What a pleasant surprise! Lilac in California! Today we went with a guest from Vancouver to the DescansoGardens (http://www.descansogardens.org/site/), between Glendale and Pasadena in Los Angeles. They had weeks of rain and miserable weather up there in Vancouver, so we thought a little California spring bloom would be the right cure. The garden was in brilliant display, a wonderland of spring flowers and blooming trees. The tulips were about 2 weeks post peak, but still very impressive. Plum and cherry trees were in bloom around the Japanese tea house, generating a little O-hanami feeling 5000 miles east of Tokyo. But the biggest surprise however was the lilac garden. Several hundreds of lilacs in glorious bloom filled the air with sweet fragrance, humming birds were hovering between the clusters of lilac, creating an almost out-of-this-world scene. The fellow visitors all had smiles on their face, and cameras were clicking everywhere. But how to catch this serene scene in a photo? A good picture should trigger the memories of the smell of blooming lilac, and should focus on the bloom, without distracting elements. So, no wide angle shot, no shot of a full lilac bush either. You need to get close, find a lilac cluster with contrasting background, and then apply composition skill and good depth of field technique. The day was sunny, yet slightly windy, causing some gentle movement of the limbs. Not ideal, but certainly a good tripod would have helped – but mine was sound and safe in the trunk of the car. So, I used a lens with image stabilization, extended the exposure to 1/20, resulting in a 22 aperture at ISO 200, all for a good depth of field. And then I took series of exposure bracketing shots to get the right combination of overall sharpness and correctly exposed highlights. Nice exercise in photography 101. Having lived in Germany and on the East Coast, Lilac at the end of March is a very unexpected sight. And while the brilliant orange of California puppies is the regional signal that spring has arrived, the fragrant elegance of lilac is the true symbol of warm, sunny spring days announcing the onset of summer.