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The Good Idea Fairy

Playing the mandolin, or banjo, as we have it in our modern society, is a fairly complex process. As such, it, like all complex systems, is susceptible to visits from the Good Idea Fairy. You may well have seen this yourself. Mid way through an effort, you realize “Hey! it would be a good idea to use process X, or tool Y, or adhere to standard Z!”, little realizing that, in reality, this is changing horses in the middle of the stream.

Another name for it is simply distraction.

Keeping your eyes on the goal is fundamental to everything you do; simple or complex. It just shows up more, and displays its symptoms more, and is harder to recover from, with more complex tasks.

Now days, we also have all the various avenues afforded to us through the Internet. Although almost all are great resources, you simply cannot do them all at once – that leads to a watered-down approach to whatever you are trying to accomplish

I’ll admit that learning to play the modern bluegrass banjo is a complex process, but it is made noticeably easier when we keep our focus. Here are some things to watch out for when the Good Idea Fairy comes to visit you.

“Let’s learn a new song!” Are you already working on a new song? I must say I am very susceptible to this one. I must be working on 4 or 5 new songs. But each new item you add to that list waters down the whole process.

“Don’t isolate that trouble lick – just play the whole song.” But aren’t you working on perfecting that difficult lick? Practice isn’t supposed to be easy.

“I’ll use my picks later.” This one is specific to the banjo. There is no little red light that goes off when at last your fingers have gotten too used to playing bare. It will then take a few days to get back in shape.

“Let’s just play for fun right now.” Noble thought, but just like playing without picks, do it too much and it becomes your standard before you know it.

Don’t overthink things. Relax, have a plan and simply stick to it!

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Langkawi Beach, Malaysia

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Luna Moth

Captured with the best camera: the one I had with me at the moment! My LG Stylo 2 smartphone. Along the Alum Hollow Trail at the Green Mountain Nature Preserve in Huntsville, AL.

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Aldredge Creek, Huntsville, Alabama

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Valente Lake, Denver, Colorado

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Autumn in the Country

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Sunlight on Chess Board

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Found: A Prehistoric Banjo Bridge!

Upon the banks of the mighty Aldredge, washed ashore on that ancient creek of destiny, lay a most astounding find. It must have come to surface during the recent floods, but whatever it’s source, there it was. And I was blessed to be the first to come upon it. A banjo player myself, perhaps that was the reason for this destiny being thrust upon me as I took my morning walk. Before me lay an enormous banjo bridge – far larger than any extant! It’s simple design spoke of an earlier era. It surely was from a prehistoric age, when everything from saber-toothed house cats to HP calculators were exaggerated in size.

Ancient Banjo Archaeologists have advised me on this important find. Using a mathematical ratio with modern banjo bridges as a reference, we can calculate the height of this antediluvian behemoth as follows:
Modern-day banjo bridge: 3 in.
Modern-day banjo height: 39 in.
Prehistoric banjo bridge: 36 in.

The ratio thus:
3/39::36/x, solve for x:
(39)(36)x/3 = 468 inches = 39 feet!

This banjo stood almost 40 feet tall!

The prehistoric Banjo Bridge, freshly washed ashore.



A modern-day banjo bridge for comparison.

Naysayers will surely balk, saying “LOL- it’s only lumber from a wooden palette!”

To which I would reply: “LOL – April Fool’s Day!”

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HDR Images Using Adobe Lightroom

My father was an avid photographer as long ago as the 1960s. He had a state-of-the-art Leica camera and processed his own photos in a darkroom. He preferred his photos in slide format.

I think sometimes of how he would be amazed at what we can do now days, both behind the lens as well as in the relatively new domain we call post-processing.

This photo of my cat Tasha in peaceful sleep in the bay window is a good example of post-processing. It is a composite image using HDR merging in Adobe Lightroom. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and it allows you to merge shadows and highlights that would otherwise be too underexposed and too overexposed. Even though some DSLRs come with a feature that allows you to merge from within the camera itself, you can also do it in post-processing in order to be able to further tweak the image; something you can’t do as well if you do HDR strictly from within the camera.

Click the photo and observe the detail better. Notice how the shadows and the highlights aren’t really all that far apart? Not anymore, at least. And doing an HDR merge in Lightroom is really easy. Some tips for doing HDR that I don’t hear often would include:

1 – Use a tripod. You’ll want the compositions of the underexposed and overexposed photos to be as nearly the same as possible.

2 – Do any further post-processing after the HDR merge.

Some good introductions to HRD can be found at ShotKit and ExpertPhotography.

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