1000 Photos - Jun 27, 2011
Photo: Negative Experience with Nikon Professional Services

A few of you saw the sneak preview - the story is now up at http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2012/10/31/bad-experience-with-nikon-professional-services/ 

A Bad Story

So, I’ll start this out by saying that everything may very well be my fault. I’m not one of these angry-customer-types that rants and raves and demands he is right. But I think you’ll also find this story to be a little confusing or upsetting.
I joined NPS (Nikon Professional Services) a few years ago. It’s easy to join — you just have to be signed up by an existing member. I didn’t really know what NPS did, but I figured it would be handy in case anything ever went wrong with my equipment. Over the years, I’ve bought a lot of stuff and Nikon has never given me anything; I’ve bought a D90, D2X, D3X, D3S, D800, and countless lenses. They sent me a little black NPS card and said I should always carry it around with me, which was kind of a strange request. Anyway, this isn’t really about the silly little card or their draconian-card-carrying-policies, just setting the stage that I’m a member and everything.

I’ve had three negative experiences and zero positive experiences with NPS. I’ll go through them here.

1) Refusal to repair my Nikon 28-300mm lens – The lens fell with the camera recently and is a little bit messed up. I think it’s a minor repair. As far as I can tell, it’s just a little sticky when I zoom in and out. So, not a big deal. We sent this to be repaired by Nikon in the USA. However, they refused to repair it because they say it is “grey market”. I bought it from a retail outlet here in New Zealand in Christchurch (Photo Warehouse – the main pro photographer supply chain in the country). It cost about $1,600 instead of the $1,000 off Adorama. I’m so confused by this policy!

I went to the Grey Market page at Nikon and they say that it’s probably grey market because it went through an importer and is sold at a local store. Well, yes! I mean, isn’t this how millions of people buy camera gear around the world? I assume the lens is made in the same place as all the other Nikon lenses. And why do they call it a “Grey Market”? That kind of has the indication that something nefarious or underhanded is going on. It’s not. I just drove to a local legitimate camera store, and bought a lens!

The Nikon website also ridiculously says, “If the deal was just too good to be true, it probably was. One of the first indicators that a piece of Nikon merchandise might be Gray Market is if the price is considerably less than most other resellers.” Well, no! Pretty much everything in New Zealand costs a lot more, so it was hardly “too good to be true”… goodness gracious….

Even the return process has been a cluster. Now, I’m grateful to the team here at Stuck in Customs – we have about a dozen people who do various important things in different capacities. My COO, Curtis Simmons, has been having to deal a lot with NPS since I hoisted this upon his lap. I got an email from Nikon about returning the lens, which I forwarded to Curtis. He replied to me with this: “So in order to get the lens back NPS said that I have to refuse the repair estimate for a repair they refuse to do!”

We’ll just call this a clusterwtf.

2) Refusal to fix my D800 – When I was in Australia, the winds of Sydney harbor blew over my tripod and camera. It hit the ground, but didn’t seem too bad. I kept using it for another few weeks, and even took that photo [on the blog article] of the floating bed in downtown Dallas with it I noticed the focus was a little bit off. Not much… just a little bit. So I sent that in too so they could have a look. Apparently, they saw the outside of the body was damaged, which is no big surprise. The refusal letter we got said, “We found evidence of damage to the main casing.” They said it cannot be repaired! I find this hard to believe, since the camera is like 98% working well! I don’t get it… Naturally, I was more than willing and happy to pay for the actual repair.

Again, maybe I am wrong (tell me if I am…feel free to give me a gut check), but I really feel like they’re not even trying. And can’t NPS do something like get me another camera or something? I mean, after all, what good is Nikon Professional Services… can’t they help a brotha out? Jeez… this has all just been a tremendous waste of time.

3) Early ordering for the D800 – This happened many months ago, but I’m adding it here as item #3 of General Dissatisfaction. I was quite excited to get a letter from NPS that I could early-order a new D800. I thought, oh wow, finally some sort of clear “bonus” for being a member of this secret group. I guess maybe they know that I’ve been carrying around this black card all these years. Anyway, I went ahead and went through the process to get an “early order”.

The process was ridiculous. It required me finding a local retailer and making the purchase. There was a lot of faxing (remember faxing from the early 90′s, dad?) that went back and forth to ensure there was an order placed. Everything went according to plan, but I didn’t end up getting the D800 until many other people were buying them in regular stores! For example, my friend Lester Lefton just waltzed into a store to buy his a week before I even got mine! Hey, that’s a great program there NPS… not only did it take up hours of my time, but it was slower than just walking into a Best Buy!

(below is a shot from when I still had the Sweet Lady D800)Photo: The Gentle Path to the Beyond - Hakone, Japan

The little train that carried me into Hakone started winding through misty mountains.  The trees were thick and a fog was rolling in.  I had a feeling that it would stay wet, moody, and fairly perfect.  It had that heaviness that made you feel like it would remain like that for a few days, and it did.  

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Entering the Little Streets of Li Jiang (shared first to Google+ !)


I'm just now getting into Li Jiang and I'm having a great time exploring this place with +Tom Anderson. We've been taking our cameras all over creation, day and night. It's been very busy, but we're finally getting some downtime to process photos. I picked this one I just took a few hours ago and showed him how I did it (kind of my like an in-person version of my HDR Tutorial... it is free and fun... see it at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com/hdr-tutorial/ ).


We've got a couple rooms at a beautiful place here called Banyan Tree. They have a few different resorts all over the world...very nice... (no they didn't pay me or give me free rooms.... I feel kinda like I always have to say this) Anyway, I recommend them because there are tons of good photo ops just around the resort itself.


We're currently sitting here in the little library... he's just installed Lightroom and we're going through a few workflow things while we both edit photos... getting ready for another outing... having a good time.

#SICInDatabasePhoto: The Bamboo Forest


While exploring Kyoto, I eventually found my way to this fanciful bamboo forest.  There had been a light rain most of the morning and everything was quite lovely.  The rain does strange things as it moves its way through these sorts of trees.  I waited and waited, and that was nice too.  In the early afternoon, the rain stopped while the sun peeked through the top.  It shone down while the earlier rain misted down from the tops of the trees. 


- From Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: A Lonely Boat Floats Across the Pastels... (The Bay at Portofino)

This isn’t really Portofino, but it sure does look like it, eh? We might even make the case that it is more pretty than the real Portofino! This is a beautiful resort in Orlando, over at Universal Studios.

From the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Treetop Temple Protects Kyoto

Photographed here is the Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto. The city is known for its traditional Japanese architecture, slower-paced life, natural beauty, graceful geishas, and zen peacefulness. I probably could have stayed in Kyoto capturing scenes the entire trip. I remained here until the sky turned black, and then I headed back down some winding streets to find an old small restaurant where the food was mysterious and every course was served with a gentle bow.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Great Wall of China

I used the wrong photo in my talk at Zeitgeist... this is Great Wall photo I meant to use!  I spent so long piecing together a presentation that would span across 14 projectors on that specialized 180-degree screen -- I didn't even stop to make sure that I had the right photos in there.... anyway, below is the photo I meant to use along with a description of when I took it about a year ago:

I finally found an extremely remote part that is far enough away from civilization to stay pure. The ruins of the wall in this area has been overgrown with vegetation. When you walk along the top, you have to snake your way between huge bushes and all sorts of trees. Stairs and parts of the walkways have crumbled away in the past thousand years. The old towers are slopingly fragmenting as lichens and moss cover parts of the stone that are decaying away.

This has only reminded me that the main tourist part of the Great Wall is a very tiny stretch that has been re-built in recent years… so it is all fake and kind of Disney-wall. I don't think I like that...

I've walked from tower to tower throughout the day, looking at the sinuous wall as it snakes over the mountains. It's so huge that I won't even begin to come up with analogies… but, speaking of snakes, a family here told me to watch out for them. I kept that in mind as I hiked back in the pure black of night. I had a little flashlight to keep me company, along with my music. I didn't see any snakes, and I didn't fall down, so all together it was a great day and night.Photo: Tableau Vivant of Wild Horses

It was about 2 A.M. and the sun was just dipping into the horizon for a short stint. These horses were frolicking about in a huge flat field a bit inland from the end of the fjord. They were all so lively and alert, jumping and posing here and there. And then they set up in a very interesting configuration, and I barely had time to put on the right lens before it all drifted apart.

from http://www.StuckInCustoms.com  Photo: Driving Along the Lakes of New Zealand

When I drive along the countless electric-blue lakes of New Zealand, I keep thinking, “This reminds me of Switzerland!” But this is actually a strange thing to think, because I’ve only spent a short amount of time in Switzerland. Really, you can make the case that New Zealand is more like Switzerland than Switzerland. This is a very confusing thing to say, but maybe you know what I mean.

For this one, I’m afraid I did have to jump a fence. But this lake near Wanaka (Lake Hawea) is pretty much completely devoid of houses or any lake-side habitation. You can drive for hours and never see anybody or anything. I’m not big on jumping fences, but it seemed pretty harmless here… and, besides, I just HAD to take a photo of this tree! You know how it is…Photo: Sleeping in the Sky Monastery

I'm going to go back to this remote part of south China in a few months, but this time I have a new plan...  It's so incredibly hard to get to this place; I'm gonna take +Tom Anderson with me and we'll be on a mission...

This time, I want to stay for several days and perhaps lodge in a monastery or with a family who has a home nestled somewhere among the thousands of nooks and crannies throughout this fantasy forest.  Last time, I was alone.  While hiking, I passed by several little homes that were tucked in here and there.  But I really want to sleep and wake here so that I can get more photos...  this place is certainly full of deadly snakes, creepy insects, and cliffside death at every turn, but I gotta get back here!  If you have any contacts, I'm all ears! :)Photo: Yellowstone on Fire - a painting...a study

Here's another idea I worked on... I'm still just experimenting. Regulars may know that I really love looking at paintings; it is one of my biggest influences. I do not, however, consider myself a painter... I just experiment and try things with light and the shape of light. Anyway, if you want to know more about this or see detail, I wrote a bit about it when it was created, along with some detail shots: http://goo.gl/HNC6ePhoto: The Sky Over Yosemite Valley

We had a great Google+ PhotoWalk here...  it was so cool how we all stayed in the lodge together.  We will have to do this again some time... we talked about maybe New Zealand, but I've been lazy in planning it! :( Photo: Mysterious Moving Rocks - Your Theory?

Why do you think these rocks-full-of-wonder move across the desert on their own?

I took this photo last night in a remote part of Death Valley.  I'd love to read your thoughts and theories as to why and how these rocks move across the playa!  Now, let's all be sporting about this and NOT use the Google to figure it out… use your mind.

The day in Death Valley was about 115 F (46 C).  It wasn't a dry heat either… there has been a lot of humidity here and there is flash lightning in the day and night.  This location here took a lot of time, effort, and 4x4 to find.  I took five gallons of water, a map, and some warnings from the place that rented the jeep that this area was inaccessible because of recent road wash-outs from rivers.  Well, they were right!  So getting the 4x4 over and through the washed out rivers took many more hours than expected.  I only suffered one minor injury when my head slammed into the rollbar during a clumsy maneuver.   But finally, after I finally found this place I've always wanted to visit, it was late afternoon with plenty of time to hike around before night fell.

Here are a few things I noticed which will either be a help or a hindrance in your quest to figure it out:

- When I rapped upon the rock with my knuckle, I felt a faint metallic ting.
- Many rocks were jet-black and heavy with time.
- The mud was dry as an old bone, and as I walked across it, I left no footprints behind.
- I walked around without my shoes for a bit, and my feet barely picked up any sand or dirt.  There was a fine white-alkaline powder on my soles, however.
- I never saw the rock move, but I did try something.  In the still of the night, if you put your ear to the ground near the rock, you can hear a distant echo - a trembling sound from deep underground, like heavy chains dragged through the maw of hell.

So what do YOU think causes the rocks to move?  Give me your best AND most ludicrous theories!

In the meantime, I'm leaving Death Valley to go to Burning Man, so my internet will be quite limited.  The team at StuckInCustoms.com will still be around if you need anything, however.  Thanks!

(if comments fill up, the Discussion Continues at http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2012/08/27/the-racetrack-in-death-valley-mysterious-moving-rocks/ )Photo: Secret Pond in New Zealand

Here's the spot I just showed in the live hangout...  If you want to see where it is, you can pop over to http://www.hdrspotting.com/photo/view/image/110489 and see the map information there.  Photo: The Mysterious Egg Boulders

In a few days, I'm driving back to this location to get more photos at sunset and sunrise...  This is a few hours from my home, over on the east coast of the south island in NZ.  I was so mystified by them the first time I saw them!Photo: Aurora Australis in New Zealand  (The Southern Lights)

BTW, if you want to see BIG versions of all these NZ shots, come to http://www.stuckincustoms.com/category/travel/new-zealand/ -- I upload the full-on 7000+ pixel versions every day...  Photo: New Zealand Photo Adventure - 5 Days with me in Middle Earth :)

Cost $7,900 - Sign up now (limited to 20) - update: SOLD OUT! 

Video of the NZ Event:  To sign up to get a video of the event, go here:  http://www.StuckInCustoms.com/news 

Ever since I moved to New Zealand, I've been getting many requests to do something like this.  I only spend about 10% of the year teaching, but I do very much enjoy it (those that have been with me on the other limited engagements know this to be the case!).  Anyway, I've worked with the team here at StuckInCustoms.com to put together a customized event that, like Pedro said from Napoleon Dynamite: "Will make all your dreams come true."  More info at http://www.stuckincustoms.com/new-zealand-photo-adventure/ 

Photo Below:  I took this photo below a few days ago here on the South Island.  The lupins are blooming and you can hear the songs of elves echoing through the hills...Photo: Deep Inside the Caves

This is sort of one of those rare situations with extreme light conditions.  I normally don't take as many exposures, but this one was 9 exposures, from -4 to +4.

Here's the other settings: D800, 14-24mm,  ISO 100, 21mm, f/8, shutter 1/30th second...  7361x4912  (you can see the full size at http://goo.gl/nWXjq )Photo: from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: The Long Road to New Zealand

This is one of countless beautiful roads that crisscross New Zealand. I'm afraid I've forgotten exactly where I was when I took this photo! I know that is very lame, but I bet people around here can help me pinpoint the area. As far as the camera settings, this is the kind of shot you can get with something called "compression," a method where you use a zoom lens and zoom in quite far. It takes images in the distance and makes them larger than life.Photo: The Importance of Google Acquiring Nik Software  (Cloud-rendering, workflow-efficiency, more)

Full article at http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2012/09/17/the-importance-of-google-acquiring-nik-software/ 

Note: LIVE show at 7 PM PT to talk about all this with +Thomas Hawk +Vincent Mo +Dave Cohen +AJ Asver and more from the Google Photos Team!

This is an exciting move from Google, and another indication that Google takes photography very seriously. Most of the silicon-valley-bubble-press probably does not know much about Nik Software, and doesn’t realize that this is a company built by and for professional photographers. Even though their software is designed for “pros”, I’m confident in saying that 90% of their customers are amateurs who are using these same tools to make them look like pros! Nik makes amazing tools, and I am really looking forward to seeing them bleed into my daily life of using Google+.

Now, the significance of this acquisition should not be overlooked. This is not like, say, the United States acquiring Puerto Rico (think FB and Instagram - where Facebook is a social-network of people acquiring a smaller social-network of people) but instead, this is like the United States buying Lockheed Martin.

It is interesting from a “Google Engine” standpoint, in that it is clear that a future direction will be server-side image manipulation.

I know some people say that “Moore’s Law is dead” – but I don’t think so if you look at it in a different way. Maybe I’ll make a Trey’s Corollary to Moore’s Law in that the effective computing power for any human will continue to double every two years. That is, your computer itself does not have to keep getting faster if you are actually using hundreds of computers around the web to do your computation instead. For example, when we record our weekly show, Trey’s Variety Hour, on YouTube Live and Google+, we are no doubt using dozens of other CPUs located around the world.

And this trend will continue with photo editing. Many rigorous tasks can be completed on the server side, and this will become even more common as we use more and more mobile devices. I already have many photos that are automatically uploaded to the Google cloud, and there are countless tasks that the servers can do on my behalf such as sharpening, noise reduction, fixing blown-out skies, enhancing shadows, and all the other little algorithms that can be used to make photos look “better.”

Obviously, I’m a big fan of post-processing. I think that the way you process an image allows you to put your personality on top of the image itself. Besides just being “fun”, it is a wonderful way for people to explore their own sense of self-expression online.

Pretty much all serious photographers know about Nik Software. They make many many different products! For example, there is a very fun “Color Efex Pro” that is like Instagram on designer-steroids. They also make “Silver Efex Pro” where they analyzed the Black & White processing techniques of the Old Masters and put them all into this easy-to-use product. And one of their recent releases is a very competent HDR processing package called “HDR Efex Pro.” How each of these products will show up within the Google infrastructure is a mystery, but I bet those guys will figure out something cool.

I think I will insert a “feature request” into the middle of this little analysis, if I can be so bold. After all, I’m not a journalist or anything… I’m just an artist that likes to use technology to make beautiful things. Anyway, since the velocity of images is going in one direction (more images every year), it is clear that soon I’ll be auto-uploading hundreds or thousands of images per day. I’m already snapping a ton with my Android phone, and Google Glass is going to take that to a whole new level. When I’m with my kids, I’ll have my Glass auto-shooting every 5 seconds! So, then the problem becomes curation and post-processing. I’d love it if this mass of images was auto-selected to go to a “Daily Highlights” folder based on composition, lighting, smiles, and this sort of thing. And perhaps a random set of filters can be used to post-process them in addition to keeping the original version. Over time, the Google Cloud would get to know which filters I like in different stations, and it will get smarter and smarter the more I use it.

The Google+ platform is already a great haven for photographers of all skill levels. To me, this adds to their tradition of creating a beautiful fusion of technology and people. The technology is fun, efficient, and powerful, and the social side allows artistic humans to create the social and cultural “glue” of the internet itself.

(Below is one of my many photos that has seen the touch of Nik Software.)Photo: The Secret Workshop of Jules Verne

This is the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle and is one of the least-known places in Paris.  Everyone goes for the hot tourist spots, and this museum sounds rather boring, yes?  But as you can see... au contraire!

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: Hong Kong from the peak on a summer's night

After I got back to Hong Kong after a day in Shenzen, I was hot and sweaty and in the sort of meeting clothes that aren't great for being hot and sweaty in. But, everything about Hong Kong was still awesome and I had too look hard for things to complain about. The sun was setting, and I made it up to The Peak just in time for a shot.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The River Runs Through the Andes

Getting to this position was not as long a hike as the others around Patagonia, but it was no cakewalk! It was one of those strange river-rock strewn areas where the rocks seemed to be the perfect size for spraining your ankles. I had the tripod extended to act like a walking stick, although it's not the most handy walking stick with a giant Nikon on one end of it!

From the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Mirror-less cameras, and a no BS discussion about choice, sensors, and the future.  This Week in Photo Going Live very soon at 6PM PT!  Watch my stream to see it… should be very soon!!

Featuring:

+Frederick Van Johnson 
+Gordon Laing 
+Doug Kaye  -- accidentally first auto-filled +Snoop Dogg  for him!
+Giulio Sciorio 
(and me)

And yes, I took the photo below with a camera without a mirror! :)  hehePhoto: The Prison of Marie Antoinette

What an amazing (and somewhat eerie) place this is! You all have heard of the famous Marie Antoinette and know of her fate... but maybe you've never seen her lavish French prison? It's called the Conciergerie, and now it's on my must-visit list! I got the hot tip from one of my workshop students in London... an unexpected find. Okay... I'll be quiet and just let you enjoy this photo.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Dragon Boats of Commoners on a Lonely Stream near Hangzhou - 

On the weekend while in Shanghai, I was in the mood for an adventure, so I went down to the train station to buy a ticket to Hangzhou. This was the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty in the 12th century and it was in the middle of the Yangtze river delta. The royalty established a number of temples around West Lake, the dozens of tiny freshwater lakes that were created for the emperor. - from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: Lines of Tokyo at Night

Ahhh.... my time here in Japantown is reminding me of the streets of Tokyo... the lines and the blues and the movement to and fro... I wanted to share this.

BTW, do you work at Facebook? I know there are many on here... anyway, today I am speaking at the FB HQ on photography at 11. Come stop by and say hello :)

#SICInDatabasePhoto: The Private Pool at Hearst Castle - Pool party anyone?

This place is unbelievably awesome! I was lucky enough to get a private tour of the castle, so I could use my tripod with reckless abandon. I have published one other photo of this pool, but never one from this side.

So, let's have a pool party here! I'll bring some bacon-wrapped dates. What are you gonna bring?Photo: The Beginning of Time

Reminder: Live hangout tonight at 7 PM PT with +Patrick Rothfuss. Your World Time: http://goo.gl/ZupIm

As for this waterfall photo... I spent most of the weekend working on it. One common question is, “How long do these photos take?” They take me anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. It’s not contiguous work, of course, but some are so challenging that I have to keep returning to them time and time again. This spot in northern central Iceland is a bit perilous to reach. It’s so perilous here, in fact, that I am glad my mom didn’t see me getting into position. Is the water cold? Yes, yes it is.Photo: How-to -- Midnight Adventure in the Japanese Cemetery

Reminder: speech today at Kent State - more info: http://goo.gl/gZ1xP 


The night had been dark for many hours by the time I hiked to this point. It was raining and somehow the wetness seemed to make everything even more black. There were old and new crypts, spider webs, lonely rotting wood, creaking trees in the heavy rain, and more strange sounds from the woods. Talk about eerie! Japanese cemeteries are not places that people visit very often. It’s bad luck. Naturally, I don’t believe in any of that, so it was my good luck it was empty for photography!

Of all the spots around Kyoto, this is probably my favorite. There is an area of 1,000 Red Gates that flow up and around a picturesque little mountain. This cemetery is about halfway up the trek and it shoots off to the right. It is both great and annoying to shoot in the rain. I had to carry an umbrella, tripod, bag of camera goodies, and the like, and everything gets all jumbled up when it comes time to set up for a shot. I need an assistant!

How did I do this one? There were three exposures +1, 0, -1. Normally I do 5 from +2 to -2, but in this case, it was so dark that the shutter speeds were outrageous enough. I kept the ISO at 200. The 14-24 lens was at 15mm (on a D3X). It was aperture priority at f/5.6. The three shutter speeds were 2/4/8 seconds.

Here is one special thing I did on the last exposure. It was DARK out there. And I mean DARK. I had my SB-800 in my bag. On the last exposure, I ran over behind the gate to the right like Carl Lewis, and jammed the “Test” button about 5 times in every direction to light up that area. I almost slipped and died… I have no idea what a police investigator might assume if they found me in the morning.Photo: When the Songs Were Forlorn

If you listen to music while you are taking photos, it can really separate you from the scene in time and make everything quite cinematic. In fact, if I am needing inspiration, I usually just put on my earphones and just go out to drive... see what I can see... walk through crowds... find new places... and the music can make you feel like you're in the middle of a movie... and you can start to find little scenes hare and there.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: Here's a photo I took while exploring the (somewhat dangerous) harbor of Buenos Aires...  Photo: A Misty Morning in the Lost World

Here's one of my favorite photos from the weekend...  I went out exploring the morning mists while everyone else was asleep...Photo: The Moeraki Boulders

This unique location is only a few hours away from my home.  The entire south island of New Zealand seems to have about one million photo locations all within a drive of just a few hours.  It's completely insane and I don't think I'll ever get used to it!

I also wonder what it was like when humans first walked onto this beach and saw these strange giant eggs.  There was a lot more wondering in the days before door-to-door encyclopedias and wikipedia...  maybe it is more fun to wonder about some things!  Photo: A Romantic Dinner on a Rainy Night

It's always a nice feeling... this idea of going out to dinner when it is raining... and then dunking into a little, warm, romantic restaurant for a meal...Photo: The Pond and the Sunset Stormclouds - Storm Clouds Over Gibbston, New Zealand Farm

We were in Gibbston, New Zealand, about 20 minutes from Queenstown. After a wonderful dinner with Eden's delightful family, I popped out onto his farm to shoot some HDR. 

from Trey Ratcliff's Travel Photography blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Autumn in New York at Sunset

Despite my kind Tweet to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, they would not let me take a tripod on the day I arrived. So, I was forced to do a hand-held HDR shot from the roof at sunset. It was a beautiful night across central park, and I did my best to hold it steady.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Student Scholarship in Paris - Two days in a Chateau with me and +Miss Aniela !

In case you missed the announcement, this is your chance to come for free (it's sold out otherwise, so this is the only way)... to see more about the student scholarship and how to nominate a friend (or yourself!) - see here:   https://plus.google.com/+TreyRatcliff/posts/c39zmJxfEwr 

And don't forget about the PhotoWalk in Paris soon - event info at https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/cj7lack90dtidkdgdkgmj76rqug Photo: Photo #1000 Uploaded to Google+!  Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

This is the one-thousandth photo I've uploaded to "Portfolio: The Counter-Earth" at http://goo.gl/BD1ZJ and YES, the electric blue of the lake is real! :)  I took this one a few days ago...

I’ve gotten tens of thousands of messages from people that say that New Zealand is in their plans to visit in the near future, and when you visit this area, you’ll see how crazy the colors really are. It’s like The Sound of Music To The Next Order of Magnitude… everywhere!  I’ve been adding this location and hundreds more to the free +Stuck On Earth  app — it should help you easily find these spots when you eventually make it here! Photo: The Morning Fisherman (The Li River)  Now, getting to this place was not easy!  I arrived about 1 AM at a tiny family-run inn by the river. I was meeting a local guide at 5 AM, so I didn't get a lot of what I would call "quality sleep". Anyway, I got up very early and went downstairs in pitch black. There seemed to be a big white cloth box I had to go around to find the front door. My guide was outside. The door was locked and we could not figure out how to get it open. Everyone at the little inn was sound asleep and I was totally confused. Then, from inside the big white box, a body flew out of it! There was a 60-year-old Chinese guy inside that was sleeping until I woke him up with all my lock-manipulations. His naked limbs in the white sheets scared the bejeezus out of me and woke me right up!  And then we were on the river about 5:15. It was still completely dark outside. And I mean COMPLETELY DARK. It was a thin bamboo raft with an outboard motor.    from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: An Evening Stroll Around the Cabin - Montana

I took a dusk walk around the main cabin. The horses come graze all around the meadow in the evening... I finally convinced one of them to stand still for a bit.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Swallowing the Ruins In Angkor Wat

As soon as I walked into Ta Prohm, the thunder started rumbling around and dappled clouds rolled in. The thunder was extra eerie and chest-thumping inside all the mossy and vegetated old tombs. The rain started and stopped several times, so I would take refuge in crumbling crypts and hallways until the rain let up. I took some wrong turns, but I eventually ended up here with a break in the storm. I popped out with the 10 mm get this shot. The temple was built in 1181 AD and was the home to 18 high priests, 615 dancers, and 12,500 people. I don't know why the dancer stats are so important, but there you go.

 from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: Paris from the Arc de Triomphe Photo: The Secret Passageway to the Treasure

After the crowds of Angkor Wat, it was nice to go find a remote temple in the jungle and be alone. This temple laid under the jungle, completely undiscovered for centuries.  The hallway and mysterious chambers seemed to go on forever.

from Trey Ratcliff at stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Most Beautiful Road in the World

I've looked at travel guides and driven on a ton of beautiful, scenic roads all over the world, but I think this road to Queenstown (on the way to/from Glenorchy) is the most beautiful in the world. The road winds down one side of a perfect, fjord-like lake, and every few kilometers, the mountain views change dramatically. Depending upon the time of day you travel it, the entire landscape transforms before your eyes.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: The Open Road in Iceland


I had a long lonely weekend in Iceland, so I took my rental Jeep out into the wild. I drove all over the country from dawn till dusk seeing what I could find. The sky and landscape was an ever changing palette of colors and clouds.  The sun is so low on the horizon during the winter that it is almost like a 5-hour sunrise followed by a 5-hour sunset. I drove up and down one of these highways to the next, listening to all kinds of strange and eclectic music on my iPod, occasionally jumping out to take a shot of something like this... it was a perfect weekend.

