Behind The Shot: ‘Cruel Summer’ by Ryan Dyar – Grand Park, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Northeast side of Mount Rainier taken from Grand Park with wildflowers in the foreground and sunset in the background - focus stacking four exposures composite in Photoshop CS6

Cruel Summer by Ryan Dyar

Wildflowers, Mount Rainier, and a beautiful sunset. How grand a scenario, right? Well Grand Park, pictured here on Rainier's northeast side, was less grand than we had hoped it's name portrayed. Don't get me wrong, it's an absolutely beautiful area.. but from a picky photographer's standpoint, it doesn't quite earn it's moniker. Or maybe I'm just turning into a grumpy old man since my 30th birthday last week.

My good friends and fellow nature photographers Miles Morgan, Bruce Omori and I were looking for a quick overnight backpacking trip on the mountain a few summers ago. Miles and I were hoping to show Bruce, Hawaiian native and lava-shooting extraordinaire, some of what the Pacific Northwest has to offer while he was here to visit us. We all had visions of picturesque views, sprawling meadows of flowers, laughs, and light dancing in our minds. Unfortunately for our friend from across the pond, we were met by air thick with mosquitos, overly warm temperatures, and one of the smallest patches of wildflowers I've ever seen on this mountain that is known worldwide for its summer bouquets.

We arrived early, about two hours before sunset, and had some of the lesser enjoyable waiting periods I've ever sat through. Mosquitos were eating us alive, we were hot, we were frustrated with the limited compositional possibilities and were not looking forward to the hike back to our camp. But that's not what stands out in my head as I recall this evening. It's the laughs we managed to have, the discussions of photography and how we each will approach the scene before us, and the joy of getting away from the daily grind with my brothers to share experiences and build fond memories together. That's what I immediately feel while pondering this image.

I ended up settling on this low-to-the-ground wide angle composition, a fairly straight-forward composition I must say. I used 4 different exposures to piece it together. One focused for the immediate foreground, one focused further back in the midground, one focused for the background, and another focused on the backgound but a little underexposed to keep the highlights in-check in the sky. The focus blending was done with CS6's auto-blend function and the darker sky file was masked in by hand. Further processing included adjustments to fine tune the texture (both increase and decrease textures), some warping to shift perspective slightly, contrast adjustments and light balancing through Tony Kuyper's luminosity masks, and many dodge/burn layers. - Ryan Dyar

This image is available as a print here. Based in Seattle, Washington, Dyar leads workshops to the area and teaches post processing in person or worldwide online via Skype or Google Hangout screen sharing. See his work and contact him through his website at Follow him at 500px, Google+, Flickr and Facebook.

Equipment and settings: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L wide angle zoom lens, Singh Ray polarizer, Gitzo GT-2532S 6X Systematic 3-Section Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs, Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead and L-Bracket, cable release and bubble level, a large bag of salted cashews (more for me than the shot).

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