Hey, that's pretty cool!!  Thanks for sharing!  Now, I understand it better.  
One last little thing before I step away for the day.  Sorry to keep bugging 
y'all.  I spent a pretty frustrating hour not really able to make anything work 
at all.  When one wishes to use tools to change something about an image, I'd 
think that if they select the desired layer in the layer box to the right 
(turning it dark blue over there), I'd think one is good to go as far as 
modifying it.  Is there some special secret handshake to tell the program that 
the particular image is what you want to work on, thus, allowing all of the 
interesting tools to work on it.  I've been able to add an alpha channel to 
make it transparent, but want to go through and clean it up a bit.  Thanks 

From: Alexandre Prokoudine <alexandre.prokoud...@gmail.com>
To: "gimp-user-list@gnome.org" <gimp-user-list@gnome.org> 
Sent: Monday, August 13, 2012 9:03 AM
Subject: Re: [Gimp-user] Extreme newby needs some help please!

On Mon, Aug 13, 2012 at 5:50 PM, Jessica Tomlinson wrote:

> am still quite foggy on this whole selecting with a layer mask thing.  Why
> would one want some pixels to be partially selected, or partially
> transparent?


There are many uses for that. In general, this way you can make
gradual transitions between two layers.

For example, a typical sunset photo has a sky that looks OK, but the
ground/water is a bit too dark.

You can duplicate the original layer, then raise brightness of one of
the layers, then combine them via a layer mask, where selection
gradually changes. As the result, both sky and ground/water will look
just like when you were taking the picture.

Here is another example of, ahem, artistic use of this feature:

Alexandre Prokoudine
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