From Trey Ratcliff at stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Icy Pit to Hell - Gulfoss, Iceland

This is Gulfoss, the frozen waterfall in Iceland. Dark age theologians used to believe this was the entrance to hell, which was originally a cold place; the innermost circle of Dante's version was frozen. True believers would come here and cast themselves down into the chasm to try to rescue souls they were told had gone to hell.

From Trey Ratcliff at stuckincustoms.comPhoto: This is Nathaniel

Nathaniel is currently four years old and carrying wood with his two sisters down a dusty cart-road in an unmarked Amish village somewhere between Allegheny and Tionesta, Pennsylvania. In pauses between talking to me, he looks sideways at his older sisters, who peacefully nod towards him. I tell him that he looks big and strong and then I help him carry the wood to his parents' home, where he lives with his other nine brothers and sisters.

from Trey Ratcliff at the blog http://www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Solstice 

This came from one of my favorite nights in Iceland! This was shot around 2 AM, right when I started feeling loopy. I was on the edge of some precipitous volcanic rock, and there was a waterfall behind me. It fed this little area of rapids that emptied out into one of the fjords. There had been a light rain for a few hours, but the setting sun cut underneath the clouds to unleash some godly colors.   

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Gentle Home in French Countryside ...who wants to live here?

Ahhh… France… it's even better than the quintessential Disney recreation… but, while we dream, we do have a public Hangout today! Share with your friends!

This "Trey's Google+ Hangout #8" will be LIVE (and recorded). It will be a photography-centric hangout for all levels. There are a few slots full, but the rest is open to the public. We'll have the great +Thomas Hawk from San Francisco, the always-funny Geico-gecko-voiced +Gordon Laing from CameraLabs.com, the House-shaven and magnanimous +Jeremy Cowart , the Google-employee-you-don't-want-to-fuck-with +Mike Wiacek , and joining me in my home from Austin will be +Lotus Carroll , whose 5-year-old will be playing with mine downstairs (with matches).

It starts today, Sunday, at 5PM ET, 2 PM PT. Until I the YouTube Live channel gets activated, you can watch at http://keithbarrett.tv - thank you to +Keith Barrett again. Feel free to contact him if you'd like to broadcast your own hangouts!

See previous Hangouts at https://plus.google.com/105237212888595777019/posts/MME25u7Syya

#SICInDatabasePhoto: Lone Tree in Texas (Her Evening Elegance)

A Texas sunset settled on the farm as we patiently waited for the sky to repaint itself every few minutes.  It was a very relaxing hour, watching the sun slowly descend through the clouds, interrupted on occasion by a stressful swapping of lenses. I hate to get dust in the chamber, so the changing of lenses is always a high-anxiety event! But the anxiety faded away pretty quick as we started watching the sunset again.

From Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Running Wild, Across the Meadow

I was just returning from one little hike-adventure and then I stumbled onto another one! Every day, about this time, a few dozen horses from the ranch run free across the meadow to graze in distant pastures. They stay cooped up inside the corral for most of the day, so they love the chance to run free. The cowboy rides behind them, cracking his whip. It echoes through the valley and everything seems right in the world.Photo: Solar Flower - The Giant Robotic Flower of Buenos Aires

This thing is enormous. In grinds and churns as it follows the sun. The metallic petals flex and bend with the light as the sun sweeps across the sky. I had never seen anything so huge and steampunk in my life.

I walked around it for a while to get a good angle of the monster. My tripod was stuck in customs, so I had to do this one handheld... and do my best to keep the camera as steady as a T-1000.Photo: New Zealand Golden Valleys

I've taken to going out on random drives around New Zealand.  I put on music and just follow the sun around.  It ducks behind and beyond mountains and valleys, so I turn this way and that, and often get out to hike around inaccessible areas.  It's the middle of the winter here, so the sun is always quite low, so we get nice, extended sunrises and sunsets.  Every now and then, the sun gets into a certain angle and everything is bathed in gold...

More over at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com :)Photo: National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, China (The Chinese Mothership)

Look at this magical place in Beijing... it's on the edge of belief.  This is the amazing National Centre for the Performing Arts, or as I like to say, the 国家大剧院 -- I find that rolls of the tongue a bit easier.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Fourth of July Fireworks on Lake Austin, Texas

It was a tough night because I was on the edge of a bridge that was rumbling as cars went across. The evening was very windy, and there was a light driving rain right into my lens. I had to wipe down the lens after every few exposures and try to cup my hands over the top during the shot.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Lost Hindu Temple in the Jungle

I took an afternoon hike in the remote area of Java just outside the town of Jogjakarta to explore this temple.  It's called Prambanan, and it was built around 850 CE.  The rain was pouring down, which left me and Will there pretty much alone, except for a few wild deer in the area.  I waited through the rain because I knew if it cleared there would be a great sunset.  I had a little baggy over my camera to keep it dry until everything passed...  While waiting on the rain to stop, I walked around and did more up close exploration of the temples of Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma, which were three of the largest in the complex.  All the temple blocks were on the edge of collapse, after many centuries of Indonesian earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Google+ PhotoWalk in Yosemite 

Here's a new photo from that great event we had together.  It was so cool to be off at a remote location with Pluskins from all over the world!  If you want to see more photos from the event, click on the tag:   #G-Yosemite2012  Photo: The Nameless Pagoda Sleeps

I processed this one about 30 mins ago during the final night of http://www.stuckincustoms.com/art-of-photography (Registration closed).  Thanks again to everyone that participated in the amazing event.  It was so wild to have thousands and thousands of votes for live questions from all around the world!

We'll have to do it again sometime, yes? Photo: Times Square at Dusk

Times Square is one of the most photographed places in the world. I usually try not to do touristy thing, but hey, it's Times Square. I thought I would try a new take on this shot, arriving just as the sun started to set.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Beautiful Space Shuttle Blooms Inside a Cloud

As soon as the Endeavour worm-holed into the cloud layer, the strange staccato-bass of torn air came skipping across the water into the press area. The sound was not at all what I expected, but it was awesome dot com.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Epic Harbor of Buenos Aires

I think I should not have been here.

After I was roaming around this area, a few of my Argentine friends told me it was quite dangerous. There is a popular area nearby that is much safer, but I heard it attracts the criminal element… and they are more likely to pick off the weak wildebeests on the outskirts… this was definitely the outskirts.Photo: As thanks for all the birthday well-wishes, I jumped in the car today with all my stuff to go grab a new photo for you all :)  On the way to Glenorchy, New Zealand, I got out for a little hike to get this shot.

Reminder- Beginning / Intermediate Q&A show coming up VERY soon - subscribe over at http://www.YouTube.com/StuckInCustoms so you can see it first :)  Any Questions for Q&A?  Drop them here!

It's all in preparation for http://www.stuckincustoms.com/art-of-photography/ - there's many great prizes too from our sponsors at SmugMug, Photomatix, Adorama, F-Stop, Lytro, Nik, and OnOne :)Photo: Less than ONE Week left to register ! at http://www.stuckincustoms.com/art-of-photography/ 

It's designed for Beginner and Intermediate Photographers... getting to the next level of making pretty, artistic creations...  join me!  Thanks to our sponsors and all the great prizes from Photomatix (HDRsoft), SmugMug, Nik Software, and Adorama.

This photo below I used as the "cover" for the video for the course.  It was taken at a unique waterfall in northern Iceland.Photo: Grand Central Station

I just left New York city to come to Los Angeles to prepare for the upcoming Burning Man!  While here inside Grand Central, I did indeed get asked to leave right after I took this photo because I was using a tripod.  This happens quite a bit... and yes yes I know I could have gotten a permit....  no need to leave those comments...  (I know)Photo: Nikon D800 Review - Updated

http://www.stuckincustoms.com/nikon-d800-review/ 

This is a "living" review, and yesterday you asked me about many more things.  I added most of them, and will continue to add more over the weekend.

As for this photo below, I took it with the D800 just recently in Milford Sound, New Zealand.  (P.S. I'm flying home to New Zealand right now... so I won't post for a while!)Photo: An Icelandic Horse in the Wild

I don't shoot a lot of animals, because I find it hard to improve upon what other great animal photographers have done in the past. However, here is a tip for shooting animals. It's kind of a lame trick, but it always works. Use a wide-angle lens and get in close. It always makes the head look really big and cute. Humans love big-headed animals and it always makes them smile. Why this is, I have no idea... Note this trick also kinda works with babies.

By Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: 鼓楼 Copies of the Rickshaws at the ancient temple Gǔlóu...  Sometimes a copy is just a way for someone to transport themselves from one place to another... some day, perhaps, they will arrive at your home with an offering…  from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: Free Photo Workshop Giveaway - Join me at Google in LA!

To Join: Leave a comment below that says you live in the LA Area (and whatever else you like)
Time: FRIDAY 11:30 AM at the Google offices in Venice. Lunch at Google and then Workshop.
Winner: was announced as +Cam Meadows !! Watch his stream for any updates from the event!
Note: This is a private Google-only thing... not open to the public, except for the one winner.

I'll be up there with +Tom Anderson and I'll be giving a private workshop on photography in the early afternoon. You'll get to see the Google offices, meet the rockstars that work there from the Google Photos team, and hang out with me while we create some art and do some fun post-processing.Photo: San Francisco Golden Gate by Night

I'd had a very long day up at the TWIT studios with +Leo Laporte and gang, where I recorded TWIT Photo ( TWiT Photo 45: Trey Ratcliff ) and MacBreak Weekly recently. After all that, I drove down south to find a place in Sausalito for the night with Tom. We planned on waking up early the next morning for photos. Since we were so close, we decided to take a small hike up the trail near there to see the bridge in the evening... and that is when I grabbed this shot.Photo: THE LONG AND TWISTY ROAD

 I lament I can’t remember exactly where this is in Iceland. I think it was up by lake Myavatn, but I’m not totally sure. That word Myavatn is related to little mosquitoes. I wondered why it had that name until about 5 AM one day. There were millions… and I mean millions of mosquitoes that came out of nowhere! It was one of those weather-things were the temperature is just perfect and they get up and go crazy for a few hours before settling down again. I had to retreat into the car mostly for reasons of sanity!  from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Tron is Beijing.  Beijing is Tron. (Bustling Beijing)


I had the driver circle the business district a few times so I could find a good angle. We found one in this building, but did not know if we could take a photo from the top floor. Woo went in first. This might have been a mistake because during the shoot he admitted he had a dreadful fear of heights. But he said it in such a charming British accent I thought it could have been my subconscious.  We went up to the 32nd floor. No windows no dice. We then went to the 31st floor, but the confused secretary would not let us through. Then we tried 30. The secretary said yes and let us into a boardroom, but the angle was not right and the other offices were busy. So we went to 29.  The secretary on 29 was confused so I instructed Woo to tell her, firmly, "We are with the Government."

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The old forest in Yellowstone... (Skeletons at Sunrise)

At one point when driving through Yellowstone a few weeks ago, I got out of the car and started walking right into the forest on the edge of the road. There was a thick fog and the morning sun was low, creating an unexpected box of light. I kept walking and walking until I found this area. It just felt right for whatever reason, so I set up to take this HDR.

from the blog at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: An Amazing Day at the Met --

I set aside about six hours to spend alone at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Most of you may know by now how I am obsessed with the Impressionists. Don't ever go to a museum with me, because I will bore you for hours on end with strange tidbits. Anyway, the Met has a fantastic collection that kept me busy most of the time... It's rather nice of them to hang on to my paintings for me. -- from Trey Ratcliff and the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Reflections on the Eiffel Tower


There was a big storm all day long, but I could see the clouds were beginning to break up a little to the west, and I knew there was a possibility the sun would dip into an opening beneath the heavy clouds. So, with that intense possibility, I headed over to the Eiffel Tower area hoping the light would turn out right...  

/private dedication from ec to mm.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: Into the Beyond

La Sainte-Chapelle is really an amazing place. I can’t believe it took me so many trips to Paris to finally see it. It wasn’t exactly a blind-spot, but I knew it was some place that I had to visit at some point, and I finally got there.

Tripods were forbidden, so I decided to use a tripod to get a shot.

I did manage to squeeze off several rounds until security came up to make me stop. Of course, the only reason I ignore their rule is because I think it is does not have a solid foundation in logic or rational thought. I wasn’t bothering anyone. I wasn’t going to trip anyone because of the configuration of my tripod and body. Everything was cool.

#SICInDatabasePhoto: Chicago Thaws into Spring

I was lucky enough to be in a helicopter over Chicago at sunset. A big thanks to Fiona and our pilots Bill and Jeff. They took the door off the helicopter for me, which sounds like a good idea until you are experiencing 100 MPH of chopper backwash while hanging out trying to get this kind of shot!

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Sleeping Inn - (exploring a remote fjord in Iceland) -
I espied an old house up the side of one of the valleys. It was partially obscured by a hand-built stone wall. I stopped the car and started hiking up the side of the valley to investigate. Once I got up there, I began to think that maybe this place was actually occupied! There were new lace curtains hanging in the windows and everything seemed to be in pretty good repair. So then, I felt like I was intruding, and not just exploring an old ruin. But, it was 3 AM in the morning, and I figured if anyone was indeed inside, they must be fast asleep. So I set up for a shot and then made a hasty elf-like egress. -- from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: The Snow Monkey Reflects

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Prambanan Sunset 

You can imagine what it was like to find this amazing temple in the hot, steamy jungles of Indonesia.  The day had been very stormy, so I spent that time exploring the temple while getting soaked... quietly hoping that the storm clouds would break on the horizon to allow the sun through.

Sometimes the lighting is best right after the sunset.   And sometimes this is right when the police come to get you.  Maybe they were security guards.  But it was hard to tell in the dark - and, besides, I didn't know the difference between the clothes of a security guards and a policeman in Indonesia.  I had Will with me when these guys approached us, and he was no help at all.  He did manage to keep them busy for a while so I could take some final shots, but we could tell that we had worn out our welcome.  So then the guards started to escort us right out of there. 

- from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: The new Android App is out... "Photo Voyages of Trey Ratcliff" - http://goo.gl/km5QW - It also looks great on your Google TV! - Enjoy, and Thank you!Photo: Oceanscream (Arctic Summer Storm)

Early one morning while weaving through the fjords, a cell of dark clouds roiled across the sky. The low sun kept them in impossible colors and the air vibrated with a coming storm. This is up on the edge of the arctic circle where one fjord may be covered in clouds while the next is wide open and clear. There are hundreds of little microclimates that change from one hour to the next, so if things don't look good in one fjord, just spend 30 minutes driving over to the next one, and maybe something different will present itself. Surely by now, you see why I like Iceland so much in the summer...

 from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: A Sunset on a Texas Farm

This photo was shot about two hours outside of Austin in a little town called Brady.  You'd like it.  They have a Sonic there.  This was a 5-exposure HDR shot at f/16.  This kept everything in focus and kept the shutter open long enough to let the clouds drag across the sensor.  In these conditions, you don’t have a lot of time to fool around because the sun is bookin’ it towards the horizon.

From Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Sunrise Discovery of Angkor Wat

I feel a bit like a British explorer, surrounded by my cadre of Cambodians at $18 a day.  They drive me around, carry my tripod, bring me water when I am thirsty, and seem anxious for me to colonize the area.  A member of my cadre woke me up early this morning at 5 AM. 

- from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Big Sur in the Morning

I stayed at the Ragged Point Inn. My room had a little fireplace and everything (which made it even harder to get out of bed!). After I got downstairs, I started a little hike to get a good vantage of the coast and the sunrise. Of course, there was a fence blocking the best bit, so I jumped over it like Carl Lewis (a much older, whiter, and less jumpy Carl Lewis), and edged along the rocky coast to get a good spot. I forgot to put on my hiking shoes and mistakenly donned my Cole-Haans while in the dark. Big mistake. Those don't make for good hiking shoes, especially after five minutes of getting soaked in morning dew from the foliage I was ripping my way through.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: from Trey Ratcliff at  http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: Adventuring in the Valley - Argentina

Argentina is gorgeous. Have I said that before? Doesn't it go without saying by now? You really get to know a set of mountains when you have to hike around them. Fortunately, in the middle of these death marches, I was able to stop and drink in some of the scenery. It took a lot longer than necessary to get to the destination, but at least I arrived with a camera full of photos. That beautiful peak in the distance is Fitz Roy. I was very lucky to see it, because 90% of the time it's covered with clouds.

From the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Horse of Sagas in Iceland

I was in the middle of a beautiful drive in Northern Iceland just past midnight.  The sun was about to dip below the horizon, and I was in the last hour of a five-hour sunset.  Unbelievable!  I passed a perfect grassy farm filled with perfect Icelandic horses ...

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Oahu Vacation

Well, it wasn’t really a vacation. It was work. Hard, wet, slogging work. Don’t let this picture fool you. Okay, you can let it fool you a little bit… This is about the only sun I got the whole trip. 90% of it was me being extremely wet and rather physically and emotionally drained. Things were so wet, in fact, that they declared part of Hawaii a disaster area! I was there for about a week with +Tom Anderson, and he was so excited to show me his second home… he had big dreams of fancy-free days, taking photos on sunny beaches… be we had very little of that… However, I did my best to produce a lot of images while there.Photo: La Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmatre

This is a famous basilica in Paris.  It sits high on a hill and is beautifully lit in the evening.  This is the birthplace of the Jesuits back in 1534.  That is only interesting to me because I was a Jesuit student myself back in the day.  You would think that would mean that I would be allowed to come inside to take all the photos I want with a special key that everyone gets upon graduation.  But I had no such key so I was forced to stay on the perimeter with all the other heathens. 

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: Gotham: San Francisco

Here is another photo I took last night because of Stuck On Earth. I'm going live on stage at about 3:30 PM PT today to unleash it at http://www.launch.is/live - feel free to come join in the fun!

The app will be released in a few weeks. You can come sign up for the private beta now at http://www.stuckonearthapp.com (update: we've had thousands of signups so chances are slim). But, no worries, it will be out soon enough… and the app is free. No ads or upsets or anything.

We have hardcore and casual users in there testing now to make sure it is solid and perfect for you. On the app page, you may notice some quotes from some people already testing the app like +RC Concepcion +Thomas Hawk +Nicole S. Young +Frederick Van Johnson and more.

If you're not in the Private Beta and still want to be involved early, you can perhaps be a local editor, particularly if you know your area quite well. Contact our Chief Editor +Topher Martini , and join the Flickr community at http://www.flickr.com/groups/stuckonearthep/ .Photo: Farewell San Francisco - and a Live Hangout Tonight! ...see how I made this photo!

So I just heard from Apple, and we have been allowed to do a Live Google+ Hangout from the event tonight. So, Google+Apple -- it will be sort of like a special Buffy+Angel crossover episode.

Time: Tonight, Saturday, 5-7 PM PT (Your World Time: http://bit.ly/nUNHRU )
Where: watch live at http://keithbarrett.tv 

For the Apple event here in Austin tonight, here is what I will be discussing:

- My Workflow. I will even process photos from the PhotoWalk last night with Thomas. Maybe even a photo of Thomas!
- Yes, I'll be screen-sharing so you can see where I am clicking and all the details
- Photography topics… my approach and more…
- Tools I use
- How I use Lightroom
- And an extensive Q&A from people in the audience

If you are in Austin (remember, 7-9 PM CST!), you can come to the Barton Creek location and be there in person. But, perhaps for overcrowding concerns, you can watch online at the link above. The event is free, either way.

Photo Below: I took this a few nights ago thanks to Stuck on Earth. I've been to San Francisco over seven times to take photos, and not until this time did I finally find special locations and shots I've always wanted. I just processed this on the flight from SFO to AUS, and I can talk more about the processing tonight in the hangout. Okay, I gotta take a shower to get ready and stuff… see you soon! :)Photo: The Tree Alone Against the World

There was this interesting tree sitting alone after a morning snow. The snow had melted, but the skies still had these white-out conditions. Those skies normally make for very dull visuals, so I thought this would be a good candidate for textures. I think, by now, you guys know I can’t stand a boring sky in my photos… and since you can’t always have a four-star sunset, maybe it drove me to use the world around me to find textures to re-purpose inside these photos. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll figure out that bit in a while.

From Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Delicate Ice in Spring

After dinner one evening in Ísafjörður, I drove through a nearby town and up into the mountains. Along the road, I noticed an iced-over river that was beginning to thaw in a few areas. I pulled over, and scrambled down the hill to set up for a shot.
from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Lost Rock Temple

I spent countless hours trying to find this place on a previous trip to Iceland. This time, thanks to SECRET PROJECT EOSX, I was able to find it effortlessly. It was just as amazing as I hoped it would be.  The hardest part was the road at 2 AM. It was one of those perfectly straight country roads that goes straight into the sun. And I mean straight. It was exactly in the middle of my steering wheel, and there was no escaping it. The visor, my hand, nothing, nada, could block that sun, so I had to drive about 5 miles per hour and look out the window. It was all very unsettling… if you have driven in this situation, then you know what I mean!

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Red Boat in Fjord Before Storm

As soon as I drove into Isafjordur in the very remote area of NW Iceland, I went right to the docks.  The water was so calm and perfect that it was beyond belief.  I was super-tired, and I thought that the still water MUST be a unique phenomenon, so I toughened up to go take a bunch of photos.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Epic Iceland

Reminder: New Article on GigaOm: "Why eBooks Will Be Much Bigger than you can Imagine" http://goo.gl/6HntT

I have many things in common with +Tom Anderson. One of them is the love of “Epic” scenes. These mostly come from movies (he studied film in a past life), but it spans many different pursuits. He’s the only other guy I met that can also quote scenes from Lawrence of Arabia.

So, obviously I do like to find epic scenes in the world, and I feel like Iceland is full of them. Capturing them the right way is another ball of wax, but that is most of the fun.Photo: Live Show Soon - Aurora Photo Editing and More 

Join me live at the Event soooooooon! During the show, I'll talk show on-screen how I edit these photos  See you at Trey's Variety Hour #44 - Your Event Time at http://goo.gl/uc6tR 

Today's hangout will be +Sherilynn Macale  +Jared Polin  +Frederick Van Johnson and the two-for-one couple with +Jay Patel and +Varina Patel Photo: The Endless Alley in Barcelona - 

The dirt and grit and color that comes with European alleys make for great subjects for dynamic night photography.  Usually I only stay out for about an hour after it gets dark, but it's hard to stop with this kind of scenery...  I mean, you can make a legitimate excuse to stay out all night!  But a lot of people warned me about how dangerous Barcelona can be...  I did already meet many people that were robbed blind...  I was extra-extra careful... and, in this case, decided to head back to the hotel early.  Also, I was feeling pretty under the weather...so yet another excuse. - from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: Gateway to the Temple of Heaven

I had an amazing opportunity in Beijing to get private access into the Temple of Heaven one morning.  Well-costumed officials from the government met me before sunrise just outside the gates, where hundreds of early risers were already outside doing exercises and preparing for a national holiday.  The nice men pulled out ornate keys and opened up the private doors to let me in.  I had about 90 minutes to take photos of everything as the sun rose.  It was a great day of shooting!

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Impossible Mountains - Iceland

The mountain is very spiky and narrow, and it’s embedded in a very rough patch of peaks. So I did my best to capture it in context. There are great super-hairy horses everywhere, and four of them were playing on one side of the river. I set up… and waited….waited….waited…. for them to get in the right spot and then finally took a photo.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Another Summer Day in Paris

This shot looks much more delicate, perhaps, than I did while achieving it. Unfortunately, this was one of those tricky ones where the tripod legs were splayed out like a flattened armadillo. I looked beyond redonkulous while taking it...

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Ensnared in Flame

On my first evening in Barcelona, I dumped my bags in the room them went right out to explore.  Unpacking is so boring... let's face it.  I started going down side-streets and back alleys to where I heard activity and motion.  I was more or less zig-zagging my way to Las Ramblas, where there's always a lot of activity.  But I didn't want to go right there.  During the weaving, I found this enormous cathedral nestled between a square of classical looking Spanish buildings.  A performer had lit a unique homemade contraption of flames and was whirling it about.  I got back behind her and set up for this shot.


- from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: Crossing the Bridge into Old Lyon

This was a pretty tough shot to get! This was a little pedestrian bridge that crossed from the new part of Lyon, France, into the older part. It swayed and buckled in the breeze. Plus, it was night, so you kind of have to leave the shutter open for a long time. I hate to crank up the ISO, but I had to so everything would stay sharp.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Louvre

Ahhh... the Louvre! It's one of the greatest in the world and always fun to explore. You gotta be kind of into museums, I suppose... the vastness of it is beyond words. You really don't get it until you've spent several hours inside.

from Trey Ratcliff's Travel Photography blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: London Underground - Piccadilly

Piccadilly Circus is one of the most popular places in London for tourists. I don't like to always hit all the obvious places, but, then again, I kind of have to hit the obvious places, yes? So, when I went to this famous spot, I tried my best to find some interesting angles and compositions.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Amazing Afternoon with Hans Zimmer in his Studio

I sat nervously in his studio, waiting for his grand appearance, and I'm not really the type to get nervous. I'm pretty cool-headed about such matters, but I've always considered Hans to be a great man. And whenever I have a deep channel of artistic respect for someone, I start to feel the vapors a bit right before a meeting.

Waiting for him was nerve-wracking. I had been in his studio about a year before, but that time I was alone the entire time. I wanted to come in and take photos since I had heard legends of his studio. A mutual fan (and friend now!) was able to get me through the impossible labyrinth of people to gain entrance to this valhalla.

Now, I'll get to the bit about our meeting in a moment, and I'll tell you about all the wonderful insights I uncovered. It was so interesting. But I won't tell you everything we discussed. There was some personal stuff, Hollywood stuff, project stuff, and things of this nature. Maybe one day I can talk about them, but many things I can talk about here are still more than interesting.

