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Digital Photography: Black Hills, Badlands and Mount Rushmore Area

Program Number: 13984RJ
Start and End Dates:
6/9/2013 - 6/14/2013; 9/21/2015 - 9/26/2015; 5/22/2016 - 5/27/2016; 9/26/2016 - 10/1/2016;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Rapid City, South Dakota
Price starting at: $798.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Photography Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 14; 5 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Let your lens capture the patriotic essence of Mount Rushmore and the elusive mystique of Crazy Horse Monument in the Black Hills and the layers of color and spine-shaped peaks of the Badlands. With hands-on instruction by a professional photographer, learn the basics of digital photography’s composition, exposure and lighting.


• Capture photos unique to Rapid City, including life-size president’s Statues, rose garden and Stave Kirk.
• Snap photos of Mount Rushmore and Custer state park from various angles, spotting prairie grasses, water falls, bison, bighorn sheep and golden eagles.
• Let your lens capture banded colors, sharp peaks and valleys of the Badlands, then capture the mystery of Devils Tower’s granite columns towering into the sky.

Activity Particulars

Walking 1-2 miles a day on hilly terrain; groomed paths. Elevations of 5,600 feet.

Photographers of all skill levels welcome.

Date Specific Information


Includes Devils Tower National Monument.
Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.


Special Event -this program date includes the annual Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup. Watch from the grassy hillside as park personnel and cowhands roundup approximately 1,300 buffalo and drive them into the Buffalo Corrals where they will be sorted, branded, and vaccinated.

Coordinated by South Dakota and Regional Traveling Studies.

Rapid City

Founded by gold prospectors in 1876, this center for commerce, culture and education for the high plains region also boasts rich Old West history and a premier location near major Black Hills and Wyoming attractions, including Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse National monuments, as well as Wind Cave National Park.

Comfortable hotel with indoor swimming pool.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Marilyn Hovland

Marilyn Hovland is the director of South Dakota/Regional Traveling Studies, a not-for-profit educational organization based in Rapid City, S.D. Previously, she served as the senior project coordinator for Harvard University and South Dakota Cancer Research Project, and taught business and hospitality classes at National American University. Marilyn has planned, coordinated and instructed Road Scholar programs since 1999, and enjoys sharing her storytelling talents with participants.
Harlan Humphrey

A native of South Dakota, Harlan Humphrey has always loved to capture the beauty of nature through his photography. For 20 years, Harlan traveled the world during his Army career, retiring as a LTC. He spent 15 years in Alaska, enjoying the wonders of nature, before moving back to his native state of South Dakota. Within the last few years, he has had the time to devote to his love of wildlife and nature photography, and has had his work published numerous times in South Dakota Magazine. He has received honors at the Dahl Mountain Photo Contest, and serves as president of the Black Hills Photography Club. The beautiful Black Hills and Badlands National Park are Harlan’s favorite haunts for pursuing his love of nature photography.
Meals and Lodgings
   Howard Johnson Express Inn & Suites
  Rapid City, SD 5 nights
 Howard Johnson Express Inn & Suites
Type: Hotel
  Description: This 2002 Rapid City hotel is located six long blocks from downtown Rapid City with easy access off I-90, Exit 57, Exit 1C (from east or west) or from highway 79 and Mount Rushmore Road coming from the south.
  Contact info: 950 North Street
Rapid City, SD 57701 USA
phone: 888-578-4657 xor6057374656
  Room amenities: All rooms feature high-speed Internet access, voice mail, in-room coffee, hair dryers, iron/boards and expanded cable with HBO/Showtime.
  Facility amenities: There is an indoor swimming pool, hot tub, exercise room, guest laundry and continental breakfast starting at 6:00 a.m. There is not a restaurant at the hotel, snacks are available to purchase or walk three blocks to the nearest restaurant/dining facility.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Prices vary from $85 to $139. Contact hotel directly for pre and post room costs, call 888-578-4657 or 605-737-4656.
  Check in time: 3:00 PM
  Additional nights after: Prices vary from $85 to $139. Contact hotel directly for pre and post room costs, call 888-578-4657 or 605-737-4656.
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Meet your Road Scholar Director in the hotel hospitality room at 4:30 p.m. You will be staying at Howard Johnson Express Inn & Suites that night.
  End of Program:
Program ends with continental breakfast available at hotel prior to independent departures. Check out by noon. You will be staying at Howard Johnson Express Inn & Suites the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Parking available at no cost at the hotel the entire week. SDRTS and hotel not liable for vehicles in parking lot.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Rapid City, SD
  Nearest city or town:  Sturgis, SD 25 miles
  Nearest highway: I-90
  Nearest airport:  Rapid City Regional Airport
  From End of Program
  Location: Rapid City, SD
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

