Yelapa – Revisited in High Dynamic Range


High rise condos and resorts along the beach at Puerto Vallarta.

Yelapa, Mexico

In the spring of 2013, my wife, Lynn, and I completed a bucket list item, crossing the Panama Canal. Along the way between Miami and Los Angeles, we stopped at several interesting places. I recently purchased a Nikon D5100 and been reacquainting myself with photography after a many year hiatus. One recent invention, the high dynamic range (HDR) photograph, attracted my interest. In anticipation of possible projects in this area, I picked a couple of stops on our cruise to set my camera to bracket exposures.


On our way to Majahuitas, we passed a replica galleon filled with tourists on another excursion.


Playing with HDR in the version of Photoshop Elements that I used at the time wasn’t entirely successful. The program could not line up and stack images if there was the slightest camera movement between shots. Handholding shots works, but not so well from the deck of a moving boat. Recently I upgraded to Lightroom 6 and looked back at these first bracket images I’d taken in Mexico. Lightroom 6 not only knows how to “stack” the images, ending up with minor cropping in the final image as it automatically aligns objects despite their slightly different locations in the frame. The deghosting function takes care of other anomalies like wave and tree movement. After seeing the results of the HDR conversion in Lightroom 6, I set up my current camera, a Nikon D7000, so that when I put the camera into U(ser) 1 mode, it automatically  reconfigures for a 3-exposure 4-stop range bracket.

I recently released shots of Cabo San Lucas in HDR. You can view those images here. At our stop in Puerto Vallarta, our excursion took us to Majahuitas for snorkeling and then on to Yelapa for an afternoon of Western Mexican fun and relaxation. Yelapa is only accessible via water transportation. No roads more developed than cart tracks are available in the area. You can read the details about our excursion here.


Kayakers enjoying the final few minutes of our trip to Majahuitas.


The skies were gray much of the morning, improving some in the afternoon. The hazy, cloudy weather did not work to my advantage in creating HDR images that really stand out. At the time I took the shots, I knew I should have three exposures, one each over, under and just right. What I didn’t know for sure was how wide in latitude the exposures should range. I set the camera up for -1.3 ev, 0 ev, and +1.3 ev bracket shots. I’ve since learned that -2, 0, +2 is a better range to use.


A trio of pelicans turned their backs and did their best to ignore our tour boat and all the ruckus caused by the snorkelers and kayakers interloping on their home.


Not all the shots I took at Yelapa were bracketed exposures so I could not reproduce all of the images in the original article in HDR. To make up for that, the gallery includes several HDR shots that were not published in the original article. I am not a fan of the super-grunge HDR look that many HDR images demonstrate. One advantage of the narrower exposure range is that the extra strong HDR effects are missing. In a sense, I consider the gallery of images here to be HDR-lite. Lightroom’s HDR mode brings to life images with more “snap” and realism. I hope you enjoy this gallery of HDR images from Yelapa and Majahuitas. Click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.


John Steiner


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