South Dakota February 06, 2018
The One Secret You Need To Know Before Visiting South Dakota’s Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park covers 242,756 acres and welcomes nearly one million visitors every year. Its beauty is stunning year-round, and its geologic features are impressive all day long, but there’s one secret you need to know if you want to come home with the very best photos of this South Dakota gem.
If you're like most visitors to Badlands National Park, you wake up in the morning (after sleeping in a bit), get some breakfast at a cafe or diner, then head to the park for a day of exploring.
When you hop out of the car to take a little hike, it's 10:30 am or later. While the towering spires and immense canyons are impressive, when you look at your photos later, you're a bit disappointed. After all, the postcards at the gift shop look a million times better, showcasing deep, rich colors that you certainly didn't see during your visit.
Clearly, you're not a professional photographer with an expensive camera and a complicated photo editing program, so that's why your trip to Badlands didn't look like this, right?
Well, yes and no. Photographers do often use photo editing software to make their photos even more vivid, and some of the photos in this article may be retouched. But good photographers also know an important secret: the power of the Golden Hour - the hour leading up to the sunrise and sunset.
The photo above was taken in the early evening hours, and you can see how golden the rock formation is, and how its jagged peaks are more visible because of the definition between shadow and light.
This photo was taken during the Golden Hour with an iPhone 4s.
You clearly don't need an expensive camera and lenses to capture some truly beautiful shots here.
Here's a photo that shows the difference between the formations where the light is touching, and those where it's not.
During a sunrise, you can literally capture half of your landscape in vibrant color, while the other half is still washed out, sitting in shadow.
Photographer Len Saltiel captured this gorgeous photo at sunrise.
Look how the light gives dimension to the rock formations, both near and far. This kind of photo is worth waking up for!
Here's photo of the same spot, taken at midday.
This photo is taken a little closer up, but it's a lot harder to distinguish the separate formations; they seem to almost just wash together. The landscape is still spectacular, but it's definitely not nearly as stunning as the previous photo.
This is a beautiful scene taken from the Door Trail in the park.
There's no arguing that it's breathtaking at any time of day.
This photographer took this photo at the same spot during the Golden Hour.
It's all about timing!
The photographer of this photograph notes that it's unretouched.
That gorgeous pink glow is all Mother Nature's doing.
The next time you visit Badlands National Park, get up early and head out while it's still dark so that you can capture some photos as the sun rises. Go back to the park an hour or so before sunset to see even more vibrant colors.
Of course, stormy or overcast weather can ruin your plans, as all photographers can tell you. But if you allow yourself plenty of time during your visit to photograph this magnificent park at different times of day, in different lighting situations, you might find that you have a spectacular collection of photos to document your trip to Badlands National Park.
We’d love to see your photos of Badlands National Park! Share them with us in the comments, and if you’re a photographer, our readers would love even more tips.
During your next visit,
avoid these 9 mistakes that many people make while visiting the park.