Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Take Five: An Interview with Photographer Chad Coppess

Chad Coppess has been the South Dakota Department of Tourism's chief photographer since 1993, and he has gained a reputation as one of the state's most capable and widely traveled shutterbugs.

What is your favorite South Dakota spot to photograph?
I love a lot of places in South Dakota, but for shooting pictures my favorite is always the last place I found really great light. There's nothing better than daybreak in the Badlands, huge puffy clouds floating over the Cheyenne River or a fiery sunset in the Black Hills.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
My spare time lately has been posting on my blogs —,, and I've also been working with a video game artist in Chicago to create a race track that runs through Black Hills scenery for the video game "Nascar Racing 2003." People that have the game will be able to download the race track and install it into their game. He is using a lot of my photography to create the scenery and billboards around the track. I think it's going to be something pretty unique.

What is your favorite picture (taken by you) that has run in South Dakota Magazine?
My photograph of a mountain goat in front of Mount Rushmore is my favorite of all time and I'm really happy that South Dakota Magazine published it. It took quite a bit of time and effort to get it lined up right. I'm sure some people have assumed that I used Photoshop or some other trick to put the Rushmore heads in the background, but it's all real. The other thing I love about that photo is that the goat looks like it is in a very natural setting other than the carvings behind him. In fact, he's actually standing in the parking area at the memorial. While I was trying to line everything up, cars would drive through right behind the goat. 

What is the best tip you would offer to an aspiring photographer?
Aspiring photographers should read their instruction manuals and throw away the bad shots.  

What type of music do you enjoy most?
My musical tastes have grown and expanded as I've grown older. In high school and college it was all hard rock and heavy metal — I love KISS. Then I discovered that country wasn't all that bad, so you'll find Garth Brooks, Little Texas and Big & Rich in my CD collection. I also really enjoy South Dakota bands like Brule and Kory & the Fireflies. My concert photo blog will give you an idea of the range of musical artists I've seen, photographed and met. I'm happy to call many of the artists friends.

1 comment:

  1. I just wanted to comment that I think that is a picture of Chad with Joan Jett. She performed at the Corn Palace.