thomas w. writes:
> For example, I want to merge two pictures, by taking some regions from one
> picture and some from another. I though I could do this by making unwanted
> regions transparent - this seems obvious.

Yes, that's exactly the way to do it. And the best way to do that
is to make a layer mask on the upper layer, then paint black, white
or grey on the layer mask according to how transparent you want to
make it (black for transparent, white for opaque).

> Is this a case where GIMP simply makes it so difficult compared to Photoshop
> that I'd be better off buying a Windows machine and using Photoshop?

Not at all!  Layer masks make this very straightforward in GIMP.

For instance, start with step 4 of the selective colorization
Or try a short video tutorial I made demonstrating layer masks:

    "Beginning GIMP: From Novice to Professional":
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