Whispers & Screams
And Other Things

GIMP plugins that stand out from the crowd

You may well be wondering what GIMP is. GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. Quite simply it is one of the most useful programs I have used throughout the last 10 years. Its an open source program that's ostensibly supposed to compete with Photoshop. When you compare the two programs they are surprisingly close competitors in all but one key area, price. Adobe Photoshop having moved to a subscription model comes in at about £50 per month give-or-take, GIMP on the other hand requires a one off payment of £0.00p. No brainer I'd say. On top of this, GIMP is the best open-source photo-editor out there in the marketplace. It packs in a neat set of features that can rival those of Photoshop. And that's not the end either! More than what GIMP lacks in terms of in-built features, it settles with its powerful set of plugins which are unbelievably small, and extremely versatile.

In my entire history of using GIMP, I haven't ever felt any need to consider using Photoshop. If there was something I just flat out could not do with GIMP that I'd be able to do with Photoshop then I might have considered it but I've never come across anything even close. In addition, there are a surprisingly large number of plugins for this elegant software, that can spice up your GIMP experience, especially if you're serious about your photos. I'll go on to list some of the most powerful and cool plugins for GIMP. All of them are free, and I'll provide the download links to each of them individually. Most of the effects below simply require you to download the respective files, grab the .scm script and put it inside your GIMP folder's 'Scripts' directory. Restart GIMP following each installation, and your effect is installed.

1. Photo Effects


This is really one big boss of photographic effects. It packs in a number of powerful, cool effects, neatly arranged in four categories:

Sunset at Maidan, glassified with the
Stained Glass effect.


A. Artist (Note Paper, Pastel, Water Paint, Stamp, Warp)
B. Style (Chrome Image, Cross Light)
C. Texture (Brick Wall, Patchwork, Stained Glass, Texturiser)
D. Others (High Pass)

Once installed, any of the above effects can be flawlessly applied to your photos, to make even ordinary shots look special. The merit of this plugin is that, it packs in so many cool effects into an unbelievably small sized package, 27 KB! Yeah, you read me right. ;)

Another glorious addition is the degree of end-user customizations. For example, while applying Stained Glass effect, you can choose the size of each glass-element in pixels! The Note Paper effect is something to be reckoned with. And to be honest, the textures are just way too superb.

Download: http://registry.gimp.org/node/97

2. HDR and HDR Plus plugins


These are two very powerful plugins that can add colour and life to otherwise bland shots. HDR or High Dynamic Ranging process attempts to capture and/or bring back the true colour (as it appears) to each element on the photo, thus livening it up.

Notice the original shot below:


Now, the colours obviously look a bit faded off, and it's time to apply the GIMP HDR Plus plugin. Look at the result below:


The result is clear, it's far more attractive and cool, even though the original shot did not have a good colour composition. I would say, the HDR plugin is the best if you use online Photo-sharing sites such as Flickr or Shuttershock.

Installation is very easy, just download and shift the .scm files to the scripts directory. These cool effects (HDR and HDR Plus) can be loaded from Scripts-Fu=>Enhance=>Fake HDR/Fake HDR Plus.

Download: http://registry.gimp.org/node/11776

3. National Geographic Script


This is a smooth and powerful run-once script, that can effective turn even ordinary shots into quality ones. Not that it does live upto its name, but it comes really close! As usual, nothing is better than a demonstration. Consider the photo below, shot at Duars, North Bengal (India).


Although the colour composition is okay, it still lacks some jibe, and just doesn't appear a very quality shot (it may vary, though). I took it with my Canvas 2 Android phablet, using the 8 MP shooter distilled to 5 MP. Now, let us apply the NatGeo script, and the result is shown below:


It's clear that the photo below is a far more refined and quality shot! This is the magic of the NatGeo script. It can be accessed from Filter=>Generic=>National Geographic.

Download: http://registry.gimp.org/node/9592

4. Quick Sketch


Quick Sketch is a very clear name, it digitally turns your ordinary shot into a fake painting, which is often just too marvelous to be considered a hand-drawn one though, let me warn you. However, it's very artistic, and will certainly help you amaze your friends and social contacts. Consider the photo of Jeses below:


Now, after adding the Quick Sketch effect:


Looks genuine enough! Not surprisingly, it also reduces the photo size in most cases, doing away with colours and extra graphics. It can be accessed from Scripts-Fu=>Artistic=>Quick Sketch. And it allows you to customize the blur factor too. And behold! It's only 3.25 KB!

