South Dakota
Digital Photography: Black Hills, Badlands and Mount Rushmore Area
Photograph the unique landscapes of the Black Hills, Badlands and Mount Rushmore Area, enjoying daily workshops, lectures by experts and visits to the region’s museums and monuments.
Rating (4.75)
Program No. 13984RJ
6 days
Starts at
Print All
Map details are not available for this location.
View Map
Expand All
6 days
5 nights
14 meals
5 B 4 L 5 D
Getting There
See travel details and required documents
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Rapid City, SD
Howard Johnson Rapid City

Activity note: Meet photography instructors at the hotel meeting room for orientation, dinner and basic photography class.

Dinner: 6:30 p.m. Catered dinner at the hotel.

Mount Rushmore, Stockade Lake, Flowers & Birds
Rapid City, SD
Howard Johnson Rapid City

Activity note: Today's field trip photo shoot will require walking and standing boardwalks, sidewalks, wood deck viewing area and hard-packed dirt walking trail and tall grassy areas. Elevation ranges from 5,250 to 6,400 feet.

Breakfast: Continental breakfast at hotel.

Morning: Each day your photo instructors travel with you answering questions, offering critiques if so desired, and working with each person on location. Daily handouts list what equipment to bring, camera settings for optimal images, and the focus of each photo shoot. When it is deemed safe to stop or pull over, unscheduled photo opportunities (different types of animals, seasonal flowers and foliage) will be incorporated. Learn about the local history, culture and geology of the area while on the road between photo sites. This morning's photo shoot takes you to Mount Rushmore. For Mount Rushmore recommend you have a short lens or short zoom lens on your camera to take images of the Monument. A tripod would be recommended as well. You may want to use a polarizer if you have one. A perfect lens of 24-105mm would be a good range to have on your camera. 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 Gutzon Borglum 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.

Lunch: Enjoy an early lunch at Mount Rushmore.

Afternoon: Travel to Stockade Lake in pursuit of heron and osprey images and a possible reflection shot on the lake. A telephoto lens would be great if you have an opportunity to shoot images of the blue heron and osprey.

Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.

Evening: This is a good time for you to download, edit and get your two images (on a memory stick, flash drive or jump drive) ready to give to the photo instructor tomorrow morning (for the slide show the last night of the program). Or just relax after a busy day in the Black Hills. Swim in the indoor pool, use the sauna or soothe your tired feet in the hot tub.

Visit Chapel in the Hills Stavkirke, Badlands National Park
Rapid City, SD
Howard Johnson Rapid City

Activity note: Walking in the Badlands is on boardwalks, dirt paths and some uneven ground. Sidewalks and paved path at Rapid City locations.

Breakfast: Continental breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Meet your instructor in the hotel lobby at 6:15 a.m. to walk to Rapid Creek (two blocks) for some early light reflection shots. You will want a short lens and your tripod for shooting in low, early light. Depart hotel at 8:30 a.m. for the Chapel in the Hills/Stavkirke Church. Bring your landscape lens for outdoors and your tripod for inside the church. Sometimes wildlife can be seen here, use a telephoto lens for those images. Built in 1969, the Chapel is a replica of the famous 842 year-old church built in Borgund, Norway. The structure combines Norse Dragon Heads, Christian symbols, fancy roof shingles and a pegged-timber construction. There also is a grass-roofed Stabbur welcome center and Log Cabin Museum. Mid-morning: 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 were added in downtown Rapid City. Each of the sculptures was 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 was completed in 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. Another unique photo shoot opportunity is Rapid City's Art Alley, a graffiti-filled downtown alley adorned with a variety of sizes and themes of urban artwork. You will want to take your camera with a short lens or maybe even a wide-angle lens if you have one for images in Art Alley. Because light will be limited in the alley a tripod will help you get some sharp images at slow shutter speeds. You can take images without your tripod but will have to use higher ISO settings to get enough shutter speed to prevent camera shake. It will be a fun opportunity to take images of downtown Rapid City.

Lunch: Buffet lunch in Rapid City.

Afternoon: Travel on to Wall and Wall Drug. Images inside the world famous Wall Drug Store need a steady hold or flash. Outdoors and in backyard of the store, a hand held is ok. 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 instructors recommend using a landscape lens on your camera and a tripod when light conditions are low for sunset images. There will be opportunities for wildlife images as well. Wild flowers will also be available to photograph with a short lens or telephoto lens. 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." Dinner tonight is a sack lunch in the Badlands~ to accommodate the evening sunset

Dinner: Eat your sack lunch while waiting for that "perfect evening light" in the Badlands.

Evening: Return to hotel approximately 8:30 p.m. Overnight at Howard Johnson Express Inn & Suites.

