Patagonia in Autumn

As is the case with every day here, I have also included a photo. 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!

I woke up around 4:30 AM with -7 Celsius temperatures. It was bitter cold. I got dressed QUICKLY in the pitch black cold and then headed off with two of my Russian friends to begin scaling the mountain. They had lights on their hats; I did not. I walked between them, trying not to slip on the icy “trail” between the dodging shadows cast by their headlights. I’ll never forget it for the rest of my life. We ascended 1,500 feet in less than 45 minutes so we could catch the pink rays of sunrise just as they hit the peaks.

Last, I have been interviewed about photography and more on the Pro Photo Show. It’s a free podcast that you can listen to if you want to know more about the process or just hear me ramble on about stuff you may or may not find interesting!

A Razor to the Sky

A Razor to the Sky


Patagonia in Autumn from Trey Ratcliff on Vimeo.

The old bones I found on the way to Mordor

Announcement (and contest!) reminder: At midnight (Friday night, about 24 hours after this post), I’ll be releasing the short film called “Autumn in Patagonia”. It’s an experimental thing, and I hope you like it. I’ll be looking at Twitter for the next 24 hours to see who has the most clever Tweet of the event – mark it with @TreyRatcliff so I can find it! I’ll give the winner a free Textures Tutorial and perhaps even a hot tub weekend with Yuri, if I can talk Yuri into it.

As for this photo from Argentina below, 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. Tomorrow, in addition to posting the short film, I’ll show you a closer shot of Fitz Roy that was taken around 6 AM the next morning, after an icy hike of 1500 feet in pitch black. Will there be clouds at sunrise, or will it be visible?

Last, they are now taking votes for the 2009 Photoblog Awards. We have been nominated, so be one of the first to vote to help us get to the top! You will have to register and stuff – sorry for that, but thank you in advance!

Click here or on the little graphic :

The old bones I found on the way to Mordor copy (by Stuck in Customs)

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.

I can’t explain how often I stopped to take photos along this hike! I am sure it took about 4x as long as needed, but that was the point of the whole trip, after all…

If you zoom into the large or ( original size ), you can see the glowing blue glacier there, spilling out from between the edge of the Andes.

About to cross the stream on the hike, approaching the blue glacier

A Slice of Life in Malaysia (and thanks for the Facebook fan club members breaking 1,000)

I spent a few weekends in the Chinese area of Melaka, which is on the southern coast. After it gets dark outside and you walk down the streets, you can always see little glowing lights coming from inside homes that are crammed together in the streets. There is a general clatter of Chinese voices with the clanking and scraping of dinner being made and shared. One of them had the door slightly ajar with a good mood coming out (picked up by my Jacobson’s Organ), so I craned my neck around inside with a smile to see what was happening. I had my camera in plain sight, and it’s always novel for them to see a whitey in this area of town. I gave an international greeting of “howdy”, and then the international sign of “can I take a photo of your interesting living area”, and then I snapped a single RAW for conversion to HDR later.

There are all kinds of interesting things inside if you look close… like a massive amount of eggs for a small home and also the ever-present Milo, which all Malaysians love and have in ready supply.

I checked the Facebook fan club today, which I should do more, and saw that it had broken 1,000 fans! Thanks everyone – that is cool. I am not sure the best thing to do on there yet; I’d like to occasionally do fun things there, like I do on Twitter, for people that like to see real-time updates or behind-the-scenes activity. If you have any ideas, feel free to start up a discussion thread there on the fan site and I’ll be sure to check in to see what I can do to help out!

A Slice of Life in Malaysia (and thanks for the Facebook Fan club members breaking 1,000 strong!)

Natalia in Argentina

Not everything in Argentina was rough, and here is a little yang for the yuri.

We rented a car from a horrible company called Wagen.  Don’t worry, I’ll get to the girl part.  The car’s battery died very quickly, leaving us stranded in El Chalten, which is the hub from which many trails spawn out into the Andes.  We had to wait a whole day for the horrible company, once again, called Wagen, to come out and replace the battery after their very unhelpful employee made us jump the car, to little avail.  If you are ever out in Argentina and you need a reliable car, don’t call Wagen. Even worse, they would not give any partial refund. You could get stuck out in the wild with no chance for help.  Luckily we were close to a phone, and that phone was close to an aspiring model to help my camera wile away the hours.  Okay that sounds stupid.  But it’s kinda true.

