The secret lair of Hans Zimmer, from where he inspires the world

Update! I got to spend a whole afternoon with Hans!

To get that full story, see “Hans Zimmer in His Studio.”

I Approach my Quarry!

Six days ago I was up at 3 AM, listening to Hans Zimmer while editing photos, and then I had an idea for a project with him, so I made a blog post. Now, less than a week later, I was in his studio in California!

For those of you that don’t know who Hans Zimmer is, he’s, like, the Liger of composers. He did the soundtrack for The Dark Knight, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lion King, Gladiator, Sherlock Holmes, and many more! In fact, back when I was in college and had a double major in Computer Science and Geophysics (I dropped the Geophysics bit after a fight with the professor), I commandeered the SGI machine in the Geology department to make a computer animation, and I set the whole thing to one of Zimmer’s songs from Backdraft called “Burn it All”. So, in short, I’ve had Hans Zimmer’s music in my head for about 20 years.

The Story of How I Got Into Hans Zimmer’s Studio

It’s because of you! We have millions of visits here on the blog every month, and you all know how thankful I am for your repeat patronage. It’s tough to get a pretty photo up every day, and I thank you for all your feedback! So, when I put out the call in my newsletter, I got a ton of responses. My math-guess was that I was one or two degrees away from Hans, especially since there are many creative-types that are regular visitors.

Also, many of you hyper-active types (like me!) talk to me, ask questions, and follow me on Twitter — thank you for being responsive to real-time requests and news.

About an hour after I sent out the newsletter at midnight, I got a response from a German gentleman (name private) who is friends with Hans! In fact, he told me he was going to see Hans the next day at his studio near Hollywood! He did a few things to help out, and, although I could not meet Hans today, I did get an amazing opportunity to take photos of his studio. I knew I could make his studio look the way it feels — I had a sublime confidence I could make it happen. Anyway, I was like a kid in a candy store. I got a ton of shots… I only had time to process four of them.

Hans Zimmer’s Studio

I don’t know if words do it justice, but I hope these photos do.

The studio is even bigger than I thought, and I was reminded of the Crimson Lounge in Chicago. In fact, I pulled up the image on my laptop there on the table to compare textures and light. I thought everything worked well together — the decadence and richness of the decorations integrated with the technology. I don’t know if there is a word for such a look… It’s something out of a Phillip Pullman novel, somewhere between Steampunk and Techno-boudoir. Again, words fail.

The first two photos I have placed on Flickr. You can click on them to go to Flickr and then zoom into the full-res size.  Amazing details — especially in the chair photo. I’ll post more in coming weeks, months, and years, as usual.  So, stay tuned… my ongoing quest continues!

Hans Zimmer's Studio I don't know if words do it justice, but I hope these photos do. The studio is even bigger than I thought, and I was reminded of the Crimson Lounge in Chicago.  In fact, I pulled up the image on my laptop there on the table to compare textures and light.  I thought everything worked well together -- the decadence and richness of the decorations integrated with the technology.   I don't know if there is a word for such a look... It's something out of a Phillip Pullman novel, somewhere between Steampunk and Techno-boudoir.  Again, words fail.The first two photos I have placed on Flickr.  You can click on them to go to Flickr and then zoom into the full-res size.  Amazing details -- especially in the chair photo. I'll post more in coming weeks, months, and years, as usual.  So, stay tuned... my ongoing quest continues!- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Chair

Skulls

The Back Room

More photos from the studio…

I put these in a later blog post… and came back to post them here too.

1,000 Red Gates – and Photo Mystery of the Week

Great Photowalk in San Clemente!

Thanks to everyone that came out for a beautiful sunset in San Clemente! I was happy to meet you all and hope you had a good time. Victor from Typical Shutterbug put up a post with a link to a Flickr group where you can share your photos.

Photo Mystery of the Week

What is the mysterious blue light in the photo below?  Who can guess

Daily Photo – 1,000 Red Gates

What a wonderful and unique place on earth this is! In Kyoto, Japan, there resides the unique shrine of Fushimi Inari. It consists of thousands of red gates that wind up and down the mountain. I walked through it deep into the night…. I was the only one around and it was downright eerie. Every now and then, the gates would stop and there would be a mini-shrine off to one side or a graveyard to another. Both of these added to the creep factor.

I had a serious worry about an hour into the hike through these gates — what if they turn off the lights? I had no flashlight! I considered my two options — I could strobe my SB-800 to find my way out, which would be a totally surreal experience through these gates. Or, I could do what one of my Israeli hiker friends did in Argentina, use the back of my camera display for light (he actually used his to set up his tent)!

