Photography: Luminar Software

I mainly use Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop and the Nik Collection by DxO to edit my photos but I’m always open to new tools.

Skylum will soon release Luminar 4 which will have some tools for replacing skies and retouching portraits that look groundbreaking. I have a license for Skylum’s Luminar 3 but rarely use it because I can do all I need to do most of the time in Lightroom, Photoshop and the the Nik Collection.

The Master Photography Podcast has an interesting interview with Dima Sytnik the co-founder and CTO of Skylum who discusses the artificial intelligence that went into the making of Luminar 4. I have ordered Luminar 4 and look forward to trying it to see if I find it helpful for what I do.

I doubt I will do much sky replacement as that’s not my cup of tea. But the portrait retouching looks like a real timesaver that will produce high quality images.

Skylum was founded in 2008 in Ukraine and is now headquartered in Bellevue, Washington.

Demonstration of Luminar 4 Sky Replacement
Demonstration of Luminar 4 Portrait Retouching

I regularly use Silver Efex Pro for my black and white photography. If you’re interested in learning more about Silver Efex Pro, this is a great introduction by Anthony Morganti to this very powerful software. Silver Efex Pro is made by DxO, a 15-year old firm based in Paris.

Demonstration of Silver Efex Pro by DxO

You can find the Master of Photography podcast on Apple Podcasts, Overcast or at the podcast’s web site.

Blogging for the joy of sharing

Kirk Tuck is a superb Austin photographer and a long-time blogger. He recently decided to eliminate ads from his blog:

After writing a lot this year and cutting out almost all links back to commercial sites and commercial products I realized that I never really wanted the blog to exist in order to provide any sort of financial return beyond perhaps having a potential client stumble across the writing and taking a chance by hiring me. 

I think it will be refreshing to just write about, and discuss photography (and swimming, etc.) without the idea that we need to buy more stuff or review stuff in order to have a nice dialogue. I hope you feel the same. 

No more ads here. No more subtle suggestion that it’s time to……upgrade, improve the inventory or just get a buying adrenaline dose. We’ll just keep writing and reading about life in photography and everything I like around the edges.

This post takes me back to my original attraction to blogs and blogging. It was one person sharing what he or she likes with others for the joy of it. It was people helping people. The word “monetization” did not exist.

Anyone could read without joining something like Facebook or Medium. There were no ads. I love the open web.

I often read that affiliate links don’t sway the writer’s opinion. I am skeptical. I figure anyone who posts an affiliate link hopes readers will click on it and buy something. I wonder if the affiliate link has an impact on the writing. I especially think this is a big issue on YouTube.

I want to thank Kirk for his post and for his fine blog. His first post appeared on January 26, 2009, over ten years ago. I always look forward to his posts.

This site does not use affiliate links. If I mention a book, a movie or music, you may see a link to Amazon or Apple Music. I use an Amazon Kindle for my reading, Audible for audiobooks and Apple Music for music. I use a variety of services for movies and TV shows. The links on this site are there to help readers identify the item or items discussed. They are not affiliate links.

Understanding and Fighting Anti-semitism

New York Times staff editor Bari Weiss writing in her new book “How to Fight Anti-Semitism”:

That a Jew would see a storm threatening and write to warn of its gathering is not new. But it is an old tradition that I did not think would need to be taken up in this new century.

Yet here I am—a Jew, an American, a Zionist, a proud daughter of Pittsburgh—raising the old-new cry with all my might and hoping that you will hear in its call something that will give you no other choice but to take up this fight.

Weiss, Bari. How to Fight Anti-Semitism (p. 26). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

Like me, Weiss was born in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Transforming DC’s Fireboxes into Art

From 2000 until 2009, Cultural Tourism DC led Art on Call, a city-wide effort to restore Washington’s abandoned police and fire call boxes as neighborhood artistic icons. The art in the reinvented call boxes ranges in style from representational to abstract. The boxes showcase each neighborhood’s unique identity and entice residents and visitors to explore the city’s distinctive communities.

