Photography Uncategorized

Fun With Photoshop’s Photomerge

My Canon EOS M3 does not have a panorama feature, consequently, I am using Photoshop’s Photomerge function (external link) to produce wide area shots. This is the first time I’ve gone through this process and I am pleased with the results.

Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon is only twenty minutes from my place so I went out to a viewing site and set up my tripod. The day was quite hazy from a strong wind blowing a tremendous amount of desert dirt into the sky. I knew I could partially correct today’s pale color in Photoshop so that’s what I did in the final panorama.

I took seven shots, moving the camera to the right a bit at each time. The advice I read was that each shot should overlap by 40% but I simply guessed and things turned out well. I’ve included just four of the original seven shots below. Click on the panorama image at the bottom to see the result.

Picture 01

Picture 02

Picture 03

Picture 04

The final panorama, much reduced to fit on the web. Click to view a larger image:

For those keeping score, here are the statistics on the final image which exists on my computer’s hard dive:

18,441 pixels wide or 61″ across
3,298 pixels high or 10.99 inches tall

300 dpi

174 meg file

Original pictures taken in RAW

One last note. I didn’t have enough sky in my original pictures. I needed more at the top. Make sure you have enough sky if you attempt something like this. You can always crop the blue away if you don’t need it. But I had to add more sky by using Photoshop’s “liquify” tool. It works for the web but the results would be too messy for print.

Photography Uncategorized

The Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 Instant Camera

A few months ago I bought an instant camera on a lark. I fondly remember my old Polaroid SX-70 and I wanted to see if a new instant camera might be better. After all, technology has improved in 30 years. Hasn’t it? Sadly, at least for this camera, that is not the case.

I bought a Fujifilm Instax Wide 300. It’s around a hundred dollars, reasonable, but film is around a dollar an image. Not cheap to experiment. And experiment I have, getting passable results out of doors and very poor results indoors. I’ll start with the best shots.

An outdoor shot in full sun with few shadows. As good an image as my old Polaroid.

A bed of Petunias in full sun with no shadows. This is where the camera performs best.

The same bed at a different angle. The first shot was not a fluke. The colors are consistent. This time.

Here’s where the camera fails. This light shading shouldn’t be a problem but it is. Every shot with a fair amount of shadows confuses the camera.

Again, there is no moderation. Shadows are consistently too dark. There is a single button on the camera which lightens the exposure a little but increases the exposure for everything else in a scene. Notice how pale the sky is, the camera unable to handle it.

Notice the rich blue sky. That’s perfect. But the rest of the scene wallows in darkness.

Another odd one. The colors are all wrong. The fence should be a medium dark red. Colors are not predictable.

Shadows on a wall. As with all instant cameras, lines are not crisp. You may want to stay with subjects that have well defined lines. Otherwise, you simply get more fuzzy.

This is just a demonstration of an indoor shot. White blows out the camera every time. See how there is no detail in the white? Anything with a large amount of white will be overexposed. The flash helps blow out the white, so much so that I am no longer shooting indoors.

One successful indoor shot. No big amount of white and a uniform background. By that I mean a wall of uniform depth, with no gaps or dropouts.

I always want to be positive. I think the camera could be useful for someone who always shoots outdoors in full sun. Think desert photography. And instant cameras are indispensable for souvenir photos, ones you can hand to a person and walk away. But I am disappointed that instant film technology hasn’t progressed. I’ll continue to shoot a few photos here and there but I won’t be spending much time with this camera.




Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

The Dark Art of Newsmastering

My main paid work involves writing blog posts by rewriting original content, usually accident reports from different online newspapers.  It’s the same thing a newspaper does when they take copy from the Associated Press or other press syndicates and turn it into a story that matches their editorial style. If you blog with content from other sources you should know about newsmastering.

Newsmastering means rewriting a story to make it appear original to search engines. Or at least sufficiently different that it warrants ranking higher than a copied article. Google looks for repetition and dismisses same. Reposting without reworking ensures a lower ranking than is possible. The idea is not to write a better story but a to write a  story that appears sufficiently new.

Original Story

A motorcycle rider was sent to the hospital in Bossier City on Friday morning after a crash with a car.

It happened just after midnight near the intersection of Airline Drive and Texas Street.

Bossier Police say the crash left the rider of the motorcycle with a leg injury. He was taken to University Health and is expected to recover.

