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Friday Slide Show: Budget Dahlias Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

20 August 2021

When September rolls around (as it is in the habit of doing every year), we usually find ourselves at Sharon Meadow in Golden Gate Park for the free Opera in the Park concert. We missed it last year and we'll miss it this year. We still find it necessary to minimize our exposure to the coronavirus to protect those relying on us.

Which means we'll once again miss walking over to the Dahlia Garden after the concert and taking way too many photos of the exotic blooms bending toward the sun.

We really get a kick out of zooming in tight to frame one or three dahlias in the most flattering pose possible.

But much as we enjoy lining up the flowers in our viewfinder, it's always a challenge to get the exposure right. And some colors just don't translate from the real world to our 2010-era sensors.

Whenever we shoot at the Dahlia Garden, there are plenty of people wielding smartphones trying to bring home the beauty without snipping a stalk. We know they can't fill the frame with the flower. And we suspect their highlights are blown back to Mexico.

Go ahead, Mike, shoot some dahlias with a smartphone.

But we don't pity them. We commiserate. Because, as we said, it's a challenge.

And so when we wandered by the little patch of dirt full of dahlias at the end of our street that the church replants every now and then with nothing but our smartphone on us, we realized the challenge had come to us at last.

Go ahead, Mike, shoot some dahlias with a smartphone. It could be the budget version of your annual dahlia slide show.

And just to make it interesting for anyone watching, let's kick the wind gusts up to 25 mph. At least.

Well, the wind wasn't going to bother us. The wide angle lens open to f2.2 was going to need a shutter speed of 1/2300 second even at ISO 32. Fast enough to stop subject movement.

And the blooms were big enough that even a few inches away (which is as close as we could get), we could fill the frame with a flower.

But how would the smartphone do with the color?

It did pretty well, we think. The reds have gone south, as we expected, but the purples hung in there by their fingertips. We darkened both hues. We tinkered very little with the other colors but we did tinker, taking a little yellow out of the closeup of the large white dahlia so it matched the more medium shot.

Every one of these, though, had blown highlights. We pulled them back in Lightroom but what's gone is gone. In most cases, though, that was just a small crescent here and there, which did not detract from the image.

We had planned to go back with a real camera but the summer fog rolled in and then, even when the sun was out, smoke filtered the sunlight. The setting sun wasn't bright but tangerine orange and the moon rose like it was mad at the world.

We, on the other hand, were just happy to be able to shoot a few dahlias again. Even with an iPhone 6 Plus.

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