Pseudo HDR photography with lightroom 5

Pelican dance in Baja California

Some images are harder to create than others. Even though its easy enough to snap the image, what was in your mind at that moment and how you saw the end result does not always fit what can be easily achieved. Some times it can take years before you come to the final decision and endpoint. I have to admit that I am not much of a bird photographer, but dealing with the pelicans at the beach of Ligui in Baja California somewhat changed that. It was a fascinating moment watching those big birds hovering over the water and then like a spitfire dive into the ocean for some fish to catch.

We hat been in a lazy mood hanging out on this otherwise mostly empty beach in Baja. There where two small ecological hotels close to the beach. One run by kayakers and the other little bit up hill by some americans. For the most part the beach was closed because of some future development that was going to happen there as some Mexican company wanted to build a resort. We had been told to ignore any guards and just drive through to the beach because the building company does not own the beach even though they have fenced it off and closed the access to the ocean for the local fishermen that have been using the beach for years.

We did not see any one and maybe it was for the best that we had no encounter with represents from this company. Soon after we left Baja, the small Kayak hotel suddenly burnt down and the owners of the other ecological hotel finally gave in to constant life threats and sold the hotel. 

As the ocean and island out in the bay are listed as world heritage site it is strange that it is at all allowed to build a tourist resort right there on the beach as it is protected because of the unique spices of fish and fauna. But the beach is not protected even though the ocean is. This makes way for development there on one of Baja's most beautiful beaches and one of the last relatively untouched.

Any ways. We where getting ready to leave as wee had been there longer than planed and I stood up early in the morning to get Benzi ready for the road. That was when the flock of Pelicans got closer and closer in their search for some fish to catch.

It was a delightful sight, seeing them one after the other, dive like masters into the ocean and come up with fish most of the tim. Those big birds that seam so clumsy where like olympic divers in competition. I stopped what I was doing,  ran for the camera and started snapping away.

It did not last for long this dive show and I took the card imported the images into Lightroom and took a look at them. That is when I got the idea for this image.

As I am not and have never been a bird photographer and not so keen on using long lenses I had to deal with some trial and error in this work. We decided therefore to stay longer on the beach. Not that it was a bad place to stay at, and I was going to have some fun trying to create interesting images of Pelicans in flight in between kayaking and fishing. Only problem was this was happening early morning and late evening, around sunset and the longest lens I had was the 70 - 200 mm f 2.8. Fortunately I had with me both 1.4 extender and 2.0 extender. Bad thing again was that I had Canon EOS 1Ds MKll and that really was no good for more than iso 360 at that time even though it has changed now with new Lightroom and other raw converters. You can almost get away with iso 800 now. This time I really pushed the boundaries and shot on iso 1250.

So in the evening and in the mornings for the next week I would roam the beach or sit in my chair half submerged in water dancing the pelican dance, trying to catch what I had seen in my mind. I did experiment with combination of extenders and the 70 - 200mm lens and in the end stuck to using extender 2.0. Each and every morning and night I would load the images to my computer and run them through Lightroom to see where I was at getting close to what I wanted. In the end I had some hundred images that I kept to take a closer look at. 

Suddenly after four days of shooting, one morning there was silence. Nothing. Not a bird to be seen, not a pelican dancing. They had moved on and it was time for us to do the same.

It took me some 5 years and several attempts of trial and error to come to the final image. But I like it at last and this is very close to what I did see in my mind.

For this image I used

Canon  Eos 1Ds MKll

Canon 70mm -  200mm f 2.8 zoom lens

Canon Extender 2.0

Slow shutterspeed. 1/20 aperture f/ 5.6 Iso 1250

Panning method.

Image was first developed in Lightroom 4 then run through Photomatix Pro before being assembled for the final image in Photoshop Cs 6 with out my Wacom tablet I could not create any thing. 

Here is the video of the image creation: 

IPTC Caption: 
Pelicans flying and fishing as the sun is setting in Ligui beach Baja California

Kristjan Logason is an Icelandic photographer based in Norway at the moment, where he mainly works in fine art and commercial fine art photography.Kristjan owns and runs The art of Icelandic photography.You can contact Krissby phone: +47.916.62749