Download: http://registry.gimp.org/node/5921

5. Blue Sky and Clouds


This is one neat little script that turns otherwise greyish or whitish sky blue, complete with fake clouds and blur. It just appears way too magical, doesn't it? Well, with the plugin, it's a breeze. Consider the photo below, an okay shot that however doesn't capture the serene bluishness of the sky:


Naturally, we'd use the plugin here. The result is shown below:


The plugin also allows tremendous customizations, and you will need a lot of time before mastering it. But even if you just accept the default settings, it'll look cool. And it's just around 5 KB in size. Access it fromScripts-Fu=>Darla=>Blue sky and clouds.

Download: http://registry.gimp.org/node/193

Continue reading
81 Hits
0 Comments

Newmilns Tower

towerNewmilns and Greenholm is a small burgh in East Ayrshire, Scotland. It has a population of 3,057 people (2001 census) and lies on the A71, around seven miles east of Kilmarnock and twenty-five miles southwest of Glasgow. It is situated in a valley through which the River Irvine runs and, with the neighbouring towns of Darvel and Galston, forms an area known as the Upper Irvine Valley (locally referred to as The Valley). As the name suggests, the burgh exists in two parts - Newmilns to the north of the river and Greenholm to the south. The river also divides the parishes of Loudoun and Galston, which is why the burgh, although generally referred to as Newmilns, has retained both names.

Newmilns means "the new mills", from Old English niwe "new" and myln "mill", the name being recorded as Nawemeln in 1126 - the plural Newmilns is a recent addition.

At the end of the 16th century, refugees from France and Flanders settled in Newmilns, bringing with them skills and techniques in lace making. Most houses had a loom by the end of the 18th century. The introduction of the power loom in the late 19th century marked the beginning of the golden years for the lace industry in Newmilns. By the end of the Second World War, there were 12 lace and madras factories in Newmilns. The importance of lace is reflected in the architecture of public buildings in the town centre, such as Lady Flora's Institute and the Morton Hall.

The subsequent decline of lace making in the town, due to growing competition from overseas, led to a decline in the fortunes of Newmilns. Town centre buildings fell into disrepair and an aura of dereliction and depression led to historic properties becoming uninhabitable, roofless or being demolished. From 1999 to 2005 a Heritage Lottery Fund-supported project known as the Newmilns Townscape Heritage Initiative carried out extensive building restoration and renovation works, including the environmental improvement of open space and waste ground in Newmilns and reinstatement of architectural detail and features.

Newmilns Tower (which once had impressive gardens and orchards surrounding it), was erected in the centre of the town about 1525 by Sir Hugh Campbell, Earl of Loudoun. Newmilns Tower was built following the destruction of Loudoun Castle by the Kennedys of Culzean, during which Sir Hugh's wife and nine children were all killed. The attack was apparently in retaliation for the role Sir Hugh had played in the murder of a kinsman of the Kennedys. The Earls of Loudoun continued to reside at Newmilns Tower until 1615. It is sometimes suggested that the Earls of Loudon later built what is now the Loudoun Arms as a town house.

Newmilns Tower saw further use in the religious wars of the mid 1600s as a prison for Covenanters. Some of the prisoners held here were freed in a raid on the tower, but at least one was killed during the escape.

The tower was fully restored by the Strathclyde Building Preservation Trust in the 1990s and is now a privately owned residence.

Continue reading
1133 Hits
0 Comments

Know the way, Go the way, Show the way



Over my many years in business, whether the business of the military or the business of commerce, one of the core threads of weakness in almost all but the best managers/leaders I have worked with has been an inability or perhaps an unwillingness to communicate. All too often I have witnessed poor management communication not only down through the command structure but also, quite frequently, within what would be considered the first tier of communications. Their direct reporters.

