Tony’s Photoshop Playground: The Golden Gate Bridge

Here’s a new feature on Out of Chicago. A couple of weeks ago, I asked for image submissions so that Tony Reynes could tear work on them in Photoshop. Thanks to Alison and Matt for sending in this set of bracketed images from San Francisco. Alison and her husband Matt run the site, Take A Hike Photography, where they share their travels from around the world. They are wonderful photographers and storytellers. Read their post, California Dreamin’, about their most recent trip where they captured today’s image.

These are not final images. Tony would spend more time on them for a final product. But I think that you’ll agree that they illustrate his points well. You can flip through the original images at the end of the post.

Take it away, Tony!


When Chris sent me Alison’s images I smiled because I had just been to San Francisco myself. I called up Chris and asked. “What would you like me to do with Alison’s images?” He said to take a look at them and do what you want.


After viewing the multiple images that she did of the Golden Gate Bridge, I decided the first thing I would try would be to create an HDR image. She gave me multiple exposures to play with. Above, you can see a four-exposure image done with Photomatix. It looked pretty good but I started to wonder whether Allison was trying to use the foreground or the bridge as the hero of the image. I then took the HDR image into Photoshop CS6 and played with it a little. And, as you can see in the second image, the fog magically rolled in and I made the bridge more recessive in the image. This was done by making layers where I desaturated part of the right half of the image, increased the shadows a little and then use some gray paint to create fog (editor’s note-This is a Tony special). In the next example, all I did was to take this image and sharpen the left side of the image.

IMG_8217_19_20_22_tonemapped and PS

IMG_8217_19_20_22_tonemapped ss

Personally I like more control than what any HDR software can give me. So in the second set of images I made a composite where I used one light and one dark exposure to show how I might emphasize either the flowers or the bridge. In the first example I took the darker exposure and used it to put the flowers in shadow. This was done by masking the flowers from the rest of the image and using the lighter exposure of the bridge to emphasize the background. In the other example, I did the reverse where I light the flowers and darkened the bridge and added some red and yellow hue saturation to the foreground. This post processing took me about an hour to complete and the masking isn’t as good as I would like, but what I’m trying to communicate is that with the wealth of Alison’s wonderful images, I had a great opportunity to decide which way I wanted to go. The beauty of bracketing by exposure is that there is a lot of data available and it is up to the photographer, in post processing, to decide what’s important. In an ideal world, the photographer could do all the necessary composition in camera. In the real world, I am not as smart, so I shoot like crazy and then figure out what I really want to communicate when I am in front of my monitor.

IMG_8217 21 Composite BRIDGE

IMG_8217 21 Composite FLOWERS

IMG_8217 21 Composite FORE


Alison, thanks for your images. They gave me a wonderful opportunity to play and show the flexibility that they offered.


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Tony spends a great deal of time in airports. He travels between 70 and 90 days a year. His love of landscape photography usually keeps him within the US, traveling from border to border. His images tend to evoke a sense of quiet thoughtfulness in the viewer. Learn more about Tony at

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  • What a nice surprise it was to get the Out of Chicago post this morning! Thank you, Tony and Chris, for working with our image of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is so interesting to see what Tony did with the photo. We were hoping that we might encounter some fog while we were in San Francisco–little did we know that it could be created in Photoshop instead. Thank you again!


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