Photos from the Badlands Photography Workshop

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The second to last photography workshop of the year this year was in the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. I lead a group of photographers from mainly the Midwest, but also the east coast on a three-day adventure in the Badlands. I wasn’t going to run this winter one next year and in its place run one in June during storm season, but several former participants talked me into doing a winter one next year in addition to the June workshop. Both should be good fun.

If you want to learn more about my Badlands workshops here are the links:

I love spending time in the Badlands. The formations feel so unreal that it feels like you’re on a different planet. Some of the best sunrises and sunsets of my life have been in the Badlands, including one on this year’s workshop and one on last year’s workshop. It seems that the color completely surrounds you at sunrise and sunset. I don’t know that I’ve experienced the same anywhere else. The first three pictures are from Day 1’s sunrise.

After sunrise, we went to Wall Drug for breakfast and then I did a classroom session on exposure, camera settings and composition. In the afternoon we went back out, and I worked with several participants on exposure and settings. While they were practicing, we were photographing in one of my favorite areas and a bighorn sheep walked right in front of us. He gained a ridge line just as the sun lit up everything.

We drove through the park and I pointed out several sunrise locations and then we went to sunset. It started out blue, but went awesome with color. In the first picture, you can see Greg standing by the road setting up his shot. Jane is in the middle.

Day two started off with clouds for sunrise. We were out there in case the sun broke through, but had no luck. After breakfast we went back into the field to find bison. The bison seemed skittish this year. Last year, we were able to park on the side of the road and they wouldn’t do much, but this year, they ran when they saw the cars. We final caught up to a herd that was hanging out on Sage Creek. We caught them crossing the creek. It was fun to photograph, and even more enjoyable to watch.

After the bison, we went to the ghost town of Scenic. The bar is the shot that everyone wants, then the main street and finally the old jail.

Then we visited one of my favorite locations and found a fossil of a 35-million-year-old turtle! It was probably two feet tip to tail. We stayed out to watch the sunset and photograph it.

We finished the day with a night photography session before dinner — remember that the sunset at about 4:30 this time of year. The Milky Way was out and bright by 6pm. I used several lights to light up the Badland formations, so that the picture would have visible formations under the Milky Way.

The next morning, we went to an area where you are surrounded by Badland formations. I like shooting in this area, because you can get silhouettes of the formations. Or you can shoot across an open area. I’ve gotten one of my favorite Badlands shots from this area on last year’s workshop. This sunrise didn’t disappoint either. The pinks and reds in the sky were subtle and amazing.

Most everyone on the workshop needed to leave after an image review and classroom session on processing images, but two stayed around and we decided to shoot sunset together. It was an amazing sunset. One of the top 10 I’ve seen. During most of the sunset, I shot the pinks and blues to the north. Greg and Larry were shooting to the west into the sunset.

I debated visiting Western Nebraska for a few days, but in the end I woke up the next morning and shot the sunrise before making the drive back home to Grand Marais, Minnesota.

I love doing these national park destination workshops. The people are always great and the scenery is amazing. Next year, in addition to my north shore of Lake Superior workshops, I’m doing workshops in Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota Badlands), Badlands National Park, the Black Hills, Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Grand Teton National Park. You should join me on one.

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