Entering the Studio

I had been ushered into one of his studios by the security staff. It was a Sunday afternoon around 2 PM, and his whole building there in Hollywood was fully staffed. He had a full team running around doing god-knows-what. I just assume it is awesome, whatever they are doing. They were going about it in a nonplussed manner, but when they would disappear off into hidden doors and hallways, I could only imagine they must be working on amazing things. I mean, they were probably not. They were probably doing things like making sure there enough granola bars in the kitchen for the coming week, but part of me thought of fanciful things happening behind the doors.

While I sat there, I could see the entry hallway through the giant soundproofed door that led into his studio. I had to think about where to sit in his cavernous boudoir. There were about 13 different seating options, and every surface was so lavishly cushioned that I could have oriented myself 3 different ways, making a total of 39 different combinations I had to consider. I didn't want to sit too far away from the door, because then we would have one of those awkward walk-across-the-room handshakes where you have to hold your arm out while you approach the other person, almost as if it is a joust.

So I chose one of the couches near the door and put my bag on the ground. I didn't want to stare out the door, because then Hans might be uncomfortable while I watch him walk down a long hallway into the room. And as I thought about this, I started to think I had made a bad seating decision indeed.

I then decided it would be best not to look down the hallway, and just look around the studio, which was fine enough. There's lots to see. But every 45 seconds or so, I would hear another set of footsteps in the hallway. Some sounded like slippers, sliding hurriedly across the floor. I could picture Hans wearing slippers and a robe while he went about his composing business. Maybe he was really eccentric like Hugh Hefner. He is very German, after all, and those Euros can get away with being wonderfully eccentric. I would not have minded, but I was also afraid to look. For every click of the shoes, I tried to picture who might be wearing them. But all this staccato wondering did is just add more butterflies to the mix.

While I was looking around his studio, I started looking at the lights. They are these wonderful Cheesecake-Factory-like lights. That seems like a horrible thing to say about the lights, but I think everyone can agree that the Cheesecake Factory has relatively cool lights. They have warm colors with nice designs that cast a varied warm glow across the room... Anyway, I was looking at them and the chains from which they hung.

There were four brass chains that came down from the ceiling, which itself is a textured deep red paisley pattern. You could not see how many light bulbs were in the lights, but there must have been two because you could see eight shadows of the chains, splaying out in all directions across the ceiling. Towards the middle of the circle, the shadows were tight and looked like well-defined sine waves. As they got further and further, the amplitude and blurring increased, and they looked like sound waves shooting out in all directions.

Hans Enters

And then, seemingly from nowhere, Hans blew into the room. He shook my hand graciously, and he said, "You must excuse me, as I absolutely have to visit the loo." I laughed and said, "Of course, of course," and with that, he had come in and out of the room like a pleasant jingle you've never heard before.

So then I was more relaxed. He's just a regular guy that has to go to the bathroom, like anyone else. And that made me feel better.

And then he came back in, graciously re-introduced himself, and sat down at his nearby chair. I remember that chair from my last visit, because not only did it sit in the middle of a semicircle of NASA-like equipment, but it also had a had a black sweater draped across the back. It seemed a very personal thing to me, a favorite sweater over a chair, and I remember thinking how nice it was to touch it.

So Hans was in his chair and asked me what had brought me to LA. I told him about meeting with my agent and inchoate plans/projects, but I didn't really want to drone on about my stuff. He doesn't really care, I figure. Or maybe he does... I didn't know at that point, but generally I prefer to keep my synopsis of "What's new in Trey's Life" to a minimum, because I'd rather take the conversation into uncharted territory.

What did I want to talk about? I'm most interested in talking about things that no one has ever talked about before. Asking the sorts of questions that are unexpected -- not because I'm trying to be random, but because I genuinely wonder things about Hans. His music fills my right brain while I'm out on location, taking photos, or when I'm in my home studio, candles lit, and Photoshop firing away on all 8 cores.

When I look at a photographer's work, I mean really look at it, I feel like I get a little insight into their soul. With music, I'm on uneven ground, and occasionally see the shape of certain truths. I try my best to reverse engineer his thoughts and feelings when it comes to a particular part of a song, but all of this is laced with a lot of uncertainty from my standpoint, you see.

And it is a delicate thing to ask these questions in a reasonable manner. As we get going here with our conversation, I'm secretly hoping that Hans is also only interested in discussing the kind of things that have never been discussed before.

I don't want to ask questions like an annoying NPR reporter that is trying so hard to let the author know, "Hey I'm also smart because I'm spouting off all this BS that I kinda know about, and I can ask really long questions because I'm so freaking clever." People do this to me all the time, and I know the red flags. I had a certain advantage here, in that I have vast experience with the full spectrum of empathy. Since I am slightly famous in my own field, I am approached all the time by all sorts of people. Most all are good-intentioned, and I'm sure a good many of them are nervous as hell, but I do notice when something is a bit awry. It's hard to explain, but you can feel it.

In a way, none of this was part of my conscious thought ... Because very quickly we were talking about art. And when it comes to this topic, I do not worry about the conventions, nor do I second-guess anything I am saying. And neither is he. I ask him admittedly clueless but interesting questions about music, and he asks me admittedly clueless but interesting questions about photography. We generally agree that there is a "ring" when something feels right and you know you are done with a piece.

30 minutes into 3 hours

We had planned on a thirty-minute meeting, but we ended up together for about three hours. Here's more or less everything that happened.

I'll start with one of my favorite discoveries. You go through your whole life thinking something is for sure, and you take it for granted, and then something pops out of the unknown to rock your foundation. This was one of those times, and this is a pattern that I've been seeing again and again in the past few years. And the only way I've figured out to challenge these cornerstones is to ask interesting questions to see what happens.

Before I get to the bit about Hans, I'll tell you the bit about Matt Ridley. And I'm not name-dropping here -- but his is part of the theme of great men that I had false assumptions about. Not that they are not great men -- but there is something that I had always believed that was suddenly no longer the case. It didn't make me think any less of them, but it does clarify things in a poetic sense.

Matt Ridley is a famous author that has written countless best-selling books like Genome, The Origin of Virtue, and The Rational Optimist. And, before meeting him, I had read them all. Voraciously. Now when I met this guy, I was thinking, this guy is going to be one smart son-of-a-gun. It's going to be like having a conversation with Wikipedia. He's going to find me completely mundane, like a graduate student who keeps using the centrifuge in the wrong way. Anyway, I'm thinking all this and worse before I meet him. So I build up this whole impossible relationship situation based on his Deep Blue knowledge set, and none of it pans out once we actually get to know one another.

So while I'm talking to Matt, we're talking about circulatory systems and I mention this passage in one of his books where he talks about bees. They don't really have circulatory systems and the blood just kind of sloshes around their body while they fly around. He doesn't recall this, and I find amazing since he probably knew this fact and a great many others. Now, it doesn't mean that IPhoto: One Night in Bangkok

This picture is of Wat Arun, a famous Buddhist temple in Thailand. I took it from a really cool little Italian restaurant across the way that is attached to a boutique hotel named "Arun Residence". I will stay at this place next time - be sure to get the balcony room at the top if you come... it's just over $100 a night and is the best (and only) view of this temple in Bangkok.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Secret Treasures of Beijing

It was very close to the National Day, and crews were out freshening-up the city. There were about four Chinese painters that were busy putting a fresh red coat of paint on this perfect little bridge. By chance, they were just finishing up as I approached. This little boat from the painters was pulled up beside the bridge in a wonderful way, so I set up my tripod along the bank for a photo.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France

This is a dangerous spot!  But so pretty... It was a cool night in Paris.  It was a bit damp too, as if it might rain at any moment.  So that kept me moving from spot to spot pretty quickly.  I was secretly hoping for a bit of rain... Europe at night in a light rain is always kind of charming.  I'm pretty sure that locals don't find it charming... just annoying.  

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Musée d'Orsay - Orsay Museum in Paris, France (The Orsay)

One of my favorite museums! I'm a huge fan of Impressionism, and this museum has an amazing collection. It also houses one of the most famous paintings by Manet - Le dejeuner sur l'herbe (Wikipedia). I've always heard about and studied this painting, so it was of particular interest to me. When I saw it in person, it was absolutely striking... I did not expect to have a reaction like that.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Castle Walkway in Montpellier, France (The Castle Alley)

I'll begin today with a new photo from Montpellier, in the south of France. We stayed there with a wonderful family (my friends Jacques and Marie) and had an amazing time. One evening, they took us out for dinner at a perfect little place on a quiet side-street. Along the way, Jacques, who is also a photographer, took me to this amazing castle-cathedral. He said, "I think this is probably a good area for photography." He said this with eyebrows raised and a serious expression. He didn't need to say any more than that!

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The British Museum

So, this museum has the Rosetta Stone -- what else do you need to know? And if it's got that, you know it has some other amazing things as well. I spent two days there -- one shooting and one exploring! Okay, well, both shooting.

from Trey Ratcliff at stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Exploring Medieval Ibiza

The old part of the city has been turned into galleries, restaurants, and small boutique hotels. The textures and lights are warm and supple. I loved walking around and discovering little parts here and there -- it was all especially nice because it was completely unexpected.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Street in Arles, France - This is Arles, which is only a short drive from Montpellier and less than an hour from the Côte d'Azur. The streets are quaint and quiet. There are a few tourist areas, but after a few steps in a random direction, you're back in the old streets. I needed to stay for longer for more exploration (!), but I did my best to make use of the short time I was there. - from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: The Peking Opera 

This opera is like nothing else in the world. I understand it had been closed for a long time. I felt honored to be invited to attend the opening night performance of the Peking Opera.  It's mesmerizing and confusing event.  

Many people yesterday on Google+ asked how the Chinese government came to invite me and give me carte-blanche all over. I'll give you the story here.

So, the thing is with the Chinese government is that you don't ask them, they ask you. There's no email for the Chinese government or any series of forms to fill out, so I feel very fortunate. I was first contacted through a surrogate in a very confusing email exchange that eventually I realized was a cat-and-mouse style of invitation. 

Once I worked out the conventions of this interchange I ended up with a driver, an assistant, a translator, and access to anywhere I wanted to go inside or outside of the Forbidden City. My poor assistant... 

More at https://plus.google.com/u/0/105237212888595777019/posts/Mdm25GEejtXPhoto: Paris as Art

I have just finished processing this photo and wanted to share it with y'all first.

Have you all seen "Midnight in Paris"? I just saw it on a plane… I really liked it. Not only was it clever and nice… but I also like Woody Allen movies. In some ways, I think Woody Allen movies are like Mexican food -- it's all the same thing, just folded differently.

#SICInDatabasePhoto: The Old Shed - Iceland

This first shot below is from one of the fjords in the far Northwest of Iceland. It was a long and desolate morning when I arrived here. I had been driving all night, after the 2 AM sunrise, weaving back and forth on dirt roads up and down fjords. Little farmhouses are scattered here and there -- many of them abandoned. I decided to get out and stretch my legs (and my tripod legs!) to grab this one.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Where They Dry the Fish (Ósvör in Bolungarvík) - Iceland

While in the northwest fjords, I came across these little huts with intermittent slats. This is where the fisherman hang the fish to dry in the incessant sea-winds that blow up the coast. Pretty cool, eh?

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: A gentle oxbow along the southern coast of Iceland.  (The Gentle Oxbow)

There were these tiny mysterious birds about. They made a tiny sound when they dove downward. The sound was almost electronic in a stuccato descending spiral. 

From Trey Ratcliff and the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Sheep on the way to Paradise - Glenorchy, New Zealand - 

This title makes it sounds a bit like they are about to be slaughtered...  or maybe they are suicide-sheep, about to meet some sweet sweet virgin sheep in paradise.  But no, this is not what I mean.  There is a little town past Glenorchy, New Zealand called "Paradise".  I passed these sheep while on the way there.  I never made it to Paradise, truthfully.  I turned around.  It felt like such a long way to get here, and I had to turn around to get back to Queenstown before it got too late. - Read more at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Morning in California...  yes, yes... it's always painful to wake up early, but once you have a cup of coffee and walk around in the fresh air a bit, you wake right up -- and you're happy you did.  -- from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: The Atomic Explosion and Mushroom Fallout at Sunset

This day and evening I was in Yellowstone alone. I had just seen a grizzly bear and a black bear about 30 minutes before this shot, both of which are pretty rare to see. They went on their way and I was left in the middle of this area with just a few elk meandering a few hundred feet from me. I tried to not get overly "sucked into" the sunset, trying to remember those bears that were lurking about. The ground was pretty marshy here, so I was not in optimal conditions for running from a bear.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Golden Onions

This is the Kievo-Pecherskaya Larva in Kiev, Ukraine.  It started out as a series of caves and now has grown to a massive complex of monasteries.  Unfortunately, it was so cold and windy outside, that I didn't really have the ability to get a lot of shots all around this cave area.  Actually, I did have the patience.... but Will was standing around looking quite bitter and cold, so we just moved on to the military war museum from WWII.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: On Gossamer Wings...
Traditional Chinese Girl With Parasol in Beijing, China

I had spent most of the day inside the Forbidden City, trying my best to find little bits here and there.  Tiny discoveries, you know.  I was pretty tired after a day of searching, but I still had barely enough energy to keep exploring into the night.  At that point, I decided to go to another, older area of the city.  There were hundreds of quaint shops, the smell of fresh food, families walking to and fro... it was all very nice.  I came to cross a little raised bridge, and I saw this woman standing there.  She was dressed in vintage Chinese grab and holding a delicate umbrella.  While talking with her friends, the light caught her umbrella just right, so I snapped a quick photo.

 from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Moon in the sky... A view of Queenstown at 7:30 AM!  I took this photo off my balcony in the morning...  I'm renting a place high on a hill that I found here: http://www.bookabach.co.nz/baches-and-holiday-homes/view/10532  -- It's a great place!

Since we are so far on the south island, the days of winter are short...  this is nice because it means I don't have to wake up toooooo early for sunrise shots until the summer! :)    (and thanks to +Jason Law  for giving me a ride back last night after the meeting!)Photo: Gardens in the Mist - Li River Valley in China

The Li River valley is a beautiful and serene area of southern China that's green, alive, and mysterious.  The verdant limestone cliffs cover the landscape and give everything an ethereal feel.  After a trip down the river, I got off the boat and decided to hike back to the little village where I was staying.  Along the way, I decided to hike down a side-road that went off into these little family-run farms.  I set up for a shot on this quiet dirt road.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Silent Bridge

When I woke up in Nikko, snow had been falling all night. I started a long walk from the old lodge where I was staying towards the older area that has all the temples. Along the way, I passed by this old bridge with it's ancient and lavish design. Underneath it, the crystal-clear water flowed quickly as the snowmelt was giving it a bit more action than usual. It was very peaceful and nice.

From Trey Ratcliff at the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: A Beautiful Morning in Beijing

Another early morning outing found me at this place, just outside the Forbidden City.  The morning was crisp and clear.  It was one of those mornings where you feel like moving around to both stay awake and to stay warm.  I walked to the top of the temple with all my stuff.  It was a lot of steps... too many steps for that early in the morning!  But, I was surrounded by a lot of early-morning Chinese people working out.  What was interesting is that most of them seemed to be over 50 years old.  And there were A LOT of them!  They were working it hard, and kind of making me look bad.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Market at Night - Barcelona

There is a fabulous market right in this very location that is apparently open in something called the 'daytime". The "daytime" is a mystical time that most people in Barcelona don't even know exists.  I know this for sure because the next morning, at 9 AM on a WEEKDAY, I could not find any place open to buy coffee. People sleep in until approximately 3 PM. They then roll around in bed, thinking about getting up until 4 PM. They then get up, have some chocolate and churros, and then take a quick nap before it gets dark. And then they party.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Exploring the Cathedral - Notre Dame Cathedral Interior - France

No tripods allowed. I think maybe it said this in French. Or English. I can't remember because I ignored it. How are you supposed to get a decent photo inside Notre Dame without a tripod?

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Deep Blue Morning at Cerro Torre

I’d love to return to this place, but I’m afraid the weather would not be as clear and perfect. Many locals told me there is a 90% chance that these mighty peaks would be covered with clouds, so I felt very lucky to have everything so perfect. Surely, a return here would not be nearly as good… but maybe… just maybe… a return would have clouds, but in an awesome dramatic way.

You probably also know I’m not a fan of plain blue skies. But way up in the mountains, sometimes the sky on the opposite side of the sun is a deep atmospheric blue. I see it from planes a lot when dawn breaks. Maybe you have seen that color of blue too… and here it is again.Photo: Milan Train Station at Midnight

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: My Nymph in the River

I was hiking through the Andes in Argentina with several ex-Soviet Military badasses, and we came upon this scene. See that little Russian gal by the stream? That is lovely Irina, stopping to fill up my water bottle with some fresh glacier runoff before the rest of the hike.

Irina was not one of the ex-military people... she was there to cook us borscht at every meal and wipe the morning snow off my sleeping bag before cooking us a warm breakfast.

From Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Sunrise in America

This was taken off the Florida coast on a warm summer morning. At this exact moment when the sun breaks the horizon -- well, this is a time when I am not thinking of coffee.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Roman Arena in Nimes, France (Roman Gladiators of Gaul)

Nimes has some very well preserved Roman ruins. There is a huge park area that has stone walkways over ancient Roman waterways and this colosseum structure in the middle of town.  One of the coolest things about this colosseum is that it is still used on a regular basis! When we were there, they were having a bullfight inside the arena. I have some pictures of the aftermath, including trails of blood in the sand... It's fairly graphic, but you'll have something new to see in coming weeks when I get around to processing those!

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Inner Museum - Beijing, China

This is the Capital Museum in Beijing, and it houses some famous and exquisite pieces.  Many of the works were still incomprehensible to me, but it's nice how there seems to be an international feeling of beauty around different objects.  The lighting was very unique in here, and the layout made for a challenging shoot.  Of course I did use a tripod here...I'm not sure it is possible to capture it otherwise.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Lonely in London

These red phone booths are perfect little specimen for photography, no? I'm trying to remember the first time I ever saw one. It was probably when I was a kid, watching Monty Python with my dad on PBS. Speaking of that, I recently listened to the Michael Palin autobiography on Audible (try them out - I love Audible!). I didn't realize the show was kind of floundering in the UK when it really hit big in the US. It sounds like the whole crew was surprised how popular the show was in America. All I can imagine is that their behavior must have just seemed perfectly mundane and normal in England.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Last Night in San Francisco

I took this photo in San Francisco just a few hours ago, and this is a great opportunity to mention I'll be on a PhotoWalk here tonight! Come say hello and let's have fun. For more details, see +Thomas Hawk 's post at http://bit.ly/oF25tu

Now, how did I find this place to take this photo? How does one find the most awesome places on Earth to explore and take photos? I'm Glad You Asked

Today, we are announcing "Stuck On Earth," an amazing iPad app that I've been working on for the past year or so. I'm doing a live demo at Calacanis' LAUNCH event later today. You can now sign up for private testing at http://www.stuckonearthapp.com - there is very very limited room.

Yes, the app is free. Awesome. There are no ads or upsells…

If you're not in the Private Beta, and still want to be involved early, you can perhaps be a local editor, particularly if you know your area quite well. Contact our Chief Editor +Topher Martini , and join the Flickr community at http://www.flickr.com/groups/stuckonearthep/ .

I know people want to know all about the app, and we are keeping things relatively quiet for now. We're gathering your feedback, and we have photographers all over the world slamming this thing hard so that it is bullet-proof when we roll it out. I expect full release in just a few weeks.

I've used Stuck On Earth on my last 4 trips to France, Switzerland, China, and San Francisco. It's been amazing… I've found incredible places, including the impossible-to-find spot for this photo above. In fact, it was in one of our special curated lists: "Top 50 Secret Places in San Francisco, curated by +Thomas Hawk " -- AWESOME.

Launching today - I think there is a live stream at http://www.launch.is/live -- I'm on around 3:30 PM PT.

BTW, +Tom Anderson was here with me taking this shot, and he'll be at the PhotoWalk tonight too. Here is a photo he took of me taking this shot: https://plus.google.com/112063946124358686266/posts/hQXdawuhq1wPhoto: The Gladiator Arena at Sunset
Bullfight in Arena at Nimes, France

While visiting Fabien in Nimes, there was a bullfight going on inside this ancient Roman gladiator arena.  The further south you go in France, the more likely you are to find the old influence of the Spanish bullfights.  It's pretty violent, yes?  Yes.  In fact, if you zoom in, you can still see blood that has been smeared across the arena by the smearing-truck.  Once the crowd started to clear out, a perfect sunset settled upon us.  It was just Fabien, my wife, and I, and it was a very nice night.  After the bullfight, we walked around to take a lot of photos of this amazing evening, Fabien took us to his favorite little secret French restaurant down one of the side streets.  Perfect!

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Horse in Window - Yellowstone

There is a small slice of solace, I think, in considering the names of some of the great paintings from my impressionist heroes. They have names like "Girl in Field" and "Sun on Water". Not too exciting, but they do stand the test of time. But "Horse in Window"? I think not!

from Trey Ratcliff's travel photography blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Last Sunset - Ibiza, Spain

I saw this dock early in the day, and I was secretly hoping that it might just point towards the sun as it passed the horizon. So I had this shot planned along with about 10 others. Some worked out and some didn't. This is one of the ones that worked out.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Shibuya - The Intersection - Tokyo, Japan - 

Today we have a new photo from downtown Tokyo. By now, you have probably figured out that I just can't get enough of these downtown shots. Each angle is nice and different in its own way. Sometimes I like to freeze the action, and sometimes I like to let it flow. It totally depends on my mood when I am shooting. -- from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: Sunset in Ibiza


Ibiza is a fabulous island off the coast of Spain that is the "in" destination for all the Euros that like to get trashed, party, dress in white, do medium-level-drugs, and stay on the beach without many clothes.

I saw this girl bouncing around and very happy about something, so I went over and said hello, introducing myself. She didn't speak much English, but I managed to ask her if I could take a photo of her. She enthusiastically said yes, and I explained the sitch as we walked over to the water, mostly using interpretive dance to span the language gap. She was Italian and her name was Wendy. I think that is a strange name for an Italian, but I didn't question it. Anyway, I asked her just to walk off into the ocean and I would take a photo. She did just that, and I grabbed this shot just as the sun was dipping below the horizon.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Icelandic Docks in the Afternoon - Ísafjörður (Isafjorder)

I arrived in Isafjorder in the middle of one afternoon, and my schedule was all askew. I had driven all night, taking photos along the way.  I usually tried to arrive at the hotel by 11 AM or so, because that was my bedtime.  If I didn't hit the sack each day at 11 AM and wake up at 6 PM, then it threw everything off for the next cycle!  The skies were so interesting when I arrived, I decided to spend a few extra hours visiting the docks to explore.  This is a famous fishing town in the far northwest part of Iceland, so the docks had a nice sense about them.  I was so dog-tired that I was just kinda going through the motions.  But it did keep me in that sleepy dream-state that helped everything flow easily.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Pier at the End of Times

This particular photo was taken in Ibiza one evening, just after the sun dipped into the Mediterranean.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Crossing Tower Bridge in the Rain

My bulbous 14-24 lens is a problem in the rain! If you haven't seen the Nikon 14-24 (see my Nikon 14-24 Review) before, then most people think it is a fish-eye lens, but it isn't. The apex of the glass juts out almost just beyond the tiny bayonet, and it seems to suck rain drops into it! I'm always wiping down that dang thing.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Japanese Girl with Mask

The white mask is a popular meme in Japan. It’s pervasive and it affects all ages. I see school children wearing masks, old people in the subway, and everyone in between. I was waiting to see a new trend where the face masks have designs — quirky, cute Japanese designs. If no one has done it, then there’s a great idea for you.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Kimono Under the Cherry Blossom Trees - Kyoto, Japan

It was my second time to Kyoto, but my fourth time to Japan. I started to become more accustomed to the times of day and the comings and goings of the ladies in kimonos. You can see them most any time of the day or not, but they flood out of every crevice around this time of night. The pink cherry blossoms made everything seem like it was right out the days of the shogun.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Queenstown From Above

My friend Gordon from Camera Labs (be sure to visit his site) goes up here to test a lot of his cameras and lenses. There's a mountain here that you can reach by gondola, and the view is, well, as you can see, quite perfect! In this case, I used my new 28-300 lens, which worked out pretty well.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The secret Google+ Hangout labs...  where strange things are afoot...Photo: On Golden Borg - So here's a good idea if you go to Shanghai or Beijing, or any of these Asian megacities that have city-planning museums. These huge models are great for scouting sunset shots from a nice perspective. I usually use Google Earth, but taking photos of downtown areas require some thought about the altitude of the shot. So, for example, you don't want to go to the tallest building in a city to take the photo, because you actually want the tallest building to be in the photo. So that means you need to find a nearby building that is "high enough" that still has a good angle towards the big building. Also, preferably, you'd like that second building to be east of the big building so there is nice light at sunset. Well, there's a lot of things to think about, and these models are a perfect playground for perspectives.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Teleporters

I’m not even sure which hotel in Beijing this is! (edit: comments indicate it is the Grand Millennium Hotel in Beijing) I was randomly walking around an urban area and peered inside some windows to see this. It looked so amazing inside — I had no choice but to go right into the lobby to set up! I was able to squeeze off a few rounds before security stopped me.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The New of Old China

I found this place near the one of the old Imperial rice barns that had been converted into an opera house. It's a hard-to-find but charming area of the city. Not even my driver or assistant could find it, and they've lived in Beijing their entire lives!

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Young Schoolgirl Returning Home in Tokyo

One thing I recommend to travelers as they go from point A to point B in an unpredictable manner.  Whenever I want to hit an exact location, I tell the taxi to drop me off a few kilometers from the destination.  Either that, or I exit the subway early.  I then meander my way from street to street and feel my way to the final location.  Usually, by taking these unpredictable paths, I end up seeing a lot of things that would have been left unseen.  That is how I found this little schoolgirl in Tokyo.  I ended up on a busy street in the late afternoon, just as kids were running back to their homes.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Red Gate After Rain

It was very close to the National Day, and crews were out freshening-up the city. There were about four Chinese painters that were busy putting a fresh red coat of paint on this perfect little bridge. By chance, they were just finishing up as I approached. This little boat from the painters was pulled up beside the bridge in a wonderful way, so I set up my tripod along the bank for a photo.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Stone Steps in the City - Beijing, China

I see a lot of this in China. They have communities with giant apartment blocks. The new ones are all very modern and nice. And in the middle of them are fountains, small groves of trees, paths, swings, and everything. There are families out mucking about and enjoying it... but I wonder if it "feels" as funny to them as it does to me. I sometimes feel like I'm on a holodeck.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Lights of Japan - Tokyo

Getting into this particular position took a few Cirque de Soliel moves that no one was around to appreciate (or warn me against). There is a pedestrian set of stairs that blindly switchbacks its way up an outside drum-tower of sorts. I had a feeling that on top of this little tower would be a good vantage in this particular direction, which I had not seen, but I had mapped out in my brain. I did one of those moves like children do when they work their way up a doorframe -- but I did it in a narrow stairwell. It got me to the top, which was extra-difficult with the tripod! I ended up with a clean view of everything. But then, only then, did I start to wonder how the heck I was going to get back down.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Boats in Ancient China

This is the ancient village of Feng Huang in distant southern China. I hired a local driver to get me there, and the ride was longer than most plane trips! And a lot less comfortable... Anyway, after arriving, I had a wonderful time exploring. One morning, the old town was covered with thick fog. And it's that still, wet, timeless fog of China. When you are looking at it, you become convinced it will just never go away. I worked my way down one of the banks to an area where the local rivermen keep the boats to grab this shot. 