To hotel in Rapid City


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Airport Express Shuttle
phone: 800-357-9998 xor6053999999


Per Person/One Way:


Hotel pays for shuttle.
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


20 to 30 minutes one way. 




Approximately 7 miles.


Advanced reservations are suggested but not required from the airport to the hotel. However, advanced reservations are required returning to the airport from the hotel. The hotel will give the shuttle driver a voucher for your fare to and from the airport. A tip for the driver is NOT included. You can tip the shuttle driver individually.


From hotel in Rapid City


To Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Airport Express Shuttle
phone: 800-357-9998 xor6053999999
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


Hotel pays for shuttle.
Prices are subject to change.


Travel Time:


20 to 30 minutes one way. 




Approximately 7 miles.


The hotel will give the shuttle driver a voucher for your fare to and from the airport. A tip for the driver is NOT included. You can tip the shuttle driver individually. Advanced reservations are required when returning to the airport from the hotel.

Driving Directions
  From Howard Johnson Express Inn & Suites From hotel take exit 1C to Exit 57 and I-90 to travel east or west. To travel south, from hotel take Mount Rushmore Road south to Catron Blvd (truck bypass), turn left (east) until you intersect highway 79. Turn right and continue on 79 south towards NE or CO.
  To Howard Johnson Express Inn & Suites If coming from the West or East on I-90, take Exit 57 to Exit 1C. Howard Johnson Express Inn & Suites is located on the left. When coming to Rapid City from the South via Highway 79, turn left at Catron Blvd (truck bypass) to Mount Rushmore Road and follow this street all the way through town until North Street, turn left, one block to the hotel.
Elevation Note: Elevations range from 3,400 feet in Rapid City to approximately 5,700 feet in the Black Hills.

Equipment Requirements: Items to bring with you: Digital camera, at least two memory chips for camera and a Tripod. You must bring the manual for your camera with you and it would be advantageous to you and the rest of the group to be quite familiar with your camera. Pack comfortable walking shoes, a hat and sunscreen.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Meet your Road Scholar Director;Journey Museum Visit;Dinner and Orientation, photograph four sections of the Berlin Wall and rose garden.
(Sunday, June 9)

Note: Go from the hotel to the Berlin Wall, Rose Garden and Journey Museum a distance of about 10 blocks.

 Arrive To: Meet at 4:30 p.m. in the hotel's designated room for the Road Scholar Welcome Reception. At 4:45 p.m., go to The Journey Museum. If your arrival time to the hotel is between 4:45 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., ask the shuttle driver to take you directly to the museum. If your arrival time is after 6:45 p.m., go directly to the hotel.
 Dinner: The Journey Museum takes you on an incredible trek through time, from the violent upheaval that formed the mystical Black Hills over 2.5 billion years ago to the continuing saga of the Western Frontier. The museum brings together four major prehistoric and historic collections to tell the complete story of the Western Great Plains - from the perspective of the Lakota people and the pioneers who shaped its past, to the scientists who now study it. Discover where dinosaurs lie buried beneath the prairie soil, learn why the Sioux called their sacred Black Hills the "Center of the Universe" and experience the hardships of the homesteaders as they settled the formidable wilderness. When your journey is complete, you will fully understand the legacy of the land and its people. You are welcome to take photos at the museum except for one area in the Sioux Indian section (signs will tell you which areas photos are not permitted). You will have an opportunity to take photos of four sections of the Berlin Wall and Memorial Rose Gardens before going to the Journey. Dinner, at the Journey, will be served at 6:30 P.M. A short welcome and orientation will follow dinner.
Accommodations: Howard Johnson Express Inn & Suites
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Travel to photo shoot sites: Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, Wild Flowers and shoot the 1880 Train as it travels through the hills.
(Monday, June 10)

Note: Today's field trip photo shoot will require walking and standing boardwalks, sidewalks, wood deck viewing area ranging in elevations between 5,250 to 6,400 feet.

