Flash Fic: Magic Returns

Three women sat in a corner, watching the action in the rest of the club. It was late, and more than a few people had overindulged, and were laughing and talking too loud. The air reeked of the smell of booze, overheated bodies, and pheromones.

Kali sipped her drink. “The world is a tedious place.”

Lea rolled her eyes. “Not this again. Jax and I agree with you, okay? Can we move on now? So bored with this topic.”

“It’s not so bad,” Jax said, fluffing her blonde hair. “I think it’s amusing.”

“It’s tedious,” Kali repeated, looking almost angry. “They do the same thing day after day. Work, party themselves senseless or watch TV all night, sleep—my gawd, it’s a wonder more of them don’t kill themselves or each other.”

“Not true.” Lea pulled the hem of her short dress lower; it was creeping up, and some long-haired guy a few yards away, with pretty dark eyes and a nice smile, had tilted his head to see if he could catch a glimpse of something naughty. “Plenty of them marry and have kids—”

“And go to work, drink or watch TV, and sleep.” Kali finished her drink and tossed the glass over her shoulder. It vanished in a spark of light. “Let’s change things up.”

Lea’s eyes widened. “No! Leave them alone. They won’t miss what they don’t have.”

“I’m with Kali,” Jax said and grinned. “Let’s do it. Let’s give magic back to the world.”

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Flash Fic: The Choice

I opened my eyes and found myself gazing at a grassy hill. A cart track led from me to the top. To one side, quite a distance away, was a leafy tree. It was summer; the blue sky was dotted with white clouds.

“Choose,” said someone behind me. “Follow the tracks or go to the tree.”

I glanced over my shoulder. There was no one there. I felt myself wanting to panic, but the urge faded. It was okay. I was safe.

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This is one of the most fun things a graphic designer/photographer can do. You put together bits and pieces to create something new.

I’m not all that great at it yet. I’ve seen composites that blow me away! But the more you do it, the better you get. They’re so much fun, everyone should do them if they have Photoshop or a similar program.

Luminar, one of my favorite photo processing programs, can’t do what PS can. It’s not meant to, and that’s fine. The 4.3 version at least had layers, but the new AI version doesn’t. I was vastly disappointed, and so were many other users. Layers are what you need when you’re trying to achieve a certain look, and compositing? Other than adding a giraffe or air balloon, Luminar should not be used for combining various elements in a picture. I mostly worked in Photoshop today, though credit where credit is due: Luminar added the light leaks via a template.

Let’s start with the original picture. I went out for a bike ride early this morning and spotted this in a neighbor’s yard. What can I say? He’s a little weird. After I got home again, I stopped for my camera and walked down the street to take a couple of pictures. What’s his message? Dunno. Maybe “if you don’t wear a mask, you might die?” Works for me.

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Ode to the Common Grackle

This bird gets a bad rap, but it shouldn’t. From an article in the Statesman:

Don’t call them trash birds.

Grackles, it turns out, do more than weigh down power lines, steal tortilla chips off your dinner plate and squawk in really loud voices. The gleaming black birds actually play a beneficial role in our society. (Well, besides cleaning up those food crumbs you dropped on the sidewalk.)

Grackles, which are a native species in Texas, eat insects, for one. And that includes those you might not like crawling on you, such as wasps and spiders, and ones that damage crops, including moths, grasshoppers and beetles.

Actually, grackles are omnivorous. They mainly eat bugs in the summer, seeds in the winter — plus the occasional baby mouse, rat, lizard or assorted critter when the opportunity presents itself.

So today I’m posting pics of the grackle. There are a lot of them in Florida, and yes, they can be noisy and also pushy at bird feeders, but they are part of the system and deserve to be here. Plus they’re gorgeous in the sun. I’ve photographed them before, but these are pics of one bird that visited me recently.

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Before/After and an example of missing the shot

Weekend before last, I went out both days with the big glass. I’m referring to the Sigma 150-600mm lens that weighs a ton but lets me get pretty close to things very far away. The 35mm equivalent on a crop sensor camera like my Sony a6400 is 225-900mm. Then add Sony’s Clear Image Zoom, which is the best digital zoom I’ve ever used, and I can double that to 450-1800mm. Snazzy, huh?

But that lens is heavy, so I’ve attached a shoulder strap to it, which makes it a lot easier to carry. The older I get, the harder it is to walk some days. I found out a few years ago I have arthritis in my hips, and my right knee hasn’t been doing so good lately. Ah, the joys of getting old. <–Yes, that’s sarcasm.

That Saturday, my aging body was brought home to me when I visited a new-to-me park for the first time. It’s called Seven Lakes, and it’s very near Highland Hammock State Park. It was my first time there. They wanted me to walk, walk, walk. Well, I expected that, but there were no benches where I could sit and rest, so I didn’t get far. Disappointing, and I said so in a review of the park. Don’t tell me you’re handicapped accessible and then not have benches.

I got a fabulous picture of an eastern Meadowlark within minutes, though. First time I’ve managed to take a pic of one. I heard it singing, and because it was sitting at the top of a tree, and it’s brightly colored, I located it easily.

The original. It looks a lot closer in the photo than it did when I was looking at it with my eyes. 😉 This was taken at full extension of 600mm, plus the Clear Image Zoom at another 1.5 magnification, which equals a 35mm focal length of 1350mm.

And here’s the final image.

That was the only good photo I got at that park. Across the street was a scrub park. Yes, another walkable area with no benches to rest on, but I’ve been looking for the crested caracara and Florida scrub jay. Didn’t see either one, damn it, but did glimpse a red-headed woodpecker. Remember that fabulous shot I posted of one about a week ago? That kind of picture isn’t as common as you think. THIS is what usually happens.

Could NOT get a clear shot of it, even though I hung around a while and even tracked it to another tree. This is the original picture; I didn’t do any processing on it. At least you can see what pretty coloring it has on its back, right? 🙂

Moving on…. I revisited Lake Wales Ridge Sunday afternoon and saw a couple of ospreys. They are back in their nests. Here’s the unimpressive original.

As you can see, it was a dreary, overcast day with little light, but post-processing turned it into something pretty good!

They are installing an observation deck in a newly-opened section of the refuge, and I followed the road a while as the sun went down. On the way back, I saw this birdhouse. The original.

Kinda dark, because sunset was imminent, and it was hidden in trees and undergrowth, but I knew I could do something with it. A careful crop and some color grading, and voila!

See you next time.

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