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Out of all the places I explored while on a year-long, post-grad school road trip throughout the American West and British Columbia, the place that surprised me the most was South Dakota’s Badlands National Park. With a combination of wildlife and landscape that feels like the lovechild of Yellowstone and Bryce Canyon, coupled with some of the best light I’ve experienced anywhere, Badlands quickly became one of my favorite photography destinations.
Driving the sinuous roads in the waning darkness on my last morning in the park, I knew that I was running out of time to find a location to photograph the sunrise. With puffy clouds faintly visible in the predawn sky, it was shaping up to be a good one, and I cursed myself for not getting out of the cozy confines of my sleeping bag sooner. I wanted to cap off my stay with something memorable before hitting the road to my next destination, and just as I was about to give up hope of locating a suitable sunrise spot in time, I came upon a curve in the road that faced directly into the eastern glow.
After haphazardly parking just off the road, I grabbed my camera and tripod just as the orange orb of the sun begin to peek above the distant plains and composed a photo in such a way that the otherworldly badlands would seem to cradle the rising sun and catch the intense light. After taking this shot, I cracked a wide smile and lingered for quite some time, doing my best to interpret the stories that this ancient landscape holds and savoring the morning solitude and truly unique beauty of the badlands before continuing my sojourn west.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor