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Photographing Devils Tower

Devils Tower is one of America’s most famous landscape icons. Location of the alien mothership’s landing in the 1977 blockbuster hit movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the tower is an igneous intrusion standing tall above the surrounding grasslands, revealed by millennia of erosion. When the magma that formed Devils Tower cooled, it contracted, forming hexagonal columns that give the formation its distinct appearance.

Photographing Devils Tower

Where: Devils Tower National Monument is located in northeastern Wyoming, close to the nearby towns of Hulett and Sundance. The nearest major airport is Rapid City Regional Airport in South Dakota, which is about 90 miles away.

When: Devils Tower can be photographed any time of year, although summer is when you are most likely to get storms, which often produce dramatic skies. Sunrise and sunset are great for getting colorful light on the tower. Night photography is also very popular.

Photographing Devils Tower

Photography: Making unique images of often-photographed subjects can be a challenge, and this is especially true of Devils Tower, as viewpoints of the formation are somewhat limited. You'll have to get creative to make photos that stand out.

The West Road leads to an open meadow on the west side of Devils Tower. This is a popular place for sunset photography, and for capturing stars over the tower at night. Devils Tower is located in a relatively remote area with minimal light pollution, making it a fantastic location for astrophotography.

The Devils Tower Visitor Center, located at the end of the main park road, offers a great panoramic view of the tower. This is a popular spot for capturing the tower's grandeur against the backdrop of the surrounding landscape. Here you can also access the Tower Trail, which rings Devils Tower. Along the trail, you can find many viewpoints of the tower from multiple perspectives, allowing you to choose compositions for sunrise or sunset. The boulder field at the base of the Tower offers opportunities for many varied and unique compositions. Depending on weather conditions, you might be able to capture the tower's reflection in rainwater pools, creating a unique and captivating shot.

Photographing Devils Tower

Learn more: The above photo required a ground-level setup. I used a Platypod Extreme as a stable platform for my camera, getting it low enough to pull the reflection down into the triangle-shaped part of the rainwater pool (watch my full review of the Platypod Extreme). I needed an extreme wide-angle to capture the entire scene, so I used my Venus Optics Laowa 9mm f/5.6 lens on my Sony full-frame camera (read my full review of the Laowa 9mm lens). Because of the extreme near-far perspective, to get everything perfectly sharp in the photo I used focus stacking (PRO Members can learn more about focus stacking from my Ultimate Landscape Photography Course).

Using the Platypod Extreme to photograph Devils Tower

PRO Members: Exclusive Video Tutorial

Photo Masters PRO Members can watch my video giving a behind the scenes look at how this photo was made, and showing how this image was focus stack blended and brought to life in the digital darkroom.

Photographing Devils Tower

A PRO membership takes a deeper look at how compelling photos are made, and unlocks access to this video as well as a number of my other courses and tutorials.

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Regarding your night-time shot, I'm not a fan myself of blue night time skies. I prefer a more natural look - black unless there is some scattered light from the moon or light pollution. But, I understand turning the night sky blue is a personal preference. However, one thing I regret as being all too common is having all the stars white. I prefer to keep all the natural color variations of stars - that, to me, makes an image much more interesting!

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