We happened to be in that long line of cars stopped dead on the road.  Just up ahead was this mama bear and her three babies eating berries in a field a short distance away.  We found a place to pull over and snapped a few photos ourselves with our zoom lens and watched on as they began to move toward the roadway.  Subsequently, those at the front of the line vacated their vehicles and advanced toward them.  It was one of the longest and most unsettling "bear jams" we had ever witnessed.  The bear family wanted to cross the road but with people swarming them, the mother bear became distressed and sent her cubs up a tree next to the road.  One of the babies, the one you see in this photo, stayed by her side.  We tried to inform those who moved in what the mother bear was trying to accomplish, and while many moved back respectfully, others continued to walk up directly under the tree with their devices to snap photos.  During this time, the mother bear became frantic and began pacing back and forth trying to figure out how to get her cubs safely across.  We mentioned to people that the babies would not come down unless they backed off allowing them enough space to feel secure.  After doing that for so long we decided to walk down into the field and observe, watching on as this horrific incident continued.  Suddenly the mother bear went up the hill and left her two cubs behind in the tree, prompting more people to move underneath it.  We decided to drive to the ranger's station and report what had transpired as we were concerned for the cubs' safety.  The ranger we spoke with informed us they would get there as soon as they could.  By the time we returned, the traffic was moving more freely and a concerned individual told us that the mother had returned amidst all the chaos, summoned her cubs down the tree and the family had moved on.


Sadly, this bear family no longer resides in Cades Cove.  They were forcibly moved to another location because "they had lost their fear of humans".  Rumors swirled that they had been fed by a tourist to draw them closer so that they could take a photo.  Once a bear is "food conditioned" they sometimes lose their fear, and become labeled "nuisance bears".  These bears are tagged, and after so many "offenses", relocated.  It causes them stress and often times they try to return endangering their own lives.  Bears are not typically aggressive toward humans, but they are still wild and they need to remain that way in order to survive.  Year after year, bears are moved as a result of human actions, with no fault of their own.  Although it may seem like common sense, it's imperative that we NEVER, EVER feed wildlife, nor should we advance on them too closely or rapidly for the safety of all involved.  It's THEIR environment, not ours, and we must respect them in THEIR home.  Picking up after yourself and disposing trash in bear proof garbage bins is also important.  If you witness any illegal activity, please report it at once to the proper authorities.  Although disturbing, these are facts, and the bottom line is, if you want to see the black bears remain in the accessible areas of the national park, please show them the respect they deserve.  And let's respect each other with common courtesy and use the pull-offs if you decide to stop.  Please help us help them by sharing this important message with others.



Thank you for your support.

- Matt & Delia

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We appreciate sharing but please do not download, redistribute or use without express written consent.

Thank you.

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