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Halls of India

I understand that many of these royal halls used to be inlaid with rare stones. I can't even imagine what it was like... since they are already beautiful and detailed with all the stones missing! I don't believe I've ever seen a re-creation of one of these, even where the stones are fake. One place that comes to mind is the Amber Room in St. Petersburg, but I haven't been there yet... although it's on the list.

From Trey Ratcliff's Travel Photography blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Liftoff at the Ranch

I ran out into the field to capture this just as the helicopter takes off after unloading another group of guests. The lighting and angle were perfect, so I was curious to see if I could catch the helicopter blade totally still. I did! A good experiment... note that many of my experiments fail... but this one worked out.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Terminal - Beijing, China

This is one of the smaller terminals in Beijing. The main terminal is huge, and you get to this one after you pass through security. The floors are so glossy, I feel like wearing ice skates!

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Blue Metal and Light - Industrial Area in Beijing, China

Many regulars know that I like to get "lost" in cities and find little secrets here or there. But, that's often in the older, charming part of cities. I rarely go into the commercial or mega-residential areas because sometimes they are more sterile or less interesting. Well, this part of Beijing is sort of a neo-industrial jungle of wild architecture and unexpected forms of light. There are dozens of brand-new buildings, each with interesting designs and countless angles. I ended up staying in this area deep into the night.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Time Frozen in the Ancient Village
Feng Huang Cheng, Hunan, China

This is a famous old village in China where the legend tells of two phoenixes hovered endlessly, transfixed by the beauty they saw below. It's located in the western part of central China's Hunan Province. It's called Feng Huang Cheng ("feng huang" being the Chinese name for the phoenix), and I'm happy I got to spend a few days wandering around its mysterious bits. This is a good overview of the city, and I'll have many more from the insides coming soon enough

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Love Locks in Paris

There is a little bridge in Paris - maybe you have heard of it - where starcrossed lovers visit. They bring tiny padlocks with them. Sometimes they are decorated, and sometimes they are just fanciful. They affix them to the bridge that overlooks the Seine. Now, the bridge has thousands of these little love locks... It's all very nice, and perfect for some low f-stop photography, of course!

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Brunch in London, England

I don't know London very well at all.  I can't ever decide if it's a good thing or a bad thing.   It's just a thing, I suppose.  And it's neither nor.  While walking through the streets you come across places that you should probably know what they are.  Or maybe you see a charming old pub and you just assume that it's quite famous.  But I don't know.  I can't tell one thing from the next...  But I did see this little restaurant one morning.  The outside was covered in ivy and flowers, and this old couple was sitting outside on the bench.  I don't know why I set up for a picture...  it was both mundane and not.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Window of Life

Only the Shadow knows what Andrey will do next... well, maybe me and Andrey... but it will be exciting, whatever it is! 

This is the fanciful Casa Batlló. I was surprised by every turn when I was inside, and it was always inspirational. I wonder whether you have ever played Myst? This place reminded me of Myst--except Gaudi had come up with the ideas so long ago--in 1877! And those designs were not only for beauty but large sums of functionality built-ins too. Simply moving cool air from room to room is stylish and unexpected.

-- Photo from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: The Lake in Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand

We are having a wonderful time in Queenstown and the surrounding area.  We just can't find a place with a bad view!  Gordon from <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.cameralabs.com/">Camera Labs</a>, who lives here, made a good point that living in Queenstown is a bit like living inside of a national park.  There are beautiful national parks around the world, but you can't actually live inside of them... so this is really a remarkable place.  Even better, the main mountain range here is called "The Remarkables"!  

from Trey Ratcliff's travel photography blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Roman Baths in Nimes - France

When I arrived in Nimes to visit my friend Fabien, one of the first places we visited were the ancient Roman baths. The ruins here are better preserved than those in Rome!

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Azure Cathedral - Barcelona, Spain

While walking through the streets around the edges of Las Ramblas, I found this secret place. I'm not sure I could even find it again. Maybe one of our smart readers knows exactly where it is. Anyway, the place was quite beautiful, as you can see. It was also pretty much empty, so I had no trouble moving around to find the interesting shots.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Metal Ribbon - Sculpture in Beijing Opera House, China

Here we have another stunning example of the fanciful architecture in Beijing. The opera house is a huge, cavernous complex. On the top level towards one side, there is an immense gathering area that's used for banquets, parties, and other such events. Luckily, my translator and assistant had set everything up ahead of time, so we were able to get in for several hours before the big concert to take some photos in peace before the crowds arrived.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: A Gentle Stream Through New Zealand
Milford Sound, New Zealand

All this news out of New Zealand is still upsetting. I've got a lot of contacts and friends down there... and I know it's a rough time. Not much I can do... feel a little useless... so about the best I can do is post some serene and gentle photos of the nicer side of nature. I hope all my friends down there find it gets a little easier as the days move forward.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Barcelona Airport - Spain

This amazing airport in Barcelona was my launching point for a very long flight through Helsinki to Berlin. I am actually the kind of guy that likes to get to airports super-early. First, I don't like the stress; second I like to explore. A lot of these international airports are these architectural wonders. I think most people just drift through them, oblivious to how awesome they are... but not me. I love 'em!

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: A Child in Tiananmen Square, China

After I left the exciting-sounding (but actually cool) Beijing City Planning museum, I walked under the street to get to Tiananmen Square.  There were thousands of people out celebrating a national holiday.  Kids, parents, families, and all sorts of festive activity.  Asian kids are always cute aren't they?  You just can't get away from it...  I found this little one with a busy mom snapping away nearby. Everyone was taking photos everywhere.... it was kind of crazy.  I knelt down to grab this one before moving on to find more cute kids.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Remote Farmhouse with Waterfall
Southern Iceland

On one of my first nights in Iceland, I was driving along the southern coast. Pristine farms are plopped along the side of the road every few miles. As I began to approach one of the volcanic areas, the terrain changed enough so there were huge waterfalls in many of the vistas. This one was nestled deep behind the farmhouse, and it seemed like a nice little spot for a photo.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Saucer Section Separates
National Centre for the Performing Arts - Beijing, China

You know you were in for something special whenever the Enterprise got into one of those situations where the saucer section would separate from the warp nacelles. It always happened in the most extreme situations, and there was always a vital emergency. But the actual separation process seemed to involve about four minutes of special effects, which was surely long enough for the Borg to assimilate everyone.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Carmel in the Evening - 

I took a California road trip up Highway 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco.  On the way is the famous little town of Carmel.  It's right by Pebble Beach, 17-mile drive, and a bunch of other amazing little places.  The town is very quaint and cool... a lovely place to walk around and explore with your camera!  This was my last shot of the night.  After this, I stopped in a small Italian restaurant to eat some tasties while I edited some photos.  This is one of my favorite things to do after a day of shooting... just relaxing... having someone bring me coffee and snacks...  headphones on... editing away.  Good times!

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Horse in Landscape

Remember what I said a few days ago about reasons for no stopping for almost every horse photo in Iceland?  Forget I said that.  I don't know what I was talking about.  Go ahead and stop...  I mean, how on earth can you pass this buy?

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: The Icelandic Phallus

I found this in the middle of another one of those 6-hour sunsets. I had spent the first part of the day in a far northern fjord, at the farmhouse of a good friend. About 200 km later, I found this spot near a crook in the road, standing up like cairn stones against time.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Sharks are Circling Google

I don't know if this is supposed to be a shark fin or not, but it reminded me of all these silly recent news stories about everyone coming after Google. From the German government to other bureaucratic busybodies, things seem to be heating up. But don't worry Google... I got your back... and so do all my friends here on StuckInCustoms! :)

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Batmobile in Brenham, Texas 

On one of my little Texas road trips, I saw this thing on the side of the road and it was worth a turn-around! It kind of makes me want to have an awesome and impractical car like this. Everything else I do in my life is so dang practical...I think I need an impractical car! 

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Google HQ as the sun is setting....  from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: The Capital Museum in Beijing

And look - another amazing super-structure in Beijing!  From what I understand, they have started bringing in more and more western architects to design innovative structures.  I'm not sure who the architect here is... but it's very well done.  See that giant red velvet wall to the right?  It's hiding a new display that's currently being built.  I've never seen such an elaborate "under construction" wall!

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The New Austin
Downtown Austin at Night

We began the PhotoWalk by walking down 6th street down towards Momo's, where we met Leo Laporte and Lisa Bettany for a quick hello. After that, we weaved through the streets together, talking about all sorts of things. I also made about five other stops where I talked through my setup and my shots. On my final shot, we were working our way back towards The Driskill when I took set up for the scene below.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Mystery of the Orient
World Showcase - Epcot - Florida

The biggest mystery here, which you may have guessed by now, is that this is not in the orient at all.  This is in the World Showcase area of Epcot.  In some ways, I think, Epcot has the least exciting rides and attractions of the four Disney parks in Orlando.  But what it lacks in rides, it makes up for in photo ops!  I took this photo right outside of a great Japanese restaurant.  I forgot the name, but I had some pretty good sushi.  I think this place and the California Grill have the best sushi at Disney, if you are into that sort of thing.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Golden Knights are Bad Ass

This was taken during an evening demonstration on the night before OpenCamp began. It was an unforgettable night with the Knights! After falling a few miles from the sky, the skydivers would open up their chutes & pyrotechnics and let loose. Since I had jumped with them the day before, they let me get up close on the landing to get some tight shots.

 - from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Russian in the Woods

I took this shot of Vulva (pronounce the "V" like Chekov did with nuclear wessuls) when we were walking in the woods in Patagonia. I had gotten up ahead of him about a quarter mile, and I stopped to take of my bag to get a snack. I like snacks when hiking. Snacks are so good. Anyway, I heard Vulva coming up behind me, so I spun around my camera to take this quick photo of him walking at me. I told him that I thought he looked really cool, but I think he thought I was just being a cheeky American.

- from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The London Eye

I took this on the last PhotoWalk in London, so it's about time I post it! I won't be able to process the Austin ones for a bit... this is a busy time for me... you'll have to forgive me!

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Under the Eiffel - Paris, France

This time of night only lasts a fleeting five minutes. So, as a photographer in Paris, it's a major commitment to get in place for that dire period. There's never an easy decision, and... after all... it is Paris, so there is no "bad" place to be.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Beijing - Inside The Egg - This building, lovingly called "The Egg" by locals, is the National Centre for the Performing Arts.  It's a gigantic and wonderful opera house that you have to see to believe.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Mega Lobby
Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada 

They don't love it when you take photos in Vegas, but I love to take photos in Vegas, so this causes a bit of a problem.  Since I am not objective about the situation, I go ahead with my side of the story and take photos when and how I choose.  At least, until the authorities show up... I then go into Michael Weston mode and talk my way out of the situation.  This is the lobby of the Venetian, and it looks amazing from almost any angle.  Just outside, you can often hear the valets singing a bit of opera... it's very strange but kind of nice!

from Trey Ratcliff www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Horses at f/1.4 - Everything looks better at f/1.4! Kids, flowers, horses, and anything else with nice details really look amazing at f/1.4.   Actually... here's a little secret... if you want to save a lot of money, you can get the f/1.8 that has a larger margin for error for beginners.  

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: Underlondon

After a day of "working hard" by meandering all over London to take photos, we ended up here at this cool restaurant.  I'm sure some of our clever UK readers know exactly which one it is!  It was one of those places where you walk in and see 30 different kinds of bread.  So then, there is no choice left, and you simply have to get bread.  I can sometimes have good bread-willpower, but not when I am presented with so many choices.  It's sort of like peer-pressure... and every one of those different kinds of bread is a sentient being, beckoning me to eat em up.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Pretty Girl in Cherry Blossoms - Kyoto

I started riding the wave of the cherry blossom bloom in Osaka before ending up here in Kyoto.  All the news stations in Japan have a long nightly report that shows a fluttering line of pink cherry blossoms that flow across the map from the west to the east.  It's a huge national celebration -- and it's really fun to be part of the sensation.  There are hundreds of tiny and large parks all over the country that have cultivated gardens of these special trees.  I visited a few dozen, and I enjoyed wandering around taking photos while the blossoms fell down like gentle pink snow.  Millions of Japanese people also go out to enjoy the event.  This girl was standing alone under a tree, taking photos and just sort of smiling, enjoying everything.  I gave her the international sign for "mind if I take a photo???"  She gave me a little bow along with a mouth-covering giggle before relaxing into a smile.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Inside the Driskill - Austin, Texas

Well here it is, the awesome hotel where we are having the event. Many people agree it's the most beautiful hotel in Austin and is over 100 years old. They've always been very kind to me -- we had our workshop in there, a book signing, and all other sorts of events. One little thing that most people don't know -- the 4th and 5th floors have beautiful paintings and art hanging on all the walls of the hallway. It's worth a trip up there just to wander around the halls and see the art!

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Little-Known Submarine Secret Dropoff Location in Lost
Milford Sound, New Zealand

Te Anau is one of the most stunning locations in the world. Located near the distant southern tip of the south island of New Zealand, it's the home base for countless breathtaking excursions. About two hours from Te Anau is this place at Milford Sound. It's called a "sound", but it's really a fjord. I heard an explanation of why it was not named correctly, but that escapes me now. I'm sure our smart members of the community here that are Kiwis can clear this up for us!

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Balloons at Disney

Do you know these balloons cost $10?  TEN DOLLARS!  A ten dollar balloon...  but they do light up.  So that's kinda cool.  What isn't cool is that you have to buy one for every single kid in your retinue.  One other cool thing (kinda secret) is that if it ever goes flat or pops, you can bring it back to get a free one.  Technically, you could even bring it back the next year and still get a new one.  This might go against the spirit of the deal, but it is a ten dollar balloon for the love of Disney-god.

From Trey Ratcliff's travel photography blog, Stuck in Customs.Photo: Ducks on a Foggy Morning - Iceland - 

When driving across the southern part of Iceland towards Wik, I went through an area of several miles where there was a sudden fog. I felt like it might not last long, so I went on a quick hike over near a slow-flowing river. Some ducks were having a morning swim off towards the misty horizon. - from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: The Infinite Stairs to the Oubliette
La Conciergerie in Paris, France

This is one of the areas where the French kept Marie Antoinette in the conciergerie. There were many mysterious parts of these chambers, and this was one of the most interesting.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Beachcomber Motel in San Clemente, California 

When I was in San Clemente, I walked up the road to visit the Beachcomber Motel. Even though I stayed in a friend's place on the beach, I was getting kicked out the last night. So I walked up here to check on accommodations. It looked quite perfect! I set up to take some photos, and management came out to stop me. I had to do some fast-talking to let them know I was not a threat. I have a certain boyish charm at times, but only at times. In this case, it just barely worked. I promised I would send the photos after I got them processed, which I finally have. And here it is.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: In Old China
Feng Huang, China

I was nursing my cracked ribs at this point after my clumsy slip down by the boats.  But I had a bit of that post-accident adrenaline that numbed it enough to keep shooting a bit.  Also, I think I was a bit loopy because of the pain, but that can make for good artistic endeavors, I think.  When I remember walking around this area, it's all a bit more foggy than some of my other experiences, which are more crystal-clear.  In some ways, I almost feel like I didn't take these photos, even though I know I did.  It's strange thinking about it now.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Red Fields on the Tundra - Iceland

Across the middle of Iceland, there are all sorts of terrain.  I don't know if this is specifically Tundra.  All my expertise in Tundra comes from Civilization where I know you can only grow one wheat, and sometimes there is a fur resource because of the seals.  When the sun is very low on the horizon, my normal temptation is to point the camera in that direction.  But in the opposite direction, when the light and terrain is right, it casts a faint reddish glow across the ground.  It's a very nice effect and I did my best to capture it.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Shakespeare's Globe Theater in London, England

Now, this is not the original theater, but it is a fully operational new version of it, located right beside the Thames in Central London. I was lucky enough to get a private tour of the facility and it was really cool, as you can see. Everything appears to be pretty authentic, from the thatched roof to the multiple view levels. In fact, it's exactly how I remember it from Civilization.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: “Done more to hurt the integrity of photography than anyone else in the world”

From full article at http://goo.gl/kjQW2 - pop over there if interested!

What do you think of this guy?

So, I wouldn’t necessarily call this guy a “troll” — but perhaps a hobgoblin or some lesser fantasy creature that you have to defeat 10 of before reaching Level 2. I find people like this endlessly fascinating, and I enjoy observing them like mold in a petri dish.

He’s been popping around http://www.StuckInCustoms.com lately, distributing comments on the “About Me” page and countless other places. Here’s a few little jewels that he has dropped. Emphasis is my own.

- "… your cliched travel images and horrendous post-processing combined with your unfortunate popularity has probably done more to hurt the integrity of photography than anyone else in the world in recent years. You have made it incredibly difficult for millions of honest photographers trying to produce honest images. Please reconsider the effect you are having on photography.

And sprinkled into my India photos:

- " Sorry but these are all pedestrian images that tell us nothing about India. There are so many hundreds of other photographers producing interesting, informative, beautiful images of India. Don’t be fooled by Photoshop.

Today's New Photo - A Dishonest Image of San Francisco

And with this image, I am once again launching full-out-assault on the hallowed traditions of photography. You know what I did with this image? I post-processed it! Oh yes, I really did. And I had so much fun doing it… at least as much fun as Dexter in his kill room.

I guess if I was to be really “honest” and take a photo of San Francisco and keep with the tradition of the greats of photography, it would have to be black and white photo, right? I mean, the world really is black and white, isn’t it? Oh wait, no… it’s in color. Wait, now I’m confused.

Oh no, look what I’ve done now. I’ve gone and upset people that think one form of artistic expression is superior to another form of artistic expression. How could I be so callous and open with my thoughts and techniques?

(and thanks everyone — I'll be back soon for a wonderfully dishonest photo of an amazing cave in the Carribean.)Photo: Business in London - Walking along one side of the Thames after visiting some museums brought us to this business district. There was a misty rain for most of the day, so it set down a nice sheen of reflection. There's a tiny water canal that runs through the center here, and the line leads right to the Tower Bridge, which you can see in the distance.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: The Mysterious Moeraki Boulders (I did not move any boulders with CS6... this is the original) - 

When I saw these strange round rocks for the first time, I was extra-fascinated. Not that I had any idea what they were. My years of geology training did me no good at all... I think it was even more frustrating because I knew all the things they could not be. The remaining possibilities just seemed off-the-chart impossible. -- from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: Girl in Hat
Beijing, China - National Day

When I’m someplace interesting, I usually set the alarm to get up quite early. Painful, yes. And then, when I’m in that half-wake state, I stumble to the window to look at the clouds and weather. If it’s a mess, I don’t go, and joyfully crawl back into bed. That’s just about the best feeling in the world.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Shaft 
Casa Batlló on Passeig de Gracia - Barcelona - Spain

This is one of Antoni Gaudi's masterpieces. That guy is amazing... It was certainly on my list to visit before the trip, and I did not really have enough time to spend there. And, I couldn't use the tripod, but I don't want to get into that discussion...just too frustrating.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Trains Across Europe

The Europeans are so lucky to have a semi-functional train system. I'm sure many of them find reasons to complain, but to me, it's all pretty awesome.  The idea of a working train system is pretty foreign to Americans. This notion that you can get on a train in one city and then hop-skip your way to another city is a novel idea to us! If you're in Houston, for example, and you decide to go to Dallas, then "getting on the train" isn't even one of the things that crosses your mind.

I don't know much about the passenger rail system in the US, and I guess that means it's in pretty dire shape.  Without even asking, I can almost guarantee our biggest passenger rail service is subsidized by the government.  And that, of course, means that I am personally paying for something that I know nothing about.  I'm reminded of this when I go to Europe and can get on a train in Montpellier and end up here, in Barcelona.  And not only that, but the train stations are all pretty interesting to explore.Photo: The Megahangar at NASA

The VAB, or Vehicle Assembly Building, is the worlds largest single-story building, and it's where NASA assembles many of the rockets, including the mighty Saturn V.  It's also the tallest building in the US that's not in a downtown area.   It's situated at Launch Complex 39 at the Kennedy Space Center, and it's awesome dot com.  The thing is so big that it even has its own weather system.  In fact, on humid days it can even rain inside the building!  In my photo below, you are really only seeing part of it.  Off to the right, they are fueling up the Atlantis for its upcoming mission.  Staring through the girders from another angle, you can easily see the giant orange tank going through its pre-launch ordeal.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Church in the Fog - Iceland

I was driving along the southern coast of Iceland on the way to Vik, and I started going throw an area of lowlands.  Around midnight or so, the sun was getting pretty low in the west, and it gave the sky a slight pink glow in almost every direction.  I shot this one at a 200mm at F/6.7.  I don't often take out my zooms for landscapes, but it does provide a nice compression that gives an unexpected feel to the final photo.  It's really hard to explain in words, but maybe you can sense of this framing in the final result.  It just can't be done with a wide-angle lens, even if I was a lot closer.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: My Kinda Town - Chicago Skyline

I took this at the top of the John Hancock this evening as night fell.  It was done with 9 exposures. I figured, why the heck not.

from Trey Ratcliff at stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Exploring the Peninsula at Sunrise

I weaved in and out of these little roads as the sun was coming up in Iceland. I was trying to find a certain rock formation off in the ocean, which I never found. But that’s okay. These roads are very windy, and that makes setting up for a shot very difficult. Every curve of the road is a new geometry, and this causes endless possibilities and problems! When you come across a nice old farmhouse like this, you hope the road is curving the right way so that you get a nice setup with the composition.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Eiffel Tower, Paris, France (Paris HDR)

I think this was my fifth trip to Paris, and the first time I actually got some Eiffel Tower shots that I find satisfactory!  I literally had to take thousands of shots of this thing before I found something that feels right to me.  The gardens that surround the Eiffel Tower are surprisingly empty.  Around dusk and sunset, it's usually not too hard to find a nice bench to drink in the sights.  Or, barring that, there are plenty of spots in the grass where you can lay out a blanket and enjoy some amazing cheese and pastries...  and what is more wonderful than that?

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Chinese Pirates on the Li River

One evening, my boat driver was speeding down the Li River as dusk was approaching. Every bend held new secrets as we wound our way further from civilization. I had a bag full of snacks to my left side and my DSLR to my right. Sitting out on the front of the boat, I had a full view of everything that was coming at me, so it was pretty amazing.  Just before we got to the turn-around spot, we came across this old ship. Part of me wanted to go inside to explore a little bit… the other part of me was a bit freaked out. Since I was new to this part of the ‘verse, I thought there could be Reavers inside.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Cracking The Egg
National Centre for the Performing Arts - Beijing - China

Ahhh...the wonderful things that man can create!  I was just coming off the end of a sickness from some bizarre viral strain I picked up in another part of China.  And I was extra-tired because I over-worked myself and gave a long speech / demo at Google in Beijing.  And then I over-over-worked myself because I had an amazing invitation to visit The Egg here, but I had to go, you know?  You gotta go... I couldn't say no to these amazing opportunities. ...and I wasn't collapsing with fatigue and sickness... I could still move around a bit, even though I was not in top form.  But I'm glad I went.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Night View from Balcony in Ibiza

Ibiza is a really strange place.  This hotel (Ibiza Gran) seemed to be typical of hotels in Ibiza when it came to the clientele.  Here's the deal...  if you have never heard this, you'll think it sounds pretty strange -- and it is.  So a lot of people in Ibiza dress in all white.  White pants, white shirt, free-flowing fabrics, and cavalier attitudes flow in and out of the hotel lobby, bar, poolside restaurant, and the spa.  It's all very strange.  It's sort of a combination of a Clockwork Orange and a Euro Sci-Fi Orgy.  I can't quite explain it...  I'm not sure I understand it, and I didn't succumb, even though everyone did seem very comfy.  After a long day of exploring and shooting, I went out on the balcony to get a shot of the pool and the moon behind the clouds.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: KLIA

I spend way too much time in this terminal, so I decided to grab an HDR shot. This is Kuala Lumpur International Airport. It is a great airport, just like most Asian airports I visit. They generally blow away US airports in terms of design and functionality. When compared to international hubs like LAX and CTG, there is no comparison.

From Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: The Mighty Rocket Rests

I had some time during the day while at NASA to visit the Kennedy Space Center.  Inside was the insanely huge Saturn V rocket.  It's one of those things that would hurt like hell if you dropped it on your toe.  The shuttle only has one more launch before it is forever mothballed, like this...  The final launch of the Atlantis is on July 8, the first day of my 40th revolution around the sun.  That's kinda cool I think...

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: My Next Trip to the Louvre 

You know how sometimes you go some place awesome and you think, "This is really cool, I think I'll probably come back some day."  But then, sometimes, after the event, you start thinking that maybe you may not be able to make it back.  You never really know I guess.  Anyway, when I do go back to the Louvre in July, I'm going to spend a day inside sketching.  I do like to sketch (I have a few on the About Me page: http://www.stuckincustoms.com/trey-ratcliff/ About Me), and this seems like a great place to do it.  I wish I had a whole month in Paris... I'd try to go here once a week for a day of sketching.  Maybe I should put this on my to do list... why not?

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Church in the Wilderness before an Icelandic Summer Storm

I drove from one end of Iceland to the other by myself, going down almost any road except the main one. I traveled down a little gravel road for a long way until I found this tiny church and graveyard. I jumped out to shoot this before the afternoon showers came down.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: This is Vespucci - Italy

Vespucci's dream is to find his son and tell him important things. He twists his head quickly at me with a lost and quizzical look, and then he returns to a thoughtful gaze.  Vespucci is currently homeless and cannot remember where his son is.

from Trey Ratcliff at stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Ghost in the Cathedral - Kiev

The Byzantine gold glowed hot when I got inside, a divine signal to me that God was mad because I brought my camera inside. However, I reasoned with God, the sign read "No Cameras" in a Cyrillic lettering, a lettering style I do not recognize since the Jesuits trained me in the Romance languages and not these Slavic uncials.  Besides, I was inside Saint Michael's Cathedral, and I was holding a camera, and, as the saying goes, when in Rome, shoot interiors of churches in Rome, and when in Kiev, break Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Councils.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Skeletons at Sunrise - Yellowstone

At one point when driving through Yellowstone a few weeks ago, I got out of the car and started walking right into the forest on the edge of the road. There was a thick fog and the morning sun was low, creating an unexpected box of light. I kept walking and walking until I found this area. It just felt right for whatever reason, so I set up to take this HDR.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Beating Hearts of the Buddhas - Borobudur, Indonesia

I tried something a little bit different with this photo. I was holding two flashlights to help me climb the temple in the morning. I think I got there about 5:30 AM when it was still pitch black, so the flashlights helped me find the right footholds and whatnot. Anyway, this was an extremely long exposure, so I used some of that time to "paint" the inside of the bell cages with the beams of my flashlights. Each of those bell cages held a solitary outward-facing Buddha. I'm glad I was there alone, because I'm sure I looked like a loon running around shining the flashlights in patterns to illuminate the Buddhas inside.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Zipping Through Tokyo

I think it rained almost every day I was in Tokyo, but that's just fine with me. It gives you all these "Black Rain" conditions, and makes the place twice as moody as it already was. I walked through Rappongi one evening to find a secret Italian restaurant. I ended up having to cross the road so many times on these overpasses, that I finally decided to stop and take a photo of the action underneath. 

