Custer State Park, South Dakota, USA by Gary Olejniczak

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I made this capture after a long days shooting within South Dakota’s Custer State Park and the adjacent Wind Cave National Park. As the end of day neared and I headed back to my motel, I noticed the softly changing afternoon light. Hoping this might be a good opportunity for a final image, I started searching for a possible location.

I was following a dirt road across a stretch of prairie and had just passed a small herd of buffalo when I noticed this lone tree standing seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Parking the car, I began to more thoroughly investigate the scene.

I soon found an angle where the lowering soft sun light was reflecting off one side of the tree while creating subtle shadows in the tall prairie grasses. The clouds in the sky had nice detail with wonderful warm glowing colors. Purple mountains in the background provided a great finishing touch.

I very much enjoy this less traveled part of the country and have returned to the area several times over the years. The land appears vast, but contains many compositional opportunities for a thoughtful photographer. The plains are gentle and the hills are rugged. Prairie grasses are colorful and contain endless shapes and lines. The skies and light are forever changing providing countless variations for any scene. But my very favorite reason to shoot here is the quiet solitude that surrounds me as I photograph.

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