The Great American Eclipse Road Trip

Total Solar Eclipse, Devils Tower, Mount Rushmore & South Dakota Badlands

It is being called the Great American Eclipse.  On August 21, 2017, the path of a spectacular total solar eclipse will sweep a narrow arc across the entire mainland of the United States.  The moon’s umbral shadow begins at the Pacific coast off Oregon and arcs over the US to the shores of South Carolina.  Casper, Wyoming, sits on the narrow centerline where the moon’s shadow turns day into night.  The open spaces around Casper and its generally favorable weather provide a very good chance for an exceptional eclipse photo opportunity in an easy-to-reach location.  On the morning of August 21, the partial phase begins as the shadow of the moon passes directly over our pre-selected location. Full totality occurs at approximately 11:42 AM and lasts for two minutes and 26 seconds. The grandeur of a total solar eclipse comes from the dramatic view of the sun’s corona, its outer atmosphere, which we can see only when the moon blocks the brilliant solar disk.  This rare cosmic event will not again be visible over the continental US until April 2024! 
The sky is also part of our focus for the rest of our travels as we explore two less-visited icons of the vast northern Great Plains—Devils Tower and the South Dakota Badlands.
Columnar 1,267-foot-high Devils Tower looms dramatically out of the empty prairie landscape and the sparse woodlands of the Belle Fourche River of northeastern Wyoming.  An igneous intrusion revealed by erosion over the ages, its steep massive columns separated by deep vertical cracks, the tower has been a sacred landmark for Northern Plains Tribes for thousands of years.  Called “Mato Tipila” or Bear Lodge by many local tribes, a name translated incorrectly as “Bad God’s Tower,” the formation has been known as Devils Tower since the late 1800s.  Theodore Roosevelt established Devils Tower National Monument in 1906—America’s first national monument. The iconic formation has been a part of our popular culture ever since it was first immortalized in Steven Spielberg’s 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind
We photograph Devils Tower in the morning and evening light.  Reflective feldspar crystals turn the gray-toned rock a rusty orange in the golden light of early morning.  As light and shadow move across the deeply grooved columns, graphic images emerge.  We explore along the easy loop trails at the base of the tower to capture the many changes of view against the vast Wyoming sky.  After dark we return to shoot the tower silhouetted against the starry night sky.
Badlands National Park in southwestern South Dakota is comprised of 244,300 acres of starkly-eroded topography—buttes, pinnacles, dry gullies—set amid mixed-grass prairie grasslands.  At the core of the park is The Wall—the nearly 100-mile-long stretch of dramatically eroded escarpment that is a draw for photographers.  Water and wind has sculpted the badlands for the past half million years and it is estimated that an inch of The Wall is further eroded annually—an extremely rapid rate in geologic terms.  Called “mako sica” or “land bad” by the Lakota people and termed “les mauvaises terres” or “bad lands” by early French-Canadian trappers, the area has remained rugged and remote—and highly photogenic.
At sunrise and sunset, the light on the subtle colors of the badlands sedimentary formations deepens the buff, gray, yellow and red hues. Shadows create graphic designs on the sculpted canyons, sharp spires and buttes.  During August, great thunderheads can loom on the horizon and a downpour brings out the richest colors.  Thirty-nine species of mammals can be found in the park, including prairie dogs, bison, mule deer, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and pronghorn.
The week of August 21 is also the time of a new moon and the broad open skies of Wyoming and South Dakota far from light polluting nearby cities offer some of the best opportunities for dark sky photography.  Photographing stars and the brilliant swath of the Milky Way in the night sky over vast prairie landscapes broken by dramatic geologic formations is a goal. 
To round out our Great American Road Trip, we stop for a short shoot at iconic Mount Rushmore in the scenic Black Hills of South Dakota.
Join us as we capture one of the most unique events of 2017—a total solar eclipse over the US—and explore two of the most photogenic landscapes of the Northern Great Plains.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 (Aug 19 in Casper) 
Participants fly to Casper, Wyoming and transfer to our group hotel.  Meet the leaders in the hotel lobby in time for our first group dinner.  (D)
Day 2
We have a full day to get organized for tomorrow’s eclipse shoot. Our cameras, long lenses, filters and memory cards are at the ready, checked and rechecked, for tomorrow.  We go over details for proper eclipse exposures.  The weather reports are studied—we scout the area around Casper for several possible locations for eclipse viewing.  (BLD)
Day 3
Eclipse day!  At approximately 10:22 AM the moon begins its pass over the sun.  Our photographic highlight is to capture the corneal ring as it flares around the sun at total solar eclipse during the two minutes and 26 seconds of totality beginning at 11:42 AM.
Following the excitement of photographing the solar eclipse, we drive three hours to northeastern Wyoming to Devils Tower National Monument.  After we leave the highway for quieter roadways the readily identifiable igneous intrusion already begins to tantalize from a distance, appearing as an unexpected feature rising from the surrounding prairie.  The formation slowly begins to dominate our field of view as we approach until Devils Tower stands fully 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River.  Before reaching the entrance of the national monument, we encounter an extensive prairie dog colony.  We should easily get good images of these habituated black-tailed rodents. 
Our lodging is only 13 miles away from the monument, giving us easy access.  (BLD)
Day 4 
We photograph Devils Tower in the best light of morning and evening from various angles and from along the easy loop trails.  The base of the tower is one mile in circumference and the distance from base to summit is 867 feet.  The formation is a considered a premier technical climb, making for an opportunity for us to photograph climbers scaling the steep rock face.  At night, with clear skies, we photograph stars as they arc across the wide open dark sky silhouetting Devils Tower under a new moon.  (BLD)
Day 5
Following a morning shoot at Devils Tower we drive to Custer, South Dakota in the Black Hills.  Today’s photo activities are unscheduled and depend on weather and on our timing.  We may explore the granite spires of the Needles Highway or the famous Iron Mountain Road, a route meticulously planned to perfectly frame Mount Rushmore in three different granite tunnels.  (BLD)
Day 6
We depart our hotel following an early breakfast, taking our luggage with us.  Morning is the best time to photograph nearby Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  A monumental icon of the US, this towering carving of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln can be photographed from numerous interesting angles.
After our visit to Mount Rushmore, a 2-hour drive to the mixed-grass prairie lands of western South Dakota brings us to the wild and rugged landscape of Badlands National Park.  Badlands was first established as a national monument in 1939 and designated a national park in 1970.  In 1976, the park added the South (Stronghold) Unit—a stretch of land currently jointly managed by the US Park Service and the Oglala Lakota Nation.  Bison were re-introduced to the western part of the 64,000-acre North Unit in 1963.
Our overnight lodging is in the town of Wall SD—home of that famous landmark of American tourism, Wall Drug.  (BLD)
Days 7–8
We photograph the boundless central feature of Badlands National Park—The Wall—from many of the numerous viewpoints and from short trails leading to broad panoramas.  We take time to explore the graphic details to be found in the dance of light and shadow across the colorful maze of eroded gullies and pinnacles.  We watch for some of the many mammal species found in the park and, in the North Unit, we should see bison on the prairie grassland.  The clear night skies of the badlands promise thousands of stars and spectacular images of the Milky Way.  (BLD)
Day 9 (Aug 27 in Rapid City)
In the morning, we drive to Rapid City Regional Airport in time for afternoon flights home.  (B)
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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Enrollment Information

