Badlands National Park

South Dakota

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Badlands National Park in southwestern South Dakota is part of the great American heartland. Comprised of 244,300 acres of starkly eroded topography—buttes, pinnacles, dry gullies, and canyons—the park’s photogenic landscape of showy colorful sedimentary layers was laid down over millions of years by a shallow inland sea known as the Western Interior Seaway. This seaway stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean, covering most of the modern Great Plains in shallow, warm water.

At the core of the park is The Wall, the nearly 100-mile-long stretch of dramatically eroded escarpment that is a natural draw for photographers—landscape as well as wildlife “shooters.” Water and wind have sculpted the badlands for the past half million years, and it is estimated that an inch of The Wall is eroded annually—an extremely rapid rate in geologic terms.

These South Dakota badlands are set amidst the largest remaining mixed-grass prairie in North America. Today, many travelers perceive our interior grasslands as empty and desolate as we “fly over” them from one coast to the other—usually as quickly as possible—across one of America’s richest and most productive ecosystems. Thirty-nine species of mammals can be found in the park, including prairie dogs, bison, mule deer, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and pronghorn, allowing lots of wildlife photo opportunities.

At sunrise and sunset, the warm-toned light on the subtle colors of these badlands sedimentary formations deepens their buff, gray, yellow and red hues and illuminates swaths of prairie grasses like golden fire. Deep shadows create graphic designs across the sculpted canyons, spires, and buttes. There is little doubt that the Badlands can be one of America’s great sunrise and sunset photo shoots!

Our September trip to the badlands is timed with the “New Moon” making it the darkest night sky of the month—perfect to try our hand at Milky Way photography. Included in this trip is a remarkable doors-off helicopter tour over the park which provides an amazing aerial perspective of the extraordinary landforms below.

Join us on a spectacular landscape and wildlife photo shoot prominently featured in the movie Dances with Wolves. Admire the starry sky and long, slow sunsets. Scientists estimate that in the next 500,000 years, these colorful badlands will have eroded completely—so make your plans to photograph this extraordinary national park with us soon, before it is too late! A half million years is a mere blink of an eye in geologic time.

For trip questions or to enroll give us a call at (206) 463-5383

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 (Sep 24, 2022)

Arrive at Rapid City Regional Airport, Rapid City, South Dakota. Our leader meets the group at 2PM at the airport and we drive to our hotel in Wall, South Dakota. After a brief hotel check-in and orientation, we have time to explore that iconic and “sprawling tourist attraction of international renown”—Wall Drug—followed by dinner. (D)

Days 2–5

For these next four days we photograph the rugged landscape of Badlands National Park concentrating on the spectacular North Unit and its boundless central feature—The Wall—from many of the numerous viewpoints, scenic overlooks 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 canyons, gullies, and pinnacles.

We watch for some of the many photogenic mammal species found in the park and we should see bison on the mixed-grass prairie. Bison were re-introduced to the western part of the 64,000-acre North Unit in 1963.

Driving the Loop Road, we take short, easy walks on the scenic Door and Window trails for dramatic sunrise shoots. Here is a great place to capture impressive panoramas by stitching several images together during processing. It is a technique we can easily teach you in Lightroom.

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.

The clear and dark night skies of the badlands promise thousands of stars and spectacular images of the Milky Way.

A charter doors-off helicopter flight on one afternoon is a special feature of this photo safari. 

Day 6 (Sep 29)

Following breakfast and a sunrise shoot, we drive to Rapid City Regional Airport in time for afternoon flights home. (B)

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris is an Authorized Permittee of the US National Park Service

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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Enrollment Information

Badlands National Park

Sep 24, 2022 - Sep 29, 2022


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, MasterCard or American Express. Final payment of the trip fee is due 120 days prior 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 entire trip fee
100% of entire 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. A CANCEL FOR ANY REASON policy is available.

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 (trip participant) 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 or other conveyance, 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, bankruptcy 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, cancellations or changes in flights or other tour services, and by force majeure including sickness, weather, strike, war, volcanic eruption, terrorist acts, political unrest, quarantine, epidemics and outbreaks, 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 flight schedules or equipment substitution; 2) cancel any trip prior to departure due to low enrollment, 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) At the company’s sole discretion, suspend or postpone any trip due to force majeure in which case the trip may be rescheduled, or a refund issued less any non-refundable deposits paid to tour component providers on behalf of the passenger, or a travel credit 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; 4) 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 5) 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 Enrollment Conditions and Release and Assumption of Risk sections 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.

Badlands National Park: Easy Activity Level

Van transportation. Easy walking on road and short well-defined trails. Photography from the road and scenic overlooks, short trails, and helicopter.

Trip Details
Sep 24 - Sep 29, 2022
Fee: $4,995 from Rapid City, South Dakota
Deposit: $1,000
Limit: 7 participants
Activity Level: EasyEasy
  • Doors-off helicopter photo flight over the park
  • Shoot the colorful sedimentary layered landscape of the badlands
  • Photograph a wealth of prairie wildlife amidst the golden autumn-cured grassland
  • Trip timed for September’s darkest night sky for exciting Milky Way photography
  • Only one convenient hotel for the entire tour
  • Single occupancy available on this trip at no extra cost
  • Includes all meals, lodging, ground transportation, helicopter flight, national park fees, photo guide and instruction
Tour Leaders
Jeff Vanuga

Jeff Vanuga