The driver of the car was not hurt.

No lanes of traffic were closed.

The Bossier City police are investigating and say tickets are pending.


A car versus motorcycle accident wound up sending the motorcyclist to Boosier City’s hospital early Friday morning.

The accident occurred at Airline Drive and Texas Street.

The motorcyclist suffered a leg injury and was transported to the WK Bossier Health Center. His recovery is expected.

The car driver suffered no injuries.

Traffic lanes remained open.

The accident remains under investigation by Bossier City police. They say tickets are pending.

The Results

Using Copyscape’s compare routine (external link) we can gauge our success. Click on the image for a fuller display.


While the rewritten article is not entirely original, it is a waste of time to try to make it so, it is significantly different according to the Copyscape algorithm. This does not guarantee that Google or the other search engines will agree, however, this new article is in much better shape to be ranked higher than it would be left alone.

Remember, you are at a disadvantage compared to news outlets, which are naturally ranked higher as a result of their news distributing mission. Your blog needs any help it can get. One last point. When your post is done, don’t forget to add your URL to Google. (internal link)



Poetry Uncategorized

A Poetry Indulgence about A Good Cat Gone

Back in the mid-1990s I adopted, sight unseen, a large black cat named Montel. At the time, that was the name, too, for a popular African-American television talk show host. Who would name a cat Montel? Some things are inexplicable.

I didn’t rename Montel, in fact, I never thought of doing so. But that name raised eyebrows with everyone Montel met. I wrote a little ditty in metered verse about him around the year 2000. Since then I have had no desire to write poetry again.

Montel’s a Lug

“Montel’s a lug!”, I’ve heard it’s said, the neighbors say it’s true
But a lug is something heavy, something slow and clumsy, too

Montel is somewhat overweight but goodness aren’t we all?
Instead he’s quick and pretty slick, a cat that just won’t stall

He’s quick as summer lightning when the food dish hits the floor
Jumps right back like Fred Astaire, to miss the icebox door

Call him Beezelbub or Wysiwyg or even Husker Du
But not a lug, on no, dear friend, a lug will just not do

A rapscallion pure and simple, he’s equipped with all the tools:
A tooth filled jaw and awesome claws; a mouth that barely drools

He’s the essence of a gato, although he lacks a tail
But where he lost it no one knows, although some think in jail

So keep that lug for lug nuts, or for lugs of pears and peach
But don’t tack it on to Montel for politeness you will breach

Lift your voice in song and praise for a cat that’s oh so true
A tough old mug, a kindly thug, but not a lug to you!


Magazine article Uncategorized

Sierra Heritage Article Now in .pdf

I’ve made my 2014 Sierra Heritage article into a .pdf. You can view it here. (internal link) It’s about the beginnings of Highway 50, which stretches from West Sacramento, California all the way to Ocean City, Maryland. My piece is on the trans-Sierra portion.

Fair warning, it’s 29 megs and not suitable for a mobile device. The publisher used a green background for most of the pages so forgive the garish look. Sigh. But most of the photographs, many of which I took, some of which I arranged, are decent looking considering they were scanned from a magazine. If I have time I may later put up the digital files of the individual photographs.

Sierra Heritage, April, 2014
Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

When Is Determination Insanity?

A popular saying is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Then what would you make of Jack London who suffered 600 rejections before getting his first story accepted?

Van Gogh created over 900 paintings. He sold one. Perhaps he’s a bad example since he was mentally ill. But is that what it takes? Mental illness? Louis L’Amour received 300 rejections. While writing for eight years, Alex Haley received 200 consecutive rejections.

“Life is short and art is long and success is very far off.” So said Joseph Conrad. It seems right to persist for art. But, again, for how long?

The Red Vineyards near Arles by Vincent Van Gogh


Poetry Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing by others

The Parable of the Madman

If prose is the meal, poetry is the dessert. Nietzche’s writing might not be true poetry but it is poetical. I read and I am in awe.

Parable of the Madman

THE MADMAN—-Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I seek God! I seek God!”—As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?—Thus they yelled and laughed.

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.”

“How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us—for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.”

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars—and yet they have done it themselves.

It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882, 1887) para. 125; Walter Kaufmann ed. (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp.181-82.]

