Book Review: Badlands Impressions by Chuck Haney

A few years ago, the late Sheila Schafer, who loved the North Dakota Bad Lands more than almost anyone, wrote on her Facebook page “I’m on my way to buy a new dictionary. Under Badlands mine lists ‘a barren eroded region in southwestern South Dakota and northwestern Nebraska.’ No mention of North Dakota. Hope this is changed since my 1980 book. Time to update. Sheila”

Sheila would like Chuck Haney’s new book Badlands Impressions (Farcountry Press, 2017, 80 pages, $12.95), a collection of Haney’s recent Badlands photographs from his travels around the Upper Great Plains. Fully a third of the 83 photos in the book are from North Dakota. While South Dakota’s Badlands National Park gets the front cover, North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park gets the title page and back cover.

This is Haney’s second book of Badlands photos, but unlike the first coffee table-sized hardcover Badlands of the High Plains, this one is 9” x 8” with a soft cover and slides neatly into the side pocket of an SUV for easy access as you travel the back roads of North and South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and Kansas (although Sheila might challenge Kansas’ claim to any Badlands).

The smaller format hasn’t diminished the quality of the book, though. The printing is superb, with heavy high-gloss paper, and eye-pleasing full bleeds on more than half the pages.

And Haney’s the master of soft light on rugged landscapes. His photos reflect his willingness to awaken in the dark of an early summer morning to be creekside as the sun rises over a badlands bluff, or to delay his supper until nearly midnight after driving in the dark from a midsummer night’s late sunset, deep in a national park, to the nearest Dairy Queen.

Haney also knows North Dakota well. His early work here 25 years ago for the North Dakota Tourism office led to three books of photos of our state, North Dakota: Simply Beautiful (hard cover, 2001), North Dakota Impressions (soft cover, 2003) and North Dakota: Unforgettable (hard cover, 2013), as well as a whole book full of photos of just our own national park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park Impressions (soft cover, 2003). You’ll find them all online, and some at the North Dakota Heritage Center, Western Edge Books in Medora, and the Visitor Center at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

In Badlands Impressions you’ll spend a pleasant hour feeling you’ve escaped to some of the most beautiful landscapes of the northern plains. While many of the readers of the Bismarck Tribune might think of Bad Lands as only North Dakota’s most impressive landscapes, this book will teach you that similar topography is scattered widely across this part of the country.

Unlike Haney’s earlier Badlands book, in which he simply identified the location or subject of the photos, here lengthier text, carefully written by South Dakota outdoor journalist Dick Kettlewell, informs the reader in a few sentences of the subject of each photograph—flora, fauna, geology, geography and history.

Haney lives in the beautiful mountain town of Whitefish, Montana, but it is obvious from his work he spends little time there, traveling both Canada and the U.S., doing travel and outdoors articles for numerous magazines in addition to capturing photos for his next book. He now has 13 coffee table books to his credit, including, this year, his first publishing venture outside the Great Plains, a photo book on San Francisco.

He also conducts photo workshops at various photogenic locations, including in Medora, where he held one in the summer of 2017. “Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of my absolutely favorite parks,” Haney told us. “In fact, it’s the second best national park for photographing wildlife (behind only Yellowstone), in my opinion.”

For information about Haney’s future workshops, and to see more of Haney’s photos and books, check out his website at