My road trip to South Dakota and Badlands National Park was a comedy of errors.
I drove for an hour in the wrong direction outside Rapid City, and then nearly ran out of gas during a particularly barren stretch of highway outside the park. I backtracked to get it at Wall Drug, went back to the entrance, and THEN realized that the Wall Drug entrance was where I wanted to be anyway.
While I was scouting, I noticed a guy driving around in a big van that said something like “Lightning Research” on the side, with some big equipment on top. He was hiking around and taking Badlands photos, and I thought, “That’s a weird vehicle to use while you’re visiting a national park.”
When a massive lightning storm rolled in, THAT’S when I put two and two together. So I followed him wherever he went, and sure enough, got treated to some incredible views of the lightning. I've always struggled to get pictures of the Badlands, and this was the first visit where I was somewhat happy with the results.
With all the wind whipping about, I had to get creative using my car and body to block the tripod to keep it steady enough for long exposures. There were strikes every few seconds during the height of the storm, which thankfully was far enough in the distance that I didn't have to worry about getting wet or, you know, electrocuted.
This badlands photography was part of a cross-country road trip to visit 14 national park sites. The aim was to capture the beauty of our public lands at night.