My Cat Has Mono

Monochrome disease, that is. A complicated problem, not simply black and white. When a cat has lost its colors, it might just be good night.

My silver tabby cat has more stripes today, thanks to the shadow lines thrown by my Venetian blinds.

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More on Photoshop Style Neural Transfer Filters

[NB: I do not own the copyrights to any of these images.]

Getting the results below previously required an expert hand or buying actions.

Actions are small programs that perform a number of steps in Photoshop on an image automatically.

If you wanted an image to look like a watercolor painting then you could buy an action to do that. It might go through 20 to 30 steps to get that look. Such as adjusting contrast to a certain point, setting the saturation, changing the brightness, applying a cross hatch filter and so on.

I find actions tough to install and work with. Every designer works with them, however, which has caused much of online graphic work to look the same. I prefer these filters to get similar results to actions.

These new neural filters provide two kinds of style transfers (internal link to more musings on this). Artist styles and image styles. After converting a monotone image to color, again provided by a neural filter, look at these two wildly different image styles. Both done with just one click.

This is the first time I think Adobe’s outrageous subscription fee for Photoshop is worth it.

Now, take a look at the custom style transfer filter. I’m using two photos I took today. I like the color scheme and the design of this Packard.

Here’s the original photo. It focuses on the strong grillwork.

Here’s the photo I want to transfer the car’s style to.

And here is the result. Something of the horizontal has been brought in.

Here is another original photo with more of the car as well as the foreground and background.

Here’s the transfer of style.

Notice how the gravel or sand texture has been brought in.

All of these were one click transfers. Several adjustments are possible before applying them.



NB: I do not own the rights to any of these photographs.

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Primitive Folk Art Made Possible by Photoshop

First time experimenting with Photoshop’s A/I powered style transfer filter. Bottom line? The filter I chose would best work with a landscape since people are more forgiving of an altered landscape than a human face. Still, after endless tweaking and multiple trial prints I wound up on the path I wanted to go.

Background: JCF has developed a recent obsession with Monica Bellucii. I produced a print for him from a 300 dpi monotone and he said it wasn’t striking enough. Agreed.

I tried to colorize it with poor results. I then tried something different with that black and white photo.

Her hair in a bun suggested Japanese prints so I picked one of two Japanese style transfer filters. The program produced a face more cubist and blocky than I thought right. That consumed a great deal of time to make a little more normal.

The original monotone was overexposed on the jaw line so I had to painstakingly put one in the suggestion of one. The program put in a warm tan or buff color in the background automatically, matching quite closely what I have seen in Japanese prints.

With this filter you can produce clumsy, amateurish traditional Japanese artwork in just hours. You don’t have to wait years to be ridiculed, you can start right now to provide even more non-authentic images to the world. I indulged myself even more with this experiment and made a more surrealistic image than most.

I use an HP design Jet printer. Glass and metal frames as shown are terribly expensive new. I shop at thrift shops and Goodwill Stores. This one was only six dollars. 18X24 inches. Would have been $25 new.

Here was the original photograph:

Here’s one of several modifications. One can dial in the amount of detail as well as control saturation, contrast, lightness, and so on.

And another experiment:

The final for now:

Some interesting detail:

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On Colorizing and Different, Not Better

NB: Unknown photographers, various magazines. I do not own the rights to any of these images.

Original monotone:

Here’s a colorized version produced by Photoshop’s colorize filter. (internal link) Corrected the skin color a bit, that’s all.

Comment: I think Kate’s skin looks better in color but Mr. Dog appears to be a black and white job. The original monotone may have been inspired by that.

Original monotone:


Comment: Okay, here’s one reason not to use color. Sleek and stylish and glossy do well with black and white. There’s a vibe or ambiance the photographer is trying to set with the monotone. Color simply sets Kate back into the everyday world.

I’m too rushed in the field to decide whether to shoot in color or black and white. My correcting is in post. Does a studio photographer take the time to decide? Or do they also convert later?

