Passport Series Night Photography Workshop

Nestled in the Northern Great Plains, Badlands National Park comprises 244,000 acres of otherworldly landscapes, grassy prairie and wildlife such as bison, black-footed ferrets, mountain goats and bighorn sheep. We’ll be visiting during the 2020 Perseid meteor shower, and will be focusing on capturing the incredible eroded landscapes with Milky Way, meteors and some moonlight.

Workshop Gallery

photos © Matt Hill & Chris Nicholson

Workshop Details

August 9-14, 2020 — Sold Out, Join Waitlist Below

This is a 5-night, 6-day workshop. Your adventure begins on the morning of Sunday, August 9, and ends after a final slideshow on the afternoon of Friday, August 14.

$1,750 + applicable taxes. Register below.

Skill level

Open to all who have an understanding of the basic principles of photography and of their cameras.

Class size

14, with 2 instructors — 7:1 ratio

NPS website

Badlands National Park

Our workshop mission is to explore every U.S. national park. As with all our Passport Series locations, it may be years (if ever) before we return to any specific place. If you have a dream of making epic long exposures at night at Badlands National Park, we hope you join us.

Workshop Leaders

Register Now Waitlist Only

HOPING TO GET A SPOT? Sign up Below for our no-fee WAITLIST

  • Deposit of $500 is required to reserve your spot at the workshop.

  • Balance of $1,250 due on May 11, 2020.
    Pay balance here.

  • You may choose the “Pay in Full” ticket if you desire to pay all at once.

  • Last day for a cancellation request is May 10, 2020 (see cancellation and refund policy).

  • The workshop fee does not include transportation to and from the park, lodging, food or the park admission fee.


The Badlands Experience

Every time it rains, the landscape of the Badlands changes. The soft earth and rock that makes up the Badlands erodes at a rate of 1 inch per year. This slow reveal uncovers many strata of geology, and a rich fecundity of fossils. Topped by a mixed-grass prairie, you’ll often see bison, bighorn sheep, deer and pronghorn, as well as smaller animals such as porcupines, prairie dogs and copious amounts of toads.

The jagged outcrops are accessible along numerous overlooks, and that’s ideal for south-facing Milky Way photography, which we’ve planned this workshop around. In other places, we can get close to the geology and face northward, and that plays into another specific goal of the workshop: photographing the Perseid Meteor Shower, which peaks on the night of August 12 to 13. Weather permitting, we should have ideal conditions for viewing the meteor shower.

We will start the workshop with a 76 percent waning gibbous moon and end with a 30 percent waning crescent moon. Each night will have some darkness after twilight before moonrise. If the weather cooperates, we are likely to have both Milky Way and moon-draped landscapes every night.

Switching between craggy rock formations and prairie, you’ll be sure to capture the best this park has to offer.

What You Should Know

Participants must have at least basic photo skills, know their cameras well, and be comfortable shooting RAW in manual mode with a DSLR or high-end mirrorless camera.

Night photography experience is not necessary, but even folks with extensive experience shooting at night will find this class challenging, stimulating and inspiring. For more advanced night photographers, we can offer a portfolio review and specific challenges and goals, and will offer guidance in the field if you mainly want to concentrate on creating portfolio images or learning more advanced techniques.

If you would like to attend this workshop but are unsure whether you have adequate night photography skills, we can offer pre-workshop tutoring to get you ready for your adventure with us. Alternatively or additionally, a few of us have written books that may be productive pre-workshop reads.

What You Will Learn

We hope to push you to step outside your comfort zone—to test the limits of what you and your camera can do. You’ll go home after the workshop with a solid grasp of night photography in dark and moonlit environments, and a good foundation in light painting techniques.


  • how to photograph and edit star points, for display and for print

  • how to photograph and edit star trails

  • how to photograph and edit a meteor shower radiant

  • how to scout a national park using available resources and PhotoPills

  • and more …

This workshop will have both field and classroom instruction. We will be in the classroom each day, and out in the field at different locations each night. Participants can stay out shooting as long as they, or their camera’s batteries, hold out. While in the field, the instructors will demonstrate their own techniques and will work with participants one-on-one to make sure everyone gets the most out of the workshop. During classroom sessions, there will be presentations by the instructors, but we will focus on developing your images and sharing everyone's work and ideas with each other. Each day will have a review of the previous night’s work.

Our locations have generous room to explore, so everyone will be able to spread out and not get in one another’s way. Each participant will have the opportunity to work one-on-one with Matt and Lance in the field.

We do not tell our attendees what to photograph, and won’t line you up in a row to all shoot the same thing (unless it’s helpful to get some people on track). Instead, we encourage you to use what you have learned to create your own unique images, and to let us guide you through the process should you desire. We do not teach you to do what we do, but rather how to develop your own night vision.