Photograph Devils Tower National Monument
Rapid City, SD
Howard Johnson Rapid City

Activity note: Walking today is mostly flat, packed dirt trails, and some stairs at Spearfish Canyon and waterfalls area. Paved trail (uphill in beginning) 1.3 mile walk at Devils Tower.

Breakfast: Continental breakfast at hotel.

Morning: Travel to Devils Tower (2 hour drive): 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. For images at Devils Tower, you will want a short lens on as you walk around the tower. It is a very large structure and you will not be able to get a great composition without a short lens. There will be opportunities for flowers as well so you will want to have a tripod with you on the walk.

Lunch: Sack lunch at Devils Tower picnic area.

Afternoon: Travel to Spearfish Canyon this afternoon. For Bridal Veil and Spearfish waterfalls images, you will want a short lens and maybe even a wide-angle lens to get all of the falls in your image. Depending on lighting, you may want a graduated neutral density filter as well to hold back the lighting in the sky above the falls. Depending on lighting you may also need a neutral density filter to be able to get a slow enough shutter speed to have a blurred impact on the water as it falls. The walk to the second waterfalls, Spearfish Falls, is a 3/4 mile trail that descends 110 feet down into the canyon. Spearfish Canyon's Highway 14A is designated as a National Scenic Byway (approximately 20 miles long). Ponderosa Pine trees look as if they grow out of the rocks. There's a strip of blue-sky overhead and rushing Spearfish Creek below. The Canyon's high walls are of three dominant Precambrian rock types. Deadwood shale at the bottom can be identified by its brown color, is multi-layered in appearance and ranges from 10-400 feet thick. Englewood limestone in the middle is pink to red colored and is 30 to 60 feet thick. Paha Sapa limestone, the top layer, is the thickest, 300 to 600 feet, and is buff colored and weathered gray in appearance.

Dinner: Enjoy a deluxe buffet dinner in the town of Deadwood, South Dakota. Overnight Howard Johnson Express Inn and Suites.

Evening: Take time to edit, download, delete your images from today and get your two images ready to give to the photo instructor tomorrow morning (use your flash drive/memory stick/jump drive).

Roundup Photo Shoot, Mammoth Site & Crazy Horse Memorial
Rapid City, SD
Howard Johnson Rapid City

Activity note: You will be standing and/or sitting (folding sports chairs) out on the prairie grass covered hillside. Flat but gravel and grassy areas surround the Buffalo Corrals (lunch and afternoon events).

Breakfast: Pick up your continental breakfast at the hotel before departing for the Buffalo Roundup. We leave at 5:30 a.m. Or you may purchase a pancake breakfast at the Buffalo Roundup site.

Morning: You will be standing and/or sitting (folding sports chairs provided) out on the grassy hillside. All roundup activities are outside. For your images in Custer State Park and the Roundup, you will want to bring all of your photography equipment. Instructors recommend you have a telephoto lens on for images of critters in the park or a zoom telephoto lens. You will have opportunities for flowers as well so you can use your telephoto lens for that or a macro lens. Definitely will want to have a tripod with you as well. There also may be opportunities to take landscape images of the prairie. The Custer State Park Annual Buffalo Roundup event (last Friday of September) offers the public a chance to watch the Buffalo passing by as park personnel and cowhands do their best to drive the Park's herd into the Buffalo Corrals. 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: Today's lunch is a BBQ Sandwich, chips, beans and cookies at the Buffalo Roundup Tent. 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 will see bison, one of the largest publicly owned bison herds in the country numbering between 1,000 to 1,300; pronghorn antelope; prairie dogs; mule and whitetail deer; burros; coyotes; wild turkeys; elk; mountain goats; bighorn sheep and golden eagles.

Afternoon: At 1:00 p.m. watch the Custer State Park Staff as they brand, vaccinate, cull and check the health of the bison. This is also the time when the Bison are either sent back into the Park or put into separate pens to be sold at the annual Buffalo Auction in November. The annual roundup is conducted to keep the bison population in check with the available grassland forage. The revenues from the sale (about 450 animals) help support the day-to-day operations of the Park. Mid-afternoon: Capture one-of-a-kind photos at the world-class Mammoth Site. For your images here, you will want a short lens and a tripod. Low lighting may be challenge and hand held images will be difficult to take. This is a unique opportunity to get some great shots of this dig 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. 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: Late afternoon: Continue to Crazy Horse Memorial: For images of Crazy Horse, it is recommend your have a short zoom lens on your camera. A tripod may be helpful as well. 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 family continues the non-profit project. Feel the "spirituality of the mountain" as you focus your lens on Chief Crazy Horse. Catered dinner at hotel in Rapid City.

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. Program concludes with this event and overnight stay.

Program Concludes
Rapid City, SD

Breakfast: Continental breakfast available starting at 6:00 AM. Independent departures from hotel.

Click here to provide website feedback
Website Feedback