Betty Vallee tugs an imaginary hood around her face as she recalls wind rushing across arctic ice. “Why don’t we go to Hawaii?” she remembers asking her husband, Rod. The Vallees had traveled to the arctic to photograph narwhals. They took dog sleds onto the ice, where they camped.
Betty and Rod’s nature photography started as a pastime nearly 30 years ago. “We decided we weren’t going to be rocking-chair grandparents,” Rod says. The duo has photographed leopard seals in the Antarctic, great cats in Africa, and polar bears in the Russian Arctic.
Now 82 years of age and 60 years into their marriage, they’ve turned their attention to smaller quests. “We’re not getting back in the bushes like we used to. We’re in the driveway—with the Golden Digger Wasp,” Rod laughs. The wasp is his current research project.
It’s because of their shared passion for the outdoors that the Vallees have been VLT members for 35 years, conserved nearly 500 acres in Georgia, Vermont, and hosted VLT events. “We love seeing the land being kept open,” Rod says. “We feel it’s a very valuable asset to the community.”
In 2014, the Vallees published A Closer Look at Nature: Plants and Animals of a Northwestern Vermont Community. The book has photos and descriptions of 375 species found in Georgia and is free for residents. “It’s a method to get people interested,” explains Betty.
“What we’re doing is very minor. That big,” says Rod, pinching his pointer finger and thumb together. “But at least we’re doing something… We have an awful lot of fun with photography.”