Inspiration – new software

Impasto filter

Impasto filter

As human beings, I think we all search for things that inspire and delight us. This is definitely true as photographers and artists. When I find a wonderful new flower… or a beautiful butterfly who sits and waits for me or a spectacular sunrise… I feel a contentment and harmony with the world. It is a very satisfying experience and somewhat magical at times. I thank God.

You can encourage those kind of feelings by trying different subjects, lighting, equipment and software among other things. I am continually open to new avenues to inspire me. At lunch with some photographers today we found that most of us take at least one class or workshop to learn something every year. The topics ranged from photography to learning to shoot a gun or bow and arrow, cake decorating and more!

So, when Topaz came out with Impression, I couldn’t wait to give it a try. I love the artsy side of photography and this program is easy to use and I’m just starting to experiment with it.

_MG_4567-org                                   _MG_4567-Edit

I took the shot above in the studio against a white background, intending to apply a texture. But I brought it into Photoshop and opened Topaz Impression.  Using the Charcoal setting I boosted the Saturation which brought in some of the original color.





GIFT Idea with your Photos!

July 4x6 V


Most of us enjoy sharing our many photos with friends and family. I often hear comments about “what can I do with all these images sitting on my hard drive?”  Well, this is a great gift idea using your images.

I always make a calendar, sometimes a wall hanging version, a flip calendar, or a desk frame for calendar and photo. This year I wanted to do something different that I could also sell on my estore and Etsy sites.

The project includes 12 – 4×6 prints with the dates and an image for that month. My gift pak includes a 4×6 clear acrylic frame with magnet for refrigerators or other metal surface. I package it all in a clear box. But you probably just want the blank templates to use your own photos!!

The following instructions include the suppliers contact information and are also included with the templates which cost $10 at  An email with Download link will come within a few minutes of your order being processed. You should be able to use these with any version of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.

Image Size

Image Size

2015 Calendar Templates

You can order acrylic 4×6 frames with a magnet for your refrigerator at this web address:×6-Picture-Frames.  They have many other frames as well.

Steps to complete your calendar:

  1. Choose the image you want to use for each month. It is fun to follow a theme by subject such as flowers, animals, etc. Or you can use photos from a vacation for instance.
  2. The photo opening is 3.5 inches wide by 2.75 inches high. So a landscape oriented image works best. Crop to this size at a resolution of 300dpi.
  3. Open your image and the month’s template for that image. Drag the image onto the template and place approximately over the gray box.
  4. If the image is not at the top of your Layers palette above the gray box, drag the image to the top.
  5. Create a clipping path by holding your cursor on the line between the image and the gray box layers while holding the Atl/Opt key. If your image is not exactly the right size for some reason you can move it around and it will only show through the gray area. In fact you can bring in a much larger image and move it all around and it will only show through the gray box area.
  6. You can leave the file like this and print or you can File > Save As a JPEG and print from that.
Clipping Path

Clipping Path

I sell these calendars in a clear plastic box. You can see these at the following link:  This company has many boxes and bags so if this one isn’t available order something close to the same dimensions.

The acrylic frame with magnet fits in the box too making a nice gift package.


Impressionistic Photography by Charles Needle

Impressionistic Photography
Charles Needle’s new book, Impressionistic Photography, is now available online. I have used many of these ideas and they are outlined well and so much fun!  Charles was the keynote speaker for the Carolinas’ Nature Photographers Assn. in February and he presented many of these ideas to an enthusiastic crowd.

This 157-page book teaches you how to craft impressionistic-looking photographs using nothing more than your digital camera or smartphone.

Learn how to shoot a Multiple-Exposure Monet (a term I’ve coined), Long-Exposure Slap Zoom, Multiple-Exposure Rotate & Zoom, Soft-Glow Montage, Composite Montage and much more…. all in camera.

There are illustrated, step-by-step instructions, as well as more than 100 stunning image examples.

Enter the following link in your browser to see samples from the book and to order your copy.

Magazine Suggestion

My favorite magazine by far for photography is Digital Photo from the UK. You can find it at Barnes & Noble for about $11.50. I know that sounds expensive but it is an incredible collection of photography tips, post processing techniques, equipment reviews and more. PLUS, it has a CD included with video tutorials, the start files for their projects in the magazine so you can follow along… and always a folder full of something fun. It might be textures… or this month are 5 displacement filters (don’t worry about the name, just use them!) to give a nice reflection in your image.

Just tried their reflection technique quickly (see below) I have the Flood filter from Flaming Pear which is also good… but this is worth trying.