1,000 Red Gates

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-03-29 08:33:02
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/8
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length20mm (20mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

The Shuttle in Spacedock

Workshop review from Jim Caldwell

At the Florida workshop, a nice gentleman named Jim Caldwell came up to interview me on camera during the first lunch break.  He was a heck of a nice guy, and today he sent me this HDR workshop review that he just released.  Thanks Jim!

First Nikon D3S Photo

I’m still writing my Nikon D3S Review, so get ready for that.  I think I’ll give the first look to people that subscribe to the newsletter.  So, far, I’m very impressed.  In prepping for the event, below is an HDR photo I took yesterday with the new camera.

Daily Photo – The Shuttle in Spacedock

I finally got to see the Space Shuttle!  It’s one of those things a young boy always dreams of seeing, don’t you know?  I’m still waiting on that phone call from NASA where they invite me to see one blast off.  I’d love to do a creative shot there…

This was shot in the new Air and Space Museum on DC.  Yes, not that old one that I used to think was cool when I was a kid.  This is a new and improved center that is completely unbelievable. I had a small argument with a security guard that would not let me take my tripod.  He said I needed a “blue card”.  I asked how to get that and he said the only person that could possibly give it to me was probably at home.  There were a number of bureaucracies where I could have filed a series of complaints, but only if such complaints were filled out in a way as pre-approved by other bureaucracies.  I did send out a self-serving Tweet to @Smithsonian asking them for special dispensation — I hoped to sway them since, after all, one of my photos did hang in the Smithsonian.  They did indeed respond, but one day late. So, I’ll still keep @Smithsonian on one of my Five Twitter Lists.

So, I was forced to take my HDR shots with a hand-held pose.  How barbaric and depressing.  I would try to wedge myself up against a beam or a foreigner when possible, but that rarely works out as good as a tripod.  Those things are never placed in the right compositional spots, sadly.

But, I did have the Nikon D3S as a backup, and I fired this one off.  It was a 4-exposure HDR from -2 to +1.  ISO 400, 23mm, f/6.7 and 1/6 second shutter speed. The +2 exposure was too blurry, and I got most of the light I needed out of the +1 anyway.

The Shuttle in Spacedock

The Raised Bones of Arlington National Cemetery

Newsletter Soon

I’m working on a new newsletter… all sorts of interesting stuff. I try to give newsletter people sneak peaks, and I have a few things in mind for this time. As always, it’s free… something pretty for your inbox!


Silver Efex Pro

The shot below is a black and white HDR that had some treatment in Silver Efex Pro.

Daily Photo – The Raised Bones of Arlington National Cemetery

My friend John P from One Man’s Blog suggested that I visit this place while I am on my little trip to DC. It was already on my list, but he bumped it up! I went there to shoot at sunset, and got back to the hotel in enough time to process.

To be honest, it’s quite difficult to make 365 images per year that pass my quality standards! Really! Maybe it looks easy or something… but I assure you it is not! Hehe…

Anyway, it was just my young son and I wandering around the cemetery for a few hours as the sun was going down on a dreary and rainy day here in Washington, D.C. Arlington National Cemetery is considered hallowed grounds around here, and it was a life-changing experience for my son.

After a long walk in a nearly empty cemetery, we made our way to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The entire facility was closing, and the guard told us it was time to leave. I talked to him for a moment, and he let my son and I through. We went to the steps of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and sat there for a long time. We were totally alone except for the solitary Honor Guard who was guarding the tomb. There was a light rain and not much day remaining. The Honor Guard walked towards one end of the path, clicked his heels, checked his gun, stood guard, then strode back and forth along his short route. It was completely amazing to be there alone in the rain… just watching this happen again and again.

The Raised Bones of Arlington National Cemetery

Wormsloe, the Endless Forest of Savannah

My Biggest Photo Ever and Flickr can’t handle it

The TIFF of the photo below is 984 megs, and the JPG is 124 megs! It’s about 16,000 pixels across and very fun to zoom in on as you go down the lane. I dropped it to 12,000 pixels so I could upload, but, I feel a little short-changed!

You can see the Original Size below, zoomed into 100% down the middle of the lane…

I wish Flickr would offer a premium subscription where I could post huge photos. I’d gladly pay $200 a year for a premium subscription that gets me all sorts of extra features, like big photos, high quality videos like my Vimeo sub, tier 1 tech support, and all sorts of other goodies.

