Sunday, August 30, 2015

Palisades State Park, Garretson

A discussion on Facebook last week with Spearfish photographer Chris Yushta made me realize not every photographer in the state knows every fun spot to take pictures. Palisades State Park is one of those places that maybe only the locals are familiar with. I will recycle a post about the park from 2008 here.

Palisades is one of the smaller state parks in South Dakota, but is filled with great photo opportunities.
Exit 406 off Interstate 90 at Brandon leads you north for 12 miles to Palisades State Park just south of the town of Garretson, northeast of Sioux Falls.

Split Rock Creek creates the deep gorge that is the main feature of the park. Pink quartzite walls flank both sides of the gorge. Hiking trails and vantage points on both sides of the creek offer great views from water level or high above.

Sioux Falls photographer Paul Schiller demonstrates one of the nerve-wracking positions from which to shoot. As always, please be careful when scrambling for that great photo spot.

Palisades is beautiful in any season, but especially in spring and fall. Shooting early and/or late in the day is productive almost anywhere, but the deep gorge here makes it a little less critical. The sun does not reach down to the water until later in the morning, and rises up the canyon walls fairly quickly in late afternoon.

As you might expect, serious rock climbers love Palisades. They can be included in photos to go with the spectacular scenery. Throughout the warm seasons you can expect to find climbers on just about any visit.

For more info on the park visit Palisades State Park.

Split Rock Creek also flows through the town of Garretson, cutting similar rock walls at Devil's Gulch. Legend has it that outlaw Jesse James escaped a pursuing posse by jumping his horse over the gorge in the city park. The Dells of the Big Sioux River near the town of Dell Rapids can also be found a few miles northwest of Garretson.

Friday, August 14, 2015

75th Sturgis Rally huge no matter how you look at it

It is close to a full week since most of the bikes rolled back home after the 75th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Official attendance figures haven't been released yet, but numbers like 600,000 to over 1 million are floating around the rumor mill. Not bad for a town of 6,600 full-time residents. I don't know what will be determined, but I will say from my observation it was likely the biggest rally ever. That would make it by far the largest tourism event ever held in South Dakota, which probably isn't a surprise to a lot of folks.

I spent three days photographing bikes and bikers in Badlands National Park, the full length of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway including Iron Mountain Road and Needles Highway, Sturgis proper and South Dakota's newest city - the Buffalo Chip. In some places the traffic seemed about average for Bike Week and in some it seemed overwhelmingly crazy.

Badlands National Park is one of the scenic drives that draws this kind of crowd to western South Dakota for a week of riding.

Bikers are familiar with the super-scenic byways in the Black Hills. Winding pigtail bridges, tunnels that frame Mount Rushmore and granite spires make for beautiful rides.

Downtown Sturgis is the epicenter of the Rally. Combination bike show and the biggest craziest flea market and food festival you've ever seen, Main Street is the place to be at least once during the weeklong festivities.

Capping off my 75th Rally experience was a world-record motorcycle jump by Massachusetts daredevil Doug Danger. Wearing a replica of Knievel's leather suit and riding one of Evel Knievel's actual 1970's Harley-Davidsons, Danger sped through the center of the Buffalo Chip amphitheater and soared over 22 cars to a successful landing. Knievel had crashed while attempting this same amount of cars on a Harley XR-750 and so had jumper Bubba Blackwell. Despite a crosswind and the bike wanting to go a bit sideways just before landing, Danger pulled off the stunt with apparent ease.

For the Knievel fan in me, this was a pretty big thrill to witness in person.

That's Doug hugging his wife afterwards above. She had to be a bit relieved.

My favorite photo from the Rally is this one - Doug Danger sitting on Evel Knievel's bike contemplating the "Shadow of a Legend" as he prepares to jump. Doug has promised to sign a print for me and it will have a treasured spot on the stunt hall of fame wall in my basement.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Black Hills Photo Shootout 2015 registration open

Registration is now open for this year's Black Hills Photo Shootout, Sept. 24-27! There are some new and exciting workshop sessions and a great keynote speaker in Jennifer Wu.

