South Dakota

Real Landscape Photography

So, yesterday I halfway read this blog posting that made it on Petapixel "Will the Real Landscape Photography Please Stand Up."   It struck me as the in general frustrated that there are so many amazing photographers out there taking so many amazingly similar shots.  How do you be unique in a world where there are millions of people just like you?  How do you make a difference in your world? 

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 Fence in rural Nebraska June 2014

And I looked at the gorgeous landscapes that you see on sites like 500px which I only learned about through reading photographer blogs such as Petapixel, I only learned of this page recently.  I'm not too serious about worrying about what the other landscape shooters of the world are doing.   They really don't matter to me.  

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Another problem is that I am seeing a growing trend of conformity in landscape photography. I could not recognize any one of those photos and tell who the photographer was, but at the same time they could have been attributed to any one of the many photographers who are very popular on social media.

There is this prevalent style in landscape photography that aims to capture the viewer with dramatic light, strong composition and bright, saturated colors. I can definitely see why people like it, but I personally don’t like it anymore. (Cei)

I think the type of shots our author is speaking of are these gorgeous dramatic landscapes that take your breath away...

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Something golden, a photo at the right time of day in the right landscape.  Something that you have to edit until you are convincing your audience that it was straight from your eyes to their screens.  

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I've only recently allowed myself to be sucked up into the world of photographers. Photographer bloggers, Rockstar Photographers, and people out to make money off of the industry of photographer.  The money to be made from teaching workshops or mentoring those new photographers who desire to gain skills, knowledge and eventually income from their "passion."  I've only recently learned about names like Leica, Hasselblad, and Zeiss.  I've only recently started reading about "medium format cameras," and all things technical that go with it.  

I have mixed feelings about this world.  I learn from it.  It's interesting, yet, it's competitive. Everyone has something to sell or desires some benefit from passing on their knowledge and hard work.  Too many want all the answers and a shortcut on how to be a great photographer.  

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So perhaps my first four years of photography, before I truly learned technical skills and about lenses was better.  When the body of my camera was the most important thing to me and I didn't have a clue about lenses.  I did know that I "needed" better lenses but didn't quite understand what I needed them for when I really loved my 18-135 lens that came with my Canon 7D that I purchased in 2011. 

Yet, making money from doing something I enjoy is great.  But, it's not everything.  I think all the practice I do with shooting and all the work on this blog is business or has business potential, but not everything in life is about money.   

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Swingset in Winnetoon Nebraska 

I consider myself a "real landscape photographer" - I may not be on fancy websites, I may not be selling workshops to the next sucker with a DSLR (So I can continue to travel the world and sell what an amazing person I am), I may not be spending thousands to rub noses with people who think they should be teaching me how to be a better photographer.  I am not constantly trying to compete with other photographers or sell my landscapes.  But, I love shooting landscapes and new places.  Anyone can photograph a national park or national landmark, but not everyone spends their time on the backroads looking for the obscure beauty in the ordinary.  

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Rural South Dakota- June 2014 

I like to do photography to step away from the world around me, not to worry about how other photographers shoot.  I don't care if everyone I know has a DSLR they won't pursue photography like I do.  Not everyone thinks the plains are beautiful. 

To be honest, much of what I see every day on 500px is much, much better than the pictures on that slideshow and I realize that I am being too harsh here. But then again, I don’t see any of the photographer’s emotions and mood conveyed through some of these images and, to me, this is not art.

And yet, I love this guy's post on landscape photography.  I "get" what he is saying that so many photos just look like beautiful, cookie cutter, screensavers, they aren't personalized or incredibly unique.   But as I pull my images together to post them right now I'm  looking through that day's photos-  the day we were in Nebraska and ended at Sioux Falls, South Dakota.   Our last stop was the Falls at Sioux Falls.  I don't think my emotions are conveyed in my photos of the falls.   It had been a while since I was that far north, we were there to visit a place that I had written about in my graduate thesis.  This post also goes back to the argument of the art of photography.  

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Yet probably looking at a waterfall probably creates the emotion of awe- at the natural beauty.  But, in reality for me when I was at this place it created anxiety and fear.  I really didn't like the falls at Sioux Falls.  

But, I get why people chase the dream of their own business. I get why photographers want to share their skills by teaching workshops.  I get why people want to make as much money as they can from the craft.  

The assumption that it only has value if you make money from it - is part of the problem with America.  That I'm only happy doing photographs if I'm making money.  The answer to my problems are more customers.  I do believe that real landscape photography is not about selling prints, or making a dollar.  I think it's about finding yourself in a place and time that you know not everyone will experience and taking it home and sharing it.  

