Casper Mountain rises just south of Casper, Wyoming but it may as well be a world away. Come June, town can get scorching hot and the vegetation can dry out pretty quickly. It is a border zone between the great plains to the east and the high deserts of the American West. I guess if you really pressed me, I’d say Casper is more high desert than plains, but nonetheless, it’s flat and pretty dry in the summer. But drive Casper Mountain Road south out of town and up 3000′ on top of Casper Mountain, a very different landscape awaits you. Much of the mountain is covered in forest but head all the way to the south side of the mountain and you will encounter a vast open area. In late June and early July, this area is blanketed with colorful wildflowers.
These photos are from two weeks ago when I headed up to catch a Friday night sunset. Wyoming had been getting pounded with thunderstorms for a couple weeks and this Friday was no different. Thunderstorms blew through town that afternoon and evening, but the weather forecast called for the storm to pass and the area was to clear up around sunset. I was excited at the prospect to have a chance at getting out of the house and not risk getting struck by lightning! Just in case the storm decided to stick around, when I grabbed my camera gear, I stuffed my rain jacket in my pack and was off. It turned out I didn’t need that jacket and instead enjoyed a fantastic sunset.
After just fifteen minutes of driving, I was on top of the mountain but realized June 5th was definitely a little premature for the full showing of wildflowers. My expectations were biased based on my visit up last summer at the end of June when the whole area was quite literally a carpet of wildflowers. The images don’t quite show it, but I had to hunt for good groupings of flowers and the ones that were out were not quite in full bloom. Still, I think I managed to find plenty of flowers that were out and photogenic!
As the storm dissipated the wind died down; a rarity in Wyoming! Because there was little wind and the flowers were not blowing all around, I took the opportunity to practice a “focus stacking” technique. Due to the optics of lenses and because some of these flowers were about a foot away from my camera when I took their picture, not all of the image could be in focus as once. For example, if I would focus on the flowers in the front, the mountain in the distance and sky would be blurry and just the opposite true if I focused instead on the distant mountain. So, I set my composition and took a series of frames focused at different points of the scene such that between all the frames, every bit of the composition was in focus. I later used a blending technique in Photoshop to combine all of those frames into one image! It’s not Photoshop trickery, it is just a method to overcome the limits of my camera; I actually described the process in a previous blog post.
I said it before and I will say it again, I’m super lucky and happy to have such an incredibly beautiful place practically out my back door. If you like the outdoors, there are few better places to live than Wyoming!