Sandra Lee Photography Workshops presents … SOUTH DAKOTA – A Photographic Workshop


“The Best of Badlands National Park”


June 3-7, 2024


Plus ... an optional add-on 4-day / 3-night Black Hills Extension


June 9-12, 2024


Registration NOW OPEN for both workshops! Inquire HERE.


Workshop leader – Sandy Zelasko


Badlands National Park, South Dakota




During this South Dakota photography workshop, we will explore Badlands National Park and locations in the vicinity. Our days will begin at dawn to take advantage of the early morning light. Likewise, we will end each day’s activities at sunset. When the sun is low in the sky, the light accentuates the texture of the land. Colors warm and the contrast soft, so details are not hidden by the dark shadows present at noon-time. At dusk and dawn, animals are more active and easily located. We will reserve mid-days for rest, reflection, image transfer and traveling between locations. There will be a variety of photo opportunities including both spectacular scenery and plentiful wildlife.        


      Prairie dogs, Badlands National Park, South Dakota




Once the site of an ancient sea, the South Dakota Badlands have been transformed over thousands of years into the land you see today. Layers of sediment and ash were eroded away leaving behind multi-colored rocks and boulders balanced on pedestals of stone. Eroded canyons and isolated buttes stand as testament to the power of the wind and rain. At first glance, the land seems sterile, yet close examination reveals a variety of creatures. Agile bighorn sheep scale steep canyon walls. Pronghorn and bison graze on the succulent prairie grasses while hawks circle overhead. A loop road travels through the northern portion of the park providing easy access to unusual geologic formations and favorite wildlife haunts.


An active prairie dog town lies along Sage Creek Rim Road. The colony’s occupants are enjoyable to watch and photograph as they groom, nibble on grasses, and romp playfully with siblings. Now and then a shrill alarm call ripples across the colony warning of a potential intruder — perhaps a badger or coyote in search of a meal. Visit HERE for the park service list of mammals at Badlands NP.


South of the Sage Creek area, in the second unit of the park, is Sheep Mountain Table. At the base of the plateau are formations with rocks balanced on limestone pedestals. A rough dirt road climbs to a high, flat plateau which is isolated from the surrounding terrain by deeply cut canyons. On top, the views are spectacular. Dirt roads extend like fingers to a variety of vantage points on the rim of the table. Accessible when road conditions are favorable.


      American bison, Badlands National Park, South Dakota  




The Best of Badlands National Park Photography Workshop begins Monday, June 3, 2024 at 4:00 PM (orientation) and ends Friday, June 7, 2024 at 11:00 AM. Photographers of all levels are encouraged to participate. A low student to instructor ratio affords individual attention and flexibility.


Please plan to arrive and check into your hotel in Wall, South Dakota, in time for the beginning of the workshop. Our schedule is action packed but will include midday for rest. Orientation will include participant introductions, safety, ethics, your goals for the workshop and discussion about what we expect to see and suggestions on how to photograph in the park. Participants will receive a detailed copy of our schedule at orientation.


Plan your trip to include at least four overnight stays in Wall, SD beginning Monday, June 3, 2024 checking out Friday, June 7th. You have the option to extend your workshop and join us for the Black Hills Extension Photography Workshop, a 4-day trip into the Black Hills, June 9-12, 2024 for an extra fee. Click HERE for more information. You are responsible for transportation to and from Wall, SD and throughout the park every day. You can reserve and pick up a rental car at the airport in Rapid City, SD if you are flying in. Rapid City (RAP) is the nearest airport to Wall and is approximately 55 miles or a one hour drive east on Interstate 90.


Wall, SD has one hometown grocery store, fuel (unleaded & diesel), lodging, eateries and of course the famous Wall Drug (where you can shop till you drop!). Your trip leader recommends Best Western Plains for your lodging. Book by calling (not via the internet) 605-279-2145 and referencing the name of this workshop Best of Badlands National Park Photography Workshop to secure lodging.


Your instructor has an exciting workshop planned for you. Note that this itinerary will be flexible in response to weather, lighting, availability of animals, client safety and/or desires of the group. Midday hours are set aside for lunch, on your own or with the group, personal errands, rest, post-processing or you can continue shooting. Your instructor will be available and welcomes your questions during workshop hours.


A typical day will go something like this: Meet before civil twilight (this time of year that will be approximately 4:30 AM depending on where we will start the day), to photograph sunrise, scenery and wildlife in the area. Depending on what we find, we may stay in a location a significant length of time before moving on to the next scheduled spot. We will break for lunch (picnic or back to town) and then resume photographing in the afternoon until twilight (approximately 9:00 PM). There is no night photography scheduled for this workshop but you may wish to include this opportunity in a dark sky region. Suggestion: If photographing the night sky, use foreground objects to add scale and content to your image!   


Plan your breakfasts to go and have snacks, water and lunches available in the event we stay longer at a location than anticipated. Your host will have water and snacks for you while in the field but suggests planning carefully by purchasing food for lunch on days we will not have access to a store or a restaurant. Please let us know if you have food allergies or a medical condition that might conflict with our snack choice. We will do our best to accommodate your needs. Bring a refillable water bottle.