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Alone at the Beach - West Palm, Florida

I can't tell you how many times I've spent mornings and evenings on the beach by myself. I think it's quite alright, and I don't entirely mind it at the time. 

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Big Ben at Dusk

Halfway through the PhotoWalk in London, we stopped here at Big Ben to get a shot. It’s a little tough for me sometimes to do this while on a PhotoWalk because I can’t fully focus on the photography. I have to talk, explain, converse, answer questions, and the like. Don’t get me wrong… I love all that stuff. But I do find it hard to fully focus on the photography side of the evening!

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Sunset Storm over Kuala Lumpur

I love this photo.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Falls of Yellowstone

This is a very famous waterfall in Yellowstone National Park. I was there smack dab in the middle of the day, which is just about the worst time to take photos. So be it, Jedi.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Edge of Chile

Today's photo comes from the from the very southern tip of the Americas. It is a bitterly cold place, even in the summer. I believe that the glaciation period is relatively recent, so the peaks are extra jagged and everything feels fresh and raw.

From Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: A Godly Dance at the Taj

My guide there was from no from one of the traditional Hindu sects -- he was a Jain. The Jain don't recognize the divine origins of the Vedas (made popular in the US from Oppenheimer's re-quote after testing the Bomb), nor do they believe in any one supreme deity. They instead revere Tirthankaras who have raised themselves to divine perfection. 

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Approaching London

The afternoon yesterday had a typical London rainshower. But it cleared up just before sunset to reveal magnificent clouds. I crisscrossed the Thames River many times to find the right light. After the sun dipped below the horizon, the light finally fell behind Westminster with a delicate palette.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: Morning. Coffee. Yellowstone. Fog.

This spot is not too far from the entrance to West Yellowstone. The warm water that comes from the earth mixes with the cool morning sky. It creates a surreal layer of fog that simply rests on top of the river. It flows up, around, and through the neighboring trees. It reminds me of the dry ice that comes out of cauldrons on Halloween.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Morning at the Secret Lake

This was shot in the Andes of Southern Argentina just near the border of Chile.  I spent several hours of hiking in the dark just so I could get to this spot at sunrise. All the darkness in the lower half is the shadow of the mountain behind me as the morning sun rose above it. I was so thirsty from the hike, and had not brought any water with me. Looking on Google Earth beforehand, I knew there was a lake up here and I could fill up… so I got down on my hands and knees and drank like a horse… oh boy that was some good fresh water… You can see my little footprints in the snow there on the left.

From Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Wrath of the Norse Gods - Hallgrímskirkja - Iceland

This is Hallgrí­mskirkja, a church in downtown Reykjavik, Iceland. It is built to resemble an ancient area of the countryside, near a waterfall, where stones in these shapes were found as part of a natural geological formation.

From the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The proper way to do attribution at a bare minimum, Mashable (and all you other lazy bloggers), is to do this:  "Photo by Trey Ratcliff from StuckInCustoms.com [linked]".  Simple.  Now, as for this photo in particular, in case you were a'wonderin', this is a giant storm hitting the NASA vehicle assembly building.  To give you a sense of scale, inside that building they built the entire Saturn V rocket that went to the moon...Photo: There's a Pool Party at Sunset

I think pretty much all kinds of food and drink are welcome. I'll bring a BBQ pit and an ambulance in case there are any problems. And I hope someone brings a boom box. Are they still called that? I don't know. Maybe that means it will be a lame party because I don't even know if they are called boom boxes any more, but I'm sure I'm not the only one that will bring a bit of 80's music.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Magic of Disney

- This was taken this evening at MGM Studios in Disney World before we went to go see the big fireworks show. The only problem with making your family and 6-year-old son stand around while you set up your tripod and take a bunch of shots is that it gives them ample opportunity to see little toys they cannot live without.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Geothermal Genie - Iceland

I've never been one of those people that can easily see shapes in clouds. Nor am I one of those people that can pass a Rorschach Test without being immediately thrown in jail for something I might have done.  But in this picture, I think I see a genie coming out of that geothermal vent. This was shot in Iceland on a *rather* chilly day. 

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Secret Spots in Tokyo

Now, knowing the crowd around here, you will be able to identify this secret spot in Tokyo.  I really thank everyone out there for being so kind and introducing me to these great spots for photography.  I feel quite lucky that when I travel, I have instant friends everywhere.  I can't believe it!  Anyway, the gentleman who ushered me into this incredible lair was <a href="http://japanorama.co.uk/" rel="nofollow">Alfie</a>.  Be sure to hit that link if you ever visit Tokyo and want to get some lessons WHILE seeing great places around the city.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: A View From the Ranch in Argentina

I've always heard about how wonderful it is to have a ranch near the wine country in Argentina. But not until I was down there did I really find that out in person. The idea of walking across a ranch during the nether hours of the day and seeing something like this... well... it kind of makes me want to just go ahead and retire down there. All I need is broadband and these kind of vistas... that's the life, eh? I hope I was able to adequately capture the majesty of that place with this photo.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Across from Ground Zero

This is right in the middle of the World Trade Center area where all the reconstruction was going on.  As most of you know, I'm not a fan of modern art, except for when things just work out and something like this comes together.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Art Hangar

The Millennium Bridge crosses the Thames and terminates here, at the Tate Museum.  They don't like you to take photos in here.  Heaven forbid someone should make art in a museum.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Cart Runners in Old Beijing

There are many old pockets scattered all over Beijing.  I haven't become totally familiar with all the names of these quadrants yet, but I should get another chance to re-visit all these places.  This is actually kind of a weakness in the whole "travel blog" thing.  See, a REAL travel blogger would memorize the names of all these places and spout them back to you.  But, here is my excuse... and maybe it is not really that bad... but, to me, this kind of photo could be taken in many different places.  The exact neighborhood does not matter.  In fact, by NOT telling you the spot, you may be more likely to find it just by wandering about.  These uniformed guys sat together in between jobs and had a rest.  I don't know what struck me about it, but it just seemed like a nice little moment. 

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Myst Staircase

I wish I could have met Gaudi.  The only thing I know about him is his art, but I'm guessing he was an interesting guy.  I also would have like to own one of his houses, but then I'd be in a pickle.  He only designed and built a few of these houses, and I think living inside of them would be amazing.  But, since it is such a work of art, I'd feel compelled to share it with the world.  You can't live in it AND open it up to the public - so what to do?  I'd like to say I'd be noble and open it up to the world, but the wonderfully selfish side of me would want it all to myself.  Maybe it's not that different than owning a Renoir.  Not that I own one of those either... but it is an interesting decision to think about.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Simplicity of Life

There was a silent lake in the north of Iceland around 1 AM where I stopped for a stroll. I had bathed myself in this light for over a week, and this non-stop dream of solstice nights was getting deep into my mind. There is that strange moment between sleep and wake - you know the one - but that moment was elongated to hours on end as the elements drifted around me. Certain feelings around this are hard to explain, but perhaps you know what I mean.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Empty
Apple Store, New York

I always wanted to take a photo from this angle and thought about it ever since the first time I visited. I was happy with the rain, because it made it all feel right. Even better, I was standing under an arch so I was perfectly dry... these kind of shots out in the rain with the 14-24 are tough because of the bulbous lens. It's not a problem if the rain is straight down, but it never is!

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Coming Home to the Inn After Dinner
 Nelson, South Island, New Zealand

This is in the far northern part of the south island if New Zealand. The town is named Nelson, and I think it is one of the five biggest on that island. But all of New Zealand only has four million people, and the vast majority of those are on the north island. I wonder what has happened to towns like Nelson since the big earthquake in nearby Christchurch. Maybe some of our NZ community readers can fill us in with some on-the-ground info.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Climbing Inside the Dyson Sphere

This towering Escheresque room is inside The Egg, which you can see by looking back at previous photos of Beijing. Or, specifically, here is one photo from inside the egg, and another from the outside.  When you're inside these megastructures, every room seems like a triumphant masterpiece on its own.  I only know a little bit about architecture...just sort of as a general "fan" that can say, "Oh that looks cool," but I wonder about how many architects work on a structure like this.  I'm sure it's a full team, and I imagine one of the junior guys getting to design this room.  Even that would be a dream assignment, I would think!

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Flowers and Carved Stone

I kept driving and driving and driving and weaved my way up past a town in the far northwest fjords. I saw this strangely (and nicely) shaped mountain with that strange early-morning lighting. Then, I spent another hour or so hiking around until I found this special kind of blue flower (EDIT thanks to commenters Scott & Guðjón - it is called the lupine or lúpína in Icelandic). Just when I was about to give up, I found a giant patch of them, so I selected the right lens and set up for this shot.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Sad and Alone at Night

On one of my first evenings in Beijing, I walked around some of the older parts of the city to get a feel for it.  Whenever I have extra time in a city, I usually don't go too hardcore with the photography initially - choosing instead to explore on foot and get a sense of the place.  But, you know, I do have my camera with me to get a few things here and there...just can't help it.  Between a few streets, I came across this little guy sitting on the seat of a small motorcycle.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Stampede of the Wild Horses - Yellowstone

After a long hike through the mountains of Yellowstone, I came across over 40 horses sprinting from one meadow to the next. I stepped behind a tree to get out of the way and shot this one.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Sacre Coeur Basillica - The Sacred Heart of Paris

This is the Sacred Heart Church that sits high on a hill in a very artsy area of Paris. Actually, all of Paris seems artsy to me. I've always wondered what it would be like to be a "full time artist" living in Paris. Wouldn't that be just about the coolest thing in the world? Or maybe you would become spoiled in just a short while and take it all for granted. It's very hard to empathize or sympathize with any mystical miserables that might be in that situation.

from Trey Ratcliff at stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Unstable - Montana Ranch

I was in a remote ranch in Montana for a week last year. Almost every day we would head out to ride horses, find a distant fishing hole, or just randomly explore. Everything was great until I decided to test the bear spray into the wind.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Sometimes it's fun to be impractical

Isn't it?  Of course it is...  I'm really not too much of a materialistic guy.  I think my three biggest expenses are travel, good food, and camera equipment.   Speaking of that last one, the Nikon D3x was finally made official, and I'm gonna be the first (or so they tell me) person to get one in Austin!  Sadly, I think I will have more fun with that camera than with this car.

From Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Soft Hills on the way to Paradise, New Zealand

Just beyond Glenorchy, which is just a shade beyond Queenstown, lies a little place called Paradise. The road gets tinier and tinier as you get closer. A few miles before the road becomes all dirt, I pulled over to these soft rolling hills. They were covered with little sheep families, walking to and fro.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Flying Through the Night Skies of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 

My grandmother told me that Kuala Lumpur was one of my grandfather's favorite cities. I wonder what he would think of it now... but I know what he means - it's also one of my favorite cities! I have many friends there, and people are generally as friendly as can be.

www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Natalia on the Farm

After getting back from one of those long hikes in Patagonia, I stayed with my Russian friends at a small hotel in El Chalten. It was a little family-run operation and the daughter Natalia helped out by running errands and these sorts of things. I took her around with me to take some photos in the little town, and she was happy to pose! It was plenty easy to find all kinds of interesting backgrounds, since El Chalten is a picturesque little town with old buildings, horses in fields, and mountainous backdrops.

From Trey Ratcliff's travel photography blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: A Girl and Her Grandma in Beijing - China

As I came out of a museum, I saw this young girl sitting with her grandmother and reading books. They were sitting on a simple bench and there was a wall of bamboo behind them. The light was falling perfect, so I dropped down onto one knee and took a quick shot.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Off the PCH at Sunset

Whenever I go to California lately, I have meetings in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. Rather than fly between the two, I like to take my time and drive up the Pacific Coast Highway. It's such a famous highway, but it's usually fairly empty. There is always a beautiful sunset... it's pretty much a guarantee. I popped out of my car and hiked through the brush a bit to grab this one so you can see what it looks like.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Four Horses

It was one of those long summer afternoons when you are sure it must be 5 PM, and you check the clock and it's only 2 PM! You know these days. Anyway, I decided to pick up my camera and walk around the ranch in Yellowstone for a little while The stable area is always a target, rich environment, so I headed right over there to find these four horses lined up so nicely.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Singularity Device

This screen in "The Place" (great name, huh?) that faces downward is supposed to be one of the biggest in the world. I don't know if it's bigger than the one in Texas Stadium, but it must be longer.

 from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Deep into the Patagonia Glacier

This is the Perito Mereno Glacier, and this thing is over two miles wide. Unfortunately, everything is so huge in the photo that you can't get a sense of the scale. When you see huge chunks cleave off, it all happens in slow motion, just like the movies. And the sound is like an icy thunder.

From Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Temple of Heaven - China

One too-early morning brought me to this very important place for the Chinese called The Temple of Heaven. It's the most important Taoist structure in all of China and millions flock to it every year, especially during the National Holiday. It was built in the early 1400's during the reign of the Yongle Emperor. 

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Homes in the Land of the Panserbjørne

On my ninth or tenth day of the solstice, the mornings sometimes got a little strange. On this morning, it was around 2 or 3 AM. There was plenty of light, but the heavy clouds cast a blue tinge over the landscape. 

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Prambanan Sunset

Sometimes the lighting is best right after the sunset.   And sometimes this is right when the police come to get you.  Maybe they were security guards.  But it was hard to tell in the dark - and, besides, I didn't know the difference between the clothes of a security guards and a policeman in Indonesia.  I had Will with me when these guys approached us, and he was not help at all.  He did manage to keep them busy for a while so I could take some final shots, but we could tell that we had worn out our welcome.  So then the guards started to escort us right out of there. 

www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Hallway to the Mona Lisa

The Louvre has one hallway leading to another in an endless and awesome labyrinth of confusion.  Maybe the most confusing thing is that there don't seem to be consistent floors.  There you are on floor three, and then you take half a flight down, and its unclear if you are on 2 or 2.5.  And then, you see a sign, and it explains in international language that you are indeed on the "yellow" floor, where in the last wing you were clearly not in a color-oriented floor but instead on 1.5.  But, throughout the Louvre are huge signs that say "Mona Lisa" with an arrow pointing in one way or another.  I'm sure the guards got SICK of people askin', "So where's this moner lisa gal?"

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Silent Horse in the Fog 

Every night around 2 AM in Iceland was like a dream. I'm always enjoyed staying up late... As Sarah McLachlan says, "Night is my companion." Sometimes, after midnight is when things really start to flow, so my two-week sleep reversal of staying up all night to drive around Iceland was a trippy experience. The weather was always strange. Sometimes sunny, sometimes cloudy -- but always with a tinge of the surreal.

- from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Notre Dame

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Treetop Temple Protects Kyoto

Photographed here is the Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto. The city is known for its traditional Japanese architecture, slower-paced life, natural beauty, graceful geishas, and zen peacefulness. I probably could have stayed in Kyoto capturing scenes the entire trip. I remained here until the sky turned black, and then I headed back down some winding streets to find an old small restaurant where the food was mysterious and every course was served with a gentle bow.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: There were no fireworks, but there was this pretty sunset

I went out to my secret spot to get fireworks shots (that is not all that secret), but they did not shoot off because of all the high water and floods.  But, there was still a great sunset... so I snapped this one.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: María del Mar Cathedral - Barcelona - Spain

Here is another amazing place in Barcelona, Spain -- this is the famed Santa María del Mar Cathedral.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Young Girl in Basket - Feng Huang - China

The main river that runs through Feng Huang and is criss-crossed by many bridges and walkways.  To get up to them, there are long stone stairways that switchback up the sides.  In the mornings, women go down to the river with their children to wash clothes.  As they go back and forth to get more loads, sometimes they put the babies into the baskets on the way up again.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Best Fish Evar

This spot is pretty well-known restaurant called Tjöruhúsið in the little town of Isafjordur.  There is a little window in the back where the fishermen come every morning to deliver the fresh fish in exchange for getting to eat there for free.  They bring you the food inside giant iron-clad pans... it was so awesome.  I'm going back in a few months and I'm going to gorge myself here with giant dinners before heading out for all-night shooting.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Inner Tomb of Humayun - These ancient rooms inside the funerary complex were strangely empty, and I had the whole network of strange rooms to explore on my own.  I also listen to strange music while I take my photos.  This makes everything even more transportive... and it just may have helped me find the nearby reliquary... from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: Forgotten Temple, Cambodia

I emerged from one part of the undergrowth to find these wonderful ruins. There were little human-shaped blocks all over the jungle, so I knew there must have been other little ruins overgrown just about everywhere. I can hardly imagine what it must have been like back in its prime.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Prismatic Cathedral

In the webinar, I gave people a small set of images for homework.  This is the second of the two sets (the first I posted yesterday).  I didn't mean for both to be from Spain, but I guess they are!  Anyway, I thought it was kind of fun for people all over the world to be processing my images while I am processing them... kind of strange but cool.  I will try to post things on a regular basis as we work on them together.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Spiralstorm

This beautiful staircase was found in a small cloister while I was about to exit St. Paul's Cathedral in London.  I took some extra time while I was over there for the workshop to explore places like this.  There were only a few days extra, but I tried to make the most of it.  I got shut down a few times while in the proper part of the cathedral, but I did manage to get a few shots in.  As for this area, it was wide open and no one said anything.  I always feel more comfy when I am not rushed and have time to set everything up!  In this case, I used a 14-24 lens.  I get asked a lot if I use filters on my lens -- but I do not.  I don't even know if you can get a filter that fits this bulbous wide angle.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Ghost from the Dungeon - London

I was walking along the Thames river in London, following up on a lead that a reader told me about.  There was supposed to be some cool hidden underground area that you can access from underneath one of the bridges that crosses the river.  I never found it, but I did come across this place.  Maybe you have seen it before if you are a local?  If so, maybe you shouldn't ruin it for the other readers... let them uncover it on their own.  Also, if you say what it is, it may ruin the nice mystery of it all, yes?  Yes I'm sure since we both know what it is...

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Tori Gate - Florida

This is a replica of the exact same place I have been near Nikko, Japan. The Nikko one is quite hard to shoot! There are many things in the way, and setting up for the ideal shot is no easy matter. Plus, when I was in Japan, the sky was not so great that evening. It's the luck of the cards sometimes!  But this evening in Disney World was ultra-perfect. Epcot is the park that has all the little international areas. Japan, Germany, France, etc etc. It's all a little silly and fake -- but it's also very cool and scenic! I don't know how it can be both... but it is. Those Disney imagineers do an incredible job of making things look dreamy. I do the best I can to capture the magic as I saw it.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: American Airlines at DFW

This is the same plane that I flew to Tokyo on just recently. It was shot from high above in the Admiral’s Club. It was an awfully stormy day, and I was worried that maybe the flight wouldn’t go off on time! We were delayed a few hours… but that gave me plenty of time to set up all my equipment in there like dork!

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Join me on the beach at sunset... It will be a great photowalk tonight!Photo: The Grassy Roof in the Central Icelandic Farms

While driving from one side of Iceland to the other in what was supposed to be winter, I spent a fair amount of time in the grassy inlands where some sort of heat inversion kept the ground green and fertile.  I came across a few of these homes with these thick peat grassy rooftops. 

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The British Museum - 

So, this museum has the Rosetta Stone -- what else do you need to know? And if it's got that, you know it has some other amazing things as well. I spent two days there -- one shooting and one exploring! Okay, well, both shooting. - from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: The Morning Steam Through the Forest in Yellowstone - I was exhausted after shooting most of the day. I drove over the the Firehole River to have a swim. There was no one else around, and I didn't have a swimsuit, so I just went in my undies. This seemed like a great idea until my underwear ripped on a rock. This, combined with very sensitive feet that make me look crazy when walking on a rocky shore, made for quite a scene. - from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: Exploring the Valleys Beyond the Fjords of Akureyri

I had always wanted to visit fjords ever since reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as a kid... picturing Slartibartfast carving them up was something that always stuck in my mind. The first ones I got to visit were in Iceland after I went up north to stay in Akureyri for a few days. I had actually intended to go one place that my friend Helga suggested, but I ended up getting lost, which is okay enough. This fjord valley kept going and going as the sun started to rise over the edges. I pulled over every few miles whenever the moment seemed right to shoot, and it seemed right so often!

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: A Sea of Sunflowers

This photo was much harder to take than it might seem!  First of all, these sunflowers are tall - and I mean tall!  They must be between 6 and 7 feet in the air.  I was on the ground with them, so, of course, I was looking UP at them.  No one wants to see a shot like that...!  So, I put the camera on the tripod, set the timer to 5 seconds, extended the legs, set the manual settings correct, then jacked the whole thing in the air, holding it rock steady while it took the exposure.  Getting a steady horizon while holding the camera 12 feet in the air is not easy... and after a number of takes, my shoulders were just about spent for the rest of the night.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: About to cross the stream on the hike, approaching the blue glacier

This is about 20km into our backpacking. The fertile soil from recent glaciation sprang colorful life everywhere, even as the valley was changing colors for autumn. Little streams trickled here and there and fell into larger streams. Fording some of these was always a little sketchy when carrying a bunch of expensive camera equipment, but it was always worth it. 

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: La Ville de Paris Gets Ready for Night

I was on the hill in the Montmartre part of Paris just after the sun had set. I pointed the camera over the sprawl of the city just as the lights were coming on for the evening. I made it my personal mission to walk down into the city that evening, meander around, and visit at least three pastry shops and eat a silly number of desserts. I tricked myself into thinking that I might be burning a lot of calories by doing so much walking. It's amazing how easily I was able to justify French desserts.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Chinese Technopolis - Beijing Planning Museum City Model in China

How boring does the "Beijing Planning Museum" sound?  Very!  How surprisingly awesome is the "Beijing Planning Museum"?  Very!  The museum features a few giant city-models.  And I mean GIANT!  You can get a sense of the size of this thing by looking at the waist-height red rope around the outside.  Not only is this a fully detailed model, but each of the buildings light up individually in a cascade, corresponding to a dreamy Chinese voiceover.  The voice describes each sector of the city and what makes it unique.  There is music playing in the background that I could have sworn was the same music as "Jurassic Park", so that was a very strange addition to the scene.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Mini-Land of San Francisco

I know some photographers are probably familiar with this tilt-shift type of shot.  For those of you not familiar with it, there is a way to take photos and convert them into something that looks like a miniature.  You can do it in-camera with a certain kind of lens, or afterwards with some post-processing.  I don't do a lot of tilt-shift stuff, but I thought I would share this one! :)

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The State Capitol of Texas at Dusk - I went down on Saturday evening to do some shooting around Austin and caught the capitol around sunset. There are all kinds of interesting things about the Texas capitol, like this cool underground Illuminati chamber you can see here, but the one thing that all Texans seem to know is that our capitol is 14 feet taller than the one in D.C. -- from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: The Surf in LA as Night Passes - 

There's this moment in California when the sun hits the horizon that I am quite sure most of the natives take for granted. The gradation of sky from the burning sun to the deep blues can only be really appreciated if you swing your head around and purge your short-term memory. 

The effect is not dissimilar to the optical illusion of the giant full moon on some evenings, seemingly magnified by our inability to establish a frame of reference. I think something along those lines happens with color as the sun dips. 

You can see this from space, as the sudden band from light to dark rips around the earth -- that same viewing cone can be seen from anywhere on the surface, and it can be best noticed in places like LA, with the nearly infinite horizon.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: The New of Old China

I found this place near the one of the old Imperial rice barns that had been converted into an opera house. It's a hard-to-find but charming area of the city. Not even my driver or assistant could find it, and they've lived in Beijing their entire lives!

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Walking the Streets of France After Dark

This perfect little European medieval street was in Lyon, if I am not mistaken.  Sometimes I forget here in my old age.  There's a 10% chance it is in Paris. There's a long path from click to final image and my memory fades betwixt.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Batmobile

Everyone likes the Batmobile yes?  It's especially cool when you see one on the side of the road in Texas that some comic-book redneck has souped up to be something that is on the edge of street-legal.  I jumped out quick to grab a shot before the owner could come out and hit me with some sort of a 2x4, which I only assumed me might be carrying.  Actually, you never know... around Austin it's just as likely to be a doctor or lawyer (assuming one of those two to be an honorable, upstanding profession!  (also notice the nice only-in-Texas trailer hitch on the back)

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: A Carousel in France

It was just past 10 PM on the wet streets of Paris as I was getting lost on purpose around the streets near the Church of the Sacred Heart.  I bobbed and weaved through various little alleys, streets, and tiny bakeries (where I would just have to stop for a moment), before finding my way to this little faire.  There was a small carousel spinning away with tiny little French children screaming wonderful things...

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Steampunk Horse

I was in London and found this place just after my wife and I had a lovely dinner with Matt Ridley (have you seen his TED Talk on "When Ideas Have Sex"?)  Visit my Best TED Talks at http://www.stuckincustoms.com/best-ted-talks to see it... right there at the top! He's a great guy and his TED speech did not mention why ideas would come together to make a steampunk horse.  We passed a gallery in a nice part of town that was totally dark and mysterious -- except for this wonderful creation inside.  I could not resist and had to whip out the tripod to make it happen!

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Silent Temple of Zhangjiajie

I took this in the middle of a serious trek in Zhangjiajie, deep in the southern part of China.  It was one of the hardest single-day treks of my life.  This part in the lowland forest was not too tough because it was relatively flat.  There were little path problems here and there, but nothing too major.  Most of the problems involved walking up and down these bitches: http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2010/10/17/zhangjiaji/.  

I probably should not call them that, but, honestly, when you are walking up on down them, it's one of the words that keeps popping into your mind.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Chocolate Shoppe - London

Here's another that I processed the other evening while people looked on... This is a chocolate shop in London that I found by accident called the Rabot Estate. I bought a lot of stuff here, and it didn't last very long. I also had a very nice cup of drinking chocolate while flipping through some chocolate books in the back. I found out there is a chocolate resort somewhere in the Caribbean.. it's like a regular Caribbean resort that also happens to be on a cocoa plantation. SIGN ME UP.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: A Giraffe on the Savannah

Our giant reticulated friend, unable to articulate, was forced to gesticulate in the most ridiculous manner. 

