Wednesday, November 7, 2007

South Dakota photography basics

South Dakota is divided roughly in half north to south by the Missouri River. Residents talk in terms of "East River," which is for the most part farm country and glacier-carved lakes, and "West River," which includes cattle ranches, wide-open prairie, the arid Badlands, and the pine-covered mountains of the Black Hills.

Interstate 90 is the main east-west travel corridor through the state connecting the two largest cities - Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Interstate 29 runs north-south on the eastern edge of the state.

This is generalizing a lot, but there are five basic types of landscapes to be found in South Dakota.

Farming cropland

The Missouri River

Wide open prairie

The Badlands - arid "moonscape" desert

The Black Hills - pine-covered mountains

South Dakota has four distinct seasons. Summer temperatures can reach over 100 degrees. Winter rarely remains below zero for too long.

South Dakota observes two different time zones: Central Time in most areas of the state east of the Missouri River, and Mountain Time in areas west of the Missouri River.

Smog is not a problem out here on the Great Plains. Skies are quite often very clear and those wonderful big puffy clouds are prevalent on many summer days. Spring and summer see late afternoon thunderstorms roll through, but they generally last less than a half hour and provide dramatic dark skies in the evening light.

During the summer months, South Dakota experiences approximately 15-16 hours of daylight each day. During the winter months, it averages to 9-10 hours of daylight.

Sturgis Rally
This will no doubt be the topic of several future posts, but if you are not in the know you can be surprised by South Dakota's largest tourism event/festival/convention/party - the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Officially held on one of the first full weeks in August, the Rally stretches for at least a week on each side of that. Upwards of 500,000 motorcycle enthusiasts attend and the effect can be felt for several states around us. This is the most crowded time of the year in the Black Hills and hotel and gas prices tend to be higher than normal. However, it's an unbelievable amount of great photo opportunities!

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