On the morning of the third day of our South Dakota trip, which was the first full day in the Black Hills, after breakfast, we headed out to see Mount Rushmore National Monument. This is an iconic landmark of America. The heads of four quintessential presidents were carved into the rocks: George Washington, the first president and Revolutionary War general, on the far left, Thomas Jefferson, the third president and author of the Declaration of Independence, on the middle-left, Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th president and Rough Rider, on the middle-right, and Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president and slavery abolisher, on the far right.
Gutzon Borglum is the sculptor who, along with his team of over 400 people, carved Mount Rushmore, which is an incredible work of art. The work began in 1927 and finished in 1941. It was mostly carved by careful use of dynamite. Borglum was a renown artist even before Mount Rushmore, but this is certainly his biggest and best known accomplishment.
When we arrived we were surprised to learn that our National Parks Pass didn’t do us any good. There is a “parking fee” (but no entrance fee), and they offer no discount for those who have an annual pass. The parking garage, which resembles something you’d find at a large airport or downtown, is a big expense, I’m sure, so I certainly understand the need to charge money to park. I just think that, if you have an annual pass, they should give a discount of some sort.
The way that this monument is set up is you traverse a walkway towards the sculpture, with things on your right and left as you make your way down. It kind of feels like much of it was an afterthought instead of integrated design. Still, it’s laid out in such a way that you could choose to get as much out of it as you want. Except, when we were there, half of the trail and the Sculptor’s Studio were closed. Still, we found the museum to be interesting enough.
Our ten-year-old and eight-year-old kids did the Junior Ranger program. This is a great way for them to not only learn about the park, but to be engaged and excited about it. Afterwards, once they had completed the requirements, they were sworn in as Junior Rangers and received a badge. This was a highlight of the trip for them.
The four heads are very large, but it is difficult to really appreciate the scale from the main viewing area. There is a trail that takes you closer, and it isn’t until you reach the end that you can better appreciate the size of the carvings. After we left the park we decided that Mount Rushmore was a neat place to see, but mildly disappointing. On the other hand, it made us want to watch the Alfred Hitchcock classic North by Northwest, which takes place, in part, at Mount Rushmore.
One takeaway from visiting this place is that photography is a lot like sculpting. Borglum’s job wasn’t all that much different from yours and mine, except the tools are different. He removed all of the stone that wasn’t Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. What was left was his great work of art. When you and I compose, our job is to remove everything that doesn’t belong so that what we are left with is the strongest image possible. Often less is more.
The photographs in this article, which are all camera-made JPEGs, were captured using a Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a Meike 35mm f/1.7 lens attached to it. I really like this camera-lens combination, and I thought it was a good choice for the location. One of the things that I appreciate about my X100F is the simplicity and restriction of one-camera and one-lens, and I found that not changing lenses on the X-Pro2 while at a location provides a similar experience.