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Smartphone cameras struggle to capture San Francisco's orange sky

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

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

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The coronavirus is worsening economic inequality around the world

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.

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McCarthy takes heat from every direction as House Republicans feud following the Capitol siege

Kevin McCarthy is learning you can get torched when you try to make everyone happy, especially after an insurrection.

Why it matters: The House Republican leader had been hoping to use this year to build toward taking the majority in 2022, but his efforts to bridge intra-party divisiveness over the Capitol siege have him taking heat from every direction, eroding his stature both with the public and within his party.

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The next big political war: redistricting

Democrats are preparing a mix of tech and legal strategies to combat expected gerrymandering by Republicans, who are planning to go on legal offense themselves.

Why it matters: Democrats failed to regain a single state legislature on Election Day, while Republicans upped their control to 30 states' Houses and Senates. In the majority of states, legislatures draw new congressional district lines, which can boost a party's candidates for the next decade.

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Vaccinations, relief timing dominate call among bipartisan group of 16 senators

Vaccine distribution, pandemic data and a cross-party comity dominated today's virtual meeting between White House officials and a bipartisan group of 16 senators, Senator Angus King told Axios.

Why it matters: Given Democrats' razor-thin majority in both chambers of Congress, President Biden will have to rely heavily on this group of centrist lawmakers — dubbed the "Sweet 16" — to pass any substantial legislation.

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Progressives use billboard to pressure Chuck Schumer to end Senate filibuster

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Why it matters: Schumer is up for re-election in 2o22 and could face a challenger, and he's also spearheading his party's broader effort to hold onto its narrow congressional majorities.

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U.S. surpasses 25 million COVID cases

The U.S has confirmed more than 25 million coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins data updated on Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

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