Outdoor Talk with Chad Coppess

I love the outdoors.  Any chance I have to capture a perfect outdoor moment with my trusty camera is one of my favorite things to do outside.  I am not, however, a professional photographer.  Often times my blog posts require the touch of a professional.  Photos that make you feel like you’re in the moment.  Well, its more than likely that those shots are not coming from my camera, but from the one of professional photographer, Chad Coppess.  


Chad is the one on the left...just kidding!

Chad is the one on the left...just kidding!

Chad is the photographer for the South Dakota Office of Tourism, and an avid outdoor enthusiasts.  His time in the outdoors is spent capturing its beauty for all to enjoy.  His love for South Dakota and her outdoors is well documented, both through his photography and his passion for sharing his photos with the world.  In addition to the great work he does with the Office of Tourism, Chadalso produces a number of blogs, one dedicated to the art of photography.  You can visit his Dakotagraph blog by following the link under “Outdoor Resources”.  Chad was kind enough to answer a few questions about shooting photos in South Dakota for this months post of Outdoor Talk.  I’ve sporadically places some of his photos throughout the post for your enjoyment.    


SDOutdoors: So, How do you like your job?


CC: I love my job! Most days I’m a professional tourist, traveling the state taking pictures of anything and everything that makes South Dakota beautiful.

Photographers at sunset

Photographers at sunset


SDOutdoors: How long have you been a photographer?


CC: I started taking pictures in high school, back about 30 years ago. 

I’ve been with the Office of Tourism for 16 years. Now that you make me think about it, I’ve done over half of my photography for the South Dakota Department of Tourism and State Development.

SDOutoors: How does it feel when you see your photos used in publications?


CC: Feedback is always important and fun for a photographer, which means someone has to see your photos to give the feedback.  So every time a picture is published, that’s another chance for feedback.  It’s always good to see my photos used, especially in places I didn’t expect.  Whether it’s on the side of a semi truck traveling the U.S. or in a souvenir book for sale in a Black Hills shop, it’s always fun to find my images.

Badlands of South Dakota

Badlands of South Dakota

SDOutdoors: How is outdoor photography different from the other things that you shoot? 


CC: Outdoors is the place to be.  Even though there are a lot of bright spots in this job (a little photography humor there), making pictures of nature is the brightest.  Photographing wildlife and the incredible scenery of South Dakota never gets boring.

Bowhunter on the Great Plains

Bowhunter on the Great Plains

SDOutdoors: Do you have a favorite photograph that sticks out in your mind?


CC:  I’m really happy with the picture I took of a mountain goat in front of Mount Rushmore.  It kind of wraps most of the Tourism side of my job all into one thing – nature, scenery, wildlife and tourism attractions all in one shot.

Chad's pride and joy, and one awesome photo!

Chad's pride and joy, and one awesome photo!

SDOutdoors: What is your favorite time of year to shoot photos in South Dakota?


CC:  Fall is beautiful in many different parts of the state.  It’s hard to beat golden leaves fluttering against a bright blue sky.


SDOutdoors: Do you have a favorite location in South Dakota, or would that be too difficult to choose?


CC: My favorite spot is the last one that I found great light at.  We photographers live and die by what we call the “quality” of the light.  So when you get great soft light on a waterfall or a blazing sunset over the Badlands, that’s my favorite spot right then.  Hopefully, there will be a new favorite spot next week.

Climbing in the Black Hills

Climbing in the Black Hills

SDOutdoors: What tips can you offer photographers (novice and expert alike) when shooting outdoor photographynot only in South Dakota, but in general? 


CC: Read the instruction manuals!  We will all use our equipment better if we know all the features and how they work.  Here’s a great tip that I learned from a National Geographic photographer – shoot lots and throw away the bad ones.  The more you shoot the better you will be, but only show people the best.


Always remember you don’t have to be a professional photographer to enjoy photographing the great outdoors.  Get outside and enjoy it!  And the next time you see a great photo on this site, it’s probably not from my camera, but one from the camera of Chad Coppess, photographer extraordinaire.

Horseback riding along Lake Oahe

Horseback riding along Lake Oahe


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