 Breakfast: Continental breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Your photo instructor will be traveling with you the entire week. He will be instructing, providing answer and question time, offering critiques if so desired, and working with each person as you travel and also when you are on location. Each day's lighting, camera settings, places going to and animals to watch for will be covered en route. This morning's photo shoot takes you to Mount Rushmore. The nation's "Shrine of Democracy's" massive granite sculpture that memorializes four American presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. Discover why the four presidents were selected, see how the mountain was carved and learn about sculptor Godson Barclay and the workers who brought Mount Rushmore to life. Capture shots of these magnificent 60-foot heads from several locations including the terrace, the Presidential Trail or discover your own hidden spot. Be on the lookout for the elusive Mountain Goats that hang out at Mount Rushmore too. Every day while traveling to-and-from photo shoot sites, the on-board instructor will discuss the history, culture, environmental and geology of the areas you are passing through. When it is deemed safe to stop or pull over, unscheduled photo opportunities (different types of animals, seasonal flowers and foliage) will be incorporated.
 Lunch: Enjoy your sack lunch along the way.
 Afternoon: Travel to Hill City where you will hear the whistle of the 1880 train. Hill City is known for their small town Western Hospitality and a main-street with many fine art galleries and a most impressive dinosaur museum. The 1880 Train station and yard will provide you with a unique opportunity to capture part of the steam locomotive history. The Black Hills mining boom began in 1874 and the first steam engine was brought to the Black Hills in 1881. Continuing on through the Hills, you will have several photo ops along the route for fall colors and a shot of the 1880 Train coming down the tracks. Travel on to Crazy Horse Memorial: A fifth granite face has emerged in the Black Hills. Crazy Horse is the largest sculptural undertaking ever – on a scale with the Egyptian pyramids. When completed, it will tower 563 feet high, 641 feet long and be carved in the round. Watch history in the making as drilling and blasting continue on the rest of the sculpture. In 1939, Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear invited sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to carve an Indian memorial in the Black Hills. Through Korczak died in 1982, the sculptor’s wife and family continue the non-profit project. Feel the "spirituality of the mountain" as you focus your lens on Chief Crazy Horse.
 Dinner: Dinner in Rapid City.
 Evening: This evening you are free to exchange ideas with others, swim in the pool, or go to bed early. Each evening is also a time for you to view all those pictures and decide which ones to keep and which ones to delete. Overnight at Howard Johnson Express Inn & Suites.
Accommodations: Howard Johnson Express Inn & Suites
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Early morning photo shoot of animals in Custer State Park including bison, pronghorn, burros, wild turkeys, bighorn sheep, birds of prey golden eagles and turkey vultures. The Mammoth Site offers a chance to get up close photos of mammoth bones.
(Tuesday, June 11)

Note: Today's photo shoot takes you to grassy overlooks on hillsides, dirt paths on level ground, and open plains for optimal animal viewing and photographing.

