Haney celebrates 30 years of photography
Northern lights dance over Werner Peak. (Chuck Haney photo)
By WHITNEY ENGLAND
Whitefish photographer Chuck Haney’s career has morphed over the years as the industry changed with new technology and digital cameras became available to more people.
From starting out in his early years working the Mountain Photography on The Big Mountain in the early 1990s to taking stock photography for magazines and books and now getting into a more artistic side of photography, Haney has photos for every occasion.
In his annual photo slideshow that benefits the North Valley Food Bank on Friday, Haney will present his photos with timelapse shots interspersed set to coordinating music for an entertaining evening. Haney asks that attendees bring a monetary donation, and all proceeds from the evening will go directly to the food bank.
It’s been a number of years since Haney began hosting the annual show and he says it gives him the opportunity to bring the community together for a great cause.
“We’ve read, how badly (the food bank) needs help these days. It’s a shame more and more people have to rely on them,” Haney said. “I think it’s a great local cause, and all the money stays here. So it feels good to give back a little because the community has been good to me too.”
The show also provides a fun way for Haney to celebrate another year’s worth of photos. Much of the slideshow is a year-in-review that features highlights from Haney’s work, including his travels abroad. Haney now leads photo tours in various locations locally and abroad, and the shots highlight the best of his travels.
In 2022, Haney’s big adventure was a five-week trip to Europe — visiting Portugal, the Czech Republic and Ireland. Additionally, he did a backpacking trip in Glacier Park, cycled across the state of Ohio — 300 miles over five days — and shot plenty of photos locally.
He says after years in the business, he sometimes just has the inclination to go out and shoot on a particular day and ends up with some of the most spectacular images of the year.
One of those times this year was when he and his wife decided to head up to Werner Peak in September when the Northern Lights were forecasted. Haney waited up until just past midnight — nothing. He woke up at 3 a.m., again no Northern Lights just a faint glow. Randomly he woke again at about 4:30 a.m. and it was one of the most stunning visions of the aurora borealis he had witnessed. It was so late in the morning that the sun had started to show as well.
“I woke up and, oh my God it’s like the lights were dancing you know. There were rays shooting up in the air…” he recalled. “So I hopped down, lit up the lookout tower, and shot it until five something in the morning. It was so late that we could actually see the colors of the sunrise starting.”
“I told my wife, we could stay here another 30 years and this would never happen,” he added.
The photo highlights from the year are one aspect of the annual show, Haney also adds special presentations that are photos of a particular theme taken over several years. This year’s special segment will be artistic shots of ice and unusual weather phenoms.
One of Haney’s favorite places to shoot is Lake McDonald in Glacier Park. He says the way the ice formations change from day to day is intriguing as well as the colorful rocks showing through the ice layer.
“I find it fascinating as a subject because it just takes on so many different forms, like shapes, and then the transparency...” he said.
An aspect of photography that Haney loves is that a scene can be shot one day and look completely different another day. This happened to Haney recently as he wandered down to the shore of Whitefish Lake one chilly morning. The way the cold air hit the water created a giant fog that looked like a monster rising out of the lake. Although Haney has shot the lake often throughout 30 years, he could still capture it in a different way.
“That’s still the rush after all these years of taking pictures, especially a familiar subject like (the lake). It just looks totally different. And that really is kind of the beauty of photography,” he said.
REFLECTING ON 30 years as a professional photographer, Haney says it’s been the ride of a lifetime. His business has taken him all over the world and he has been published in countless magazines as well as a host of coffee table books.
“I never take it for granted,” Haney said. “I mean it’s a very hard profession to make a living at, it's probably equal to most arts. From when I started to now is like from the Stone Age to… it's just completely different.”
In the early '90s, he had a film camera and shot slides which required different skills to manipulate the film. He said when digital cameras and Photoshop came about he welcomed the change as he could finally see and fix his images before handing them over to a client.
Once the internet was available, he had to shift his career because he spent much of his time shooting stock photography which was now easily sold by anyone online who had a camera.
“My career has kind of pivoted and I had to really make some career changes in the last 10 years or more,” Haney said.
In the past decade, he started leading photo tours for his business and also shoots more artistic photos for fun.
“I’m just trying to do something nobody else really does... any artist I think after you’ve been doing it a long time, you kind of evolve,” he reflected.
Technology has made him able to take photos he would have never dreamed of years ago, but his skill and natural knack have also set him apart from many.
“I was lucky because I was almost 30 when I was floundering around here doing different jobs. But it just seemed like I could see (the photo) before I took it…” Haney said of the start to his career.
In the show, Haney will take people through his process, highlight his longstanding career and show some of the best images taken from behind his lens in 2022.
The show is Friday, Dec. 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the O’Shaughnessy Center in downtown Whitefish. Bring a monetary donation for the food bank to attend.