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Now the close up photo of the falls wasn't too bad, but I really hated the observation tower.  So I was two hundred feet above the falls.  I don't know why this place bothered me as bad as it did, but I don't like rushing water as it is.  I really do not like waterfalls.  Yes, they're beautiful, and I'm sure this is an easy place to take great photographs, but I was ready to leave.  

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My opinions of "emotions" in photography are different. I believe photographers can use an image to create an emotion.  I believe emotions are in photography but they are open to the interpretation of the viewer. I can create emotions with photographs that may not have been a positive experience for me. Often I post photos where the outcome is beautiful or dreamy yet, emotionally that may not have been my mood.   The beauty of the medium is I can still go out and get a great shot or a great portrait shoot when it I am not in a great mood or don't want to be there. 

But I understand, if you can't see my mood and emotion how would you understand my emotions;   Probably through the music I was listening to that day.   My photography doesn't reflect my emotions, I've gone out and taken photos on the days when I didn't want to exist, but they gave me a reason to want to continue living. 

Related articles

Historic Geddes, South Dakota

So, I've figured out a more efficient way of saving photos for posts (sometimes my organization is lacking). But, I'm saving slightly smaller files so they'll upload quickly.  

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Last June 20th (I think) I was in Geddes, South Dakota with my friend.  We just stopped, just to stop at the town.   It was more interesting than we expected. 

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These photos are more of the photo-journalist variety.  No artistic attempt, just documenting a time and a place, but sometimes that's all you need. 

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This was my second trip to South Dakota that month.  Yes, I went at the beginning of the month, went home to Oklahoma for a week or so and returned to do more visiting.  Geddes was my next to last stop before we left.  

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 So this is the historic Papineau trading post.  

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Here is a piece written about Old Papineau's Village   in South Dakota Magazine.  

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Here are some wonderful downloads with information about this old trader Papineau.  "The Epic of Papineau's Domain."  Cuthbert DuCharme was the man called Papineau.  He arrived in Charles Mix County South Dakota from Quebec, Canada.  His trading post was the first county seat of Charles Mix County.   He was a purchaser for the J. Astor Fur Company.  Go ahead and read more from the links provided. 

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Here is an image from the South Dakota digital archives

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This was an interesting little historical park.  

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I'm trying to upload smaller images, so I can post faster.  I still have quite a few things I can share from travels. 

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It was a warm day in South Dakota.  

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This historic schoolhouse is also located by the trading post. 

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The one room school house lasted far longer on the northern plains. I have friends who attended one room schoolhouses until they joined our school in the mid-eighties. 

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What else do we have in this little block of Geddes History. 

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A settlers shack.  

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This was my favorite building. 

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Peter Norbeck,  go ahead google him. You know if you're interested you will.  

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And a radio station.  It's good that there are people dedicated to preservation.  We need more people who value our past.   


Related articles

Yankton, South Dakota

So, I said I had many posts that I could do from my travels last Summer and I haven't forgotten. I am browsing through my images and found some that I liked from Yankton.  Named for the Yankton Nakota tribe. It is located on the Lewis and Clark Trail and just an hour or so from where I grew up.  

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Pretty cool sculpture that you will see if you head to walk across the bridge in Yankton.   My Sister and I decided that we were going to walk to Nebraska before we headed home to Oklahoma.  So we did. 

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I realize as an adult how conflicting the information was  to be told as a child that you lived in a state that was considered "The Great American Desert"  - and to return as an adult and see all the abundant water and realize how many rivers and streams flow through rural eastern Nebraska and South Dakota.   Not everything you learn is the truth.  Sure if you head west you find yourself in more desolate country but there is still a lot to learn about a region.  

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It amazes me how little we think about the importance of bridges in our lives until one is gone.  Recently the small one lane bridge on the north side of town was out.   It reopened this week after about a month of driving around town which was an inconvenience.   

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In the 19th century Yankton flooded and a small Nebraska town across the river was wiped off the map.  The Missouri River is an impressive work of nature.   

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Yankton- I did not take a lot of photos of Yankton. I mainly photographed the Missouri and the bridge.  

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Here is one photo from when we stopped for fuel on the way to Sioux Falls.   

Spirit Mound Historic Prairie - South Dakota

While I'm on a posting spree I may as well post my photos from Spirit Mound, near Vermillion South Dakota.   My little South Dakota adventure continues next week!   Except, I have a nice days drive to get to get to the house of one of my favorite people in the whole world!   Spirit Mound is actually a place I found in the travel and tourism guide that I picked up earlier that day.