Another Forest Photo, Hanging at HQ of Flickr Competitor

The fine people at Smugmug (see my portfolio there at StuckInCustoms.smugmug.com) have chosen my Bamboo Forest photo to hang inside their headquarters in California.  They are actually building a 60″ lightbox behind it.  I’ll see it in person in a few weeks when I go visit the crew there.  I’m looking forward to it!

Daily Photo – Wormsloe, the Endless Forest of Savannah

My friend Scott Kublin (who made it to my Favorites page on my iPhone… he was at the bottom, but I just moved him up above the babysitter) lives in Savannah, so it was good to visit him on my little road trip. He commented that regular visitors to Stuck In Customs would probably like to see current shots while I am traveling around!  So, here it is! However, this one took about 3-4 hours to edit, five cups of coffee, and several pieces of pie. Did you see my little “Buy Trey Chocolate For Energy” there in the right column? Yes, I burn through copious calories to create these things. This one almost broke my back, but I am very happy with it.

Some of you may remember this place from Forest Gump… A lot of it was shot down in Savannah. Besides Wormsloe, I also visited some amazingly moody cemeteries, draped in mossy trees. I’ll get to editing those photos another time… maybe when I get back home to Texas!

Wormsloe, the Endless Forest of Savannah - 16,000 pixels wide!

Wormsloe Full Zoom

The photo above, zoomed to 100% in Photoshop, right down the lane…

The Olde Organ, Guessing Game, and my Secret Music List

My Music Playlist – What are some of your favorites?

As I travel around the world, I’ve picked up an amazing collection of unique music. It’s not for everyone, but if you like eclectic stuff that gets you in a right-brain mode, I think it’s great.

This first list I am releasing is my “World Lounge Mix” – I made an iTunes iMix of it and added the mix to Trey’s Music List!

Coming soon are some of my favorite songs from other categories, like Ambient New Age, Spanish Guitar, World Music, and more.

What are some of your favorite songs? Share them with me – I’d like to know!

Daily photo – The Olde Organ

Okay, if you were in one of my workshops, you are not allowed to guess, because you heard the unexpected answer.

But, of the rest of you, who can guess where this photo of this ornate organ was taken?  Those in my workshop know because I worked on it during the festivities.  It’s so funny whenever I zoom into 100% and people ooh and ahh at the details.  It’s funny because I do the same thing!  I know a lot of people say that 24 megapixel is overkill, but… well… it’s just cool.

I plan for the future when many people have 70 inch wall displays at 10,000 pixels across.  I want to make sure my images are ready for them!

The Olde Organ

The Portofino Bay

Lengthy HDR Workshop Review

First, I should make it clear that I don’t have any more plans to do more workshops. I know there is a lot of demand all over the world — and these two previous ones have been ultra-successful. I may end up doing a few exclusive workshops in select cities around the world, but nothing is currently planned. I get approached all the time for this and that – and I’m looking at everything… but nothing is decided yet.

For sure, you should get ready for the HDR DVD to come out. It’s being worked on currently. It will be ready when it’s ready, but you can sign up there to be sure you find out first.

As for the Florida weekend workshop, Terry Reinert wrote a lengthy review on his blog. He was a nice guy, and I enjoyed meeting him. After the workshop, RC Concepcion asked Terry and Vanelli (his site) to take me out to shoot the sunset. Well, it was probably a top 10 sunset. It was one of those perfect sunsets where the sun was twice as wide as the skyscrapers in downtown Tampa. Even better, it was a perfect half-circle on top of a cloud.

The only bad thing is that we were in a car the entire time. I’m not sure what the heck happened, but I am sure what the heck didn’t happen. I had a chance to get the greatest photo of Tampa ever made, but I was stuck in a car. I have not yet ruled out conspiracy.

After that, Vanelli, Terry, and I ended up at Tampa University. Or maybe it’s the University of Tampa. We moved around there and they used a few of the new tricks from the workshop. I got some great shots that I haven’t had time to process yet… But I was happy to hang out with those two guys. RC tends to be a good filter on these sorts of matters!

Daily Photo – The Portofino Bay

Today, I drove to Orlando and decided to put myself in charge of a sunset shot. Of course, since those two jokers where many area codes away, it worked out well.