 Breakfast: Pick up your continental breakfast at the hotel before departing for Custer State Park. We leave approximately 5:30 am.
 Morning: Approximately 5:30 a.m. travel to Custer State Park. This is the morning you will be watching for the "perfect" place for today's photoshoot of animals in Custer State Park. Custer State Park covers 71,000 acres, making it one of the largest state Parks in the nation. From its northern sector, in the shadow of 7,242-foot-high Harney Peak, to the forest, meadows and prairies of its southeast corner you can watch for bison, one of the largest publicly owned bison herds in the country numbering between 1,000 to 1,300; pronghorn or antelope; mule and whitetail deer; burros; coyotes; wild turkeys; elk; mountain goats; bighorn sheep and golden eagles. Some Bison facts: Largest land mammal in North America; can stand six feet at the shoulders and weigh over 2,000 pounds; clocked at speeds of 50 mph; bulls can easily push a one-ton opponent backwards; Tatanka, means big or large thing in Lakota; paw the ground and raise their tail as a warning when angry; meat is high in protein but low in cholesterol and calories; and face straight into the storm, whereas domestic livestock face away. Just getting a close up look at those Majestic Bison Bulls is worth the effort of getting up early to head to the park.
 Lunch: Sack lunch along the way.
 Afternoon: Travel to Hot Springs. Capture one-of-a-kind photos at the world-class Mammoth Site. This is the only facility of its kind in North America and is designated as a National Natural Landmark. It is the world’s largest mammoth research facility. The animals found at the site are exactly where they died. According to Dr. Agenbroad, the Mammoth Site is truly a gift from nature-our inheritance held in trust for over 26,000 years. Once gigantic mammoths roamed freely on the High Plains of North America and their remains, along with those of other animals now extinct, lay undisturbed, entombed within the earth. Scientists estimate the remains of more than 100 mammoths are accumulated in this small area. The majority of fossils found at the Mammoth Site are from the North American Columbian mammoth (over 50). Evidence of three woolly mammoths have also been discovered, making it an “east meets west mammoth gathering” the first time both species have been found together. Other fossils discovered include the camel, llama, giant short-faced bear, wolf, coyote and prairie dog to name a few. The fossils, not petrified, are dry and fragile.
 Dinner: Dinner back in Rapid City.
 Evening: After the BIG day, it will be tough to decide which Buffalo shots to delete and which ones to keep. If you are on a mental photo overload, just enjoy the swimming pool, sauna or Jacuzzi before retiring after a long but wonderful day.
Accommodations: Howard Johnson Express Inn & Suites
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Visit Chapel in the Hills Stavkirke-the most photographed location in Rapid City and world famous Wall Drug before capturing the afternoon lighting of sharp peaks, valleys and delicately banded colors of Badlands National Park.
(Wednesday, June 12)

Note: Walking in the Badlands is on boardwalks, dirt paths and some uneven ground.

 Breakfast: Continental breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Visit Chapel in the Hills or Stavkirke Church. Built in 1969, the Chapel is a replica of the famous 841 year-old church built in Borgund, Norway. The structure combines Norse Dragon heads, Christian symbols, fancy roof shingles and pegged-timber construction make the church one of Rapid City’s most photographed landmarks. There also is a grass-roofed Stabbur welcome center and Log Cabin Museum. Time permitting: Walk and photograph some of the Presidents on the street corners in downtown Rapid City. The City of Presidents project began in 2000 to honor the legacy of the American presidency. Each year, four presidential sculptures are added in downtown Rapid City. Each of the sculptures is privately funded, and the pattern of placement was chosen to maintain a coherent structure and eliminate any sense of favoritism or political gain. The project will end in the fall of 2010. The present sculptures were created by five talented South Dakota artists: Edward Hlavka, Lee Leuning, John Lopez, James Michael Maher, and James Van Nuys.
 Lunch: Enjoy a buffet lunch in Rapid City.
 Afternoon: Travel on to Wall and Wall Drug. Photos are a must at the World Famous Wall Drug. Learn all about the ingenious marketing campaign that started the multi-million dollar business with Wall Drug signs now found all over the world. Take a few minutes to enjoy the multi-million dollar Western Art collection (many originals) displayed in the restaurant section. Continue on to Badlands National Park in the late afternoon to incorporate the optimal light just before sunset. Your photography instructor will give you tips as we travel to the Badlands. With camera in hand, capture the delicately banded colors from several locations. As you wait for the perfect shot, keep in mind how a conservation writer described the region (Badlands) as "peaks and valleys of delicately banded colors-colors that shift in the sunshine....and a thousand tints that color charts do not show" and a paleontologist states, "Fancy yourself on the hottest day in the summer without water, without an animal in sight, without a single flower to speak pleasant things to you and you will have some idea of the utter loneliness of the Badlands." Frank Lloyd Wright said this, "What I saw gave me an indescribable sense of mysterious elsewhere--a distant architecture, ethereal...., an endless supernatural world more spiritual than earth but created out of it." At the Badlands Visitor Center, you will discover how the Badlands formed, the geology, the history and the cultural landscape that made up the entire landscape of the park.
 Dinner: Eat your box dinner while waiting for that "perfect lighting shot" of the Badlands.
 Evening: Evening free to exchange ideas with others, swim in the pool, or go to bed early. Each evening is also a time to view and choose which pictures to keep and which ones to delete. Overnight at Howard Johnson Express Inn & Suites.
Accommodations: Howard Johnson Express Inn & Suites
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Travel to Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway for spectacular shots of the canyon, Spearfish Creek and Roughlock Falls State Park. Photograph Devils Tower National Monument from various angles while walking the trail. Watch for birds, animals and rock climbers.
(Thursday, June 13)

Note: Walking today is mostly flat, some packed dirt trails at Roughlock Falls. Paved trail (uphill in beginning) 1.3 mile walk at Devils Tower.

