South Dakota’s varied terrain, comprised of soaring bluffs, rolling plains, craggy rock formations, forest-clad mountains, and sparkling lakes and rivers, provides a spectacular backdrop for breathtaking photography. The abundance of wildlife, including elk, deer, bison, bighorn sheep, pheasant, antelope, and mountain goats, makes South Dakota a mecca for those seeking nature shots.

Whether you’re a professional photographer or a point-and-click amateur, you’re sure to enjoy the countless photo opportunities presented by the scenic landscapes of South Dakota.

Western Region Photography

South Dakota’s western region has ample outdoor photography opportunities, including national treasures like Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial.  If you’re a nature/wildlife photographer, the western region is also a haven.  The Custer State Park Buffalo Round-Up offers some great action shots, and the rocky outcroppings of the Badlands combined with dramatic sunsets provide for some amazing opportunities for light and shadows.

Pine Ridge, a Native American reservation in the western region, has also been featured by many photojournalists, and can provide dramatic subject matter for the serious photographer.  If you’re looking for a less serious gathering to photograph, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally will certainly provide unique photography opportunities, from the impressive bikes to the sometimes wild crowd.

Central Region Photography

In the central region of South Dakota prairie vistas, and the meandering Missouri River will catch the photographer’s eye.  Impressive man-made structures like the Oahe Dam also provide impressive views and opportunities, as does the State Capitol Building in Pierre.  South Dakota’s central region is also home to a number of Native American reservations, which may provide unique opportunities to photograph South Dakota’s Native American heritage.  Hunting season also provides some dramatic moments for photographers in the central region, with cadres of hunters hoping to capture prime game.

Eastern Region Photography

South Dakota’s eastern region is home to Sioux Falls, the state’s largest city, which provides a number of unique photography opportunities.  If you’re a nature photographer, there are the falls at Falls Park, or the butterflies at the Sertoma Butterfly House.  If urban photography is more your style, the Sioux Falls downtown and skyline might be an interesting subject. The Missouri River also continues its course through the eastern region, weaving its way through the region near Yankton on the southern border of the state.  The eastern region also offers some great people watching and photographing opportunities, particularly during the summer when crowds gather for the region’s many outdoor festivals.

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