This scene on Varadero Beach, Cuba struck me as simultaneously ordinary and surreal.
What could be more ordinary than people wading in the surf on a beautiful day? On the other hand there was something strange about the momentary arrangement of the four vacationers - physically close to each other but also seemingly isolated from and unaware of each other. There's a dreamy feeling.
To convey "dreaminess" I used a tool in DxO PhotoLab that I like a lot - fine contrast adjustment. Sliding fine contrast down close to zero doesn't so much blur the image as it creates a wispy, soft-focus look I felt was perfect for this photograph.
And I added the pelican.
I had a series of photos of this group of people - the bird was in one of them. I wanted to balance the image with something on the right, above the horizon, as a counterweight to the people on the left, below the horizon. I also thought the bird added to the overall dreamy feeling. So I copied the bird from the other photo, pasted it here and blended it with the Photoshop cloning tool.
I corrected the under-exposure of the "before" image and straightened the horizon line (which tips up to the right in the original shot). I cropped the photo to elongate it slightly and remove much of the empty sky.