Places high on our list to photograph are:                                          South Dakota/North Dakota with Irene Hinke-Sacilotto, Sept 2016.

  • Pinnacles Overlook
  • Robert’s Prairie Dog Town
  • Sage Creek Area
  • Badlands Loop Road
  • Cedar Pass Area
  • Door, Notch, Window and Fossil Exhibit Trails
  • Buffalo Gap National Grasslands
  • Sage Creek Rim Road
  • The town of Scenic
  • Sheep Mountain Table (Stronghold Unit, if roads permit)


DISCLAIMER: This workshop is designed for the nature photographer. We will spend time in areas with the best photographic possibilities. Conditions in the field will vary. There will be a small amount of hiking on boardwalks, over rocky areas but mostly on level, well-worn paths. We will photograph breathtaking landscapes and wildlife such as bighorn sheep, prairie dog, pronghorn, bison, mule deer, birds, flora and more. We should encounter all of the above and will concentrate on getting the best possible images while adhering to responsible wildlife guidelines set forth by the National Park Service. June is a perfect month to see newborn animals and we will be extra careful not to disturb our subjects.


      Badlands National Park, South Dakota         Badlands National Park, South Dakota




INVESTMENT: $1795 per person, five days – Open to 8 participants (Minimum of 4 participants necessary at the quoted price. Note: In the event, there less than 4 participants, a small group supplement may be added to the price above per participant. We reserve the right to cancel the trip in the event the minimum is not met.)


Start date/time: June 3, 2024, 4:00 PM          End date/time: June 7, 2024, 11:00 AM


Deposit: $500 to hold a spot in this workshop. Balance is due by March 30, 2024. Make your payment out to Sandra Lee Photography and mail to 15864 Severino Lane, Valley Center, CA 92082 or call 760-749-2174 to process your credit card. Visa, MasterCard, check and money order are all acceptable forms of payment.


What is included:

  • Trip leader/instructor, Sandy Zelasko, who will work to get you in the right place at the right time for stunning imagery.
  • Multiple field sessions, personal photographic instruction and image reviews as schedule permits.
  • 25+ years of instructional experience, insured, licensed, CPR/AED/First Aid certified and a National Park permit holder.
  • Snacks and water during the workshop. (Please bring a reusable water bottle.)
  • An enthusiastic, passionate and experienced nature photographer at your side!

Not included:

  • Lodging, airfare to/from Wall, SD, transportation throughout the workshop and meals. Participants are urged to ride-share to shooting locations.
  • Badlands NP entry fees. Please bring your America the Beautiful or senior pass that will cover your entry fee. Vehicle $30, valid for 7 days. If you ride-share, one pass will cover four passengers in one vehicle. (National Park fees subject to change.)
  • Trip insurance. You are encouraged to purchase trip insurance in case of an unforeseen emergency which requires you to cancel.

Cancellation policy:  

  • Cancellations 65 days prior to workshop, full refund, less $200 processing fee.
  • Cancellations made 64 days from the start of the workshop will deem all deposits non-refundable.


       Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep rams, Badlands National Park, South Dakota                       



To help plan your trip, visit the Badlands National Park website at Workshop dates were selected so that participants may have an opportunity to explore additional attractions in and around the Black Hills of South Dakota or attend the Black Hills Extension Photography Workshop immediately following the Badlands (For more details click HERE or give Sandy a call). Below are a few helpful links for planning your trip.


Lodging suggestions:

Additional attractions in the Black Hills region:

Suggested packing:

  • Bring a laptop with photo editing software. (A more extensive packing and equipment list will be sent upon registration.)

If you have questions, please feel free to call. Sandy can be reached at 760-749-2174. Thank you!

Sandy Zelasko, DBA Sandra Lee Photography is an authorized permittee with the National Park Service and maintains a CUA Permit in Badlands National Park for the purpose of field guided photography instruction.

IMAGE GALLERY (A small sampling of what is possible!)

     South Dakota/North Dakota with Irene Hinke-Sacilotto, Sept 2016.       South Dakota/North Dakota with Irene Hinke-Sacilotto, Sept 2016.

    Grain Elevators, Wall, South Dakota    Western meadlowlark, Badlands National Park, South Dakota

        South Dakota/North Dakota with Irene Hinke-Sacilotto, Sept 2016.       Badlands National Park, South Dakota          Town of Scenic, Badlands National Park, South Dakota

    South Dakota/North Dakota with Irene Hinke-Sacilotto, Sept 2016.       Western meadowlark, Badlands National Park, South Dakota

      Bighorn sheep, Badlands National Park, South Dakota      Goats beard, National Park, South Dakota

   Bighorn sheep, Pinnacles Overlook, Badlands National Park, South Dakota    Bighorn sheep, Badlands National Park, South Dakota


  South Dakota/North Dakota with Irene Hinke-Sacilotto, Sept 2016.    Thunderstorm, Badlands National Park, South Dakota


Thank you for considering Sandra Lee Photography for your Best of the Badlands National Park Photography Workshop adventure. We know there are many photography workshops to choose from. You will find our small class size leaves time for enhanced personal attention and photographic discussion. Please visit for more workshops.