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Adversary: A Senior Surreal Photo by Rayna Mahnken (2016)

The Swordswoman has trained all her life. That is, since her new life started. Her old one ended when the dragon came, screaming it's awful joy as it crushed her village and burned anything that moved. As she watched, it shifted in its sleep, a curl of smoke rising from it's blood-crusted muzzle. That snout was as large as five houses had been. She shivered, remembering the flames, the deaths of that awful night. That was fifteen years ago. She looked down at her hand, at the glimmering sword of light that she had bonded with. She'd had to work hard to earn this blade, but the past fifteen years of hardship were nothing compared to what lay before her. She again looked at the dragon, then stepped forward, walking into it's view, on top of a mountain adjacent with it's head. It was so huge. Before she could back down, the Swordswoman screamed. It was a challenge, a scream filled with agony, anger, pain, and a promise. A promise to end what this dragon had brought. The dragon's great red eye flashed open, it's red glow making the clouded sun above look dim. It raised it's head, the crackle of it's scales sounding like a thousand marbles falling down a rock stairway. Her promise looked frail, now. The Swordswoman gripped her sword, stepping forward again. She met the beast's gaze and it… it recognized her. It pulled its jaws open, and screamed a promise in reply.

This composition was made by combining photos of two different subjects at five different exposures each and combining them to create two HDR photos. The dragon and the clouds are HDR. I also used two other photos, the background and the swordswoman, to build the scene. The bleak color scheme allows the sword to stand out, as well as the hand wielding it. I compiled all the images into Adobe Photoshop and used a smear filter to touch up the dragon, making its fangs and spikes sharper. I also transformed the size of the dragon relative to the swordswoman, since the dragon is actually four inches tall.
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