Many such businesses have, it seemed, succeeded or perhaps survived, in spite of rather than because of these individuals for whom communication should be the centrepiece of their toolbox. Usually in these situations, the intentions are top drawer but the reality is bargain basement. Individuals in such positions of authority resting on their past achievements or being reasonably content with the status quo and pulling up the drawbridge to their rarefied level perhaps feel like they should maintain an authoritative distance or refrain from fraternising with the ranks. Ridiculous as such a stance may sound on paper, it is all too often manifest in management positions in all levels of business with the reality for the organisation far more serious than any ridicule may reflect.

Directionless authority figures who fail to capitalise on the talent within their organisations because of their inability to communicate beyond their own lieutenants can lay waste to layer upon layer of that which makes an organisation truly prosper, its people. This is especially true in the world of the startup where those in authority and indeed in control have the greatest of vested interests in seeing the business boom.

As managers, and most especially as managers within small businesses for whom hierarchical structures are not best fit, communication is what ensures that our own value systems are properly superimposed on the wider team around us. We need to accept our weaknesses. Work on them. Learn by placing ourselves in the uncomfortable situations we could easily avoid and the best way to measure this and truly understand it is to get down and dirty every day. Do sweat the small stuff. Truly understand the small stuff because when we get the small stuff right and we can communicate down and listen up effectively, communicating all the way down and listening all the way up, we will find ourselves at the centre of a team that really will begin to reflect the hopes and dreams we all have for our own organisations.

Continue reading
1009 Hits
0 Comments

Quorn Beef Roast with Roast New Potatoes and Tomato and Fennel Tapenade

IMG_4338.JPG

 

This is a delicious meal that is both low fat and can be made in no more than the time it takes to cook the quorn roast from the freezer.

Ingredients

  • 1 Quorn Beef Roast

  • 200g New Potatoes

  • 3 Coarsely Chopped Medium Tomatoes

  • 1 Bulb Fennel

  • 2 Cloves Garlic

  • 1 Large Lobe Ginger

  • 150g Low Fat Chopped Feta

  • 150g Low Fat Chopped Halloumi

  • 10g Butter

  • 1 Medium Gren or Red Chilli

  • Fresh Coriander

  • 200ml Vegetable Stock

  • 1 tsp Turmeric


Instructions

First set the Quorn Roast to cook in the oven in accordance with the instructions. Once this is in progress chop the potatoes into equal size pieces about the size of a squash ball and set aside.

Next finely chop the Garlic, Ginger and Chilli and gently fry in the Butter until golden. Add the green ends of the Fennel and about a quarter of the white bulb coarsely chopped. Allow to fry in the butter for a few minutes until the Fennel is soft then add the Vegtable Stock and simmer until the Fennel is nearly soft.

Remove the mixture from the pan, puree in a food processor and set aside.

Next, boil some salted water for the potatoes, add the Turmeric and boil until just softening, (approx 5-10 mins). Drain the potatoes and mix in a little of the pureed tapenade through them. With 20 minutes remaining place the potatoes in the oven beside the Quorn Roast.

Place a small amount of the tapenade from the food processor in a pan and add the tomatoes. Turn up the heat and allow the the pan to sizzle for a minute then add the Halloumi whilst turning down the heat. Once the pan has cooled add the Feta, most of the Coriander and the remainder of the tapenade from the food processor. Season to taste and serve with the Quorn Roast and the Crisped Potatoes. Garnish with the remaining Coriander.
Continue reading
826 Hits
0 Comments

Venus Over Irvine

venus-over-irvine

I got home tonight at about 8 pm at the end of what has been a very clear day. The kind of day that just about suggests that winter is over. The skies are still clear now and the stars are looking great as they almost always do up here in the hills. So, lately Ive been experimenting with my camera. Its a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ40. It seems like its quite a good camera. It takes great shots and seems to have loads of gizmos and functions. One of the functions I've been intrigued with lately is the one where it takes a long exposure shot of the night sky. You need to hold it really still or it just produces a mess so I've lately taken to just putting it down on something to take a picture as I dont have a tripod.

I took this picture from my upstairs windowsill looking west over Kilmarnock and Irvine and, if it wasnt so dark youd see Arran out there over the water. The resulting picture looks pretty good.
Continue reading
966 Hits
0 Comments