Creating an arty border for your photo

I thought you might like to know how I created this border for my tulip image …



I felt inspired to create this after looking at some fab flower photos on Reyk Schiering’s photostream …

I processed my original tulip photo in Lightroom 5, producing a square image (about 3500px).  I went on to create two reduced-sized images, one 1900px in size and the other 1800px*, in Photoshop Elements (Ctrl + Alt + letter I).  As regards the larger one, I blurred this … Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur (setting radius at abt 50px). I then used the Graphic Art preset in the free basic version of Topaz Studio as regards the smaller image. I brightened up the resulting image using Levels in Photoshop.

Blurred image:

Topaz result …

I then used Photoshop Elements to copy and paste the smaller image on top of the larger one …
Select image: Ctrl + letter A.
Copy selection: Ctrl + letter C.
Paste selection: Ctrl + letter V

To add some drop-down shadow in Photoshop Elements, click on the Fx icon at the bottom right of the interface, double click on the last icon (drop shadow with a soft edge),
then click on the small blue cogwheel (top right) and reduce the opacity to your liking – I chose 25%.  Finally, flatten the layers in the image … Layer > Flatten Image.
Add your logo if you so wish.


Now SAVE your work … Shift + Ctrl + letter S.  Rename it, and save it at maximum quality.

That’s all, folks!

* P.S. I think the size I used was 1830px.


Windows 10 freezing randomly

I borrowed this title from Sophie Luo’s brilliant article (on the Driver Easy website) on how to fix this problem.

This had been happening to my PC with increasing frequency in the past few weeks, so after running full scans with both Kaspersky and Malwarebytes (which were both negative), I went online to find out how to fix this problem. Sophie is of the opinion that this all started after the Windows 10 update last October, and the timing was the same for me.

I’m very pleased to say that after working through 5 of the 6 methods of tackling this problem that the freezing has stopped – I’m feeling greatly relieved, so many thanks, Sophie, if you happen to read this. 

Sophie’s first recommendation is to check if any of your computer’s drivers are out of date. I downloaded the free version of Driver Easy, which pinpointed 11 drivers that were deemed to be out of date. However, when I went through the list of all my drivers, only 2 of them required updating (according to Windows 10). To do this yourself, find the Device Manager on your computer, and its list of drivers. A right mouse-click on each one, will bring up a menu, whereby you can ask Windows 10 to search for driver updates and to update any that are out of date. 

Black cardboard thingy

Recently I watched a video presentation by Neil van Niekerk entitled: “Direction of Light – Your Key to Better Portrait Photography”, which is all about the importance of the direction & quality of light, especially when doing flash photography …

I’ve also seen his video all about his “black foamie thing”, which is his home-made on-camera flash modifier …

So I had a go at producing my own version of this, using a 16 cm square of black cardboard (cut out of an A4 document folder) and 2 black hairbands, which I used to attach it to my flash unit. I also used my Omni-Bounce diffuser, which fits on top of the flash unit. I bought the folder and hairbands at Wilkos, by the way.

Here is a photo of my camera flash set-up, which I used to take a photo of my teddy bear (which is now 65 years of age). I took this photo using a pop-up flash that’s on my Canon G15 camera – you will see that the flash lighting is too harsh, and that there’s a bad shadow of the bear on the wall behind it …


Compare this with my next photo, which I took with my Canon 5D Mk 2 camera with the flash modifier (and the flash unit pointing diagonally upwards & behind me). A much softer light, with more light falling on the right side of the bear’s head, and no ugly shadow on the wall behind it. This image isn’t as sharp as I hoped it would be, but it was just a test shot to try out my modified flash unit …


I used my camera flash last weekend when we had a family get-together – I was very pleased with the results. Many thanks, Neil, for your brilliant ideas and presentations.


What I will be doing this coming year in photography

Well, I’ll be doing more of the same, to put it in a nutshell. So, taking more landscape shots and portraits (or a combination of the two), street photos, flower photos, and playing around with digital art also. I’d like to create more collages, and produce more black & white pics also.

