A Story Without Words

Can you have a story without words? Absolutely! I learned this lesson several years ago when I asked my uncle to help me decipher some of the documents in my father’s papers. I learned a lot going through those papers with him, but it was soon overshadowed when he brought me this amazing history of my father’s life as a merchant seaman.

A Man of the Sea
A Man of the Sea by C. O. Barrett

The story of this painting is almost as fascinating as the story of Dad’s professional life. You find the rest of this story at Moultrie Journal.

Edit Photos in Preview

Many Mac users see the Preview app as a very nice PDF reader. That’s just one of the many things Preview can do. It also serves as a very nice photo editor too. No, it will never replace Photoshop or Pixelmator, but it can handle most of your basic editing functions like resizing, cropping, adding text or shapes and adjusting color. It also supports Instant Alpha. If you aren’t familiar with Instant Alpha, it’s a tool used to remove selected background areas.

ponce ornamentI found this beautiful little ornament on the back of an 1887 brochure advertising the famous Flagler resort hotels in St. Augustine. I can put this beauty to many uses but I need to get rid of the background first. That’s where Instant Alpha comes in. It works by removing color from the background area. What makes it an amazing tool is that I don’t have to spend a lot of time selecting the area. After turning Instant Alpha on, all I have to do is drag the pointer across the area I want to remove and the tool will select all the area matching my selection.

Instant Alpha is easier to demonstrate than describe so here’s a short video demonstrating how it’s done using the Preview app.

The image was originally a .PNG file. I opened it in Preview then clicked the Toolbox icon to display the editing tools and selected the Instant Alpha tool. Next I began dragging the mouse across the background until I had all the area I wanted removed selected. I then cut the selected area from my image. Preview automatically asked me if I wanted to change this to a .PNG file. The .PNG format supports transparency so I said yes.

I can now layer this ornament over any number of backgrounds with ease. Thanks to Preview I had the job done in less time than it takes to get most of the “big” photo editors loaded. Maybe it’s time to take a closer look at Preview . . .

Making Lemonade on the iPad


This is one of my favorite photos of my aunt Caroline. It’s iconic Caroline – sunglasses, cigarette and fishing pole. I love the picture but as you can see the photograph leaves a lot to be desired. Fortunately, I have some amazing apps on my iPad that can turn this photo into a work of art. For this one I used Photos, Retouch ($1.99) and Stackables ($2.99).

I began in Photos using the Retouch extension. If you have Retouch installed on you iPad, it automatically adds the extension into Photos. You’ll find it in the Edit screen by tapping the … icon at the bottom of the tools icons. I just dragged my finger over the dirty dots and they disappeared. After cropping and saving the photo, I was ready to move on to the Stackables app.

It’s hard to describe Stackables. It’s a series of filters, overlays, textures and other features that can turn a mediocre photo into something amazing. That’s the good news. The bad news is there’s almost no instructions on how to use Stackables. You just experiment. I did find several useful tutorials posted at The App Whisperer.


When you first open the app, the intro screen includes buttons to select your photo. Once that’s done, a screen similar to this one appears. Notice the toolbar at the top of the screen. From left to right they are Textures, Color Filters, Gradients, Patterns, Adjustments and Formulas. Each tool displays a different list of options down the right side of the screen. In this example, you’re seeing Textures. The left sidebar has two icons at the top – layers and masks. You assign a texture, filter or overlay to this layer, then add another layer and apply another tool. Repositioning layers will change the appearance of the image. The bottom bar has a slider in the center which will define how much of the filter/texture/whatever is applied. To the left of the slider are two buttons – Opacity and Saturate. The buttons change when a different tool is selected. The slider will adjust whichever button is selected – Opacity in this case. The rotate icon at the far right will rotate the selected tool’s effect a quarter turn each time you tap it.


As you can see in this example, I have applied three layers. The top one is the Blue Moon color filter and the middle layer is the Ancient Sky texture. The bottom layer is the Color Adjust tool. It’s the currently selected layer and the various color adjust tools appear down by the slider. Select the tool then move the slider will make the adjustments. I used the Brightness tool to lighten things up.

Once the image looks the way I want, I tap the green Save button at the top left corner of the screen. Available options include saving the image to the Camera Roll, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or by email. The Open in Another App option brings up the share sheet offering even more options.

Caroline at the Beach

Instead of a mediocre photograph I now have a piece of art. It takes time and a lot of experimenting to see how tools react when combined with other tools but before you know it you’ll be turning poor quality photos into eye-catching art.