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Aerophilia

This wondrous place is the new Air and Space Museum in DC. I thought I knew a lot about planes until I got here. I would recognize this and that, but the whole gestalt of the place was completely overwhelming. Overwhelming in an awesome way, of course.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Aurorus Reflectus Colosseo

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: A Votive in the Dark Cathedral

I love a scary cathedral.  They can put you in such a melancholy and gloomy mood if you want them too.  You can feel the overbearing saints from above judging your moves, and giving you a few bonus points in the big game if you light one of the votives.  In a scientific study, it was proven than a votive makes a prayer 35% more likely to be granted.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Hidden Buddhist Temple of Borobudur at Sunrise

This morning I got a wakeup call at 3:30 AM to head out on a distant trek to Borobudur to climb the temple before sunrise.  I had a flashlight and a fully loaded iPod for the ascent.  I stayed at the top and all around the temple for most of the morning, collecting shots here and there as misty clouds rolled in, through, around, and over the temple.  This temple laid abandoned and overgrown for about 800 years until it was rediscovered by the British.  You can see the distant volcano rumbling in the morning sunrise...

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Portfolio - The Counter-Earth, the one some of us see...Photo: The 57 Chevy

This is a shot of a '57 Chevy.  I saw it when walking back to the Magnolia Hotel on Friday night after dinner in Dallas.  I took a photo of this pretty car under the blue lights of the porte-cochere, went upstairs to my room, downloaded the Topaz Bundle software, made the adjustments, and had the whole thing finished in less than 30 minutes.  That quick turnaround speaks to how easy the software is to use.  I've since used it on a number of other images, including some unpublished ones.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Monkey Love

A male monkey and his mate relax near an ancient naga at the ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Big Sur Morning

I'd spent the previous day at Hearst Castle - all the way until sundown. That messed up my plans to take in the sights along Highway 1, so I drove an hour north and found a little lodge right on the coast. It was one of those mysterious late-night checkins where you can't see what's around you, but you have a feeling it's awesome. 

I woke up early in the morning to see this! I hopped a fence and hiked along the cliffs. Just as the sun was coming up, I grabbed this one from under a tree.


 - from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: Above the World - High up in Queenstown, New Zealand 

There is a gondola ride that goes to the top of one of the mountains in Queenstown. It's not one of the ski areas -- just an area for hanging out, seeing the sites, the luge, dinner, and this sort of thing.  But it's always stunning.  I went up there a few times.  They have one of those giant buffet dinners up there where I took the family.  It's one of those high-end ones where you try a little bit of everything and then realize that you are way too full and bloated...  I tried to shake off the guilt by running outside at dusk to take this photo!

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Meditation - 

It's sort of hard to find time to meditate nowadays, eh?  I mean, there is a lot of stuff going on.  I wonder if the old-school Buddhists would be as good at meditating if they had broadband.  It's quite easy to distract yourself online.  By the way, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for distracting yourself to join me for a story or two...  And, should you find the inspiration to meditate a little, maybe this shot from Siem Reap, Cambodia will help.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Ancient Feng Huang Cheng

This is an old place that maintains its classic charm. It's called Feng Huang, and the old buildings along the river are still up on stilts. They don't build right along the river, since they know every 50 years or so, a major flood clears everything away. In the meantime, locals go on about their business, going down to the river to wash clothes, prepare food, and the like.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Approaching the Glacier after a Stormy Sunrise

We left while it was still dark to reach this spot by the morning. The glacier is already a deadly blue, but the morning light gets into the nooks and crannies and makes the blue reflect around like an argon laser.

From the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Beautiful Feng Huang at Night

After a few hours of shooting, I stopped at a small family-run restaurant that overlooked the river. I pulled out my sketch pad and started drawing the scene around me for a few hours while the nice mom inside brought me all kinds of mysterious hot foods, teas, and little cookies. It was a very peaceful and nice night...

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Martian Chronicles - Geothermal Domes 

I am proud that one of my books is a signed copy of Ray Bradbury's book. I don't think it's my favorite book, but it's got that nice patina of awesomeness that comes with early-age science-fiction. Part of my problem, frankly, is that I can't get some of those wonky images out of my head that were implanted by a low-quality movie version I saw on TV as a kid.

- from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The sunrise as the caged Buddhas look on - Borobudur

Each of these "bells" is really a stone cage that houses a Buddha statue that is seated, facing outwards.  At this time in the morning, you can take little flashlights and peer inside the cages.  It's all very eerie and fun...  In the distance, you can see a few volcanoes poking through the mist.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Stopping for Lunch at the Emerald Lake in the Andes

We stopped at this mountain lake to relax and have a quick lunch.  It was a good chance to drop off the bag, put together my camera and tripod, then break it all down again, repack, and get back on the hike.

From the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The River that Ran Through Lyon at Midnight

I walked around Lyon at midnight with a Russian friend. He saw me walking with my camera attached to my tripod and the strap hanging down. He winced, saying he saw one of his friend's cameras just drop off the head and crash to the ground. He forced me to wrap the strap around the tripod just in case... and I still do that to this day, thinking about is disapproving Russian scowl. I don't need to see that it my mind's eye...

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center

After I went to the top, I visited the bottom of Rockefeller center, where the famous ice-skating rests. The huge lights on both sides of the tower created a cool purple streaming light that exploded out of both sides of the building, making for a very cool effect (at least I think so!).

Copyright Trey Ratcliff All Rights ReservedPhoto: Entering the Forbidden City

The Forbidden City sits in the middle of Beijing along an imaginary line called "The Central Axis".  Many of the important buildings, temples, and monuments are along this line.  It might seem convenient just to walk along this line to see everything you need to see, but this idea only works if you have the mobility of the Genghis Khan cavalry.  I had a delightful tea inside the Forbidden City at a secluded and secret tea house with my contacts.  It all sounds somewhat cloak & dagger, doesn't it?  

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Pandora from Avatar

I also climbed one of these at night. Alone. That was exciting. I don't know if exciting is quite the right word for it, but it certainly was an experience (that word said with French accent). On the way down, I ran into a big snake that would have liked nothing more than to rock my face off. I'll have a full story on that in a later post from this area.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Midnight Wonder Garden

These are the lower gardens of Kiyomizu-dera in one of the older parts of Kyoto.  I've been to this area multiple times, and I try to go at different times of the day and different seasons.  I'd love to be lucky once and catch it in the snow...  I suppose that would mean I need to go in the winter or something. 

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Mighty Rocket Awaits

Today I had a great day at NASA. I've come back to the space coast in Florida to see the space shuttle Endeavor blast off, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Sunrise Discovery of Angkor Wat

I feel a bit like a British explorer, surrounded by my cadre of Cambodians at $18 a day.  They drive me around, carry my tripod, bring me water when I am thirsty, and seem anxious for me to colonize the area.  A member of my cadre woke me up early this morning at 5 AM. 

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Safehouse - 

Today's photo is from a forgotten field in the south of Argentina, not too far from Ushuaia.  There was a housing community near here that was built then abandoned when the lake level started to rise.  It was full of old husks of structures that were still beautiful in their own way (and doubly so at sunset). - 

From the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Where the Sky is Torn Asunder

The morning sun sprayed orange across the top of Fitz Roy, and I could feel those sharp tips slicing into the cold sky. It was really an unbelievable experience being there at the perfect time; I feel very lucky indeed.

From the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: A soft summer night in the marsh

My shoes have never been the same since I started tromping through this muck.  That part didn't bother me so much, but I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to make a hasty escape if something started running after me.  I didn't see anything that would start a chase... there was a herd of about 14 elk about 300 meters away.  I had never seen them stampede randomly in the direction of a photographer, so I felt kinda good about that.  Remember, all of these were just half-fleeting thoughts that were only half-baked...  I was mostly just peacefully staring at the sunset and listening to my iPod alone in the wilderness.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Unknown Land - Li River, China 

After a while, my boat driver thought I was insane.  We started before the sunrise and kept going, and going, and going, and going... he kept giving me the international head movement for "we really should be returning for a spot of tea," but I kept motioning him further up the river.  To me, the river got most interesting when we saw no more people, except for the occasional fisherman that still had remote hut for his family along the river.  I had plenty of battery power, amazing music on my iPod, a full array of snacks, a ton of drinks, and nothing to do for the rest of the day and night... so I was perfectly content just going until our gas tank reached 50%.  And that took a long time... and who would want to stop with views like this around every other turn?

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: A cool waterfall to relax at during the hike - Andes

During the hike through the Andes, I would vacillate between sweating hot and frigid cold.  Sometimes, things would be just about perfect and an idyllic waterfall like this one would emerge from the Eden-like trail.  It was the perfect place to take a load off in the cool water for a break.

From the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Christmas on the Champs-Élysées...

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Jack Horner De-choppering - Montana

This is another picture from that mysterious ranch in Montana that I hint at from time to time.  The only way to get there is a 3 to 4 hour horse ride or to take a private helicopter over the Rockies... it descends into a secret green valley... something right out of Galt's Gulch.  Every few days, new guests arrive and depart.  And, on this day, the chopper brought in the great Jack Horner.  He's one of those guys that's awesome and doesn't even try to be.  He just is.  Later that night, he gave a talk in front of everyone about some of his new discoveries in the world of dinosaurs.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Magnetic Anomaly in Yellowstone on the Solstice

The picture here was taken on the summer solstice in thin-crusted geothermal hotbed of the Norris Geysers.  This particular place was not too far from something called the "whirlygig" (or somesuch).  The various colors are made from two merging rivers, each one with a dramatically different temperature.  Different color bacteria live in each temperature of water - the red bacteria was over 160 degrees  and the green was below 160. If anyone else was there during this same time, they can confirm the quirky nature of these dual rivers running in the same channel! :)

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Under the Docks in California

I felt fortunate to have a good friend that had an amazing condo that overlooked this same beach.  Frankly, after a long day and night of shooting, I felt spoiled and happy just taking a few more steps to my pad...  grabbing some cool drinks... opening the patio doors to listen to the surf... good times!

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Grooming and Bugs

I found this male and female doing a bit of grooming just outside of the jungles of Cambodia. I've taken photos of a lot of monkeys. They are all over SE Asia and India, so I always pay special attention to them. I suppose that, as a Westerner, I'm just used to seeing monkeys in zoos. So whenever I see them running all over creation, it always makes me laugh. I chase 'em around and take photos like a nut. These two, however, I snuck up on. It's not easy to sneak up on a monkey, mind you. But these two were really into each other. I did a low approach like a Navy SEAL to get as close as I could. The female noticed me at the last second, and I grabbed this shot before they started to run away. 

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Where to Party in Vegas

This is a shot of the restaurant area of Club Mix, which sits on the top floor of THE Hotel. I was able to see so many cool places there -- I hardly knew which to process first! ...more coming in the next weeks and months!

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: A Razor to the Sky

This is of the indomitable Fitz Roy at sunrise buried deep in the Andes, in the hinterland between Argentina and Chile. To get this shot, it was none too easy! First, I "woke" up after a sleepless night in a two-man tent with Yuri. It was perhaps the worst night of my life and I've never had a panic attack before, but I honestly felt like I was pretty close. The smell combined with the pitch black, the snoring, the freezing cold, and the tiny tent was almost more than I could bear!

From Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Modern Techno Life in Tokyo

What happens in hyper-techno places like Japan and Korea seem to be the techno-canaries in the coal mine for the future of technology and behavior in the west.  Several years ago, almost everyone walked around their ultra modern-cities with their heads buried in their mobile phones.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: La Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmatre

This is a famous basilica in Paris.  It sits high on a hill and is beautifully lit in the evening.  This is the birthplace of the Jesuits back in 1534.  That is only interesting to me because I was a Jesuit student myself back in the day.  You would think that would mean that I would be allowed to come inside to take all the photos I want with a special key that everyone gets upon graduation.  But I had no such key so I was forced to stay on the perimeter with all the other heathens. 

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Dante's Gates of Hell

- This is Rodin's huge famous La Porte de l'Enfer, also known as the Gates of Hell.  I found it off to the side of the Musee Rodin in Paris while I was in a tempestuous mood.  The sculpture depicts a scene from Dante's "The Inferno."  It contains over 180 of his finest sculptures.  If you look closely towards the center of the top, you can see "The Thinker," one of his most famous.

- from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com - all images Creative Commons NoncommercialPhoto: The Parisian boulevard where I should not have been standing

Paris is one of those places where the streets are always a little wet, at least in my head. If they are wet, then they are slippery and traffic will be crazy... so it sounded like a capital idea to go out into the middle of the Champs-Élysées to get a quick one!

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Golden Pavilion

This is one of the most famous temples in Kyoto, so of course I had to go.  It's sort of like going to the Eiffel Tower in Paris or Rudy's BBQ in Austin.  It was originally built back in 1397 and has been destroyed and rebuilt several times.  The building itself is as meticulous as the gardens around it.  The Japanese really know how to tend a garden!  

There was a fleet of workers all over the grounds, sweeping up and rearranging little bits here and there.  It was all very quaint and wonderful.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Morning River - Glacier National Park

Here is a photo from a crisp and cool morning in Glacier National Park.  This river empties from a icy clear lake.  I was running back and forth between here and the lake as quickly as I could to get the light as it crept over the horizon.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Ancient Nikko

This is my first shot from Nikko, Japan. Nikko is famous for all the incredible temples from the Edo period. I woke up early (violently early, let us say) to go out and visit all the sites before the tourists came. You guys know I don't like tourists in the shots... Actually, to tell the truth, I don't like them around at all. I like to listen to my strange music and roam around these ancient places by myself, stopping to take photos when I am ready.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Post Ranch Inn at Dusk

Whenever I check into a hotel, I always feel like a dork because I say, “Hello, you don’t know me but I’m a photographer, so having a really good view at sunrise is important.” I don’t think this ever amounts to a hill of beans, except for here! The nice lady that set me up said that the mountain-view had the best light for photography. She said this with such authority that I did not question it! And she was right… I took this one evening at dusk before walking up the path to an amazing dinner.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Gladiator Arena at Sunset

While visiting Fabien in Nimes, there was a bullfight going on inside this ancient Roman gladiator arena.  The further south you go in France, the more likely you are to find the old influence of the Spanish bullfights.  It's pretty violent, yes?  Yes.  In fact, if you zoom in, you can still see blood that has been smeared across the arena by the smearing-truck.  Once the crowd started to clear out, a perfect sunset settled upon us.  It was just Fabien, my wife, and I, and it was a very nice night.  After the bullfight, we walked around to take a lot of photos of this amazing evening, Fabien took us to his favorite little secret French restaurant down one of the side streets.  Perfect!

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Shopkeeper in Beijing on Steps

I was taking photos of the festive street at dusk, and I noticed this shopkeeper out taking a rest. I've always admired how people can rest in this position. I can only sit in that position for about 15 seconds before I scream in agony and my patellas pop off at a hyperspeed tangent.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Keyhole to the Old City - Montpellier, France

This is the second photo I have posted from Montpellier.  I have a lot more to process... it's a beautiful town!  We were staying with a very nice older couple and had spent the evening in the city.  Before leaving, we were not quite sure how to get back to their home.  After asking, we got one of those very quick but complex set of directions.  They are the sort of directions people give when they have lived somewhere their entire life...  They mention landmarks that they are quite sure we have already seen and give dire warnings about going down the wrong fork in, oh, you know the place....so on and so forth... and then we were thrust out into the cruel city... not really having any sure way of finding our way home...  but, I figured, as long as we were lost, we would take photos along the way.  That is when I saw this...

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Long Curvy Road Around Iceland

when I get to Iceland, I'll be up on this wonderful road again... this gentle curving road that circumnavigates the island... sleeping days and staying up through the white nights... I can't wait!

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Nobody Needs Dramatic Sheep

I think people that rarely see sheep are fascinated by sheep.  This is very confusing to people that spend a lot of time around sheep.  I'm sure people in Iceland find that outsiders find sheep WAY too interesting.  But, to us outsiders, we see these wonderful little white puffs, milling around... the gentle way they drift over the soft turf like clouds on a green sky...

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Walking to Dinner in Paris

Today's photo is another one processed during the new <a href="http://www.stuckincustoms.com/hdr-video-tutorial/">HDR Video Tutorial</a>.  When I go to take photos of famous places, I follow sort of a star-pattern.  Maybe it's more of a devilish inverted pentagram, but you get the idea...  It's really hard to imagine how it would look from various compositions, so walking around it...getting closer and getting further... these can help give me idea.  After outings like this, I like to find little restaurants where no one speaks English.  Even though I speak a little French, I still have no idea what I'm ordering...  Understanding the intricacies of French menus is a whole new level of confusion.  But, it gives you a chance to look blankly at the waiter and say, "Surprise me!"

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: A Fun Night in London

My next task with all these London photos is to go back and geotag the dang things. It's never-ending... the to-do list, you know. I wish we were about 3+ years down the road when there was some smart-web-service that could look at the composition and then auto-geotag. BTW, if you're into digital imaging and computer science, there is a million dollar business for you... extrapolate the location information and auto-geo-tag. People like me would love you and pay decent money for the service! :)

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Tree at the Serene Lake - New Zealand

When I was there in Queenstown, I took to waking up about an hour before the sunrise and brewing a whole pot of coffee. And then, I would just the take the POT in the car with me and drive around. The lake can be pretty still in the morning, and that is when I grabbed this one... I'm jealous of my friends Gordon Laing and Eden Brackstone who get to spend almost every day in these environs!

 from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: A Dusk Walk in Montpellier, France

We headed out on an evening walk with our wonderful hosts in Montpellier, France.  They've done a few nice things to the city to minimize car traffic. There is a lot of public transport on light rails, and that tended to keep congestion down.  You don't really realize it until you compare it to someplace like Milan or Daegu, but there just aren't a lot of cars driving around all the most interesting places.  Taking the "back way" to dinner, we stopped at this perfect little intersection so I could take a quick photo.  It was a highly recommended spot by my friend Jacques.  This is the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Montpellier an elegant and unique cathedral that has a castle-like feel to the facade.  Since I always get excited when I see a castle, this got a big thumbs up!

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: High-Tech Dining in Beijing

Beijing has some of the funkiest restaurants in the world!  I think that some of the interior designers and architects really take some risks to do all sorts of things with lighting, textures, and styles.  It doesn't always work, but I  think it works pretty well here.  This restaurant was right next to the opera.  This was also built inside one of the old imperial bans in this old sector of Beijing.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Dead Tired in London

I really over-scheduled myself on this day.  It started out early and was 100% full of photography activity!  I don't remember having a spare 5 minutes just to sit there and zone out.... I do try to plan a little zone-out time, but this day I didn't.  I kind of build my day like I was playing an RTS game, making sure I never had any idle workers.  After I got off the tube at Marylebone station, I exited into this scene.  This is the little area I crossed every day to get from the tube into my hotel.  It looked so perfect in the rain that I just had to take a photo...even though I was dog-tired.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Deep Indigo Night

This night, there was so much strange ambient light that I decided to shoot for a few more hours. I worked my way up and down the waterside to find interesting sights. In these situations, I usually try to have at least one of my exposures be 30 seconds. That means the other four exposures are 15s, 8s, 4s, and 2s. That makes a good 59 seconds per session. I usually have my earphones on and I keep one finger on the tripod so I can feel the shutter click. I can tell immediately if my settings are off by the vibrations.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Underwing

Here's another handheld job from the Air & Space Museum in Washington DC. I sent out a tweet a few weeks ago and got in touch with the gal that works in the public affairs office... I twitter-charmed her into giving me the thumbs up to use a tripod next time! It took 140 delicate characters to make that happen... there are still more steps, but I am well on the way to getting proper permission. It's too hard to sneak a tripod into this place... just forget it... armed guards and that sort of thing...

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The People Mover - London - England 

This is London, right?  I'm embarrassed to say I can't quite remember.  I processed and edited this photo as part of a bigger trip.  I'm too lazy to check the EXIF and cross-reference the dates... even though that would have taken less time than writing this sentence.  But, instead, I'm saying it like this to let you know that sometimes my memory fades a bit.  Some spots I remember perfect perfect perfect perfect... and others fade away and drift into others.  I'm not sure why memory works like this...  why there are some things that are perfect and some that are fuzzy.  The way that memory works in this incomplete way is interesting to me.


from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Gaudi Cheesecake Factory

I was stuck doing handheld shots all over this awesome Gaudi house because the PR staff would not let me use a tripod. They also said I was not allowed to post any photos of the house on my blog. I told them this was absolutely ridiculous and of course I would post photos on the blog. They said it was not ridiculous and I should really listen. I then said, "But everyone else is here taking photos and posting on Facebook and Flickr!, right?" And they said, "Oh, well, they shouldn't be doing that either."

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: What's on TV? - Seoul, Korea

Every Asian megalopolis (like Seoul here) has neo-modern buildings with neo-industrial modern art. They are great subjects for photography, and security never seems to have a problem with tripods. I never see anyone inside taking photos, because these are mostly filled with businessmen. But, if you're out on the street, you owe it to yourself just to pop into random office buildings to check out the lobbies - you never know what you will find!

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Snowy the Snow Monkey - Nagano, Japan

This little guy and I had a little friendship after a few days.  I spent time all over the hills and rivers here outside of Nagano taking photos of these snow monkeys. And you get to know them after a while... there are a few that you see over and over again. I started giving them names... the same way my daughter gives names to everything... and all the names were quite childish... Like I called this guy, "Snowy." It wasn't very creative, but he didn't seem to mind.  He followed me around morning and night. And he posed... oh how he loved to pose. Some other monkeys I got too close too and they gave me the wide-mouth attack move.... but I never got too close to Snowy. I didn't want to ruin the little grizzly-man thing we had a-goin' on.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Portfolio - The Counter-Earth, the one some of us see...Photo: The Shuttle Prepares

So, when I took this, I was using two different cameras. The first one was my D3X with the 28-300mm lens on a tripod, and that is how I got this one. It’s an HDR from a single RAW.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Details in the inner cloister of Notre Dame

I've continually asked people to do this, even though I rarely follow my own advice! It's great fun to take an image and re-crop it in many different ways. Sometimes you can take a single photo and make multiple versions of it. The other strategy is to take a bunch of different photos inside these areas, but that can require many lens changes... and I'm usually more interested in moving quickly from spot to spot throughout the day rather than spend time running through several lenses in each individual spot.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Grey London

The two greyest cities I have been to are London and Vancouver.  But the architecture is so different in both.  I prefer bright and colorful architecture, especially in those environs.  Sometimes with grey/white/silver/black buildings, I feel like I'm in some futuristic dystopian techno movie...  something like... oh Equilibrium.  Have you all seen that one?  Anyway, this is kind of a cool building, despite it's greyness!  There is that greenish element in the glass (not sure what it is) that gives it those interesting aqua tones...

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Sleeping In - Home in Iceland

Driving from Reykjavik to Isafjordur is just about one of the longest possible drives you can make in Iceland in a day if you have a reasonable level of sanity.  There comes a point when you feel like you're getting close, when you start weaving in and out of fjords.  They are huge and each one seems to take over half an hour to drive around.  In the midst of one of these, I espied an old house up the side of one of the valleys.  It was partially obscured by a hand-built stone wall.  I stopped the car and started hiking up the side of the valley to investigate.  Once I got up there, I began to think that maybe this place was actually occupied!  So then, I felt like I was intruding, and not just exploring an old ruin.  But, it was 3 AM in the morning, and I figured if anyone was indeed inside, they must be fast asleep.  So I set up for a shot and then made a hasty elf-like egress.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Golden Horse in Iceland

We worked on this one tonight in the webinar, and I hope people didn't get too bored. It's very strange, because I am talking to myself for over an hour, and I only get occasional feedback when Andrea stops watching reruns of Ricki Lake. Anyway, I'll just assume that people like seeing it, since people keep showing up.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The old bones I found on the way to Mordor

As for this photo from Argentina, this was found on the second day of hiking into the Andes.  The landscape changes very quickly and we emerged from one forest and were suddenly facing another.  The stark white roots reminded me of bones coming out of the ground and holding up old trees.  In the distance, you can see the final destination of this hike - the mysterious peaks of Fitz Roy.  These are covered by clouds 90% of the time, so to have them on a crystal clear day was lucky indeed.  

From the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Moonlight over Everest

If there is one thing that is almost as cool as being deep in the Himalayas, then it's being at Disneyland after dark near the Expedition Everest ride.  This is probably one of my favorite rollercoasters, and I endeavored to stay here late one night to try to grab the moon in the right spot.  The whole area is riddled with excellent little Buddhist offering temples, where you can submit fruits of offering in exchange for the blessing of not tossing your lunch right before the Yeti takes a swipe at your runaway train.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: A Bar with a View

This is an incredible bar in that overlooks the amazing city of Tokyo.  The place was amazingly awesome, and I could see it becoming a major hangout if I lived in the city.  Then again, everywhere I went I could picture as a major hangout!

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Rush Hour

The HDR technique is fantastic for night shots of cities.  You would think that you could simply open up the shutter for a long time and let the light stream in.  Well, you can do that, but what usually happens is that some parts are over exposed while others are not quite bright enough.  Each of those lights down there in the busy city streets of Seoul, Korea, have different intensities.  The lights from the offices are quite dim compared to the signs on the buildings and even the taillights on the cars.  The HDR process allows each of the lights to come through at an acceptable level.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Inside the Egg - Beijing, China

This building, lovingly called "The Egg" by locals, is the National Centre for the Performing Arts.  It's a gigantic and wonderful opera house that you have to see to believe.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Dresden After the Bombing, Way After the Bombing

After the carpet bombing from the American and the British in 1945, the city of Dresden was left in ruins.  in the past 60 years, the city has been meticulously rebuilt to its former glory.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Trouble with Iceland is That There is None

This is a river fed by the high mountains of Iceland.  I took a trek across a field on a hunch that the river would have some nice curves and reflections.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Lantern in the Streets of Old China

My time in China was winding down, and I took a flight back to Beijing for a few more days of exploration.  There is so much to see in the old city that my month there was still not enough!  And on one of these final nights, I decided to visit this very old section of the city.  It's very well maintained with bright, fresh red paint, restored ancient lanterns, ornate windows, and the like.  And inside many of the ornate windows are all sorts of antiques and old Chinese curios.  I went into several, and now I am kicking myself for not buying more stuff.  They had a bunch of bundles of old Chinese photos.  I can't figure out why I didn't buy them... I think, now, that I was just overwhelmed by all the stuff that was inside.  But next time when I go back, I'll get a few bundles and bring them home to hand out at some event! That seems like a good idea.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Airship Isabella

During SXSW, I ended up at a party that had a pretty big steampunk contingent, which is of course very cool to me.  I thought I had some good steampunk stuff from Burning Man until I saw these guys...  

This was at the Big Bang Bordello Party put on by True Ventures and Tunehopper.  It was super-crowded, like most decent SXSW parties, and there was a raucous stage show with a bunch of gals in lingerie and stuff. 

 Is it lame that I hung out with all the steampunk guys in the back?  Yes, probably.  Many of them were crew from the Airship Isabella (http://airshipisabella.com/), and they had all kinds of inventive steam-powered goodies.  

