Photography jobs

Former Ashland Gazette editor goes back to basics, photography | Ashland Gazette

By Suzi Nelson The Ashland Gazette

ASHLAND — Jeff Carney’s career as a journalist began in Ashland.

While a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Carney was asked to work at The Ashland Gazette by his father, Zean Carney, when he bought the newspaper in 1988.

During this time, Carney also worked as a freelance photographer for the Associated Press. When he graduated from UNL with a journalism degree in 1990, he took a job at the Associated Press office in Kansas City. Although he hated leaving Ashland, it was too tempting to pass up a job that allowed him to photograph Chiefs and Royals games as well as breaking news throughout the Midwest and beyond.

A few years later, Carney took a job at the Des Moines Register, a newspaper where he had interned while in college. For five years he was a photojournalist for the award-winning newspaper, until he was hired by the Omaha World-Herald in late 1995. After returning to his home country, his first assignment was to cover the Fiesta Bowl on January 2. 1996. Through his lens, he watched Tommie Frazier lead the Huskers to a national championship by beating Florida 62-24.

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Carney made a name for himself as a photojournalist. His photographs have appeared in newspapers across the country and in magazines like Life and National Geographic.

“My work has appeared in many publications,” he said.

As Carney’s star continued to rise in the industry, he was persuaded to take on a leadership role as deputy editor of the World-Herald. Over the years, he rose through the management ranks as the company went through multiple ownership changes. The newspaper was purchased by Warren Buffet in 2004 and became part of BH Media Group. In 2020, Lee Enterprises purchased BH Media and Carney’s role in the business expanded even further.

Over the years, Carney began working in the digital realm of journalism. He was working as a senior business manager at TownNews, a digital media and online publishing company also owned by Lee Enterprises.

He started a drone photography program for BH Media Group, but didn’t get very far before Lee Enterprises bought the business.

Under Lee Enterprises, Carney renewed his interest in drones and launched the media company’s first drone program. It had to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, which includes extensive training and testing.

After earning his certification, Carney led a group of volunteer photographers from Lee’s 77 markets in 26 states.

But just as the program was starting, the COVID-19 pandemic began. One of the areas where Lee planned to use drone photography was sporting events, but they were cut short by the pandemic.

Drone photography took Carney back to his roots.

“It reconnected me to the photography part of the business and reinforced what I wanted to do,” he said.

Earlier this year, when Carney was offered a buyout and opted to retire, he took the opportunity to bring photography back to the fore.

“I’ve always looked forward to that creative part of the business,” he said.

And he used his expertise in drone photography to lead the way.

“I thought to myself that’s what I really wanted to do, to build on movement with drone work,” he said.

He started his own business, Carney Photography, which includes drones, video, and standard photography. He has contracts with AP, USA Today, The Washington Post and Reuters for editorial drone photography.

“So if the breaking news comes in, I’m going to get a call to do something,” he said.

Drones can also be applied to commercial photography in areas such as business, agribusiness or mapping, Carney said.

When he puts the drone away, Carney grabs his Sony digital camera and gets to work on commercial photography jobs like taking head shots for businesses, photographing houses for real estate agents, or taking pictures of high school students.

Carney also plans to work on editorial photography, like when he started his career as a journalist. His name may appear in photographs published in local newspapers or magazines while he is out and about capturing events in the area.

“Let’s get back to what I enjoyed the most,” he said.

His company is headquartered in his home, in a lakeside community near Ashland. Years after working at the Gazette, Carney returned to Ashland to buy a house in Thomas Lakes, a lakeside community north of Ashland. He and his wife, Wendy Boyer, recently moved to Sandy Pointe, another local gated community anchored by a body of water.

Although he lived in the Ashland area for many years, Carney felt estranged from the community because his job involved extensive travel that kept him from getting to know the people of the area.

Now that he’s retired, Carney plans to fix it. He has joined the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce and is enjoying the chance to reconnect with Ashland.

“There couldn’t have been a better time to come back and reintroduce myself,” he said.

Carney has seen Ashland grow and evolve over the past 16 years he has lived in the area. He is intrigued by the presence of the artistic community and the recent designation of Ashland as a Creative District by the Nebraska Arts Council.

While commercial and editorial assignments will pay the bills, Carney also plans to get creative with his camera and drone. A few weeks ago, he took a trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota and weaved his way through the Sandhills of Nebraska with a camera in hand.

The photographer is also drawn to the Platte River, where he enjoys photographing landscapes and wildlife.

That’s the kind of trip Carney will make between paid gigs.

“I will pack the quiet days with things that are close to my heart,” he said.

Taking photos without the pressure of a deadline is something all photographers aspire to. Carney has found that middle ground, with a few exceptions when shooting a scene like Chimney Rock at sunset.

“The only deadline is light,” he said.

Suzi Nelson is the editor of The Ashland Gazette. Contact her by email at [email protected]