We stayed here at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando. This place is gorgeous. I never know how I feel about these “recreations” of other real-world places. The REAL Portofino is very pretty and unique, of course, but this recreation is also really nice. I mean, it’s actually pretty here, even though it is just a facsimile. It’s not the same as being in Italy, of course. But, it’s better than being at a Walmart in Ft. Lauderdale, you know? Okay, it’s a WHOLE lot better. There are six Italian restaurants, a pretty boat that takes you back and forth to Universal Studios and Adventure Island, and a very nice staff that is helpful and attentive.

The Portofino Bay

Another Magical Disney Fireworks Show

New Print on Sale

Every week a new print comes available in Limited Edition Numbered series. This week it is “The Fallout Bunker”, the unique and wonderful airport architecture in Thailand. This is the sort of print may not work so well in a traditional home (like my others), but for the right environment, it will be a real stunner.

Stuck in Customs in Space

Daily Photo – Another Magical Disney Fireworks Show

Disney has a very cool “Pirates and Princess” party where they really take their fireworks to the extreme. I worked hard to find a nice reflective surface, even though I had to elbow a few little princesses to get this spot. They started to complain, and I just said, “Stop being such a princess!”

Now, if I can only convince the Powers That Be at Disney to fire off these fireworks at dusk – now THAT is a photo. The thing is… everyone shoots off their fireworks in pitch black, well, because everyone ELSE does. However, I can make a strong case that fireworks look better when there is a bit of ambient light in the air. The fireworks are still bright and beautiful — they do not have to be against a pure black backdrop to “pop”.

Another Magical Disney Fireworks Show

Grand Central Station and a Workshop Weekend with Scott Bourne

For Artists and Photographers that want to follow another path

I am going to mention this tomorrow during the workshop with Scott Bourne, but I get inspiration and ideas from a great variety of sources outside of photography. Unfortunately, I find that photographers stay in the bubble too much and keep reading the same sort of thing. I put together “Trey’s Book List” here on the site for you. It’s filled with all types of subject matter from genetics to physics. For example, if I ever run into a fellow artist that also has a passion for Richard Feynman, we always become fast friends!

Another Nice Testimonial for HDR Spotting

I am glad some more people are getting into the private beta of HDRspotting.com – as always, the goal of the site is to showcase interesting HDRs from all over the world to drive more traffic and attention to YOUR website. It’s built on top of something we call an “Attention Generation Engine”. As we tweak all this out and iterate, we hope to open it up to more and more people!

There are invite codes out there – just ask around on Twitter or look in the HDR groups in Flickr or FB — NOTE – I do not give them out – so sorry I can’t help you (by design!).

Here is a nice testimonial from Gaensler (see his latest amazing shot on Flickr)

Since uploading my images on HDR Spotting the attention I get on my work increases tremendous! This encourages me to upload one image every single day, which is a great challenge due to the matter of only sending my best images. So HDR Spotting is pushing me further in my work and the comments I get from the community refuels my creativity!

Daily Photo – Grand Central Station

When I was in NYC a few weeks ago for the book party, I took some time one rainy evening to invade Grand Central Station without a tripod pass. I did not even know I could get such a thing easily, because the process for picking one up requires looking in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’. (tip of the hat to the great Douglas Adams).

But even with my illegal tripod in hand, and in cool and casual defiance of the three-legged police, I strode around Grand Central Station taking photos with reckless aplomb. I really wanted to get on a train and go somewhere! But, I didn’t… I just walked out the exit and right into another amazing photographic situation!

The Grand Central Station

Lonely Boats Near Hakone

New eBook Coming

I think you all will enjoy this eBook!

This Week in Photography Interview

It’s finally here!  The nice team from This Week in Photography has put up my interview – TWIP Episode Jan 13, 2010 (you can also get it on iTunes).  I hope you enjoy it.  We talk about everything from Creative Commons to Wide Blogs to HDR Photography to Mentally Unstable People Who Dislike HDR.

Amazing Review over at Abduzeedo

Giselle over at Abduzeedo wrote a fantastic review of “A World in HDR” and I am glad she enjoyed it so much!  Head on over there for a looksee.  Also, visit the top level of their blog because they always have great design inspiration.

Daily Photo – Lonely Boats Near Hakone

There is a spiritual and peaceful place on the edge of Japan.  I had to get off the bullet train and make a series of extremely confusing train changes to get to this place, but it was worth it.

The nice thing about photography is there is no such thing as bad weather.  Every scene has its mood, and whatever the scene is, that is the mood.  You learn to roll with the situation, and whatever is happening can be beautiful if you look at it for what it is.  It was a foggy and wet afternoon, so I walked peacefully up and down the shoreline for interesting things here and there…

Lonely Boats in Hakone

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