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Outdoor Photography



Rolling farm country and glacier-carved lakes in the east become wide-open prairie, rugged Badlands and pine-covered mountains in the west. Dividing the state almost exactly in half, north to south, is the mighty Missouri River.


Bison and ring-necked pheasants are our most well-known wildlife, but photographers can also expect to find nearly 400 species of birds, elk, deer, antelope, mountain goats, bighorn sheep and more. Keeping a respectful distance from wildlife and being aware that bison and other animals can be dangerous will not prevent great photography. A vehicle can make an excellent “blind” to shoot from that animals will often ignore, where they might flee from a photographer on foot.

Uniphotography.jpgque Attractions

As one of South Dakota's most-visited spots, Mount Rushmore National Memorial makes memorable photographs, and the best time to be there is early morning. Sunrise gives the faces a golden hue that they lose later in the day. In the heart of the city of Sioux Falls, Falls Park also has great light most mornings, but can also be photographed throughout the day for different effects. Chalky cliffs and rolling grass-covered bluffs line most of the Missouri River, from Mobridge to Yankton, providing varying images depending on the part of the river you visit.


Picture-perfect events in South Dakota range from colorfully-costumed dancers at Czech Days in Tabor, to frontier cavalry reenactments at Fort Sisseton State Historical Park near Lake City, the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Custer State Park’s Buffalo Roundup and many more. A comprehensive list of events across the state can be searched in the Calendar of Events.

The Seasons

South Dakota also has four distinct seasons, so whether it’s ice-coated glacial lakes in the northeast or brilliant autumn foliage in Spearfish Canyon, any time of the year will provide great photo opportunities.

For even more inspiration, take a look at the great South Dakota photos in our online Photo Gallery.

More photography information

For more information about specific locations and tips on South Dakota photography, visit South Dakota Department of Tourism Senior Photographer Chad Coppess’ personal blog at *

*Link disclaimer: By linking to this private blog, the Department of Tourism does not endorse nor verify the content it contains. The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.