Because some subjects are just doomed to look bad in black and white from the beginning. But how does one know that beforehand?

Here’s Bellucci in color as the original magazine cover shows:

And here’s how it would have looked in monotone without any adjustments:

Yikes! That has a more documentary look than a fashion shot. Is that a lesson here? Emphasize seriousness with black and white? While avoiding the other conclusions that monotone implies . . .

So, sometimes one choice is better than another.

And then there is different. Converting this original to black and white at first seemed listless at best.

The monotone version:

Still, something seems there for me. Without color cues, texture of the chiffon seems dominant. Well, Photoshop does have texture filters. Here’s one experiment.

I’m not saying this is better, rather, that it presents another path to wander down in the creative process. This is by trial and error; I wonder if a real photographer can see these paths before beginning.

And we could put this B&W back into the colorizing filter once again. I adjusted the saturation to pink since that is what I first think of with chiffon. Not blue as in the original. But I’m a guy. That material may actually be silk or taffeta or whatever. Whatever!

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Photoshop’s Smart Portrait Neural Filter

I’ve written on Photoshop’s neural filters before (internal link). Here, the Smart Portrait filter transforms the ever angry and sullen Megan Fox into something less gloomy.

The first photo is the original. You can see how overdone the last photo is which was set on maximum. The second photo simply looks like she is forcing a smile. The original was a 72 dpi screen shot, better res photos should do better.

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More Colorizing With Photoshop’s Neural Filter

Adobe recently come out with filters which rely on downloading additional software and then real time processing in the cloud.

In other words, for these operations, Photoshop is not a stand alone program but instead relies in part on harnessing the computer power of some distant mainframe.

The results are very impressive as I have written about before. (internal link)

As attention spans get shorter and shorter and as no one truly reads on the web, this colorizing may help keep someone’s interest in history.

This is a monochrome from the Library of Congress of Ina Claire who became a silent film star.

And here is a one-click, didn’t do anything else, color interpretation by Photoshop.®

Magazine article Newspaper article non-fiction writing Photography Thoughts on writing Uncategorized video Writing by others Writing tips

Original Photographs and the Impossibility of Everything Connected to Them

After your article proposal has been accepted your next challenge will be providing photographs to accompany the text. I hope you can take them yourself.

The world of Nat Geo doesn’t exist anymore for freelancers. You will not have a photographer assigned to you. If you want to write about Mount Etna, bring along every kind of camera to take high resolution photos on your visit. And don’t think you can wing it with other people’s photos or ones you’ve bought yourself.

Expect every editor to require model releases and a permissions note for any photo you submit in which there is a person clearly visible or if you’re using another photographer’s work. An editor may not be that strict but maybe they will be.  Check before going into the field. Their answers may be devastating.

Few people these days want to fill out a model release with their identifying information. Getting permission to use someone else’s work is a complete time trap. Finding out who can give you permission to use a photograph is dead end detective work. It can take months and months and months to get permission to use a photo. Which may be tolerable for a book deadline but not an article. In my requests, I got a reply only 5% of the time. And then the photographer or group wanted big money.

These stock photo groups and even non-profits like county history museums have no idea of the pay scale for freelance writers today. It’s nothing. Many magazines like Rock&Gem will pay $250 for an article. Yet when a group finds out that you want a photo for publication they think you own a gold mine. Let’s go back to Mount Etna.

Alamy is a typical stock photo service. Getty and Adobe are a little more expensive. They want $69.99 for a single photo of publishable quality if you are using it in a magazine. Sounds somewhat reasonable if you are getting a few thousand for an article. Which as a freelancer you’re not. But wait, there’s more!

It turns out this price is only for magazines of under 2,500 circulation. What kind of magazine is that? A literary review? Good grief. That’s small even for a regional. To get a copyright free release of high resolution, the only practical solution, you’re going to pay $245.00. These goofballs must think magazines have a budget for photos that exceed what they are paying the writer. $245 for a single photo!