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So we're driving up this road and you can see why this is one of those places that was important.  It stands out on the plains and suddenly that desire to climb to the top of this hill, this spirit mound overtakes you.   Yet, for Native people who lived around this mound at the time of Louis and Clarke it represented a tabboo. 

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I loved this place.  I'm considering returning.   National Park Service- Spirit Mound

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I'm enjoying my eastern South Dakota travels.  Oddly enough I've never been to Mount Rushmore or the western side of the state.

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There is something about climbing up a hill and reaching the top and being able to  see throughout the landscape.

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I'm running out of words.  But, a picture says a thousand words.  I've discovered that I prefer to take my vacations in places like this than a crowded tourist destination.

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I traveling, whether it's alone or with my family.  My own family, it seems probably doesn't like traveling with me so much.  Since they get tired of my photography. 

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I want to bring my whole family up here for a vacation.  But, maybe I will enjoy doing the initial exploration so we can all come up and know great places to go without feeling lost, next time. 

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Join me on Spirit Mound where two hundred years ago explorers Lewis and Clark looked out upon the vast prairies.   Natives told of this mound to be a taboo place occupied by little people.   This is not a man-made mound but part of the Niobrara formation. 

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This butterfly sat on top of Spirit Mound.   This area is being restored into a natural prairie.

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If you are ever near Yankton or Vermillion, South Dakota take a couple of hours and drive over to Sprit Mound.   It allows you to see the great prairies that roll across this landcape and the natural beauty that is the northern plains. 

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It was a beautiful day with all the songbirds singing their songs of the summer. 

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If you want to travel you must start with your immedate surroundings. Explore the country roads, the towns, the places near you and slowly broaden your circle.  Keep exploring around you and eventually you will see the world.  Quit being sold on the idea that destinations aimed at tourists are the only fun that you can find.  Sometimes I sit and feel as if I've been nowhere - I haven't been to the important places on the east coast. I've barely traveled outside of the United States, yet I've seen a vast portion of this nation.   Which is an incredibly diverse, interesting place.   A crowded city is just another crowded city, to know a place go to the country and see why the city became what it is. 


Good Earth State Park at Blood Run South Dakota

We drove to Sioux Falls so I could visit the Good Earth State Park at Blood Run, near Sioux Falls South Dakota.  The Blood Run site extends across the river into Iowa.  This is the site of a settlement that dates back 8,500 years.  Yes, you read that correctly eight thousand years ago people were living here.  We're talking people who pre-dated the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans or those other people you like to think of as "ancient." 

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So what happens when you're over 800 miles from home and you drive to visit a particular place at a particular time?  It rains.  Not only does it rain, there is a regular thunderstorm.   So I patiently waited over a half an hour for the rain to stop and the sky to stop rumbling.  It didn't.  Not totally. 

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I grew impatient and drove down the road, wondering how to get to the Iowa side of the river.  The road was closed.   My quest to see this ancient Mound Builder city, this meeting of peoples for thousands of  years, was somewhat unfulfilled. 

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The surrounding farmland gives way to the river valley. 

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I based a chapter of my graduate thesis around Blood Run; yet I had never visited.  I wrote about the importance of this place based upon the writing of Allison Hedge Coke's book of poetry titled Blood Run.   Because I was fascinated by the idea of this empire of moundbuilders stretching across the eastern half of North America; people who I never learned about as a child.  

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I wrapped the Canon T3i up in two empty plastic bags and put my versatile 18-135 lens on it and finally gathered the courage to take off down the hiking trails. I wasn't going to sit in the car and stare at a field all morning. 

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Had I felt comfortable in the thunder I would have taken more photos and done a much longer hike through this area.

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I hate thunder and lightning. You won't ever catch me on a one mile hike in this kind of weather again.  Above is an example of my photographic artistry in the thunderstorm. 

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It is probable that the Blood Run site (c.1500-1700 AD.) in southwestern Iowa was settled in the late proto-historic area by the Iowa, Oto, and Missouri Chiwere Siouans, along with the Omaha and Ponca Dhegiha Siouans. These groups were allied and known as the Oneota culture that is spread over a large Midwestern area. At Blood Run, they were under pressures from the Teton Lakota and Yankton Nakota peoples who had moved into the same region. According to Tom Thiessen's study of the Blood Run site, it once had 275 burial mounds. This is strong empirical evidence that mound building had persisted among these Siouan groups into late proto-historic times. (

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The Oneota people; lived here for hundreds of years, used this as a trading center for pipestone or catlinite which was mined at nearby Pipestone, Minnesota. 

