Badlands Photography | Black Hills & Badlands - South Dakota

Badlands Photography

  • Badlands Photography

Badlands National Park is a photographers dream subject as the play of light and color on the weathered buttes, spires and valleys provides endless angles to explore. Unlike some parks or nature areas, the Badlands provide almost endless opportunities and of course in the magic/witching hour around sunrise and sunset reveals the most of the magnificent color striations and hues that cross the landscape. On or near these hours of the day too will provide the best shadows which really highlight the cuts and contrasting pinnacles and valleys.

For sunrises or early morning, many prefer to start on the northeast side of the park (take I-90 exit 131) and really like the Big Badlands Overlook, Door/Window/Notch trails located a few miles south on Badlands Loop from Big Badlands Overlook and the Panorama Overlook. For sunsets or late day, many like to spend time in the western areas like Yellow Mounds OverlookPinnacles Overlook or the Sage Creek Basin Overlook (take Sage Creek Rim Road to Scenic from the Badlands Loop) areas.  Don't be discouraged though if you happen to find yourself here during midday, there are an amazing amount of details and things to explore. The subtle colors and hues will be washed out but the spires, crags and formations are still fun to shoot and play with.  

The different seasons also play so well in making Badlands National Park a new experience on every excursion. Late spring and early summer are great times to find distant storm clouds as a dramatic backdrop to the vibrant buttes and spires; better yet, a backdrop of lightning against this stark landscape is pretty surreal. Autumn brings a change to the many native grasses which like the stormy early summer skies, can provide amazing contrast and color swaths set against the weathered formations. Winters layering of white and clean blue skies too provide some amazing plays of contrast and emphasize the stark and weathered existence of these Badlands. 

Badlands National Park is full of wonder and patina that only millions and millions of years of aging and weathering can do. No matter what time of year, or what time of day, they are 244,000 acres of a photographer's wildest dreams.