Dallas Portrait Photographer in South Dakota? What?

One of my BIGGEST goals as a Rockwall Portrait Photographer is to become a National Portrait Photographer and travel throughout the country creating Amazing Portraits of people.

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Spearfish, South Dakota on assignment for a Creative Family Portrait.

I packed up all my camera gear, Taren made sure we didn’t forget anything, we threw the kids in the car, and set out for South Dakota on a mission.

So, buckle up and let’s see where this journey takes us.

The Journey to Create a Portrait

4.30 am and we’re pulling out of our driveway on our way to Grandma’s house.

Since it was just shy of mid-point (a 9-hour drive), we left early so we could spend a couple of days in Kansas City with my mom before the second, longer leg (a 13-hour drive) of our journey.

ulsrud family in car on the way to spearfish south dakota

niko ulsrud and luka ulsrud with dee ulsrud

The main reason I doubled up on business and pleasure is that none of us had ever seen Mount Rushmore, and since it was a featured part of the Family Portrait I was working on, this gave us the perfect opportunity to see this iconic piece of history.


niko and luka at mouth rushmore in south dakota

My plan was to photograph Mount Rushmore during the evening when the lighting was flat, but having never seen it before, I really had no idea how I was going to get the images I would need.

After 13 long hours of driving…

niko ulsrud sleeping in car on the way to south dakota

We were an hour away from Spearfish, South Dakota, where we would meet with my clients for dinner and discuss the timeline of the photography for their Family Portrait.

With a fork in the highway, one leading to Spearfish and one leading to Mount Rushmore, and clouds in the sky, I made the executive decision to visit Mount Rushmore so I could get the images I needed for the Portrait.

You should have seen the reaction by the rest of the kids. PRICELESS

Here are a few of the photos I captured for the Portrait.

mount rushmore in south dakota

mount rushmore

Mixing Business and Pleasure

As a father, I want to give my boys fun and unique experiences they will someday grow up and tell their kids about, which is one of the reasons why I go anywhere throughout the country to create Amazing Portraits of people.

Here are a few of the Business Photos from South Dakota.




You should know, while these are only a few of the photos I needed to capture for the Portrait, there is a ton of work that goes into creating such a unique, One-of-a-Kind Portrait of you and your family.

You know the saying, however, “All work and no play make the ‘Photillustrator’ a dull boy.”

South Dakota was amazing, and my entire family really enjoyed our time there.

Here are a few of the Pleasure Photos from South Dakota.

taren ulsrud and jason ulsrud in south dakota

niko ulsrud and luka ulsrud in south dakota on mountain



Do you want to know what the worst part of South Dakota is?

Everything to see and do requires quite a bit of car time, and after driving 20 hours from Dallas, TX, that’s a tall order.

An Amazing Family Portrait

While we all had fun in South Dakota, and we’re all a bit car sick from the multitude of hours spent in the car, my #1 purpose was to capture all the images I would need to create the scene for the Moore’s Family Portrait.

signature family portrait of family in south dakota by dallas portrait photographer, jason ulsrud

This Portrait requires a total of 29 separate Photos to create, half of which were from the Photography I did while in Spearfish, South Dakota.

That meant, the Photos I needed to get were super important, because unless I wanted to drive up there again, I had only this one day to get them.

Here are a couple of those photos so you can see BTS.




As you can see, there’s a HUGE difference between the Photos you see RAW out of my camera, and how it looks once the Portrait is finished.

I’ll go into further details on the Breakdown of “Flying through South Dakota” when I get time to write that article.

That’s a Wrap

After four days in South Dakota, we drove over to Fargo to spend some time at my uncle’s lake house, drove back to Kansas City, then on down to Dallas where I could now start on the Photoshop portion of the Portrait.

I’m sure I spent the equivalent of 3+ days in the car, but how the Moore family reacted to seeing their Creative Portrait for the first time made it all worth it.

I’ll leave you with this…

South Dakota and Mount Rushmore are incredible places to visit, giving you a real connection with the earth, and I highly recommend taking the time to see something amazing.

Where would be the coolest place to have a Photillustrator Portrait created? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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