Night & Light Conditions


Badlands National Park is very accessible, being only one hour from Rapid City, South Dakota. 

You will need a rental car. You might consider renting an SUV to have access to the entire park. Some of the gravel roads are not well suited to regular passenger cars. A four-wheel-drive vehicle will be useful, but is not required for the workshop. If you are interested in carpooling or sharing a rental car, let us know and we will try to connect you with another attendee looking for the same. You are responsible for arranging and paying for your own transportation.

Nearby Airports:

  • Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP) — 1 hour from Wall, South Dakota

  • Denver International Airport (DEN) — 6 hours from Wall

  • Pierre (PIR) — 2 hours from Wall


Food & Lodging

We will be staying at Frontier Cabins in Wall, South Dakota, 7 miles from the Northwest entrance to the park (Pinnacles Entrance Station).

You are not required to stay at the official workshop lodging, though doing so does make it easier to meet with the group each morning. Lodging info and group code will be sent after registering. If you are interested in sharing a cabin (each has two queen beds), let us know and we will try to connect you with someone like-minded in the group.

Wall has a handful of food options, including one supermarket and the world-famous Wall Drug stores. We encourage eating two meals per day—a good late breakfast and a great late lunch. When on the night shoots, you may wish to bring snack food or a sandwich and plenty of water.

You are responsible for arranging and paying for your own meals and accommodations.


Expect daytime highs in the mid 80’s, lows in the low 60’s.

Recommended Attire

Shorts and short-sleeve shirts for daytime, light pants and long-sleeve shirts for night. A sweatshirt and medium-weight jacket will likely be useful, and a base layer might not be a waste of packing space. Bring a rain jacket and rain pants, just in case--late-afternoon and early-evening lightning storms are not uncommon. Layers are good. Comfortable and protective shoes are recommended for getting around. There won’t be long hikes, but we will be on trails, so quality trails shoes or hiking boots would be optimal.


No vigorous activity will be required during the workshop, but please consider your physical abilities prior to registering. There won’t be any long hikes, but there will be trails and boardwalks involved, and you should be comfortable carrying your own equipment over uneven ground in the dark.

Note: To ensure the safety of individuals and the group, National Parks at Night reserves the right for workshop leaders to use their discretion to limit an attendee from engaging in a rigorous activity on-site should that person's physical health or ability be in question. If you are unsure about your ability to meet the physical demands of this workshop, we will be happy to discuss your concerns one-on-one before you register. You are also, of course, welcome to attend a workshop and sit out any physical activity that makes you uncomfortable. In such cases, we can provide you with ideas for alternative shoot locations for that time.

Please read our FAQs section for more information about skill and gear requirements, and other information that pertains to all our workshops.

If you have questions, please contact us—we're happy to talk it over with you.


An Otherworldly Place ...

The collision of grasslands and eroding stone/earth felt like we had taken a portal off-planet.
— Matt

What’s so good about the Badlands?

My first visit to this national park was during sunset. My friend and I were arriving from a daylong trip across South Dakota from Kansas. I remember being in awe of the landscape. The collision of grasslands and eroding stone/earth felt like we had taken a portal off-planet. Perhaps an alternate reality of Venus or Mars.

My short two hours in the park left an impression, though. So much that I vowed to come back and explore it more. And that I did with fellow NPAN Partner Chris Nicholson. 

During our trip to the Badlands, we experienced a lush, verdant scene with blooming yellow clover. The park was experiencing record-breaking amounts of rain. The result was an explosion of color and wildlife. For the second time, I felt like I was transported off-planet.

Having much more time to enjoy and explore, I set about choosing places to shoot. This included a northern view for the Perseid Meteor Shower in in 2020. Lance and I successfully took it on in 2017 at the Great Sand Dunes and we’re eager to do it again in South Dakota. So much of my time was spent looking for that one ideal view … and I found it!.

Other surprising things we learned include:

  • Just north of the east end of the Park is the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. Their presentation of how America survived the Cold War is alarming and deeply educational. 

  • All around the park are national grasslands. Rich prairies teeming with agriculture, industry, wildlife and some secrets.

  • Between the north and south units of the park lies the Pine Ridge Reservation. The story behind this plot of land is heartbreaking, and if attendees choose to stay extra days, we encourage spending some time learning more from the Lakota tribe. Educational opportunities are possible by contacting the White River Visitor Center, which spends nearly all of its time working with the local community to cooperatively enrich and support them.

  • And more …

But all in all, the Badlands National Park workshop experience with us is ripe for adventure, learning and achievement. I am so excited. We’re gonna make some beautiful images together and find a way to help you render your vision of the park under cover of night.

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