The Great American Eclipse Road Trip

Aug 19, 2017 - Aug 27, 2017

A deposit and completed and signed Registration Form are required to reserve a place for you on a Joseph Van Os Photo Safari.


All prices are quoted in US dollars and all payments must be paid in US dollars. For deposits only, we accept Visa or MasterCard. Final payment of the trip fee is due 120 days priors to departure and must be paid by check or bank transfer. Trip deposits are non-refundable and non-transferable.

We must receive written notice of your cancellation, at which time cancellation fees in the following amounts apply:

If Written Cancellation is Received:
90 days or prior:
89 to 61 days prior:
60 or fewer days:
Cancellation Fee:
100% of deposit
50% of trip fee
100% of trip fee

No partial refunds are made for unused portions or services of a trip for any reason whatsoever. Trips are sold as a package only. This policy also applies to tour extensions and independent travel arrangements. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

Protect your travel investment and purchase a trip insurance policy that includes emergency evacuation coverage. A trip insurance brochure will be sent with your enrollment confirmation.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris are within the capabilities of average people in good health. Some of these trips require the capability of walking for several miles over uneven trails, stepping from a small boat to a wave-washed rocky beach, flying in small planes and helicopters, and occasionally hiking at high elevations—all while carrying an assortment of camera equipment. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to a trip, please inquire with our office before reserving a space. By forwarding a signed Registration Form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you or other trip participants and you agree to inform our office in writing if changes in your health occur any time prior to the tour. We reserve the right to request a doctor's statement of good health. The company's or trip leader's judgment shall provide the ultimate determination of an individual's ability to embark upon or to continue a trip. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements. “Meatless” meals are normally available at most locations. Due to the remote nature of many photo locations, and the growing diversity of today’s dietary trends, participants requiring special food items are encouraged to bring their own.

Tour members are asked to refrain from smoking with or near the group.

