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Billings photographer inundated with interviews after taking viral photo of Chinese spy balloon

Posted at 6:45 PM, Feb 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-03 22:15:48-05

BILLINGS — You've probably seen the photo that Billings native Chase Doak took of that Chinese spy balloon. The former Billings Gazette employee said he was just in the right place at the right time.


Some say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s one way Doak, a photography hobbyist, expresses himself.

“I’ve continued to do photography when I can, but I don’t get a whole lot of chances to do it,” Doak said on Friday.

On Wednesday, an unexpected chance suddenly appeared as a mysterious orb high in the sky. Doak’s first instinct was to rush home from work and capture the moment.

“It was just right here. I was literally just right here in the vicinity of my driveway,” said Doak.

Little did he know, he had snapped some of the clearest images taken of this mysterious object, which turned out to be something that he could never have imagined.

“I had posted a couple of photos just to social media, just joking, like I thought I saw a UFO,” Doak said.

It turns out that UFO was actually a Chinese surveillance balloon and Doak’s photos have gone viral, appearing all around the world.

“Even as we’re standing here, I can feel my phone vibrating 'cuz people are trying to call me,” said Doak.

He’s given several interviews to national and international news outlets since Thursday with no signs of stopping.

“I did Inside Edition, I did NPR, that will be on a little later in the day, and then I did CNN. That will be on at five,” Doak said.


It’s a complete 180 from what this data analyst at RiverStone Health is used to, despite his previous digital media experience at the Billings Gazette.

“It’s just crazy. This is more attention than any of my photos or videos have received. And I’m not even in the news anymore,” said Doak.

While his 15 minutes of fame may be overwhelming, he’s thankful for the opportunity.

“I’m happy to have played a part in history. I think as a photojournalist, that was something I always wanted to do,” Doak said.