WILMINGTON - Mary Valley calls herself an amateur photographer, and it's true, in that the word amateur comes from the Latin, amare, to love. Valley, an Adirondack native, pursues wildlife photography for the love of the photographic medium as well as for the love of her subject matter.
Some of her work is now on display at the Wells Memorial Library in Upper Jay, where her show, "Wildlife Images by Mary Valley," opened Feb. 16. Some of the photographs were taken in Florida and Utah, but most were shot inside the Blue Line.
Born Mary Parisian, Valley grew up in Massena, where she attended Holy Family High School. After graduating from SUNY at Canton, in 1974 she moved to Rochester to work for the Eastman Kodak Company. There, she said, "My passion for photographic images originated."
Photographer Mary Valley (Photo — Martha Allen)
The company encouraged employees to take an interest in photography by making all kinds of cameras available for loan at no charge. Valley said she was "the proud owner of Kodak's first amateur 8-millimeter Ektasound movie camera," which, along with a projector, is still in her possession.
Valley could accurately be called an Adirondack outdoorswoman. During the winter, as a member of Scheefer's Adirondack Builders Ski Team at Whiteface Mountain, she participates weekly in men's and women's slalom racing. At the end of the 2013-2014 ski season, her team won the Bud Cup for the fifth year in a row.
Camp life agrees with Valley as well. She has always enjoyed spending time with her dad at his lakeside camp in Parishville, near Potsdam, boating, fishing, playing cards and listening to tall tales. She and her husband, Steve Valley, also own a camp in Owl's Head, north of Paul Smith's College, where they intend to rusticate in the near future.
Four years ago, Valley retired from the Federal Correctional Institution at Ray Brook, where she was the quality assurance manager for Federal Prison Industries/UNICOR. Her career at the prison entailed, by definition, very serious, very responsible, indoor work. Now, retired and free to follow her heart, she is drawn to the great outdoors, to Adirondack woods, mountains, ponds, lakes and rivers.
Paddling, often accompanied by her sister, Ann, hiking or birdwatching, Nikon at the ready, Valley is able to devote herself to her two longtime passions: the North Country wilds and photography.
Asked if she favored any particular animals as subjects, Valley said, "I don't have favorite animal subjects, but it seems I come upon more birds than anything else, so that's what I happen to capture most often.
"I do love the birds, but I'm so thrilled to see any wildlife and try to keep my camera close at hand. Some people fear carrying their camera on the waterways, but I say that you must take that risk. Otherwise, you're not fulfilling the passion to capture those beautiful shots. Sometimes, I feel, as many others do, that when you're taking photographs at an event, you're not enjoying the moment and you do miss some of that event. But, when I took a series of photographs on Lower Saranac Lake, from my little Hornbeck boat, and that bald eagle swooped down from the top of a very tall white pine tree and flew right at me, I may have missed that moment while looking through the lens; but now I have that moment forever."
Valley has the photographer's eye as well as love for her subject matter. Her images seem to capture the unique identities and habitats of the animals she photographs.