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Friday Slide Show: Bouquets To Art 2016 Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

8 April 2016

Wednesday's weather forecast a one-day heat wave. And, in fact, we hit 87 degrees, breaking the record, not to mention upsetting the historical average of 63 degrees. So when we went off the grid, we went indoors. Lucky for us it was the first day of the de Young's annual Bouquets to Art.

Well, maybe not lucky.We'd seen the vans from the "active adult communities" as we walked from Stow Lake, where we had parked in the shade, to the de Young. And as we arrived, paramedics rushed into the museum in front of us.

Let's just say it was crowded, perhaps beyond capacity. But everyone seemed to survive the ordeal.


To manage the crowd, the museum had pools of waiting visitors. One was outside, then there were the ticket lines, one for members and another for non-members. Then there was the timed entry corral.

Timed Entrance. Cooling their heels in the spacious lobby.

Somehow we slithered through all that, waiting less than a minute in the members' line for a mobile ticket dispenser (human variety) to hand us our go-right-in ticket. In the heat, our little adhesive badge kept curling and rolling right off so we got into the habit of putting our hand on our chest as if we were about to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

If we had successfully navigated through the crowds in the lobby, it was only to be crushed by the crowds in almost every room of the museum taking in the show.

We're glad to report that the museum has designated one morning (it was today) to be camera-free.

We did spy a handful of dSLRs (Canon mostly, some Nikons) amid the invasive crop of smartphones. We're glad to report that the museum has designated one morning (it was today) to be camera-free.

The trouble with the smartphones is that they're all wide angle optics. So you have to get within inches of the floral display to get the shot, which means you're in everybody else's photo.

But if we've learned anything shooting this show over the years it's that patience wins the game. Eventually everybody moves. And you only need a clear view of the shot for 1/60 of second. So we wait. Patiently. Sometimes even smiling.

Unless someone with a smartphone steps in front of us composing a shot. We saw a lot of shoulders yesterday suddenly appear from nowhere.

But when we snapped the shutter and dropped our camera down from eye-level, we also noticed more than a few people waiting for us to finish so they could cross in front of us. We were so touched we invariably thanked them.

But it was an older, more civilized crowd.


We did things a little differently this year. We've shot with digicams and dSLRs but this time we shot with a Micro Four Thirds camera and its 14-42mm kit lens.

Right Angle. These ladies have the right idea. Line up the floral arrangement with the painting.

Wrong Angle. Sure, you can see several floral arrangements but not the paintings they flatter.

We were hoping to avoid a few limitations.

While we missed the depth of field that comes with a dSLR and wide open apertures (which the venue demands), we were hoping to compensate with longer focal lengths instead of the almost entirely wide angle shots we've taken in the past.

We knew ISO would drift upward. We let it go up to 1600 for a while, shot at 400 for some time and then let it drift on Auto again.

On the whole we liked the results. And we got them efficiently, shooting over 80 images in an hour.


There are two lighting situations to battle.

Most of the bouquets, which are intended to flatter a nearby work of art (something that did not seem to occur to many of the people shooting with smartphones), are in poorly lit rooms to protect the art from fading.

You could deal with that, opening your aperture, raising your ISO and relying on image stabilization. But the floral designers can not deal with that. They require a spotlight on their work. And in nearly every case the spot was too hot and too narrowly focused on the bouquet.

You can bet those smartphoners all went home with burned out highlights.

You can bet those smartphoners all went home with burned out highlights.

Even on our camera, the display didn't give us much confidence in our exposures. We saw the burned out highlights but because we were shooting Raw, we knew we'd be able to back them off a bit without underexposing everything and losing detail in the painting.

The spots were just too hot. You can't ruin the photo over that.

It was a relief, though, to hit the well-lit rooms. It seems portraits and abstract paintings get the best light -- and the best bouquets. There are always a few particular paintings we just know will have a spectacular bouquet.

For those images, composition is the only trick you have to know, even with a smartphone.


As we do with all our event photography, we imported DNG conversions of these images into Lightroom CC. Then we made a quick selection in the Library module of about half of them to work on in the Develop module.

They were mostly high contrast with blown highlights but a few were just underexposed. So we did things a little differently.

We did start with a healthy dose of Clarity. Then we evaluated exposure, testing small changes to see if an overall change would help. Often not.

In either case, we invariable darkened the Highlights to rein in those hot spots and lightened the Shadows so you could appreciate the painting.

That got us pretty close to what we had actually seen.

We did not worry about noise reduction because at 800 pixel image sizes the pixel binning of the reduction takes care of that.

But we did worry about perspective and lens distortion. Fortunately, the Upright Tool made easy work of that. Most of the time. Sometimes, it was hilariously confused, spinning the image like a whirligig. In those few cases, brought on by branches reaching in all directions, we simply made the correction manually.


We like to imagine the "inactive senior centers," convalescent homes and other people who cannot for one reason or another get out of the house all look forward to our Friday Slide Shows like a sort of excursion.

That's what motivates us.

You got a deal this time. You avoided the crowds, didn't have to stand in line, or shuffle around the display until you too could see it. You didn't suffer the heat, the paramedics did not come for you, you weren't listening to your stomach growl.

And still you get to see the show in all its glory, in the first day when the buds are still buds and the blooms still blooms.

You can't beat the price of admission, either.

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