So you were at ISO 640, f/7.1, for 30 seconds. I assume you used highlight tone priority? Even if you did, I’m a bit surprised the lights didn’t blow out more than they did. Like I said, nice exposure. The 5D3 is a nice camera. I’ll probably buy one at some point. Or a 6D.
It should be evident, that my edit is the superior picture. If nothing else, you can tell by comparing your sky, with mine, that your white balance is wayyy off. Now, again…sure it’s a matter of preference…but your color of the bridge, well it just looks like puke…and your sky is just not the correct color temperature. Perhaps you just wanted to make SF look a bit like a smoggy LA evening?
I feel my street lights, car headlights, and city lights in the background, all still look natural enough…they are not overly “cooled down”…they still look yellow and warm. They just don’t look like they were shot through some kind of orange gel filter, like yours.
You might first notice I corrected the barrel distortion of your lens (shot at 24mm). Maybe you did some correction already, but you still left a bit much for my taste. Sure, the closer bridge tower is now leaning to the left a bit…frankly I feel you may have not had the camera perfectly level. However, without using a tilt shift lens, there can also be converging lines factoring in here too (since your location is putting you a ways above halfway up the tower, you are effectively looking slightly down at the towers…so that would also pull the left tower outwards toward the top) . I didn’t bother correcting the picture level, as the barrel correction already cut off a bit more pixels toward the corners than I would have liked. The level isn’t severely off.
I did some tweaking of various sliders and curves. Reduced exposure a bit, added some brightness and fill light (I feel this adds some texture to the tonality), along with some recovery, reduced overall contrast, but tweaked the tone curve sliders to add mid tone contrast, and try to keep from losing the darkest shadows. Also I reduced global saturation, but added a bit of vibrance. Also tweaked several of the individual colors in the gray scale, by changing all 3 aspects: the tint, saturation, and luminance. (I usually only like to mess with the saturation, but this awful white balance required all three!) I think I recovered even a bit more of the highlights, not a lot. Not an easy task with a jpeg. But again, you did do a decent job of exposure, perhaps spot metering on headlights or streetlights…but then that may have also affected your in-camera white balance…or rather overwhelmed it…I don’t know. Certainly “auto white balance” begins to fail as it gets dark, and city lights confuse a camera…or at least they do mine. But I have no idea whether you did a custom WB or an auto.
Either way, again…your end result is very orange-yellow, looks flat, and ruined the bridge. I could not abide that! I love that bridge! I did it all in Adobe Camera Raw, didn’t even bother opening in Photoshop.
So I will now pat myself on the back sort of like you do for yourself. The difference is, I didn’t get paid by billionaires to do it, I just did it for fun. I need to start getting paid what I’m worth, though! It might require moving to Taiwan or Shanghai, and employing a league of Asian concubines to drum up business…but hey I’m game!!