Register and check out all the details here - The Black Hills Photo Shootout.

I will be leading sessions on Cowboys of the Old West at the historic Meeker Ranch and Iconic Landscapes on the Needles Highway. A session that has been requested in the past is in the lineup, with Mike Wolforth teaching Native American Ceremonial Dances and Portraits. There are several other new offerings for workshops as well.

If you are interested in night sky photography, you probably already know of Jennifer Wu. She will be doing a special night sky presentation that is included in Shootout registration on Thursday night, Sept. 24 at Black Hills State University in Spearfish. Her keynote presentation on Friday night will be about Nature's Elusive Beauty. Learn more about Jennifer at her website -

With all of this, the 50th Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup on Friday morning, portfolio reviews, socialization opportunities and the autumn colors in the Black Hills and Badlands, you won't want to miss this year's Shootout!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Sioux Avenue Cruise Night underway

As I type this, cars of all types are motoring up and down Pierre's main drag in the third annual Sioux Avenue Cruise Night and Hot Rod Hangout. Each year gets better as this event continues to grow in size and fun.

There aren't many rules to the cruise. Any year and type of car is welcome, but it mainly brings out the hot rodders, classic collectors, tuner builders and customizers. It is a fun night of automotive artistry.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Got a favorite autumn spot?

Okay Dakotagraph readers, I need your help. I know it is the height of summer, but I need some autumn ideas. I'm looking for recommendations for great places to shoot autumn colors this fall in Eastern South Dakota.

I already know and have photographed the traditional East River hot-spots of Sica Hollow, Palisades State Park and Newton Hills. If you know of a beautiful autumn location that should be featured in South Dakota Tourism photos, please reply here or on Facebook. Thank you!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Getting the shot in high places

Those who know me well know I'm not that fond of high places. Sometimes though you just have to go where the photos are. In the last few weeks I have flown in a helicopter and hiked to some steep spots to "get the shot." Here are just a couple examples.

It takes special permission to get to the high spots on Mount Rushmore. Security is very tight around the Shrine of Democracy, so this kind of access is one of the treasures of my job with the South Dakota Department of Tourism. Scott Howard and I documented maintenance work last week on a crack sensor placed on Abraham Lincoln's nose. I'm guessing this is the last time I will be in this sort of proximity to the famous faces.

Even though we had more safety gear strapped to us than probably necessary and a well-trained escort, I reached a spot below the faces that was as far as I was comfortable climbing to. Scott was braver than me and did ascend far enough to be touching Teddy Roosevelt's chin. Good for him! I'll live without that distinction on my resume.

Following longtime travel associate Mike Gussiaas up the steep, slick rock and flowing water trail to Community Caves in Spearfish Canyon is another feet I may not attempt again soon. I made it, but not without a lot of stopping to catch my breath and looking for the next stable footing position.

The caves themselves are spectacular and feel a bit exotic for South Dakota. I've seen some pretty incredible pictures from here in the winter when the waterfall is frozen over the mouth of the caves.

I would give directions to this, but I'm afraid I didn't keep track of exactly where in the canyon we parked and began the hike with a wade across Spearfish Creek. Perhaps someone will comment with directions on the Dakotagraph page at Facebook. EDIT - Thanks to Mistie Ainsworth-Caldwell for these directions - Heading south on 14A from Spearfish, travel 2.6 miles. You will pass a large parking lot and a smaller pull-off on the right side of the road. Park at the long pull-off on the right at the 2.6 mile mark. From there cross the road to the creek side. Follow the beaten path down to the creek, cross it and find the path up to the caves from there.

I will add that if you are headed to Community Caves, you will want shoes with good tread and your feet will get wet!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Always looking for new angles

When I'm photographing a place I've been before I'm always looking for new angles. This window reflection was a fun way to combine Wild Bill Hickok and the columns on the historic Franklin Hotel in Deadwood in one shot.