Taking the Path Less Pictured

By Beacon Staff

For Whitefish photographer Chuck Haney a popular recreational attraction or beautiful vista is his next possible job site.

In the past year, he’s kept busy shooting waterfalls in Illinois, cycling in Ohio and driving through the tall-grass prairies of Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. He recently traveled to North Carolina for the first time, writing and shooting an article for Adventure Cyclist Magazine.

Next year, he’ll return to the Tar Heel state with the knowledge to teach a photo workshop and, hopefully, shoot several more photo assignments – making a trip initially based on curiosity into a more profitable business venture.

“I’ll see something on TV or a photo of a place and think, ‘Ok, I want to go there,’” Haney said. “Then, I find some way to make it work.”

The tactic has worked well for Haney, who over the last 10 years has had as many photo books published, including ones featuring Glacier National Park, North Dakota, Montana and Montana’s barns. His images, which he sells several prints of online, also appear in national and state magazines.

A cowboy riding in pasture in the Big Snowy foothills near Judith Gap Montana on the Lee Ranch. – Contributed Photo by Chuck Haney

Haney’s latest book, a hardcover coffee-table edition called, “Montana: Unforgettable,” came out last month. It’s his third teaming with Helena photographer John Lambing, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. From cherry orchards in bloom along Flathead Lake to the thousands of snow geese that descend annually on Freezeout Lake, to wildlife, kayaking, skiing and rodeo, the book offers a “whole view” of Montana’s memorable traits.

“The book says Montana on the cover,” Haney said. “That’s not just scenery. There’s people, wildlife, weather, buildings. I do scenery to relax – you have to get up early, but a lot of times it’s less work than the others.”

From April through October each year, Haney spends part of his time teaching. His five-day photo workshops are held in locations across the country, including the Palouse of Washington, Glacier National Park and the Mission Valley. Haney scouts each of the locations, scheduling the classes during the area’s most attractive season in order to help students get good shots and teaches them how to use the equipment. The workshops are priced at $649 and $749.

Haney’s also published two calendars – one with mountain biking photos and the other with images of North Dakota scenery, a state whose beauty he says is “vastly underrated.”

In fact, Haney credits the views in eastern Montana and North Dakota, in large part, with helping him launch his career. Haney, an Ohio native, discovered Whitefish during a bike ride across the country in the late 1980s, moved there soon after and got a job at Glacier Cyclery. He had a camera, but had mostly “just fooled around with it.”

A female great horned owl on nest near Shelby Montana. – Contributed Photo by Chuck Haney

“I got serious when I moved out here,” he said. “I basically fell in love with Glacier. I’d be on bike rides and think, ‘I have to come back and get a picture of that.’”

But photography is a hard industry to break into, so Haney found his niche traveling to the places less pictured – namely the prairies of eastern Montana and its neighbor, North Dakota. “I started getting jobs because I was one of the only guys doing work out there,” he said.

Haney has maintained that adventuresome spirit, spending about half of each year on the road. Putting about 40,000 miles on his car annually, he says his work has helped him to shoot, hike, bicycle, canoe and explore the Western and Midwestern states – and to share that with others.

“You take photos because there’s the artist in you,” he said. “But you also want others to share the experience with you when they see the photo later.”

Chuck Haney is hosting a digital presentation of his work and signing his new book, “Montana: Unforgettable.”
Where: O’Shaughnessy Center, Whitefish
When: Nov. 21 at 7 p.m.
Price of admission is a donation of food for the North Valley Food Bank.

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