Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The Badlands are good lands

with 7 comments

First the Indians and then the other settlers who were trying to stay alive through farming and ranching referred to a particularly rugged portion of western South Dakota as Badlands, but the Badlands are good lands for a modern landscape photographer. In the top picture, look how the light and shadow delineated the steeply rising curves of the formations that were among the first we visited on the morning of May 31st. And look at how the delineation between light and dark took place on the ground at the base of nearby strata:

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 3, 2017 at 4:57 AM

7 Responses

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  1. We visited the Badlands a few years ago quite early in the morning, barely after sunrise. I agree the early sun angle sharply defined the shapes like you captured.

    Jim R

    July 3, 2017 at 6:32 AM

    • We took the southern route out there from where we were staying in Rapid City. That proved to be not so scenic, and in retrospect I wish we’d headed to the Badlands as directly as possible to enjoy more light earlier in the morning.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 3, 2017 at 8:34 AM

  2. It’s fascinating to ponder what’s commonly seen just two states south, in western Kansas. At Monument Rocks, sandstone and chalk are eroding away daily — no sharp-edged mountains there! — and the haze that gave the Smoky Hills their name often obscures this sort of beautiful blue sky.

    In the first photo, it was the clean lines of those sharp peaks that I noticed first, but I also like the striations in the grass that seem to mimic those in the rock at the bottom of the cliffs.


    July 3, 2017 at 7:05 AM

    • Coincidentally, we caught a brief view of Monument Rocks on television the other day (I forget what nature program it was). In looking up Monument Rocks on the map just now, I saw that it’s not too far east of our route north along US 385 in Colorado, which runs close to the Kansas border. After my recent trip I’m jaded enough to say that while I would stop at Monument Rocks if I were in the vicinity, the site is impressive at least in part because it’s in Kansas. Once you get into the real West, formations like that abound. If you can make your next trip extend further west, you’ll be amazed.

      Speaking of erosion, the generally held view is that the formations in the Badlands are eroding at about an inch a year. so we don’t have to worry in our lifetimes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 3, 2017 at 8:53 AM

  3. Very striking, everything’s so sharply outlined. I always wonder how many years all those layers represent. The grassy areas look surprisingly lush, I know this was a hunting ground for the Sioux et al. but I expected it to look more sere, I guess after these photos, there was still all of June-to-September to make things crispy.

    Robert Parker Teel

    July 3, 2017 at 7:56 AM

    • The answer to your question about how many years all those layers represent is: a lot. Here’s what I found:


      You’re right about the grass still looking lush. We’d planned to visit the area five weeks earlier but delayed our trip because the weather forecast then was for freezing overnight temperatures, rain, and even a little snow. As you said, the whole summer was still ahead, ready to turn things sere.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 3, 2017 at 9:09 AM

  4. […] go to South Dakota’s Badlands, spend seven hours there on May 31st, and dedicate only one post to it, did you? Of course […]

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