Badlands NP, South Dakota, USA by Michael Thomas

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Picture Story

Badlands National Park is not one of the most visited national parks in the US, which is great for landscape photographers! The otherworldly land forms were named mako sica (land bad) by the Lakota. European settlers moving west found them to be an impenetrable wall, which is how the nearby tourist town, Wall SD, got its name. Wind and rain have eroded and sculpted the soft clay and exposed a variety of colored minerals in shades of red, yellow, purple, tan and grey.

I am primarily drawn here to the grand landscape as the views go on for miles, but if you look carefully, intimate and abstract compositions are all around. One of the most colorful sections of the park is aptly named the Yellow Mounds. It is here that I came across this multi-colored bentonite. Switching to a telephoto lens, I captured this closeup of one of the mounds.

I applied only minimal adjustments in Lightroom, trying to maintain faithful hue and saturation of the clay. I cropped the image to emphasize the repetition of the curves and the transitions of the colors.

I have only visited the park twice, both in summer. While hot in mid-days, it wasn’t unbearable. This time of year brings dramatic clouds and thunderstorms, which make for strong images. There are several campgrounds as well as back country camping in the park. Nearby Wall has hotels and a great set of cabins just south of the Interstate highway. I highly recommend photographers take a look at professional landscape photographers Ian Plant's and Joe Rossbach’s video of their experiences at Badlands. I hope to return here one day and take advantage of their great advice.

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