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Mighty Peaks and Soft River - Iceland

Right before you get to Akureyri, the road twists along a valley that runs beside these mountains.  They are beautiful and scenic, but very difficult to photograph.  You keep looking and looking and looking for an angle, and it never quite works out.  I found this one by accident.  There was a little side road that looked interesting.  I took it, and then it almost immediately went off the side of a hill!  It turns out it wasn't a side-road at all, but some kind of fake-road meant to trick dumb people like me.  So, after sliding to a stop, I went out to see if my 4th wheel was dangling over the side.  It wasn't, but I did see a little path that went down by the river.  I thought there might be a good vantage point, so I took my rig down there to get this shot.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Barcelona Airport

This is another reason I like to get to airports early.  Not only do I hate being rushed, but I like to take time to explore with my camera.  Well, I guess that only is in the case where the airport happens to be particularly beautiful, like the one here in Barcelona.  I always start out extremely rushed, because I picture security closing down on me from every angle.  So, my first shot is usually rushed and not perfectly centered.  Then, if the guards don't gang-tackle me like I'm streaking at Yankee Stadium, then I keep adjusting my position and the camera until things are more and more aligned and composed to my satisfaction.  This one was even a little bit tilted, but I fixed that bit with the crop tool later in Photoshop (as people saw).

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Horses Aloof - Iceland

Speaking of the HDR Workshop, I believe I edited this photo during the London Workshop.  There is a portion of time when I select a RAW photo to convert into an HDR image, and this was the one I chose.  I had never processed it before, and I really like doing these live in front of people.  I talk out loud so that people can hear my thought processes.  Inevitably, there are problems, but this is what I like about this format.  I know that photography and post-processing is basically just navigating around one problem to the next.  Maybe people think I don't have problems when I work on these... but I do!  And it's good to see, maybe, how I get around them.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Evening at the Summer Palace - Beijing, China

I didn't make it to the Summer Palace until my final evening in Beijing, and I was graced with a delicate sunset.  This place is also called the "Gardens of Nurtured Harmony" and it rests on top of "Longevity Hill", a very Chinese-folk-sounding name.  What is kind of interesting is that this entire area was manmade, and the huge hill was built out of dirt when they excavated the man-made lake!  It is a truly beautiful place, as you can plainly see.  I could not have asked for a better place to explore on my last night in China.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Dining at Hearst

"You wanna see a secret passage?" the old security guard asked me.  "Are you kidding?" I asked.  And with that, he showed me how to get up into this area.  It wasn't super-duper-secret, since this is how singers used to get up high to entertain the guests below.  I'm glad I'm not one of those people that has to choose who sits where in these big banquet events.  I think people in these situations really get their nose out of joint if they don't get to sit next to so-and-so.  But, if you're hanging out and dining in Hearst Castle, you have to look pretty hard to find something to complain about! :)

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Portfolio - The Counter-Earth, the one some of us see...Photo: Inside My Secret Cloning Chamber

I would love to have a mad scientist lab that is only accessible via a retinal scan. Inside, I would have a bunch of scary-creatures that exist only to grow organs that I could harvest if I was in a pinch. I mean, they wouldn't be scary-scary. Just a little freaky. Like headless sheep that roll around without brains... like a big room of fluffy, woolen pillows...big Tribbles... A few of them hold livers... maybe one of them has three lungs, you know... this sort of thing.

From the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: My Nymph in the River

This beautiful location was near one of the many glacial rivers that flows out of the mountains.  The air was cool and crisp, but not frigidly cold.  You can see Irina has a little hoodie up to keep her nymph-ears warm ...

From Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Mighty Rocket Rests

I had some time during the day while at NASA to visit the Kennedy Space Center.  Inside was the insanely huge Saturn V rocket.  It's one of those things that would hurt like hell if you dropped it on your toe.  The shuttle only has one more launch before it is forever mothballed, like this...  The final launch of the Atlantis is on July 8, the first day of my 40th revolution around the sun.  That's kinda cool I think...

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Epic Cathedral - Notre Dame

I got this shot right before the Catholic Notre Dame police told me to take down the tripod.  So I had to be fast... fast like the withdrawal method.  With the wide-angle lens, people do get a little bit stretched, but I think that is okay in some circumstances.  It doesn't really affect my enjoyment of the photo.  And, since all the columns are leaning in and whatnot, if the people were normal sized and looked perfect while all the architecture around them was wonky, THAT might look strange.  So, by keeping everything a little bit wonky, it kinda works.  At least, this is what I am telling myself.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Exploring the Church in Barcelona

I like all the colorful votives.  They make everything a bit more festive....  Cathedrals can be sort of melancholy places, so anything to liven things up a bit are a nice change of pace.  I'm not saying we should go neon-signs or blinky-text on the church's website or anything crazy like that.... just a little somethin-somethin to spice things up a bit.  And I do like that hallway quite a lot... it's got a nice  M.C.Escher quality to it.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Leo Laporte, Hard at Work

For those of you that don’t know, Leo has established an incredible lineup of podcasts, all of which eminate from this unassuming cottage in Petaluma, California. I’ve been over to the cottage twice, and I grabbed a few photos on my most recent trip.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Oceanscream  
from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com

Early one morning while weaving through the fjords, a cell of dark clouds roiled across the sky.  The low sun kept them in impossible colors and the air vibrated with a coming storm.  This is up on the edge of the arctic circle where one fjord may be covered in clouds while the next is wide open and clear.  There are hundreds of little microclimates that change from one hour to the next, so if things don't look good in one fjord, just spend 30 minutes driving over to the next one, and maybe something different will present itself.  Surely by now, you see why I like Iceland so much in the summer...Photo: The Dragon's Tongue (Heart of Satan)

On this particular night, there was one of those looming thunderstorms, when the clouds are alarmingly low to the ground and black/green in color.  They launched the fireworks from the same spot as usual, but they would actually explode inside the cloud.  The lower half would burst downward, carrying a trail of fire behind it.  The scene reminded me of a giant electric jellyfish of sorts.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: The RAW Fireworks

Today's fireworks photo from Disney World a few nights ago was just processed. This is from a single RAW photo. This was a handheld shot as I was walking along a pathway near the Crystal Palace. Amazing, eh?

From Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: The Timeless Tomb

The Taj Mahal is an awesome place. I spent the day taking photos of the place, and I was dog-tired when it was all done.  Plus, my feet were hella dirty.  You have to take off your shoes there.  It turned out, actually, to keep me pretty cool.  It was a very hot day; the marble was nice and cool on my feet.

for more photos, see http://www.StuckInCustoms.com from Trey RatcliffPhoto: The Countdown Clock at NASA at Sunrise...  

This is the famous countdown clock. Scott Kublin and I woke up before 5 AM to start setting up our remote cameras. One of them Leo Laporte Fed-exed to me overnight so we could have time to set it up… we put those inside the blast zone and set them up to automatically fire at the launch. We made a behind-the-scenes video to show how everything was done… it will be edited and shared soon… but, in the meantime, here is what I saw first thing in the morning upon arrival to NASA.

more photos at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com from Trey RatcliffPhoto: Final Night of the Space Shuttle

I was completely soaked after laying in mosquito-invested waters for an uncomfortably long time. At one point, a concerned French news reporter came up to me and said, "Excuse me, but you're quite covered in bugs." It must have been pretty bad for him to come over and say that... I think perhaps he thought I was dead because I stayed in the same position for so long, trying to zen-focus on the shot. This is the Space Shuttle Atlantis, in case you do not know. It's also the final space shuttle launch, ever. So, it's incredibly special, and I'm happy I got to spend time with the ship on its final night.

From Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: The Shuttle Rips Space/Time at the End of an Era

I'll try to describe the sound.  Since this is as close as you can get, and this is 3 miles away, it takes a while for the sound to get to you. And it does rush across the water in a rumbling, tumbling way like you might expect. But then, after that, something other than sound starts to come across the water. It's a series of concussive waves that vibrate your entire skeleton and thrum through your soul. It's not a steady din of vibration, but a violent staccato rhythm of unseen forces that cause a tremulous cadence around and through your chest.  This is the final space shuttle launch of our lives. And so we could not help but be reminded of this finality when this unearthly sound combined with the final sight of the lonely craft arcing away into space.

- by Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: The Fireplace in the Tower of Terror
Just a few days ago, I got into this place... I've always wanted to get "behind the velvet rope" and take proper photos of this area, and it finally happened!

This lobby was richly decorated to look like an old, classic Hollywood hotel that has been left alone to slowly deteriorate. Although this angle in particular does not show the decay, future ones will... Also, a future one will include the full story of how I got behind the velvet rope -- you won't believe it!

Thanks for the day go to +Keith Barrett +Robert Scoble +Thomas Smith and +Lou Mongello 

To see more about Lou, see the full blog post at http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2011/07/13/the-fireplace-in-the-tower-of-terror/Photo: And the last candid photo of the day to circle in another orientation... we'll go from the far east to the mid east, moving right to left across your map... and more to arrive in coming days... enjoy, and thanks!Photo: I'll share this exclusively to Google+ ...worked on this on the plane to Paris just a few minutes ago. This is a remote rice field on top of a huge earthen pillar, shooting hundreds of feet into the sky, in deep Southern China.Photo: The Louvre

Ahhh... the Louvre! It's one of the greatest in the world and always fun to explore. You gotta be kind of into museums, I suppose... the vastness of it is beyond words. You really don't get it until you've spent several hours inside.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Young girl on a bridge in Paris

After a shooting a set of shots with the sun rising over Notre Dame, I saw a few girls on the bridge with me. It was a little cold this morning, and they were in coats, laughing and playing with their own camera. With my tripod still set up, I grabbed my D3S and 50 prime on my sling. I pulled it up quickly to grab a shot of one of the girls as she covered her face from the cool wind of the morning.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Spiralstorm II

There are secret vortexes everywhere, no? I think we all find our own, and we keep them secret. No one would ever talk about the best ones. I'm not exactly sure what happens in them. Perhaps there is something where the right and left brain switch sides and everything flows together. 

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: The Infinite Stairs to the Oubliette

This is one of the areas where the French kept Marie Antoinette in the conciergerie. There were many mysterious parts of these chambers, and this was one of the most interesting.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Love Locks in Paris

There is a little bridge in Paris - maybe you have heard of it - where starcrossed lovers visit. They bring tiny padlocks with them. Sometimes they are decorated, and sometimes they are just fanciful. They affix them to the bridge that overlooks the Seine. Now, the bridge has thousands of these little love locks... It's all very nice, and perfect for some low f-stop photography, of course!

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Cartier on the Champs-Élysées at Christmas

Ah yes… the wet streets of Paris here… Seems like an idyllic place for this little store called Cartier, eh?

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: A Carousel in France

It was just past 10 PM on the wet streets of Paris as I was getting lost on purpose around the streets near the Church of the Sacred Heart.  I bobbed and weaved through various little alleys, streets, and tiny bakeries (where I would just have to stop for a moment), before finding my way to this little faire.  There was a small carousel spinning away with tiny little French children screaming wonderful things...

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: Fabien and his daughter on their vineyard in the south of France...  from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: Flying in France

I remember when I was learning French at Jesuit.  I took four years of it, and one of the first things I saw was a little cartoon in a book.  It was two little French girls on a ride just like this.  One was saying to the other, "Aiiyeeeee!  Sylvie!  Tenez!!!!"  Anyway, I always think of that when I see little French children on a ride.  I feel like calling it out, but it always seems a little creepy for a stranger to say such a thing.

from Trey Ratcliff at stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Man Sketching in Uzès

After spending the day walking around the old market, I started to walk back to where I started. Weaving through small alleys, I would occasionally enter larger courtyards. In one of them, I saw this man, sitting on a step, and sketching the scene.  When I took the photo, he looked up and gave a little smile, then went back to his business.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: La Gare du Nord. I love train stations in Europe, and I wonder if most Europeans find them banal subjects. Do you?

Also, there is a NEW exclusive Google+ first photo post coming in less than two hours... I've cooked up an amazing place that you just won't believe... really... Maybe even cooler than that Jules Verne Lair from yesterday.Photo: Another Google+ exclusive coming in less than one hour... so get a coffee or some tea or something much much stronger!

As for this one, the photo is a beautiful castle-cathedral in Montpellier, France. It was a cool dusk evening while we walked to dinner down the old alleyways... we ate at the kind of secret place that only locals know about and only locals can find a second time!Photo: Exclusive to Google+ First Post! - Thx for re-shares and everything… I'm happy to give back with things like this… I love this stuff...

Time Traveling in the Steampunk Subway - Thank you for the inside tip on this amazing place from Friend X.

This incredible subway station under Paris has undergone a full Steampunk conversion, thanks to the mind of François Schuiten, a comic book artist from Belgium. Each tiny circular window lining the edges is a portal to another world. This is all influenced by Les Cités Obscures, where humans live on the counter-Earth. A wonderful concept… I think many of us on Google+ already feel one with the idea of the counter-Earth.

If you'd like to visit this stop someday, pull up a huge subway map and find your connections to the Arts et Métiers stop. It's kind of out of the way, but just bring your camera and your imagination, and you'll be there soon enough...

Click to see the full size for more hidden secrets... - Full size avail SmugMug at http://stuckincustoms.smugmug.com/Portfolio-The-Best/your-favorites/10668747_AuyBk/1400689593_gFr6cNn/APhoto: Another new one from France…posting first to Google+… a country home with flowers. Who wants to spend a long weekend here?Photo: Leaving France and now exploring the Alps in Switzerland... In this photo below, I'm up in the mountains near Zermatt, taking a photo of the Matterhorn (right side of the photo).

This photo was taken by my friend +Scott Kublin. It's not an HDR image, so you can get a sense of how wild the clouds were on this freezing afternoon. I've been teaching Scott about photography for the past few years, and I think he's made tremendous progress. He used to be absolutely terrible (he would agree with this and smile!), and now he has a new lease on artistic life... great fun!Photo: Wild sunflowers found off the side of the road in the lowlands... like fire, stopped in the air.Photo: Come join the live stream at http://www.keithbarrett.tv -- we are also recording for later! :)

A Google+ Hangout soon with +Lisa Bettany ! Join us at 4:30 PM PT (7:30 PM ET) for some random hangout photography talk... a little Variety Hour of sorts, where everyone is welcome and the conversation will meander...

This photo below is from Nimes, France, and it was shot a few evenings ago before I went to see Sting in concert. He performed inside that 2,000 year-old Roman coliseum to the right. It was a perfect night, and the little cafes were full and delicate chatter tumbled across the old stones...

News! The hangout will be rercorded AND streamed Live thanks to +Keith Barrett , who +Robert Scoble introduced me to! URLs coming when we go live... !Photo: Exclusive Google+ first post!

The Spiritual Apex 

This was a new place to me! It's a wonderful spot I visited underneath the much more popular Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. This was a handheld shot - a RAW photo - since they did not let me use a tripod... this was of course frustrating to me, so I had to make due with a steady body and sniper-breathing.

BTW, thanks again for everyone that joined the hangout and all the extra people who were able to watch the live stream. We're working on getting it uploaded so we can share the video with everyone in the next few days...Photo: The Pantheon in Paris in evening Firelight Shared first to Google+ as thanks for all of you and gift to new ciclees!

It was close to midnight and the streets were wet... they were kind of that Euro-wet, where you just want to stay out and take photos until 3 A.M. -- know what I mean? I was staying here in the Latin quarter, just a short walk away from the Pantheon.

A bit of water got on the lens and created this unexpected fire-like effect. I think it looks so cool that I just left it in... I also like to do pottery. I have a ceramics wheel and everything... and one of my favorite things after the glaze is waiting to see how the glaze will react with the fire... you never quite know. And so the same thing happens with rain on the lens..Photo: Way up in the Alps... the delicate thin air forms icy wisps that gather around in whirling spirals... gliding from mountain top to mountain top like ever-flowing dancers...

This was just taken a few steps from my hotel room. I'm staying at an amazing place called the Omnia in Zermatt. Maybe we'll do a hangout from the balcony tomorrow!Photo: Exclusively Shared first to Google+!
The Gothic Diptych

While randomly walking through the streets of Paris, I came across this place. It wasn't even on my radar, but I always try to leave about 40% "Getting Lost" time. I think that is important... ambling and rambling around a city to find little things here or there... and, you know, maybe these places are pretty well-known, but when I find them all by myself, they are nice in their own way.Photo: Montmartre in the evening... where the artists gather and lights sparkle...Photo: ahhh... a night at the opera in Paris... why, yes, I will have some cheese with those tiny collapsable binoculars.... oh, look across the way into the balcony seat at Mademoiselle Dechoix with that flaneur... she can be so droll...Photo: The streets of France... little tendrils of light dance and skip through the streets like starlight, threaded together to cover the cloak of night...

BTW, I'm taking a train to the Google offices in Zurich today... I'll try to do a live Google+ Hangout from there around 4:30 PM Zurich time. I heard they have internet in their offices.Photo: Chateau Rodin… just a little summer home where he keeps his sculptures…

A live Google+ hangout from Google coming up today! I'm currently on the train to Zurich from Zermatt (woo wi-fi!), where I will visit the offices and try to orchestrate a hangout around 4:30 PM Zurich time.

Also, we are approaching 500 interesting comments on the thread Why I love seeing the "Nice shot" and "Wow" comments, and why some other photographers should stop complaining about it... at https://plus.google.com/105237212888595777019/posts/R9bw2dSyXKN -- Google+ automatically shuts down the thread at 500 -- so it's not me that's closing the thread…Photo: *A Great Day at Google!*
So, I got a nice G+ message from +Brian White   at Google and he invited me up the the Google offices in Zurich.  I was up in Zermatt in the Swiss Alps, and I happened to be going through Zurich to catch my plane back to the US, so we made it happen this afternoon!  

For more on this photo, see this post:  https://plus.google.com/105237212888595777019/posts/2R5V59CdDaR 

 from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: Here is a great story that just happened... you won't believe it!

So, I just got on an international flight from Zurich on American Airlines, and I got a free upgrade to business class. No miles, no points, no credits... it is because of something that I said about my mom +susan ratcliff !

Now, I can't tell you what I said, because the floodgates would open and everyone would try it. It's terribly secret, but my wife was there with me and heard it all. So, I'll be using this special phrase in the future, and I am pretty sure it will work again, as long as there is room in Business/First Class. I give it a 60-80% chance of working.

Maybe if you fly with me sometime on an adventure (I'll be looking for a new assistant soon), then you'll get to hear this too... but you'll be sworn to secrecy. It is kind of like knowing the name of the wind...Photo: Exclusive FIRST to Google+ Post! Farewell Zurich ...this photograph taken a few hours ago...

Clouds are mystical in the way they form and flow. Most evenings, like this one, they are both frozen in time and shifting from one shape to another in an unknowable way. When you watch them there is no change; if you turn away for a few moments then look back, everything has changed. I've never quite understood this. It's a bit like the color of water in evening light. There is no color... it shifts so quickly with time that there is nothing about it you can quite put your finger on... and the clouds are just another form of this, two orders of magnitude slower on the other side of the scale...

After spending the afternoon at Google and meeting many nice people (check my stream from yesterday), I went out to explore the city at sunset. It's just exactly the kind of place I love to explore because there are tons of little bridges here and there. Whenever you criss-cross the bridges in almost any configuration, the light changes and you have a new palette...

I can tell from the questions (good questions) that there are a lot of new people to this style of photography. I hate to call it HDR, because I have my own technique, but you I do have a full free tutorial at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com/hdr-tutorial/ that will help you get started. Enjoy!Photo: the slight bit of blue just before the cover of final night comes... and the rain falls in golden waves...Photo: The Palace de Invalides... nestled between Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. It is a looooong walk between the two, and many many pastry shoppes along the way...Photo: My LAST photo from Paris for a while... shared Exclusively first to Google+ !

And I'm doing a live Google+ hangout today at 12 noon PT (3 PM EST). We'll be recording and streaming live in case you don't get into the public part... we'll be talking photography and other fun stuff with +Cali Lewis and +John Pozadzides .

On the last little variety hour, I had on +Lisa Bettany -- that one was recorded as well, and now that I am getting some decent internet, I'll be able to get that one shared as well. And yes, yes... I'll keep doing these, broadcasting live, and get on more photographers, friends, and just hangout and keep it loose & fun! :)Photo: The Streets of Zermatt

After dinner one evening, I went out with my iPod to explore the streets alone. There was a light cool rain, but it didn't bother me a bit. It added to the mood and everything felt great. The warm cabins, the cool sky, the wet streets, people hurrying to and fro to get warm food and drinks... I do my best to capture this feeling all in one image.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: Who is your latest favorite author?
Mine is deeply intertwined with this photo I am releasing below, captured when dreams take you around 2 AM in the Icelandic solstice. His name is +Patrick Rothfuss , and I think he is teaching us all.

I go to Iceland every summer, and I've taken to sleeping days and staying up all night since there is a six hour sunset followed by a six hour sunrise. I first listened to "The Name of the Wind", and I've been deep into the second book on my most recent trip. I've had countless people recommend this book to me on the blog, thinking they know me pretty well... and, well, they couldn't have been more spot on.

So, if you read these books and feel them deeply, well then you and I are on our way to a fast friendship.

And there is something special about this area of Iceland around this time of year. I explore for days without seeing anyone. Just when the rest of the world is deep into sleep, I'm alone while the sun skips off the arctic ocean like a river stone across a pond. The sun at this angle is normally so ephemeral -- when it is stretched out over the span of a day, it becomes easy to fall into a right-brain drift. Nothing makes sense and everything makes sense. I'm dreadfully and wonderfully alone with the light.

And my only companion at this time is the words of Patrick, read by Nick Podehl. No, not read -- that seems weak. Nick imbues the words with a conscious idea that is between worlds.

It all flows together into something that just feels right. To capture the feeling of a place -- to transmute it into pixels of various temperatures and vibrations -- this is a delicate truth that I can only sometimes touch. And, so, perhaps this is a small hint as to the way I try to harness this inspiration.Photo: I'm publishing this tomorrow on the blog, but wanted to give you a sneak preview...

And here is yet another from Disney World!

So, I was sitting there in the Tower of Terror taking photos inside the first room into which the group is ushered. It's the one where they show that Twilight Zone clip. Anyway, I just stayed in there as five groups came in and out, trying to get a photo of the room itself. Eventually, the cast member asked me (in a nice way) what I was doing. I told her that I thought the room was awesome and I was capturing it for my blog. She seemed curious, so I whipped it out (my iPad).

She started going through my photos and was very excited. And then she told me to follow her, and she opened up the little gate that gave me full access to the lobby itself. I grabbed many photos, and here is one of them...

Thanks again to +Keith Barrett +Robert Scoble +Thomas Smith and +Lou Mongello for being in my real-life circles... I don't take any of you for granted.Photo: Join me for a PhotoWalk! 
On Aug 11th after my new talk at Google entitled "Artists and the Internet: Digitally Extending Your Natural Self", I'll be hosting a free PhotoWalk not too far from the Google campus over at Stanford. And, even better, there will be lots of Googler-photographers there you can pester with your questions around Google Photos!

The PhotoWalk is open to all skill levels and you'll find the group is very helpful and fun! Come along with any camera, and we will explore some awesome places around the campus. Bring your family, bring your friends...it's a very friendly event. I did a PhotoWalk here in Stanford last year in the rain, and it was still greatness... this photo below is the first place the group stopped.

To sign-up and see the path: http://plancast.com/p/6p5d/trey-ratcliff-photowalk-stanford

Previous Austin PhotoWalk: http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2011/03/16/photowalk-recap-and-the-new-austin/ 

Note my talk at the Google HQ is not open to the public, but the PhotoWalk is. However, the video will be recorded for later, and I'll see if I can get the YouTube people to broadcast it live.

Since there will be a lot of people, we'll have a many coaches to help out! We'll be graced with +Thomas Hawk +Lisa Bettany +Stu Maschwitz +Brian Rose +Frederick Van Johnson +Mike Wiacek +Catherine Hall +Cliff Redeker and +Topher Martini ! This will be a mega-epic Google+ PhotoWalk -- just WHO may show up? Awesomeness!

Life is too short not to do awesome things with it... so come join us!Photo: Exclusive to Google+ first post! - Approaching Seattle…

I just took this last night when I arrived into Seattle. What a great city!

So, I have a question for People of the Pacific Northwest: I'm here for a few days then driving down through California. I have one spare night between Seattle and Napa. So, WHERE should I stay that is beautiful and photo-worthy? I'd prefer:

Please +1 suggestions below if you agree!

1) Some place that looks interesting at sunrise and sunset
2) Some place not too far off the main roads between Seattle and Napa, but I don't mind making a somewhat obtuse triangle.
3) I'd prefer if there is also a hotel or resort very close… even better, if the resort/hotel is perfectly situated, then I don't have to do much hiking for that painful sunrise shot!

Thanks!Photo: Amazing PhotoWalk! Thanks so much for coming out! Remember to take your BEST photo, share it here on Google+, and mention +Brian Rose . He'll select the best and re-share them.

I really enjoyed meeting so many people. We'll do a World Record count soon... I hope you all enjoyed my mom +susan ratcliff's fudge!

Below, I have put a photo of the Stanford Church. Note I took this on the first Stanford PhotoWalk, and I haven't had a chance to work on the new ones... I'm really really really tired and falllling asleeee....Photo: The Azure Blue Pool at Hearst Castle  

"I was able to get a private tour throughout Hearst - so that made for an amazing and long day!Thank goodness I had a mass of memory cards... I got so much footage it was crazy!

I could have picked a bunch of shots to be the ""first"", but I thought this one was particularly wonderful.  There are two enormous pools at Hearst Castle, and this is the indoor one.  This is a nice vantage point because this spot is actually quite difficult to reach!  There is no door behind me... so I had to ""shimmy"" along that edge you see... It was NARROW... the shimmy was like a video game, except while holding a $10,000 camera!  Sketchy!  But I just had to get over here because I could visualize the shot before it happened...

Here's a cool fact about this pool.  Nearby, there is a huge room that was intended for a gymnasium that Hearst never constructed.  The State then made it usable for IT and Archive area, so the water cools the computers...  wild, eh?"Photo: Star Trek Acedemy at Stanford If you look closely, you can almost see +Wil Wheaton performing the Kolvoord Starburst. And look over there in the garden! It's Boothby, dispensing a little bit of homespun advice with a rueful nod that always rings true...

Thanks again everyone for coming to the PhotoWalk! Be sure to Tag Yourself here if you attended: https://plus.google.com/105237212888595777019/posts/JwFoNgGysFK 

About this time of the night, everyone became scattered all over this amazing complex... this is what I call a target-rich environment. There are countless amazing angles and lines... I know I saw +Thomas Hawk break into a sweat trying to get every line from every angle!

By this time, +Lisa Bettany had gotten hopelessly lost and was nursing the fudge in another area while +Stu Maschwitz was saying on the phone, "Yes yes yes... Come to the Star Trek building!" and that is where I got the idea...

Thanks again to +Cliff Redeker for suggesting we end the PhotoWalk in this amazing location.

And remember everyone what I told you all about Stuck On Earth. That's a secret now... it's not out for just a little while... we're simpatico, yes? Yes... :)Photo: It was pretty late in the evening in Beijing, and I was tired after shooting all day long. My assistant and I stopped at a tea house along the banks of a little lake to relax. We had a very nice serving girl that kept bringing us more and more food and drinks. I think she expected us to eat in a dainty way, but we most certainly did not.