From: (external link)

Literary Magazine submissions Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

Applying to More Literary Reviews

The creative nonfiction essay I’ve been submitting to various outlets (internal link) has again been rejected. That makes six rejections so far. Today I submitted it to six more Reviews, three of them open call, two of them contests, one of them an award.

Interested? Deadlines are closing soon. All links are external.

Open Call:

American Literary Review ($3.00 reading fee)

Heartwood Literary Magazine 

Temenos ($4.00 reading fee)


Arcturus: Da Jiao Award for Creative Nonfiction ($5.00 reading fee. 1st prize, $100)


Arts&Letters Creative nonfiction prize ($20.00 to enter. $1,000 prize) All genres. ($25.00 to enter. $2,500 first prize, second place, $500, ten finalists each get $100.)

I know this is a serious amount of money to spend on contests but I haven’t ever entered one so I thought I’d try for the experience. Contest fees go into the prize pool. Excess money supports the literary magazine. A good thing.



Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

Blocking Out an Article

I’m writing an article on a complex subject. The Newlands and Washoe Projects. (internal link) My account doesn’t move in a straight line, like one done in a chronological order. Instead, to make the story readable, I am having to move in a dog-leg like fashion several times.

The problem is that the Newlands Project has been in court nearly every day of its 100 year existence. The Truckee River, around which the project revolves, has been called the most litigated river in United States history. And legal history is deadly dull. What to do?

When I sensed the article getting too boring to sustain reading, I dropped out to discuss the Project’s infrastructure: dams, canals, power plants and so on. Those are approachable subjects with dates and facts and figures about their construction. I reasoned I could go back to the legal muck after giving readers a break by describing tangible things.

Each structural element, however, is also mired in controversy and I’m finding it difficult to transition back to the main story line. I did a quick block diagram about how the story seems in my head and I’m contemplating another jog or two before I am done.

Two things that are definitely going to help are a timeline and pictures. I’m preparing both. This isn’t fiction, where 400 pages of a Tom Clancy novel go without illustrations. I think it vitally important that pictures support the text and that the text supports the pictures.

The article is hurting my brain. My telephone history articles and my travelogue type pieces for magazines like Rock&Gem (internal link) move in a fairly straight line, from a beginning date or location to an end date or destination. But this piece moves around and there is no bright line from start to finish.

I’ll keep at it. What I’ve discovered in the past is that after I get the bulk of my writing done that structural problems resolve themselves. If I keep pushing, keep exploring, keep writing, I find a path.

Right now I am backtracking and moving sideways and trying to find the trail. From the top of the mountain I’ll see clearly. For now I have to keep building that mountain of words until I gain the peak.

Let me know if you’ve ever been so stymied by a subject that you start diagraming it out.

Photography Uncategorized

The Changing Language of Photographs and the Mystery of HDR

In the last few years I’ve noticed photographs changing. They don’t reflect what is. From magazine shoots to real estate ads, there has been a change in how our world is expressed. Things are more luminescent and vibrant. More, evocative. I think what I’m seeing is HDR. That’s taking several exposures and combining them into a single image to get a better or different looking image than with one shot alone. There’s a technical definition.

“High-dynamic-range imaging (HDRI) is a . . . technique used in imaging and photography to reproduce a greater dynamic range of luminosity than is possible with standard digital imaging or photographic techniques. The aim is to present a similar range of luminance to that experienced through the human visual system.”

So says Wikipedia. Am I alone in saying that an HDR photograph doesn’t exhibit a “similar range of luminance” to that experienced through our own eyes? Take the two photographs below. The first is what you might develop after some work on contrast and exposure in Photoshop. The second is just plain crazy. While it looks fantastic, in an over the top sort of way, it certainly doesn’t bear resemblance to what I see.

You may not have sensed this change in photography but I think its because HDR can be dialed in. It can be subtle. A photograph doesn’t have to look like a Thomas Kinkade painting, although many of them do. Check this site for some examples (external link). Although high end fashion photography can be considered a lie, what with all the processing done, as well as every copy of Playboy ever published, it’s a little disconcerting to see our everyday landscape changed.

Not every photograph has HDR, of course, perhaps just a small percentage, but enough photographers are incorporating it that I feel the earth unsteady. What is real? The photographs below are from Wikipedia, the Kinkade could have come from anywhere. At least I knew his landscapes weren’t reality.



Does this Kinkade look similar?