Participants will receive three emails before the trip departs: 1. Initial Tour Information sheet confirms the deposit and provides pre-departure information. 2. Invoice/Practical Information provides clothing and photo gear recommendations, climate data, applicable health advisories and reading list. Visa information will also be included (if applicable). 3. Final Tour Information includes arrival instructions, itinerary revisions (if any), hotel addresses, trip telephone contact information and participant list. We provide the trip leader's telephone number(s) and/or e-mail address with final documents so you can inquire about special photographic questions you may have regarding your trip. We welcome your calls or e-mail messages to

Information supplied upon enrollment describes the specific costs that are included in your trip fee. Generally these costs include lodging in double room occupancy, all meals (specified in the itinerary as BLD denoting breakfast, lunch or dinner), ground transportation during the trip in vans or small busses, air transportation as specified, meal and baggage tipping, and guide services provided by the trip leaders. Not included are airfare or other transportation from your home to the trip staging location, airport departure taxes, insurance, alcoholic beverages and bar expenses (plus bottled water and soft drink expenses on international tours outside of North America), tips and gratuities to local guides abroad, phone calls, passport or visa expenses, laundry or items of a personal nature. Gratuities to Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris trip leaders are optional and always appreciated. Rates are based on group tariffs; if the trip does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may be charged.

Single accommodations are available for a supplemental cost in many locations; see the pre-departure trip information or call our office for details. You will be charged the single supplement fee if you desire single accommodations or if you wish to have a roommate, but one is not available. In some remote locations, clients with single rooms are infrequently compelled to share a room due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, appropriate per diem refunds will be made reflecting the direct cost of the single room at the facility where clients are required to share. There is no additional single supplement fee on ship-based cruises, if you request a roommate and one is not available.

Cost increases may occur unexpectedly due to rising costs of airfares, ground transport, fuel surcharges, accommodations and currency fluctuations, among others. Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. may be compelled to amend prices, and we reserve the right to do so without prior notice. An increase in trip prices shall not be sufficient grounds for any refund of funds paid for the trip other than as determined by the terms of our cancellation policy.

Whenever possible, our trip participants are lodged in comfortable, modern hotels. We select among the best available accommodations, but refrain from extravagance. Some interesting photographic destinations are far removed from modern amenities, however, and where necessary we will be accommodated in rustic country inns, cabins or tented camps.

Meals are always a special part of our trips for the camaraderie they engender and the opportunity they provide to try new foods from different areas. Depending on the trip and specific locale, participants order restaurant meals from the full menu or, less frequently, table d'hôte. Some trips include picnic lunches in the field. Fruit juice for breakfast and coffee or tea are included with the meals. Soft drinks are included with meals on tours within North America. Participants are responsible for their own bar tab (including bottled water, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages on tours outside of North America) at restaurant lunches and dinners.

Our itineraries are intended as examples only. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history or cultural events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. or our leaders.

The second tour leader (and any subsequent additional leaders) listed for each trip on the website will be added as the group size warrants. If only one space remains on a trip, and logistics permit, we accept two persons traveling together, even if it exceeds the trip maximum.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. and/or their Agents act only as agents for the passenger in regard to travel including, but not limited to, sightseeing, meals, lodging, transportation, and all other services whether by railroad, motorcar, motor coach, boat, ship or aircraft and they assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be occasioned either by reason of defect in any vehicle or for any reason whatsoever, or through the acts or default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the trip.

They can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay or changes in air or other services, sickness, weather, strike, war, volcanic eruption, terrorist acts, political unrest, quarantine or other causes. All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as trip fees provide for arrangements only for the times and locations stated. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely.

The right is reserved to 1) substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary or transport where deemed necessary, or caused by changes in air schedules or equipment substitution; 2) cancel any trip prior to departure, in which case full refund of the paid trip funds will be given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 3) substitute trip leader(s) for the leader(s) originally specified, in which case the substitution is not a basis for participant cancellation or refund other than provided by our normal cancellation policy; or 4) accept or retain any person as a member of any trip.

Trip prices are based on tariffs and exchange rates in effect at the time of publication and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein.

A Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section must be signed by each participant prior to the commencement of the trip. Participation by any trip member will be declined in the absence of the signed Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section, with no trip fee refund. No modification to the Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section will be accepted.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this agreement, the enrolling trip participant(s) agree(s) to indemnify and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, the enrolling participant(s) agree(s) to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington. Certain ship owners require the use of pre-printed ticket forms that limit the ship owner's and operator's liability. When such tickets are used, the passenger is bound by the terms of these tickets with respect to the passenger's legal relationship to the owners and operators of the ship, their agents (Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc.), and the ship's crew.

The Great American Eclipse Road Trip
  • The best opportunity to see and photograph a total solar eclipse from the mainland US in many years
  • Wide-open spaces and a prospect of favorable weather make for a great chance of spectacular eclipse photography near Casper, Wyoming
  • Photograph sweeping prairie grasslands, iconic Devils Tower and Mount Rushmore, and grand vistas of a colorful maze of canyons and pinnacles in Badlands National Park
  • Experience a “Great American Road Trip” as we visit several iconic “fly-over” Great Plains locations
  • Excellent possibilities for images of nighttime “starscapes” and the Milky Way during a new moon—far from nearby city lights at Devils Tower
Aug 19 - Aug 27, 2017
Fee: $4,595 from Casper, Wyoming; departing from Rapid City, South Dakota
Deposit: $500
Limit: 12
Tour Leaders
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