She had a pleasant disposition about her, so I asked if I could take a quick photo.Photo: Grey London in Color

It’s so hard to carry a tripod with a big camera and an umbrella. The number of ways you can severely pinch yourself must be in the thousands.

There is the right-hand-hold-the-umbrella-and-camera-together method. This keeps the left hand free to zoom, but there is no hand left to secure the ballhead. So, that only kinda works, but you have to do the strange reach-around. It’s about as much fun as using your left hand to get exactly 45 cents out of your right pocket.

Another method is using your neck to secure the umbrella, but that gets out of control very very quickly in the wind.

The last method is usually the one I do — and that is just to let myself get soaked. I feel only a tiny bit miserable, but I can sometimes be so focused that I can push that discomfort away while I’m focused on the photography bit.Photo: Orange Light in Queenstown

I was driving back to the house we rented in Kelvin Heights, a little peninsula that sticks out into the lake, and I saw the potential for this light.  I've only seen it about a dozen times in my life.  It happens when there is a localized area of flat-white clouds but a perfectly clear horizon.  It means the sun will dip below the clouds and cast an interesting color up on the bottom of the clouds.  

The reason this doesn't usually happen is because an overcast sky will continue on for so many miles that the sun will have no angle of incidence.  Anyway, I got lucky and the prediction came true.  I was able to be ready with my tripod just in time.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Eclectic BBQ with +Neal Stephenson part 4 of 4…

And last, a Tableau Vivant as the BBQ moves into the afternoon…

This is one of those photos that looks better huge... and maybe the best way to do that is to visit my SmugMug version (there is a size-thing) at the top at http://stuckincustoms.smugmug.com/Portfolio-The-Best/your-favorites/10668747_AuyBk/1437524035_Dx2ppzQ/APhoto: here is a sketch I did of the Joker... I love to draw... I also like to paint and do other things... I even have a ceramics wheel and I Ghost-it-up by myself sometimes... okay that sounds weird.Photo: Do you guys want me to give lens advice from time to time? I'm not really an equipment-this equipment-that kinda guy... you have probably noticed this by now... but, I am happy to give a few little tips here and there.

Like here is a simple tip for a lens. Get a new 50mm prime 1.8 for less than $100. You'll be taking people-shots like you never thought possible. I have a full list of suggestions at http://www.stuckincustoms.com/hdr-camera/ 

This photo below use a 50mm 1.4 lens. It's a bit more expensive at about $400, but you can get a very similar look with the 1.8.

I don't take photos for clients ever... this was my friend's granddaughter in Montana. I was over at his home... we were just goofing around and he asked if I would go take a photo of his granddaughter. She was out back, in a teepee, with a bucket on her head.Photo: PhotoWalks all over the world! Want to be involved in one? Or already have one planned? Comment below so you all can find one another!

This was first mentioned to me by +Brian Rose in a Google+ hangout last week (that recording will be up soon), and he said that different PhotoWalks are popping up all over... very cool. Google+ Flash Mobs.

I'm not fully up on all the PhotoWalk locations... so please put info in comments if you want to have one in your town and look for others in your community who might want to join you.

Here are a few:
+Thomas Hawk at Berkeley - https://plus.google.com/104987932455782713675/posts/XozgDxwuyj6 

+Dave Powell in Boston - https://plus.google.com/101793532287583914396/posts/VvhHcEfNDXB

+Leanne Staples is having one in NYC - https://plus.google.com/105336425684208963598/posts/ZavgeSSDsAH 

+Scott Kelby has huge ones as well (PhotoWalks). So be sure to check his stream for the latest.

Regarding this, +Paula Thomas points us to the usefulhttp://worldwidephotowalk.com/locations/ 

I think I'll do one in Beijing in a few weeks... more info soon.Photo: The Secret Fireworks Spot at Disney

- This spot is over in the Rose Garden -- a wonderful spot that hardly anyone knows about!  from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: The Secret Google Chilling Vat (exclusive first to Google+)

On the tour around the cool Zurich offices, +Brian White took me into this watery oasis. It is where euro-Googlers come to nap when they need a brain-break. I don't know for sure, but I imagine them slinking around in here while wearing trendy euro-clubbing clothes.

There were soft water-sounds wafting about, and everything was very zen. You can choose whatever sleeping arrangement you like: the porcelain tub filled with red foam cubes, the leathery massage chair that doesn't ask questions, or many more...

#SICInDatabasePhoto: Building 43 at Google

Wow I had a great time at Google! The guys and gals there I met were very nice and cool... After my Authors@Google talk, I stayed around for a while to take photos while waiting on the workshop to begin. 

There are sensitive areas of Google, of course, and I didn't even try to take pictures of any of that stuff... Building 43 is the central building of the whole Googleplex. It houses the offices of Marissa Mayer (who did not show up for my talk *ahem*), Larry Page, and Sergey Brin. I wanted to pop into their offices and make unique photos of their offices for fun, but I did not want to ask on my first visit. Wouldn't that be one of the most interesting things in the world? To see the offices of all these people? 

They don't have to be awesome and all James-Bondy -- even something mundane would be interesting, if captured in the right way. But I do picture Sergey stroking a white cat..

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Exclusive first to Google+ I just took this a few hours ago…
Sunrise over still lake

So, while on the way to Burning Man, I stopped up in the mountains of Oregon at Crater Lake, an extinct volcano that has been filled with fresh rainwater and snowmelt. Many of you here on Google+ recommended this, and I thank you very much.

I also made a behind-the-scenes video. I had a nice talk with +Bill Gross and he mentioned that people really enjoy watching me upload this stuff as it is happening… I guess he is probably right… or at least, maybe I can judge by the response here to this photo and the response to the upcoming video (if I can get it editing quickly!)

I'm now making my way to Burning Man… If I am slow in responding, I am sorry, but I will be reading ALL the comments as usual… and I very much enjoy getting to know you through your comments and your little avatar.

And, as always, you don't have to ask my permission to share a link to your own work or anything you might wish to offer up. Thank you.

Update I have edited the video, but I don't have enough bandwidth here at Burning Man to upload it! :( Does anyone knows a good internet connection here?

#SICInDatabasePhoto: Bridges in Zurich

I love these old cities that are centered around a river with dozens of little bridges that cross to and fro.  It vexes me why Austin (or hundreds of other cities) have not centered the whole city around the river.  Maybe it has something to do with flooding or something... I'm not totally sure.  But whenever cities try to start a big development around the river later in the city's life, it seems a little bit forced.  There is something very organic around these older cities and the river that feels more right than a master-planned complex.

- Trey Ratcliff

Read more here: http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2011/08/29/bridges-in-zurich/Photo: Little Elves, Little Waterfall

Going into one of the valleys by Isafjordur takes you to many little homes near waterfalls.  I thought this one was quite lovely.  And if you look to the left there, you'll see the tiny homes they also built for the elves.  I was editing this photo at dinner one evening in Isafjordur.  One of the waitresses saw this house, recognized it, and said, "Oh that's jklasdj(jkasdj^dhsaj".  Of course, I am doing my best to approximate the Icelandic language there...

Read more at the Stuck in Customs blog here:  http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2011/08/30/little-elves-little-waterfall/Photo: The Oregon Coast

Today's photo comes from Cannon Beach, Oregon. If you click through to the blog post below, you can see a brand-new video I made while taking this shot, explaining my thoughts on composition while I take the shot.

http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2011/08/31/the-oregon-coast/

- Trey Ratcliff, from the blog at stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Portfolio - The Counter-Earth, the one some of us see...Photo: Curving Around Iceland

Iceland is pretty. Do I have to keep saying it? Maybe I do... you know... you know how a girl likes to be reminded in a gentle way all the time that she is pretty? Yes, I guess I can extend this to Iceland... so... you may tire of me saying it, but I'll keep saying how pretty Iceland is.

More here: http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2011/09/05/curving-around-iceland/Photo: Charon Crossing the river Styx

This is my favorite piece at Burning Man this year. It's an amazing living undead sculpture from Peter Hudson.

The wheel and skeletons sit idle until participants walk up and figure out how to use it. Once about six people start alternately pulling on the ropes, the wheel spins faster and faster. Once the rotational velocity is fast enough, strobes come on and begin animating the skeletons. As his oar dips into the water, his head cocks and mocks you a bit.

I visited it three evenings in a row, always thinking about how to take a photo. I finally had a notion together by the fifth night when I took this image.

Oh, and it looks like +Tom Anderson has shared his first Burning Man photo over at https://plus.google.com/112063946124358686266/posts/b9yZQGFsiRA -- go give him some props! :)

#SICInDatabasePhoto: Exploring Nimes

After sitting down for thirty minutes waiting on the right light (see my previous Nimes photo by clicking the category above the comments), I walked around the left side of the structure.  I liked all the cafes and the road and it all seemed balanced...  so I set up for a wide-angle shot.  You'll notice that I cut off the top and bottom... they didn't add much to the photo, and they gave the whole thing a more cinematic feel.

More at the Stuck in Customs blog here:  
http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2011/09/09/exploring-nimes/Photo: Boy and Grandfather at Tiananmen Square

I was walking through Tiananmen on a white-out cloud day taking photos of people. I had on my earphones and was kind of drifting in and among the crowd. It's a bit like being in a movie when you do this... anyway, I'm sure you've heard me mention it before, so I won't go into details.  It's often a very nice way to make things timeless... to separate people and objects from their place and time.  These two were on the ground wrestling and having fun.  I squatted about 15 feet away to take a photo, and they were most delighted!

From the blog at stuckincustoms.comPhoto: I just took this photo a few days ago while flying into Lijiang from Beijing to begin a whirlwind of photography... While landing, I saw this out the window... so I had a feeling it was going to be a good week!

Have you ever gotten a good photo out a plane window? I try a lot... a lot of failures... occasional successes... like much of life I guess!

#SICInDatabasePhoto: The Stone Bridge in the Old City

I just took this a few hours ago and wanted to share it first here to Google+.

A tiny stream flows through the middle of Lijiang -- it glides under countless little bridges and splits into countless little rivulets, each one twisting a different way through ancient neighborhoods.

As night falls, people begin lighting candles and setting them afloat inside tiny colored flowers. They flow downstream and people attach personal notes and moments to them. You can see on the right there that many people picked up different flower-candles to set them adrift.

I made a behind-the-scenes video here while shooting this. I haven't had a chance to edit/upload yet, but I will… maybe some good ideas about how I did this shot for you.

yes btw that was Tom on the cliff up there in the post I made just before this one…


see the full size version on SmugMug at http://stuckincustoms.smugmug.com/Portfolio-The-Best/your-favorites/10668747_AuyBk#1479241625_kcjQ4m4

#SICInDatabasePhoto: The Artist at Home

What do you think is happening here? What fanciful story can you concoct?

I grabbed this yesterday while exploring inside and around Lijiang...

full size one at SmugMug at http://stuckincustoms.smugmug.com/Portfolio-The-Best/your-favorites/10668747_AuyBk#1480566858_RL74CPP

#SICInDatabasePhoto: The Secret Google Chilling Vat
On the tour around the cool Zurich offices, Brian White took me into this watery oasis. It is where euro-Googlers come to nap when they need a brain-break. I don't know for sure, but I imagine them slinking around in here while wearing trendy euro-clubbing clothes.

There were soft water-sounds wafting about, and everything was very zen. You can choose whatever sleeping arrangement you like: the porcelain tub filled with red foam cubes, the leathery massage chair that doesn't ask questions, or many more...

- Trey Ratcliff

The rest of this blog post is here: http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2011/09/15/the-secret-google-chilling-vat/Photo: Airports in China

Asian airports are some of the best in the world, eh?

These architects must love designing them... they get to go crazy and try all kinds of experimental things. Not only are they huge, but the inventive lines and shapes make them virtually inexhaustible subjects for photography!

Full size at SmugMug here: http://stuckincustoms.smugmug.com/Portfolio-The-Best/your-favorites/10668747_AuyBk#1481172290_9nxrCXX

#SICInDatabasePhoto: Li Jiang at Night 

It is a truly beautiful old town. Tom Anderson and I headed up this hill almost every night. By the time we hike up this thing, we're awfully tired, but we recharge our batteries quickly once the photos start flowing... There are many vantage points inside tiny rooftop cafes and coffee shops. Many of them have musicians crooning away while we have strange juices and take photos. Once it gets completely dark, we head back down into the old town and roam the streets with our tripods. Many hours later, we tire out again and take a taxi back for a few more hours of post-processing and snacks. This routine never gets old!

by Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.comPhoto: Great PhotoWalk in Beijing!!!

Where should I do the next PhotoWalk? 

Thanks everyone for coming out. It was fun meeting everyone… and I have a feeling that everyone ended up with a bunch of great photos! I've been having a great time in Beijing so far… not only the PhotoWalk last night, but the night before I went to the opera and sat by +Joe McNally . We took a ton of photos, and I took a lot of photos of Joe taking photos… I think I watched him more than I watched the opera!

Anyhoo, these PhotoWalks are great… because, you know, I'm going out anyway to take photos, so why not bring along a bunch of like-minded people? In one way, these things are completely strange because there is an instant flash-mob of cool people. I really enjoy them.

And if you were on yesterday's PhotoWalk, put your info below so that others can find you... Since most people there were on Google+, we decided to share information here in this thread!

#SICInDatabasePhoto: Walking in the Park

While walking through a park in Beijing, I saw this girl. I mean, I guess I don't know what else to say... I just took her photo, you see. I have a second camera slung around me all the time for little things like this. I don't give any thought as to whether or not I can or should... I just do it. This lack-of-filter is very very nice, I must say. I don't even go through a decision-process any more. It just happens... I am not sure of any other way to explain it than just to say it plainly like this.

#SICInDatabasePhoto: The Rocket

Here is another strange and wonderful find in Beijing. Can anyone guess at what it is? Note that I would prefer to hear outlandish guesses instead of real guesses! :)

#SICInDatabasePhoto: Mystery Location

Well, the hint is that this is in Beijing. You guys are all so good at finding these secret spots that I probably didn't even have to give you that hint!

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Ancient Rooftops Forever

This old town in China is an endless labyrinth of small streets and alleyways. They are packed so tightly together and there is no room for cars. Sometimes, there's only room for one rickshaw.

#SICInDatabasePhoto: The Pool at the Opposite House in China

There are really amazing places all over China... the old and the new - I don't know which type I like more! This is the swimming pool at the hotel I posted a video of a few days ago here on Google+. I've just finished importing this photo and wanted to share it with y'all! :)

#SICInDatabasePhoto: Flying in France

I remember when I was learning French at Jesuit.  I took four years of it, and one of the first things I saw was a little cartoon in a book.  It was two little French girls on a ride just like this.  One was saying to the other, "Aiiyeeeee!  Sylvie!  Tenez!!!!"  Anyway, I always think of that when I see little French children on a ride.  I feel like calling it out, but it always seems a little creepy for a stranger to say such a thing.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Cyborg Fabrication Plant

This comes from a cool area of Beijing in the CBD.  It's not really where they make cyborgs in China.  I don't know where that place is...

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Gateway to the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China

I had an amazing opportunity in Beijing to get private access into the Temple of Heaven one morning.  Well-costumed officials from the government met me before sunrise just outside the gates, where hundreds of early risers were already outside doing exercises and preparing for a national holiday.  The nice men pulled out ornate keys and opened up the private doors to let me in.  I had about 90 minutes to take photos of everything as the sun rose.  It was a great day of shooting!

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Night in the Forbidden City

This area of the old city is full of mystery and intrigue. There is so much here that is still unseen. I've spent the past few days and nights exploring the edges and shapes of the ancient walls, doorways, and endless paths into the unknown...

#SICInDatabasePhoto: The Glowing City

This is the photo I took a few days ago here in China and edited during a Google+ live hangout. People often to ask to see the "before" shot, and it's usually impossible just because I am so busy... I post so many new photos here and on the main blog that I can't fulfill all requests like that.... but, here is an exception... and you can see the before at https://plus.google.com/105237212888595777019/posts/7TP2ECfHV4J (updated link)

#SICInDatabasePhoto: Great Wall of China

More on http://www.StuckInCustoms.com 

Wow I am alone here. As I walk along this ancient, original stretch of the Great Wall, I feel ghosts haunting the old towers and little enclaves.

I finally found an extremely remote part that is far enough away from civilization to stay pure. The ruins of the wall in this area has been overgrown with vegetation. When you walk along the top, you have to snake your way between huge bushes and all sorts of trees. Stairs and parts of the walkways have crumbled away in the past thousand years. The old towers are slopingly fragmenting as lichens and moss cover parts of the stone that are decaying away.

This has only reminded me that the main tourist part of the Great Wall is a very tiny stretch that has been re-built in recent years… so it is all fake and kind of Disney-wall. I don't think I like that...

I've walked from tower to tower throughout the day, looking at the sinuous wall as it snakes over the mountains. It's so huge that I won't even begin to come up with analogies… but, speaking of snakes, a family here told me to watch out for them. I kept that in mind as I hiked back in the pure black of night. I had a little flashlight to keep me company, along with my music. I didn't see any snakes, and I didn't fall down, so all together it was a great day and night.

I also made a behind-the-scenes video - it is here on my stream now :)

#SICInDatabasePhoto: Google+ Photography Hangout LIVE from China on http://www.Keithbarrett.tv (and it is recorded for posting later)

We are talking about photography, new projects, challenges, and more… and generally just hangin' out…

The other thread for the hangout is over at https://plus.google.com/105237212888595777019/posts/5pX45abMntB

Thanks again to +Keith Barrett for recording and broadcasting live!

As for this photo below, this is a girl I saw by a wall here in China.

#SICInDatabasePhoto: Exploring Along the Earthen Bricks

This is one of those little things that I like so much about China... the people are so interesting for photography. They are often confused when I take their photo, because they find themselves quite plain and uninteresting. After I show them the photo, they are always happy and excited, while still being a bit flabbergasted at the whole experience. But, even though it is a strange interchange, it's a nice one.

#SICInDatabasePhoto: The Inner Halls of the Forbidden City

There is an old and transportive feeling while walking through the old areas of this strange place. The paint and the textures and design are all familiar, but foreign enough to feel like they've been time-warped from from an earlier era.

#China #photo #forbiddencity #SICInDatabasePhoto: Ruins at the Great Wall after the sun sets

Yesterday, I kept hiking along the old wall as the sun set. I also had a zoom lens (28-300mm) with me, so I was able to get in tight on far away structures and shapes. Not too long after I took this shot, I walked along several lengths of the wall to get to these ruins. I stood there for a long time listening to music and taking photos.

The next photo I put here in Google+ will be of the wall in the morning -- what it looks like to be inside the fauna and vegetation that has taken over this remote part of the the original wall.

#greatwall #china #SICInDatabasePhoto: What does it look like to walk on top the original section of the Great Wall? (note this photo is taken on top of the wall... you can see a connecting tower in the distance there)

This area of the great wall is not maintained, and now it is covered with the same sort of trees and bushes that populate the forested floor beneath. There are even little animals, birds, and all sorts of insects scurrying here and there. It is so thick that sometimes I have trouble reaching the edge of the wall to take a photo, so I have to keep walking until there is a big enough gap for me and the tripod.

I have a full video too… still processing the footage, but I did give a sneak preview the other night during the live hangout. I'll get it up soon… but there is another behind-the-scenes video coming up here in just a few hours… a new one from China.

#SICInDatabasePhoto: Where the Street Racers of Beijing Meet at Night

There is a crazy, awesome, amazing, insane area of Beijing that was built around an old airplane factory from the middle of the last century. It was abandoned and laid in ruin for decades… All sorts of old buildings, strange industrial machinery, and distressed buildings. Now, some of it has been converted to an underground racetrack. I arrived in the middle of the day, and there was this gutted out building where three of the race cars sat in disarray. I don't know if they were abandoned or in the middle of being refitted for the next race… but more photos to come...

#SICInDatabasePhoto: Under the Factory

As I explored the abandoned airplane factories in this old section of Beijing, I went down into the basement level to see what I could find. There were all sorts of iron fixtures, strange knobs and wheels, semi-circular openings to kilns that had been bricked closed, and endless layers of peeling, scorched paint.

#SICInDatabasePhoto: Opposite Statues

Statues pose in the lobby of the awesome Opposite House hotel... The whole place is a giant piece of art with rich colors and strange designs. It was great during the daytime, but I figured that it would look even more interesting with the lights were controlled. I don't know much about interior lighting design, but I do appreciate it very much when it is done well...

#SICInDatabasePhoto: Man Jogging, China

I was walking around one of the many lake areas in Beijing and there was all sorts of activity here. I don't see many joggers there, so whenever I see anyone running, I go on high-alert. But it turns out he was just out getting a bit of exercise...

#SICInDatabasePhoto: The Electric Nest

Another photo from Beijing here… I originally set up for a wide-angle shot but also brought the zoom lens to find interesting compositions here and there. To me, it's kind of a fun game to see an awesome structure like this and see how many photos I can create out of the structure. With the nice lighting and clear night, I felt like a fox in the hen house!

#SICInDatabasePhoto: Tiny Domed Enclave in the Forbidden City

There are so many ornate structures that it becomes overwhelming in a way… Like, for example, have you ever been walking around Vegas for the day and towards the end you just feel visual-overload? You just kind of want to go into your hotel room and go fetal until your brain can ctrl-alt-del?

This area of China is a little bit like that too, but there is a bit more of a serenity layered on top so it never becomes over-the-top. However, I do have to stay vigilant to take photos because there is so much -- everywhere.

#SICInDatabasePhoto: 5 Tips for Photographing People

I've gotten so many questions about taking photos of people. Most questions involve a real desire to take photos of people colliding with a hesitation. Some of these tips are technical… some are psychological… I hope they help… and I hope you start sharing more people-photos in your streams!

Also, all of this assumes you are in public and you have a healthy-helping of common sense.

1) If you prefer to take photos of people as they are acting naturally, go ahead and take the photo before they notice you. You are a photographer, and this is you. You capture life… if you see something interesting whether it is a landscape, a pile of peaches, or a person that strikes your fancy, go ahead and do it. If you like and it is convenient, you can always go show them the photo after you are done. I do this whenever it makes sense, and I have a nice little interchange with the person.

2) Keep an extra camera ready for people shots. When walking the streets, I normally have my “big” camera ready to go for city landscape shots. My tripod is on. My wide-angle is on. It’s in that “mode." If I am going to have to switch lenses, it will take forever, and the moment will be lost. So, I carry a second camera on a sling around my shoulder for people shots. On that camera, I have an 85mm or 50mm prime lens. Now, you don’t have to have this exact setup by any means, but having ANY kind of second camera for people shots is recommended.

2b) I find that the 85mm prime keeps me outside something I call the radius of intimacy. That is, when you use a 50mm, you are so close that people often stop acting naturally, unless they are a professional model or a natural thespian.

3) If they ARE likely to notice you, be confident and deliberate, softly asking permission with your eyes. This is a very subtle and hard thing to explain. I usually raise my eyebrows while I raise my camera, clearly indicating, “I’m about to take a photo. Everything is okay.” If they don’t want you to, they will make it clear. Usually, they say it’s just fine. People like to be thought of as interesting.

4) If they are very close, I ask permission out loud. Often times, I don’t want them to pose… so I say something (smiling!) like, “You look very interesting — can I take a photo?” Once they say yes (98% of the time they do), I usually ask them not to pose and carry on about their business. Then I start taking a bunch of photos and enjoy the pressure of capturing the moment.

5) Don’t be shy! If you feel overly shy, it may be a larger indication that you are letting fear motivate you rather than the opportunities that life provides. So, if you feel doubt or fear, just try to channel me and be brave and forthright.

#SICInDatabasePhoto: A Rainy and Romantic Night in Ibiza Old Town (Villa d'Eivissa)

Part of Ibiza is an old walled medieval town that is surrounded by layers of winding streets old shops intermixed with homes.  A few streets away from the walls, some of the streets are full of pubs and quirky shops...  I think it's better to explore them at night than in the day -- and especially so in the rain.  On this night, it was a little chilly and rainy, but that does not effect my camera.  I've never had a problem because of rain or cold or heat or <em>anything</em>.  It just works!  The rainy streets were full of colors and life.  I saw this couple quickly walking under an umbrella so I took a quick one to capture the scene.

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Secret Treasures of BeijingIt was very close to the National Day, and crews were out freshening-up the city. There were about four Chinese painters that were busy putting a fresh red coat of paint on this perfect little bridge. By chance, they were just finishing up as I approached. This little boat from the painters was pulled up beside the bridge in a wonderful way, so I set up my tripod along the bank for a photo.from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Mysterious Moeraki Boulders

When I saw these strange round rocks for the first time, I was extra-fascinated. Not that I had any idea what they were. My years of geology training did me no good at all... I think it was even more frustrating because I knew all the things they could not be. The remaining possibilities just seemed off-the-chart impossible.

 from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Bridges in Zurich

I love these old cities that are centered around a river with dozens of little bridges that cross to and fro.  It vexes me why Austin (or hundreds of other cities) have not centered the whole city around the river.  Maybe it has something to do with flooding or something... I'm not totally sure.  But whenever cities try to start a big development around the river later in the city's life, it seems a little bit forced.  There is something very organic around these older cities and the river that feels more right than a master-planned complex.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: The Oregon Coast

Today's photo comes from Cannon Beach, Oregon.  If you click through to the blog post at http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2011/08/31/the-oregon-coast/, you can see a brand-new video I made while taking this shot, explaining my thoughts on composition while I take the shot.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: Little Elves, Little Waterfall

Going into one of the valleys by Isafjordur takes you to many little homes near waterfalls.  I thought this one was quite lovely.  And if you look to the left there, you'll see the tiny homes they also built for the elves.  I was editing this photo at dinner one evening in Isafjordur.  One of the waitresses saw this house, recognized it, and said, "Oh that's jklasdj(jkasdj^dhsaj".  Of course, I am doing my best to approximate the Icelandic language there...

from the blog at www.stuckincustoms.comPhoto: A Strange Walk in China

I put this one up on my FB page ( http://www.facebook.com/treyratcliff ) ... I know I know... boooo Facebook.. I was so intrigued by the reaction that I wanted to share it here too.. I'm interested to hear what bounces around your brain when you see it.

#SICInDatabasePhoto: The Streets of Montpellier by night

Usually I go in after dusk... but, when the streets are so wonderful in the night... I never want to go back!

#SICInDatabasePhoto: The Remote Mountainous Great Wall of China - Behind the scenes video tomorrow for Google+ friends !

I've just finished editing together the video I shot while here… it's not super-high quality, since I just did it with my iPod, but you can at least see my setup, some of the vegetation, and a few other things.

This particular part of the wall had gaping wounds that have fallen apart after the last few thousand years. It took a bit of extra focus, since falling off the wall would have both been deadly and embarrassing.

(Note I didn't originally have "of China" in the title, but I added it when many people below asked if it was the Great Wall of China)

#SICInDatabase