 Breakfast: Continental breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Travel to Spearfish Canyon this morning for viewing the fall colors of yellow and orange. Spearfish Canyon's Highway 14A is designated as a National Scenic Byway. White limestone cliffs rise on every side. Ponderosa pine look as if they grow out of the rocks. There's a strip of blue sky overhead and rushing Spearfish Creek below. Bridal Veil and Spearfish falls are popular attractions. Roughlock Falls State Park is an idyllic setting in a side canyon to Spearfish Canyon and makes Roughlock Falls one of the most photographed beauty spots in the Black Hills. Little Spearfish Creek flows down a spectacular chasm, then tumbles off a 50-foot limestone ledge in a series of lacy cascades.
 Lunch: Sack lunch along the way.
 Afternoon: Devils Tower: The National Park Information best describes Devils Tower this way: “In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the new Antiquities Act. About 60 million years ago molten magma was forced into sedimentary rocks above it and cooled underground. As it cooled it contracted and fractured into columns. An earlier flow formed Little Missouri Buttes. Over millions of years, erosion of the sedimentary rock exposed Devils Tower and accentuated Little Missouri Buttes. The Tower rises 867 feet from the base and stands 1,267 feet above the river and 5, 112 feet above sea level. The area of its tear-drop shaped top is 1.5 acres and the diameter of its base is 1,000 feet.” At Devils Tower Visitor Center, you will learn about the geological story of the Tower, the Indian Legend, the human phase of the story, and about the different kinds of birds, animals, trees and plants that thrive in the area. You will have a chance to walk the paved Tower Trail (1.3 miles) around the base of the Tower (walk is optional). Seeing the Tower up close, you may be reminded of Steven Spielberg’s 1977 science fiction movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and Devils Tower.
 Dinner: Catered dinner at the hotel. Overnight Howard Johnson Express Inn and Suites.
 Evening: Farewell Gathering: After dinner, gather in the hotel meeting room for a short farewell. Share your favorite photos of the week and say "goodbye" to new friends and staff. Then, collapse into bed after re-packing your suitcase that has gotten smaller since you arrived due to the "stuff" that you've accumulated this week. Program concludes with this event and overnight stay.
Accommodations: Howard Johnson Express Inn & Suites
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Continental breakfast at the hotel served 6:00 am to 9:00 am. Independent departures anytime before hotel check-out time at noon.
(Friday, June 14)
 Breakfast: Continental breakfast available starting at 6:00 AM. Independent departures from hotel.
Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
  Rapid City, SD South Dakota
This is a very busy itinerary, very limited free time during program. Contact program director for pre and post-free time information tailored to individual needs. Transportation by private or rental vehicle pre and post program. For additional information, visit
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Black Elk Speaks

Author: John Neihardt

Description: This book gives the reader a good background of the Northern Plains Indian Culture and Religion.

Exploring with Custer - The 1874 Black Hills Expedition

Author: Paul Horsted

Description: General George Armstrong Custer's journey to the Black Hills 8n 1874 was better documented than any other military expedition of the Old West. This book blends the photographs of William H. Illingworth and their present-day counterparts with selections from all known accounts to paint a unique portrait of everyday life along the trail. Join the first military expedition in the Black Hills, brought to life through striking photographs and vivid stories of the adventure. Color and black and white photography throughout.

Six Wars At A Time

Author: Audrey and Howard Shaff

Description: The life and times of Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore.

Standing Witness: Devils Tower National Monument, A History

Author: Jeanne Rogers

The Carving of Mount Rushmore

Author: Rex Alan Smith

Description: This work tells the story of the spectacular artistic and engineering project of carving the American presidents' portraits on Mount Rushmore. It describes how it was conceived and carried out. The author was brought up in sight of Mount Rushmore and witnessed the work in progress.

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