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.

Podcast: Attack on German Synagogue, Historic Pact with Gulf States, New Book on Israeli Prime Ministers — People of the Pod

The attack on a German Synagogue in Halle and other issues are discussed on the People of the Pod podcast.

People of the Pod is a weekly podcast analyzing global affairs through a Jewish lens. A partnership between AJC and The Times of Israel, People of the Pod examines political events, the people driving them, and what it all means for the Jewish people and Israel. 

— Listen on Overcast  or  iTunes

Podcast: ‘Intelligence Matters’

Since 2017, the Intelligence Matters podcast has provided an in-depth insider look into the intelligence community. The host of the podcast is Michael Morell, who served as the acting Director of the CIA first in 2011 and then from 2012 to 2013. Morell was by President Bush’s side on September 11, 2001 when terrorists struck America and in the White House Situation Room advising President Obama on May 1, 2011 when America struck back-killing Usama bin Ladin.

Morell interviews top leaders of the U.S. intelligence community as they reflect on their lives, careers and the roles they play in shaping national security policies. Past guests have included former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJohn Miller, Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism at the New York Police Department and former NSA and CIA Director General Mike Hayden. What results is a conversation between two people with deep knowledge of the intelligence community.

Before the advent of podcasting, interviews like this would not have been available to the general public. In addition, Morell is a skilled interviewer. While no secrets can be revealed, listeners learn how those in the intelligence community approach national security issues and how they advise the country’s top leadership, including the President. It’s an eye opening experience.

Morell is the author of The Great War of Our Time: The CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism–From al Qa’ida to ISIS and is now a CBS News national security contributor.              

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.

Podcast: ‘Join Us in France’

If you want to travel in France and learn about French history, the Join Us in France podcast is a superb resource. The podcast, which launched in 2014, was originally co-hosted by Elyse and Annie. They live in France and know it well. Annie was born in France but has lived in the United States. Although Elyse grew up in New York, she knows the language, the culture and the country’s history inside and out. Elyse, the native American, often seems more French than Annie who was born in France. Go figure. Due to time constraints, Elyse is no longer a co-host but still comes on the show as her time permits.

The podcast does a great job of explaining France and its culture to Americans. I especially enjoyed the episodes about driving in Francecheese and Le Marais. I also learned a great deal by listening to recent episode in which Elyse and Annie discuss the best places to see modern and contemporary art in France.

Each episode has show notes that are very helpful in planning a trip. For example, the modern art episode lists 18 museums around France to explore, including many I knew nothing about.

There are plenty of other resources to help travelers to France select hotels and restaurants. But this podcast will help you to understand France. Annie and Elyse now offer walking tours for Francophiles who want to learn about France and have some great meals with friends.

Annie and Elyse were interviewed for Amateur Traveler episode 428 about Paris. The Amateur Traveler is a great podcast but if your destination is France, Join Us in France is the podcast for you.

iTunes — Google