© David H. Enzel 2019

Police and fire call boxes were installed in Washington, DC starting in the 1860s. They began to become obsolete with the introduction of the 911 emergency call system in the 1970s, and the working electronic components were all removed by 1995. Yet the call boxes remained, too large and heavy to remove yet subject to deterioration from weather and vandalism. The Art on Call initiative began in 2000 when the city surveyed and identified call boxes for refurbishment. More than 1,100 abandoned boxes have been located.

Example of some of the beautiful art around Washington, DC as a result of the “Art on Call” Project. © David H. Enzel 2019

Neighborhood organizations formed coalitions with residents and artists to propose, and then carry out, ideas for refurbishing their neighborhood’s call boxes. Each community selects a theme or color palette for its boxes, thereby creating recognizable identifiers for its geographic area.

At the time Cultural Tourism DC wrapped up its work with the project, 145 completed call boxes could be seen in the nation’s capital.

See also:

Spy Story: ‘The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War’

I love a good spy story, especially if it’s true . The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre is a wonderful example of such a tale.

The book is about KGB Colonel Oleg Gordievsky, the son of two KGB agents and the product of elite Soviet institutions, who began spying for the British in 1973 and kept it up until he was betrayed in 1985 — probably by Aldrich Ames, a CIA traitor who is now incarcerated in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. See also, Thirty Years Later, We Still Don’t Truly Know Who Betrayed These Spies in Smithsonian magazine.

After the KGB was tipped off to Gordievsky’s work with the British, the KGB recalled him to Moscow for interrogation. Miraculously, with the help of the British, he managed to escape to London by car via Finland and Norway. His escape is gripping reading. I still can’t believe the escape plan succeeded. Macintyre’s writing is excellent. He makes every word count.

Ben Macintyre writes for The Times of London and is the author of other espionage books including  A Spy Among FriendsDouble CrossOperation MincemeatAgent Zigzag, and Rogue Heroes.

A thrilling spy story.

You can read more about Gordievsky here.

Podcast: ‘Travel with Rick Steves

Travel with Rick Steves is a weekly one hour podcast with guest experts and callers about travel, cultures and people. This, in my opinion, is the best travel podcast. Steves is well-traveled, bright, articulate, positive and most of all curious to learn about the world and the people who inhabit it.

Although Steves’s guidebooks and organized tours focus on Europe, the podcast covers the world. Guests include authors and professional guides Steves uses for his tours and guidebooks.

The information Steves provides is timely and accurate. For example, Steves has interviewed great authors such as Paul Theroux and David McCullough.

After listening to the interview of David McCullough, I was really charged up to get out and explore the world, in part because McCullough started his life and explorations in my hometown — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. McCullough has written extensively about the United States starting near home with the The Johnstown Flood. He’s also a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. That’s the caliber of guest Steves can corral. And he does it once a week.

Music: Stacey Kent

Stacey Kent is an American jazz singer with a glorious voice. She was born in 1965 in New Jersey and is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College. Her paternal was a grandfather Russian who grew up in France and later moved to the United States where he taught Kent French. Once she learned French, it was the only language she spoke with her grandfather. Kent travelled to England after college to study music in London, where she met saxophonist Jim Tomlinson, whom she married in 1991.

I have the impression Kent is better known in France than in the United States. Her album Raconte-moi was recorded in French and became the second best selling French language album worldwide in 2010.

Kent has also faced serious health challenges. In a 2004 interview with Robert Kaiser of The Washington Post, Kent recounted that she’s been in comas three times caused by brainstem encephalitis:

Each time, baffled doctors were not certain they could bring her back. The last coma was in 1999, and Tomlinson nursed her through it. On doctors’ advice, he brought records to her hospital room. When she awoke he was playing Mildred Bailey, one of the great jazz singers of the ’30s. “There’s just so much emotion in that voice,” Kent says. “It’s a cry — even when she’s singing a happy song.”

I love Stacey Kent’s music and recently discovered this marvelous 2018 interview en français with her. It is also available as a podcast on iTunes and Overcast.

You can listen to Stacey Kent’s sublime voice on Spotify or iTunes. She also has a lovely website worth exploring.