Solo Tree Start

Solo Tree

Oil Drop Alternative

_MG_3388-Edit I bought Magic Marbles Gel a year ago at the NC State Fair.  They look like tiny grains and can be purchased in clear or color that expand greatly when hydrated. They become beautiful balls of gel, generally used in vases for flowers.

I have difficulty with the oil droplets in water technique to work well… the oil drops do not behave well when repositioning and then there is the cleanup process… always greasy._MG_3393

So I have started playing with the gel balls. The downside is that they are round, not flat, so they are not as clear as the oil drops. However, I am finding that NIK Color Efex Detail Extractor goes a long way in correcting this.

I have tried them in water and freshly hydrated – still difficult to position… but then let them sit and mostly dry out… that gives you ultimate flexibility in positioning.

I use 12 inch pieces of wood on the four corners to balance glass or a Pyrex dish. The subject goes beneath. Home Depot sells a 4x4x6 (think that’s how you say it!) and will cut into 12″ segments. Keep in mind the 6th piece will be slightly shorter due to the cutting.

I have tried 3D flowers and other things.. but today decided to put one of my images underneath. This helps with the distortion of the image.

Still playing but these are the first results.

You can order from:

Roberta’s Inc., PO Box 630  Shelbyville, IN  46176-0630   800-428-9726

Ask for Magic Floral Gel – the 5 pak comes in colors but the clear is probably what you will use the most. The tubes are $5 each with $7 shipping up to 50 tubes… so order a few while you’re at it!

Vested Interest – Photo Vest

The pockets give my arms a place to rest when walking!

The pockets give my arms a place to rest when walking!

I went to Maine in 2007 with a conventional photo backpack. My shoulders hurt and I could tell it was time to think about taking care of my back.  That was my primary reason for mimicking my travel companion and getting a vest from Vested Interest immediately upon return to North Carolina.

The advantages go way beyond giving your back a rest.  But that is reason enough to get one of these photo vests!   You get to custom design your vest for your equipment.. tailor made to your measurements… and the company is delightful to work with.  The material is what they use for parachutes and keeps fairly cool even on the really hot days. You can carry everything and even have a sheet to pull out to sit on.

The Advantages

1. Gives your back a rest. Easy to balance the weight for more comfort.

2. You never have to set it on the ground, eliminating bugs crawling onto your bag (yes it has happened to me) and never getting it wet (yes that has happened too)

Easy to shoot with the vest on.

Easy to shoot with the vest on.

3. Easily accessible pockets for all your stuff.

4. Great for hiking. Side pockets can be used as armrests!

5. Very durable and although they do not make a waterproof claim… it is quite good at keeping things dry.

6. Totally customizable for you and your equipment or you can order one of their 4 standard models.

7. I know users that have carried their equipment onto airlines with the vest fully loaded with no problem and then put in the overhead. No guarantees with airlines watching baggage so carefully but I’ve heard only good stories.

Call John Storrie at 1 800 928 0157 or email him at

Thanks to my friend Paul Seay for taking these photos.

Thanks to Paul Seay for taking these photos.

Greeting Card Templates!

My newest product at is a collection of 20 templates for greeting cards. They are for many occasions and easy to use. In any version of Photoshop you will drag one of your photos over the design template – click Layer – Create Clipping Mask and your photo will pop into the gray area. There are a variety of shapes the photo will pop into – circle, oval, rectangle, heart, star, etc……… even one designed for putting your dog’s photo with paw prints around the border.

This sells for $10 and you can use each one over and over with the same photo or different photos. The downloadable file comes with complete instructions. More details at with a full listing of the cards.

Here is an example of a template (and with photo) – you can change all the colors.. and the text to anything you want on all the designs!

Colored border             Colored Border for Blog

Challenge Yourself

Our CNPA Triangle photo group had a great speaker last week. She shared that part of her learning has come from entering online challenges. There are many sites that set a theme and usually are judged by fellow photographers, but some may have experienced judges.

Thought I would share 3 of her favorites that might offer inspiration!  part of SmugMug   Challenges tab on far right of toolbar


Check them out and have fun!


Elements 10 Smart Brush

OriginalElements SB 2

Photoshop Elements 10 has a very cool feature for those of you looking for an extra effect on your images.  Under the Brush category is the Smart Brush. (lElements SB 1ocated just under the regular Brush tool with a cog over it).

Open your image and select this brush. Your option bar will have a dropdown menu with many categories starting with All Purpose. It includes color effects, black and white, textures, nature related like blue skies and sunset and many more. Then you just sweep your brush where you want the effect and it will fill the area and create a selection for you.

This feature automatically sets a suggested opacity for the layer and most add a layer mask for further adjustments. You can also use the Blend mode dropdown on the Layers pallette to choose your own blend mode.

Endless fun!!

Blue Skies added