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An image of San Francisco's orange sky Wednesday, taken with a Samsung Galaxy Note 20. Photo: Ina Fried/Axios

The apocalyptic orange sky in San Francisco Wednesday was the talk of the town — and well beyond. However, many people found their efforts to capture the surreal images stymied, as their iPhones "corrected" the smoke-filled sky to a more natural hue.

The big picture: Smartphone cameras do a great job in many situations thanks to software that automatically tries to improve a shot's composition, focus, and settings like white and color balance. But those adjustments can also get in the way of capturing what's unique about some of life's most vivid images.

After waking up to the orange sky, I first tried to shoot out my back door, but found my iPhone was adjusting the sky to a much more common gray. On social media, I saw lots of others having the same experience with both still and video coming from their phones.

Around midday, I headed to Bernal Heights Park, which overlooks the city, including downtown SF and the Bay Bridge, armed with an iPhone 11 Pro Max, a Pixel 4a, a Galaxy Note 20 and my Canon DSLR.

  • The Galaxy Note 20 did the best job of the smartphones (see above) at capturing the vivid hues of the sky, but none of the phones came close to what I was able to capture using the Canon.
  • The one shot where my iPhone was able to capture the sky's hue also included our orange Honda Fit.

Yes, but: In all cases I used the device's default settings. Bloomberg reporter Sarah Frier said she used the app Hallide to avoid the iPhone's color correction.

The bottom line: This was a moment for my Canon to prove that, despite its bulk, it can't always be replaced by a smartphone.

Here's what the view from Bernal Heights Park looked like through my Canon DSLR.

Photo: Ina Fried/Axios

And here is the photo where the iPhone was able to show the orange sky:

Photo: Ina Fried/Axios

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Dec 8, 2020 - Science

The Geminids are coming

A 2017 Geminid meteor shower composite. Photo: VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

This weekend, be sure to look up to catch the Geminid meteor shower, one of the best of the year.

The big picture: The Geminid meteor shower hits its peak each year in mid-December as Earth passes through the trail of debris left behind by asteroid 3200 Phaethon.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

Former Defense Secretary Esper sues Pentagon over book

Former President Trump and former Defense Secretary Mark Esper at the White House in 2020. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper filed a lawsuit Sunday against the Defense Department, accusing the Pentagon of "censoring" his First Amendment rights by redacting parts of his upcoming book on the Trump administration.

The big picture: Esper, who served as defense secretary from July 2019 until he was fired by then-President Trump in November last year, alleges in the suit that "significant text" is "being improperly withheld from publication" of the manuscript "under the guise of classification."

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