Find the Hummingbird — Part 2

For them not interested in reading, you can go directly to the SmugMug Gallery HERE.

For a SmugMug slideshow click HERE. When you click the link, it will open in a new window and you have two options:
1) Manually scroll through the photos by clicking the “<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos.
2) There’s a PLAY/PAUSE button at the bottom-left of the screen with the transition set at about 5 seconds. Note: clicking the PLAY arrow will run a full-screen slideshow. You can then still use the”<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos as this will pause the slideshow.

Note: in this mode, you can also click on the image to zoom in to full resolution (click to zoom out).

If you want the full experience, keep reading.

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Posted in Feathers, Nikon D7500, Photography Stuff, Photos | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Orphans 02

For them not interested in reading, you can see the photos in THIS SmugMug Gallery.  

For a SmugMug slideshow click HERE. When you click the link, it will open in a new window and you have two options:
1) Manually scroll through the photos by clicking the “<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos.
2) There’s a PLAY/PAUSE button at the bottom-left of the screen with the transition set at about 5 seconds. Note: clicking the PLAY arrow will run a full-screen slideshow. You can then still use the”<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos as this will pause the slideshow.

If you want the full experience, keep reading.

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Posted in Miscellaneous, Nikon D7500, Photography Stuff, Photos | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Orphans 01

For them not interested in reading, you can see the photos in THIS SmugMug Gallery.  

For a SmugMug slideshow click HERE. When you click the link, it will open in a new window and you have two options:
1) Manually scroll through the photos by clicking the “<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos.
2) There’s a PLAY/PAUSE button at the bottom-left of the screen with the transition set at about 5 seconds. Note: clicking the PLAY arrow will run a full-screen slideshow. You can then still use the”<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos as this will pause the slideshow.

If you want the full experience, keep reading.

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Posted in Miscellaneous, Nikon D7500, Photography Stuff, Photos | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

2020 Greetings and Writing Prompts

First off, to all the readers of this blog, I wish you all a boring and uninteresting — but happy — 2020. Of course, it’s not shaping up that way, but I can still hope.

Really, most people underestimate boring . . . until the fan’s big spinning blades start tossing the flying effluent around.

That said, I sincerely wish for readers to navigate the coming year safely and for the balance scales decisively tipping on the “good” side.

Luminar 4 Sky Replacement AI

Yup, more Luminar 4 Sky Replacement examples.  But, this post is actually about writing. And a relatively short post, at that.

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Posted in Fiction, Luminar 4, Photo Post-processing, Photography Stuff, Writing Stuff | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Luminar 4 Sky Replacement AI

I’ve made a few comments about the performance of Luminar 4. Specifically, how it’s slow to come online and once online, its difficulty with showing me the thumbnails of the photos I have. Then, when I’m editing a photo, it’s slow in updating the preview of the available canned “looks”.

I want to take my hat off to Skylum Support (the people who released Luminar 4 and also offer Aurora HDR 2019). They are responsive and knowledgeable and were able to point to things I could do to speed up things. For instance, among other things, they showed me where Windows 10 had hidden the option to assign High Performance computing to individual apps. Turning on the NVIDIA GPU for processing really speeded things up.

Still not great, but here’s the thing . . . I asked Luminar to load all 108,000 photos on my hard drive into one catalog. Nearly all are large RAW files. I mean, I don’t do that with any other program. Lightroom, for instance, is arranged by libraries for each year; at most, each Lightroom library has between 8,000 and 10,000 photos.

Considering what I’m asking it to do, Luminar 4 is pretty good. Skylum are supposed to release a new version to speed things up, but, again, just the tweaks I made let me work at a comfortable speed.

And, what did I do? Well, I tried out their Sky Replacement AI tool. So, for instance, I picked this photo:

Opened up the Sky Replacement AI tool, picked a sky and, in less than three seconds, this . . .

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Posted in Luminar 4, Photo Post-processing, Photography Stuff, Software | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

The Christmas Short Story Challenge — Professional Validation Award

I just got the result for the Professional Validation Award. Before I reveal the winner, I’d like to take a moment and acknowledge and thank the person who put in the effort to not only be the judge for the award but also offered critiques of the three entries.

