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Photographer by nature

Retirement turns hobby into passion

March 19, 2011
By RENEE PRUSI Journal Staff Writer

ISHPEMING - Joan Haara was a bit miffed at herself the other evening.

It was because she forgot to bring her camera along on her way to a business after-hours hosted by the Greater Ishpeming-Negaunee Chamber of Commerce. Haara's photography work was part of the display at the event, "Art on the Ice," which highlighted local artists' efforts being exhibited in western Marquette County.

"I saw four deer on a hill when we were driving here," said the Michigamme resident. "I would have loved to have taken a photo of them. But then we would have been late.

Article Photos

Joan Haara’s photo selected as a finalist in Lake Superior magazine’s 16th annual photo contest. (Photo provided by Joan Haara)

"I am always making Paul stop by the side of the highway so I can take photos," she added with a laugh.

Paul is her husband. The Haaras are now happily retired, she from a career as a registered nurse and he from years working at the state employment office. Together they put together art that combines each of their avocations: Photography for Joan and frame construction for Paul.

Joan Haara's work is drawing wide attention, including her shot of Grand Island near Munising being selected as a finalist in Lake Superior magazine's 16th annual photo contest.

"The contest (honor) was a nice surprise," she said. "The photo they liked most wasn't my first pick. It was taken while I was on a rocking boat... But I was honored and surprised."

Haara has been retired for three years now and is pursuing her passion for photography.

"I have been doing more. I only did a little until I got a digital," Haara said. "I first bought a Panasonic point-and-shoot digital camera. That was a lot more handy.

'I really like nature photography, wildlife, flowers," she said. "I am always on the 'hunt' for moose. I don't do too many people photos although I did do a friend's wedding and that turned out well.

Haara enjoys grabbing shots spontaneously.

"We really love hiking," she said. "I love nature. I take a lot of photos in Baraga County. That's where I find most of the moose.

"But I also love shooting tropical birds when we travel to visit our daughter in Florida," Haara said. "I like to get birds that are native to that area."

One more trip to Florida is on tap as daughter Kimberly will be married in less than two weeks and then will be returning to the Upper Peninsula. The Haaras' other daughter, Bethany Haara Hiitola, lives in Kenosha, Wis.

Paul Haara makes frames for many of his wife's photos.

"Paul is so great. He and I head off to the woods and he helps carry my lenses," she said. "Paul makes the frames from recycled materials. He will take the bark from downed trees. We try to be green with what we make."

Photography had been a hobby for Joan Haara before her retirement. But when she started a retirement blog, it spurred her to spend more time on taking photos.

"I now have 403 followers," she said of the blog. "It was started as a retirement chronicle. I received so much positive feedback and encouragement about my photos... it became my passion."

A self-described "Air Force brat," Haara traveled as a youngster as her father's career took him to many places, including two stints at the now defunct K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base near Gwinn. She graduated from Marquette Senior High School and Northern Michigan University.

She's made the area her home and recently has found a group of fellow photography enthusiasts.

"It's the Superiorland Photography Club," she said. "It's a growing group of both amateurs and professionals. It's just wonderful."

The club meets at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at Peter White Public Library in Marquette.

"We will be having a gallery show at the library in April and May," she said.

Haara's work also is on display at the Country Grill in Ishpeming. For more on her work, visit her blog at

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her e-mail address is



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