This is why I have contributed many, many high resolution still photos and videos of different natural areas to Creative Commons, the first pull point for photos for Wikipedia. I have put them all into the public domain. No fee to me, no credit needed. We’re all starving artists out here. All of us need to contribute photos if you can to this cause, no matter what you think of the editorial orientation of Wikipedia.

Some contributions to these pages. All links external:

Carol M. Highsmith is a professional photographer. She has contributed THOUSANDS of photographs to the National Archive and put them into the public domain. A monumental and ongoing contribution:

I think only one in twenty writers are independents who support themselves entirely by their writing. Most professionals are those who write in their work for someone else, like a government agency or some private business. Self-supporting writers are rare and getting rarer. But I digress.

I had a bitter experience in which I wanted a close up photo of a mineral for an article I was writing for Rock&Gem. I approached the leading mineral photographer in the country for a photo that was in his stock library. He would not budge on his price even though he knew Rock&Gem well and was continuously published in their magazine by staff. His demand was so high it would have made my article completely unprofitable, I would have actually lost money. But he didn’t care even though he was in the trade and knew we writers make nothing.

So, why would a writer take on a low paying assignment? Too many reasons to list but a low paying article is still a resume builder. It gets you respect and can open higher paying doors later on. I get access to sites other people can’t simply because I’ve been published. And I assume you are interested in what you are writing about to begin with and support that trade or hobby.

Everyone is entitled to make money but writers shouldn’t be forced to lose money. Take photos yourself. Get better at photography. More cameras. The last article I wrote was for California Wildlife which is operated by a state agency. They paid for 11 photographs. I took them all. It is extremely rare these days that a magazine will pay separately for photos. Very rare. Usually you just get one price for an article. A side note.

I’m putting together composition images from low resolution photos off the net. Sometimes from fifty year old films and stills.  I’m not crediting photographers because I don’t know who they are and I _never_ get responses when I ask different agencies for help. A single collage photo might use  25 different film grabs or photos from different websites. Who are all these photographers? And would they or their agencies understand that I have never sold a single work?

What’s happening is that people are making copies of copies of copies of photos with no trail behind them. Look at eBay. You have companies making a living selling the work of uncredited photographers. Thousands of posters and stills reproduced and sold without credit. I’m not doing that. I didn’t create this environment but I am living in it. Trust me, in my writing for the web, for books, and for magazines, you’re going to hit silence when asking for permission. And if you do find someone, a miracle, they are going to want big bucks. As Dylan says, money doesn’t talk, it swears.




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I Know it When I See It

“But to live outside the law, you must be honest.” Bob Dylan

United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart struggled in 1964 to define pornography in the landmark case of Jacobellis v. Ohio. In his concurring opinion, Stewart wrote, essentially, that he couldn’t describe hard core pornography but he knew it when he saw it.

What do you see? And is it right? Or wrong? Or merely questionable? Tricky.

To describe what pornography is and what is socially acceptable has always been mixed up with money as money controls the world.

A new Sotheby’s promotion said a muse for the Italian photographer Paolo Roversi would be among those discussing the great photographer in this video.

Turns out his muse is Natalia Vodianova, of whom Roversi has photographed many times. Too many times. See the photo below.

“Soul of a Woman: A Journey through Art and Fashion.” So says Sothebys.

Capturing the soul of a woman? I don’t see much soul but I do see a lot of underage skin. Pretty, young, naked girls. A website, however, puts it, “Paolo Roversi is a photographer best known for his striking, intimate portraiture and classical visual language.”

Indeed. teeth Intimate portraiture. Are you kidding me?

Reminds me how Leonard Nimoy, Spock to most of us, developed a new profession in his later life as an “artistic nude photographer.” I bet his wife was thrilled. And, no, Spock, you’re not fooling anyone. Especially your wife.

The Sotheby’s video is a mutual admiration society with each person congratulating each other on their genius. They ignore the fact that his photographs look remarkably like what Jeffery Epstein had on his bedroom wall.