Meet our judge:

Lynn Dee Olsen, a Michigan native & overseas educator, reads voraciously: Young Adult novels, the classics, adult best-sellers, and self-help books. Her career as a school teacher started with three years of teaching high school English classes in Michigan, then fourteen years of teaching middle school English in Saudi Arabia, followed by two years of teaching high school in the United Arab Emirates, then back to Michigan for twelve years of teaching high school, and currently, another stint teaching middle school in the Arab world, this time in Doha, Qatar. Lynn Dee has spent her thirty-three-year career encouraging teenagers to organize and develop their ideas, stylize their sentences, and find their voice as writers. And she’s a self-proclaimed COMMA COP!

When she is on vacation or isn’t grading a huge pile of papers, Lynn Dee spends her free-time windsurfing, playing racquetball, skiing, walking her soulmutt (a Pomeranian named Tiki), and, of course, reading. She shares her life with three highly adventurous men: her husband Mike, an avid rock-climber, skier, and elementary school counselor; her 26-year-old son Blake, a sponsored kiteboarder and world-traveler; and her 24-year-old son Micah, a devoted hiker, park skier, and parkour longboarder. Although she aspires to be a writer herself, Lynn Dee is content making her 8th-grade students in Qatar cringe over her latest dumb pun. She loves a good laugh and will continue teaching as long as she still finds middle school shenanigans as wildly entertaining as she does now.

Lynn sounds like a highly accomplished person. Personally, the fact she plays racquetball is all the qualification I needed to highly value her opinion.

Well, what do you know? My story, Christmas Eve, takes the Professional Validation Award. Congratulations, me.

For them interested in such matters, Gary’s Twas grabbed second place and Perry’s story, Krampus vs. Kraus, was delegated as rear guard.

As mentioned, Lynn went a step further and provided critiques for each story:

First Place: “Christmas Eve”
Even though this one seemed a bit implausible, this is the one that audiences will remember and long to reread every Christmas season. This story embodies the hope that we all have, that we will rise to be better people and do the honorable thing, even if it goes against our nature. The details create a sense of poignancy and draw the reader in, making the homeless woman, Nan, seem larger than life. This is the story that tugs at your heartstrings and makes you experience the wonder and miracle of Christmas. It is reminiscent of “Gift of the Magi.” My only suggestion would be to not state what it meant to Nan, but let the details suggest it. So, the ending would be shortened to this: “Later, wrapped in her blanket and looking up at the lights before drifting off to sleep, Nan whispered “Merry Christmas,” to no one in particular, as she slipped into a peaceful sleep.”

Second Place: “Twas”
This was a very hilarious, tongue-in-cheek, and restrained recap of the crazy-ass year that was 2019. Loved the well-chosen verbs: stirring, yakked, babbled, wailed, relinquished, etc. My favorite line, by far, was “So now we’ve got you; judge, jury, and execution, No more wiping your butt, with our Constitution.” That was the point where the viewpoint became crystal clear. Until then, restraint was shown, which is commendable in these times. However, despite the obvious entertainment value, this political poem failed to deliver the emotional impact offered by “Christmas Eve.” It seemed to stand in a category all its own in this contest, and would have won first prize in a poetry competition!

Third Place: “Krampus vs. Klaus”
This was a very inventive and creative story that would make readers think about the religious aspects of our holidays and how a small child might find them overwhelming. And, then, later, about the sacrifices adults would willingly make for our children. I would love to read this as part of a novel! However, it felt a bit too graphic and gruesome in nature for a Christmas short story. Perhaps more restraint with Krampus and his evil ways would make it more accessible to a broader audience.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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Note: if you are not reading this blog post at DisperserTracks.com, know that it’s copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intentions, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

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Posted in entertainment, Fiction, Other, Short Stories, Writing Stuff | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

The Christmas Short Story Challenge — Final Result

The voting ended and the results are in . . . but, before I present the winner — if you haven’t yet done so and if so inclined — please take a few minutes (about 15-20 minutes) and read the three stories in THIS POST for context. Otherwise, dear reader, skip this post as the awards will be meaningless to you. Well, OK, they’re probably only of importance to the writers. Still, award-winning fiction is (maybe) worth reading.

The results below are based on 19 votes (out of 121 total views). I had warned the writers who contributed their stories that my 1,500 followers are mostly no-show and fewer than 1% engage with the blog.

I was encouraged by the nearly double the number of votes of the first challenge, but discouraged by the drop in participation. The first challenge had fewer views but higher participation in voting (20%). This challenge had more than twice the views but only 16% participation. What do it mean? I don’t know.

So, what are the results?

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Posted in entertainment, Fiction, Other, Short Stories, Writing Stuff | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments