DABOB BAY — Upstairs is the “everything room:” work table, guest bed and a long window ledge holding 30 years of life up to the sunlight.
Lined up, from 1991 forward, are Keith and Jane Hall Lazelle’s “Journal of Seasons” calendars. On their pages are mountains, lakes, rivers and autumn leaves.
That one on the end of the row is 2020, the close of an era in the couple’s life.
“I said I’d do it for 25 years,” Jane said.
That turned into 30, naturally.
The last calendars — 2,000 copies — are finished now. She’s sent them to her longtime customers in Seattle and to 15 stores across Clallam and Jefferson counties, and is preparing her booth at her final Christmas event, Chimacum High School Arts and Crafts Fair on Saturday and on Sunday, Dec. 8.
Keith is the photographer and naturalist, while Jane, a wisp of a woman with a generous Georgia drawl, has single-handedly delivered his work to the world.
Around the time of their marriage in 1989, they set out to build a nature photography business.
Jane called on corporate offices in Seattle, leaving calendars behind as a kind of lavish business card. Early on, she used the pay phone in the Elliott Bay Bookstore cafe to set up appointments. Then she’d meet with architects, executives and corporate art collectors on their lunch hours.
“Can you recommend anybody I should contact?” she’d ask. Then she followed up on every lead.
Meantime Keith worked in something called a darkroom. It’s a long, narrow slot downstairs in their home deep in the woods. The space has since filled up with a hulking Epson printer and a small herd of computer screens, but “I have a hard time not calling it the darkroom,” he said.
“I’m an introvert,” added Keith, whose degree from Oregon’s Linfield College is in literature and philosophy. Jane is the extrovert, though they both spent many seasons working in the U.S. Forest Service’s Sol Duc district, he on the road crew, she on the firefighting crew. Their first date was a backpacking trip.
Now as then, Keith is partial to the abstract photo, maybe of dahlia petals or turquoise bay water. Jane seeks to balance this, making sure some postcard-like pictures get into each calendar.
“Journal of Seasons” has helped introduce the Lazelles to clients such as Eddie Bauer, Alaska Airlines, the Hoh River Trust and the University of Puget Sound.
Visitors to Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry and the Tulalip Tribes Hibulb Cultural Center find themselves walking along rivers and climbing to the top of an old-growth tree — via Keith’s enormous photos.
None of this happened fast. Jane remembers an especially lean year when her mother suggested Keith do wedding photography. He stood his ground. Nothing wrong with that work, but it’s not his passion. The changing of the seasons in the Pacific Northwest is.
“He’s fascinated with everything about nature,” Jane said.
Yet he’s not one to carry his camera everywhere. The couple has done day hikes with nary a picture taken. They walk through the trees, all senses in tune. Once in a while, light and color captivate.
“There’s a certain feeling when an image comes together,” Keith said; “it’s a magical moment.”
The first calendars were assembled on the Lazelles’ kitchen table with Jane, her mother and friends working like quilters at a bee.
Now they go to a printery, but the choosing of the photos isn’t so different. Keith seeks to narrow down the pool of possibilities around April, and Jane winnows it further.
“We have heated discussions sometimes,” she said.
“It would be easy for the calendar to be all blues and greens,” Keith added.
So the pair look for golds, whites, rusts, charcoals and beyond, as wells as closeups, wide shots and creatures of all shapes.
The 2020 “Journal” has bald eagles, an Olympic marmot, a chickadee and a varied thrush.
The key here has been to respect each other’s roles, Jane said.
“My degree is in social work. I never dreamed I’d be selling anything,” but this product, and the people she’s met, inspire her no end.
“I like to hand-deliver the calendars,” Jane said, adding that she’d be going to Sequim to bring one to a woman who’s ordered it year after year.
“I love that face-to-face,” she said, adding there’s a Lazelle Nature Photography page on Facebook, but she’s not interested in Instagram or those other social media sites.
“When people receive [a calendar], they’re so happy,” while other clients marvel at the difference a photograph makes in the feeling of a board room or a living room.
With the calendars behind them, the Lazelles’ focus in the new decade is on fine art prints, commissions and growing their line of note cards.
The decision to stop producing calendars was a tears-inducing one, but Jane, 64, and Keith, 65, knew it was time for change.
“The thing I’m most proud of,” Jane said, “is that we’ve built this together. And we’ve loved it to pieces.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.