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.

Monday, June 1, 2015

It's baby bird time in central South Dakota!

It has taken a month of careful watching and waiting to capture this fun video. Mother robin first built a nest outside our kitchen window and left one egg in it before deciding our back deck would be a better spot for a nest. We've been watching four eggs for over a week now, and today we have babies!

A GoPro camera run by remote control caught the first moments of one of the hatchlings' life.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Throwback Thursday - Bandit Run

In the spirit of "you never know what you'll run across in South Dakota" I bring you this Throwback Thursday post of when I discovered the 2013 Bandit Run was at Mount Rushmore at the same time I was.

The Bandit Run is an annual gathering of fans of the movie "Smokey and the Bandit" and enthusiasts of Pontiac Trans Am cars. A different route is designated every year for the Run and we were lucky to have Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills be part of it in 2013. More info at

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Drones are a hot topic

I am fielding more and more questions about drone photography and where it is or isn't legal. While I haven't used one myself, I understand the excitement about the potential for photography from a height previously unobtainable to most of us.

Parks and Recreation Magazine recently published a very good article about the use of drones in parks and other public spaces. If you have a drone or are considering purchasing one, I recommend reading this article and as much research as you can to keep yourself out of trouble.

Common sense will go a long way to keeping drone use safe and fun for everyone.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Bridal Veil Falls running full

Thanks to Eric Roach for this photo and report on the spring condition of Bridal Veil Falls in Spearfish Canyon -

13 May 2015 - Bridal Veil Falls earlier this afternoon. It looks great running this full. The aqueduct is closed also, with Spearfish Creek running about half-full and swift....lots of downed trees laying across the creek, hopefully there won't be any kayakers this week...

Monday, April 27, 2015

All aboard the Photo Express!

Now this is going to be fun! The folks at the South Dakota State Railroad Museum and the 1880 Train in Hill City have put together a Photo Express ride especially for those of us who like taking pictures of historic trains.

The Photo Express experience begins at 7 am on Saturday, October 3 with a mini photo workshop and breakfast. The ride on the historic 1880 Train includes two stops where photographers can depart the train and photograph the steam engine as it chugs through magnificent Black Hills scenery.

After the ride and lunch, presentations by Chris Laskowski of C. Vision Productions, Erica Harvey of Tripod Tours and yours truly, Chad Coppess of the South Dakota Department of Tourism, will be held at the Hill City High School.

This unique offering is a first for the Black Hills area. I think we can expect a good turnout with this capping off a great week of photography opportunities - the Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup on Friday, September 25, the Black Hills Photo Shootout Sept. 25-27, and prime time for fall colors in the Hills leading up to the Photo Express.

For more information and to register, contact the South Dakota State Railroad Museum.