Now, I am sure Roversi’s models, and his muse, were all of age. Or, they had their parent’s permission. Nice parents.

Money determines acceptability. We exhalt the photographer with rich clients as an artist and slam the poorer photographer as a pornographer. One produces art and the other produces smut.

Playboy once had some beautiful covers but no one ever credited Hef with making art, despite having photographers like Richard Avedon contributing now and then. Playboy decided in the late 1960s to compete with Bob Guccione of Penthouse who in turn competed with Hustler’s Larry Flynt. Hef never went back to producing covers like this one from 1964.

Is it wrong to be a pornographer? That’s a moral judgement. Appealing to prurient interests in a free society is allowed. I think it’s only wrong if you lie about what you do. Is Roversi a pornographer? I don’t know. I don’t move in his circles. I think a better judge would have been Epstein.

Here’s a photo that blurs the line. This is a movie poster for Behind the Green Door. The movie was produced by the Mitchell brothers who were notorious pornographers. Yet, to me, this individual photo borders on art. I have it hanging on my wall. Why? It appeals to my purient interests. And indeed a thing of beauty is a joy forever. (As long as she is over 18.)

Let’s be honest. Let’s not have pornographers disguise themselves as artists. Not in The Era of Epstein. As to what pornography is, I know it when I see it.

Photography Photoshop

More on Neural Filters

This photo is from the New York Public Library Digital collection.

Here’s the original.

Here’s what a one click colorization produced in Photoshop.

Now, one click on “Auto” using the curve controls for an image.

Quite amazing.


Hiking the Marin Headlands

For years I hiked the Marin Headlands, that area just north and west of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I often joined Katy’s group. She is a national Sierra Club leader and a much stronger hiker than myself.

My favorite spots were the Zen Center, Muir Beach, and Pirate’s Cove, the smallest beach in Marin County.

Here’s a slideshow turned into a video of a recent hike. Kee Yip produced it and it focuses strongly on plants.

The video is ten minutes long. I used the slider at the bottom to quickly move back and forth to scenes I was interested in.

Here’s how Katy describes that March 7, 2021 hike. By “batteries,” she means the various bunkers once built to house missiles for coastal defense.

“Hi Hikers, special thanks to Kee Yip for taking these incredible photos of our hike in Marin Headlands Sunday.

Kee captured the incredible scenery, the show of wildflowers, green hills and a wonderful group of hikers.

We began at Tennessee Valley and hiked up the Rhubarb Trail (wake robin trillium), continued up Oakwood Valley to the Sausalito overlook, on to Alta and SCA climbing the humpie over the Robin Williams Tunnel, down the Coastal and up to Slacker Hill (incredible wildflowers along this section of the coastal trail) for a beautiful overlook of Fort Baker and Golden Gate Bridge, on to Hawk Hill for more amazing views of the Golden Gate, and then hiked up several humpies to explore the batteries along the coast above Conzelman Drive, on to the Harbor Seal Overlook at Point Bonita Lighthouse (note the harbor seals hauled out on the rocks, tough life), across Rodeo Beach, up Wolf Ridge to explore more batteries above the coast and to enjoy more amazing views, and down Old Springs Trail (purple iris and yellow buttercups) to Tennessee Valley.

Note the incredible display of wildflowers: brown and gold Fetid Adders Tongue, gold Sun cups, red paintbrush, gold Oregon Grape Holly, white Fremont star lily, blue dick, pink checker bloom, white milkmaid, purple rock cress, pink vetch, yellow Bermuda buttercup, white cucumber vine, pink flowering currant (at Hawk Hill), gold and orange crocosmia or Matsudana lily, gold footsteps of spring, yellow acacia, purple shooting star, yellow parsley, white hog fennel, gold to orange poppies, and pink and purple Harlequin flower.

Enjoy a spectacular show! Thank you Kee for sharing your gift of photography with our hikers! And special thanks to our hikers for joining me on such a beautiful day.”