As you will know, there’s a massive amount of YouTube videos on all aspects of photography and photo-editing – my favourite tutors include Mike Browne and Serge Ramelli – I subscribe to their YouTube channels and to lots of other brilliant people also.

In the past week or so, I’ve started to use back-button focussing on my Canon 5D Mk2 – it’s taking a bit of getting used to, having permanently switched away from the usual method of auto-focussing, but I find it more practical to use. Hitherto, my camera’s auto-focussing kept jumping to focus onto nearby things when I slightly moved my camera. You can avoid all this by using BBF – it’s like switching to manual focus after using auto-focus on your camera. I will find it very useful when using my Canon 70-200mm lens, as the manual/auto focus switch on the side of the lens has become very stiff to use.

There are helpful YouTube videos on this subject – here’s one from Bernie Raffe talking about the subject in general …

About the Topaz software I use

I use Lightroom 5 and Photoshop Elements to edit my photos, and recently I’ve bought Topaz Impressions 2, to give some of my photos an arty look – I invite you to have a look at my Digital Art album, to see my latest efforts …

I’ve also been using the basic version of Topaz Studio, which is free to download from the Topaz website, and which I like for its graphic art-like effects.

It’s a good idea to register with Topaz, which is simple to do, and which enables you to receive periodic updates for its software, plus generous discounts on the paid-for software. I’m amazed how quickly my Topaz software generates its effects – it outperforms other software I’ve used.

Two great features of Topaz software … you can lower the opacity of the artwork you’ve just produced revealing more and more of your original image (which is on a layer below it) … the opacity slider is at the bottom right of the interface. Secondly, in the right hand panel are the Layer blending modes that you see in Photoshop, just click on the “Normal” icon to see the usual drop-down menu.

Here is the link to the Topaz website …

After you have registered with Topaz, they will send you links to tutorials on how to use the software from time to time also. Their website has a few tutorials on it as well …
If you wish to go to my Flickr site, click here.

I’m ba-a-ack!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Yes, I’m back – I’ve decided to carry on with my blog, making it more about what I’m up to photographically, and what I’d like to do in the coming months, and less about the technical / computer-side of the subject.

At the moment, I’m editing a batch of photos I took on a wonderful bried holiday we had over Xmas in Crosby (near Liverpool), and I’m also making a start on our annual tax returns – what a pain in the arse these are!  I could go on at length about the latter – the extra work involved in completing my tax return if I were to sell any of my photos, puts me off doing so. Enough said.

I’ll write a bit more about what I’d like to do photographically, in the next few weeks.

Flickr login problem

In the past few days, I’ve been having problems logging into Flickr using Google Chrome. To cut a long story short, I have been able to do so using a different browser: Microsoft Edge – a tip I obtained by reading through the Flickr forum on this topic …

You can imagine my initial horror and feeling panicky, being locked out of my Flickr account with nearly 16,000 photos on it!

My first attempt when logging on using Google Chrome, produced this warning from my AdBlocker, Bad Ass Johnny …


I’ve put a larger version of this image onto my Flickr site, together with a recurring apology from Yahoo, whenever I’ve attempted to log on with Google Chrome since then.

Here is the link to the larger image on my Flickr site   …

It looked as though there was some malware on the Flickr site, or possibly on mine, so I did a full scan with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and found 3 bits of malware which I quarantined, followed up by a full scan with Kaspersky, which showed no problems at all on my computer. I also uninstalled Google Chrome and then re-installed it. However, Google Chrome is still not working, though Microsoft Edge is. Perhaps by coincidence, I had a major update from Microsoft Windows (Win 10) shortly before the Flickr problem arose – I don’t know if this is relevant or not.

So what’s going on?  Several other people have reported problems logging onto Flickr in the past week, so it’s not just me.

A lot of people have had problems logging into Flickr, as they have not kept their account details up to date. You should have a current mobile phone number and an alternative email address to use as part of your login process, so if you were to lose your phone, you would still be able to access your account using your email address, and then be able to add in your new mobile phone number. All this is just common sense.