Road Trip: Black Hills, South Dakota – Day 4, Part 1 – Early Morning In Custer State Park

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Black Hills Sunrise – Custer SP, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

Days 1 & 2  Day 3 – Part 1  Day 3 – Part 2  

Late to bed and early to rise is the life of a photographer, especially when travelling. Even though I had stayed up the night before capturing star pictures, on Day 4 I woke up when it was still dark to catch the sunrise along the Needles Highway, which is within Custer State Park. This area features unusual granite rock formations, many of which are pillars. There’s also an arch called Needles Eye that is unusual in that it is tall and not wide. The highway is narrow and curvy with several small one-lane tunnels. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful drive, and I wanted to capture it in the early morning hours.

I arrived at the Needles Eye area about 10 minutes before sunrise. I didn’t have a chance to scout the location ahead of time, so I was hoping to quickly find some good spots for photography. I think I did alright in that regard, but if I had a chance to visit before hand I would have come away with some better photographs. As far as sunrises go, the one that morning was mediocre since there were no clouds. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to try again another time.

The Golden Hour was spent in the general vicinity of Needles Eye, trying to find different angles and views of the rocks. On the way back to the campsite I stopped at Sylvan Lake. You might recognize this lake if you’ve seen the movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets. It’s a very scenic spot, and I enjoyed a peaceful morning hike around it, capturing photographs as I walked.

All of the photographs in this article are camera-made JPEGs using my X-Pro2 and either a Meike 35mm f/1.7 lens or a Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 lens. Both are great options for landscape photography, depending on if you want wide-angle or a “standard” focal length. One costs about 10x as much as the other. I used Acros, Velvia, Astia, PRO Neg. Std, and Classic Chrome film simulations.

There is one photograph that I did not include, called Father Nature (if you want to see it, click the link). It seems inappropriate, but I assure you that it is a natural granite rock formation found along the Needles Highway in Custer State Park. Since I want this to be a family-friendly website, I decided to simply link to the photograph instead of posting it directly on this page. Take a look if you want, or don’t click the link if you don’t want to.

Enjoy the photographs!

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Meager Pine – Custer SP, SD – Fuji X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Monochrome Needles – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 16mm

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Black Hills Above The Great Plains – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Dawn At Cathedral Spires – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Morning In The Hills – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 16mm

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Needles Eye Tunnel – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Improbable – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Needles Eye – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Needles Eye Arch – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 16mm

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Reaching Up – Custer SP, SD – Fuji X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Rugged Rocks – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Jagged Landscape – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Tunnel At Needles Eye – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 16mm

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Overlook At Needles Eye – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 16mm

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Needles In The Black Hills – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Towering Rocks & Trees – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Sylvan Lake Monochrome – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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The Dam Bridge – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Black Hills Pine Forest – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 16mm

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Morning Sun Through The Trees – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Looking Down The Dam – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 16mm

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Risky Tunnel – Custer SP, SD – Fuji X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Sylvan Blue – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Chairs On A Dock – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Sylvan Lake & Blue Sky – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 16mm

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Boats Ashore – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 16mm

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River Canoe – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Spill – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 16mm

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Grazing – Custer SP, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 16mm

Day 4 – Part 2  Days 5 & 6

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