While in El Chalten, we stayed in a charming little hotel.  At night, I would stay up late and process photos, drink coffee, and listen to music.  This is what I always like to do after dinner.  Maybe that sounds lame.  Anyway, the nice Argentine family that ran the hotel took notice of me and I got to know them.  The mom that ran the hotel had a 20-year-old daughter named Natalia who had a unique look but had never modeled before.  It’s a small town way down by Antarctica and they don’t have many model/photographer resources down thataway.  Anyway, since we ended up with an extra few hours, I asked if she wanted to go out and shoot.   Natalia’s English wasn’t so great, but I was able to draw things out in the dirt like calling a play in flag football.  We ended up with a lot of good shots that I will add over the next few months.

Natalia in Argentina

Sunflowers at Sunset – Oh, and I’m making a short film

This photo from Butte, Montana, 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.

As for the little announcement there, I am working on a short film. It’s from Patagonia and somewhat experimental. I expect the debut to be right here on www.stuckincustoms.com on Friday, April 17, so stay tuned! :)

Sunflowers at Sunset

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.

It was really cold when I took this. And raining. And windy. I had a panoply of towels, rags, and other drying agents in various pockets, constantly wiping down the lens. I also had the sweet lady D3X inside of a clear plastic bag to protect it from the whipping rain. Every 30 minutes or so, I could hear an ungodly creaking and ripping of ice as another cleaved off into the water below. I understand if there was going to be a huge piece cleave off that the splash could actually make it all the way to me. I both wanted it to happen and didn’t want it to happen at the same time. I think my indecision made it not happen.

Also — interesting news? I am working on a little short film from Patagonia. It will be about 8 minutes long… I don’t know when it will be done. It seems to be taking longer than expected!

Approaching the Glacier after a Stormy Sunrise

New York on Fire at Dusk

I am jealous for all the people that live in New York! They have a city that looks different at every moment of the day from every slightly different angle. I think if I lived there, I’d feel kind of guilty if I didn’t make it out several times a week at sunset to go shooting.

I shot this one from the top of the Rockefeller Center. They don’t let you take tripods up there, but I always see that as somewhat of a challenge to my manhood, and I take offense. So, consequently, I set my mind to smuggling my tripod in there, usually inside my overcoat or a big shopping bag. I mean, you have to, right? There is no other way to get a good night or evening shot without a stable surface (or a high ISO, which I don’t like).

Anyway, this was a perfect night. Later, after I shot this, I was graciously invited over to have dessert with Rudy Maxa (he has a travel show) and his daughter in Brooklyn. It was great to meet him and he was a super guy. I figured since I mentioned Rick Steves yesterday (who people on my Facebook comments were saying was not such a nice guy), today it was time for the very nice Rudy Maxa.

New York on Fire at Dusk

The Motion of Shanghai

I crossed under the river one night from the Bund to get a closer look at the Oriental Pearl Tower. There was a cool fountain at the bottom and no tourists around.

This is a good thing, since it is always hard to make tourists look “cool” in photos. No matter what, everyone ends up looking like a gawking Rick Steves. Speaking of which, his travel series on PBS called “Europe through the Back Door” always gave me cause for concern.

The Motion of Shanghai

Meanwhile, back at the camp with the five Russians, Trey kicks Yuri in the face

This is a shot from one of our campsites.  I set up the camera with the intervelometer to automatically take a shot every 30 seconds as we set up camp and did our best to stay warm.

Here is the cast of characters from left to right.  Sitting on a bump on a log on the left is Yuri.  He is in the process of getting a jackboot to the face.  I tease Yuri, but he is actually a very nice guy and I like him.  That doesn’t mean you want to room with him or share a tent, mind you.

Second from the left is me.  Don’t you like my hat?  I got it on Etsy.

Third is Irina. I hope I spelled that right. She was our chef and handled most of the cooking, keeping me well fed and warm. She also came out on a few photography adventures too and was always there to lighten the mood by making Russian animal sounds. For example, did you know that Russian frogs don’t say “ribbit ribbit” and Russian dogs don’t say “ruff ruff”? This is only a small sampling of the campfire discussions. You can try to guess down in the comments what they say…

Fourth/Fifth is Yana and Dima. They had no trouble keeping warm. Their sleeping bags could be zipped together. Dima tried to be helpful and suggested that perhaps I could do the same thing with Yuri. After saying that, he reared back, laughing like Brezhnev, and then drinking like Yeltsin.

On the far right is Vulva. Again, I can’t quite say his name properly, but it’s very close, within the delicate region of “Vulva”. He was a very cool dude, richly festooned with silver Buddhist paraphernalia from his various expeditions to Tibet and Nepal.

They are all great people and I enjoy my time with them tremendously.

Meanwhile, back at the camp with the five Russians, Trey kicks Yuri in the face

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