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Across two states this site is there are the remnants of over 400 mounds. I really couldn't tell the natural landscape from the ancient moundbuilder site.  I've been to Emerald Mound in Mississippi a few years ago and that was impressive.

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I'm sure this park will continue to grow and will eventually have a visitors center and be rich with the ancient Native heritage that fills the landscape.   Please go like their Facebook Page: Good Earth State Park at Blood Run

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I love the wildflowers in the northern plains.  Different from home.  

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As I left this ancient mound builder city-  there was an issi  watching me.  She watched me for a few moments as I took a few frames of her beauty.   So this site is a place that was "formed not to be forgotten."  It was a site that shares similarities with our Spiro in Oklahoma.  It holds a shared heritage with our Chahta ancestors.   These people whose stories all converge in the river valleys across the eastern United States; these mound builders-  the great empire builders of North America's past.  

Falls Park, Sioux Falls South Dakota

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Sioux Falls was founded in 1856.  Here is the city's website with some local history:

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It's been nearly six years since I exited the interstate to head north to Fargo, where I visited in the summer of 2008.   I didn't explore Sioux Falls at that time.  But, I missed out on a lot I see because this is a city with an interesting history. 

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I have a phobia about rushing water.  The sound of the falls was overwhelming and loud.  It is a beautiful place but I didn't want to stay long! 

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We went up on the observation tower to look at the falls.

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And...I don't think this would be a problem.  I spent a few minutes up here and was ready to get back on the ground.

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A statue of the buffalo. 

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This is a neat place to stop.  A beautiful park. 

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You could stand and feel the rushing water.

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I wasn't about to take my camera to get wet, my sister took a photo of me taking a photo of the falls with my phone. 

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Kids playing on the rocks near the water in the park.

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We weren't at the park very long, after a long day we were tired and ready to find a hotel.  I'm glad we drove down because it was cool and rainy the next morning.

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I love traveling and finding things I don't expect.  It's also interesting going places where you don't have a preconcieved notion of what is there.  So if you get the chance head to Sioux Falls.   Of course this river is a big reason we were in Sioux Falls as we looked to visit Good Earth State Park at Blood Run the next day. 

Travels With Joy

So, what photos do you post after a week long trip and a thousand mile journey up into the northern plains?   I am at a loss with which photos to share with you since the journey was filled with white open spaces, terrific storms and fluffy cumulous clouds over the rolling hills of the prairies.  

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When you drive hundreds of miles to go to a place and there is a thunderstorm,  you suck up your fear get out of the car and go hike the trails. Good Earth State Park at Blood Run.

Thursday we began our journey home from Sioux Falls, South Dakota with a couple of planned stops at Good Earth State Park at Blood Run and at Spirit Mound near Vermillion, South Dakota.   We ended up taking a third stop at the Missouri River and walked across the bridge to Nebraska.  

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We then visited Spirit Mound, near Vermillion - South Dakota.  This is an impressive site to see. 

A day on the road like this is filled with opportunity, yet you know you need to stay on the road and drive to get home. 

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 Stopped for a minute to capture this train beside the old farm house in between Vermillion and Yankton.

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So we walked to Nebraska; my sister and I walked over the Missouri River on this old bridge. 

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The Missouri River. 

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I love the rolling prairies of North East Nebraska, the Meadowlarks, the smell of the grass, this is  home.  Nebraska will always be my "home" because Nebrasks is where I spent my childhood. 

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Traveling on the plains in the summer is a wonderful experience.   The rolling hills of the prairie that change into the high plains and then back to the cross timbers of Oklahoma.  But...

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On Highway 81  between Yankton, SD and Norfolk (NORFORK...please don't say NorFOLK) there is road construction; and so we wait. 

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waiting, waiting, waiting...

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Time to go! 

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I always say I love the summer.  

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The sun was setting after we left York. 

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My Sister's new Scion; now talk about great gas mileage! 

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I love this shot.  Not long after this I took over driving the rest of the way to Oklahoma, and arrived home around five am. 



Postcard From South Dakota

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A postcard from South Dakota.  Tired in Sioux Falls; the journey continues tomorrow.  This is my first post about South Dakota on Expedition Oklahoma! Tomorrow I will explore the moundbuilder cultures of the Oneota people of the North.   Last night I went to sleep in Lincoln along with the swirling angry skies and went back to my homeland of NE Nebraska.  It's too late and I'm too tired for more.  The next post will likely come from home in Oklahoma.