Grand Prize Announced – the Sony A7r!

I’m giving away my camera in China!


I just updated my Sony A7r Review here on the site with new data, photos, and more. It will give you a good backgrounder on the camera if you don’t know much about it. I also updated all the Camera Recommendations with new links, data, reviews, and more.

More on the PhotoWalk

I updated the PhotoWalk information here on the site with the new information including a special guest star!

Some favorite photos from China

-The Great Wall of China-Wow I was alone here. As I walked along this ancient, original stretch of the Great Wall, I felt the 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 slowly 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…That day I walked from tower to tower, 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.

Night Settles In Feung HuangThere is a general poetic peace when it begins to go dark outside and the town comes alight with shopkeepers and villagers come out to turn on the lights.  If you look around, you can see them popping on, one at a time, like little fireflies coming out to play for the evening.This area is no different, and it's made even more magical by the little river that flows through the middle of it all.  And then you are faced with all these nice decisions... where to eat?  where to drink?  where to find an inn for the night?  - Trey RatcliffRead more here at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Nameless Pagoda SleepsTom and I visited this Pagoda late one evening in Li Jiang. There was zero wind, so the perfect reflection made us happy. The thing that did not make us happy was having to get on the ground with our tripods in the lowest position. I do try to avoid getting on the ground as often as possible… but when the scene is right, I guess I have no choice!- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the entire post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Hong Kong from the Peak on a Summer's Night If you want to see how I made this (and how you can too!), visit my HDR Tutorial. I hope it gives you some new tricks!I had a long day waking up at 5 AM to take a series of subways and trains up to Shenzen for some meetings. I had a Chinese VISA, which you don't need to get into Hong Kong, but I had to use to cross the official Chinese border after getting off the train. I didn't realize that it was a one-time use VISA, and I had to go to Shanghai the next day. This caused a lot of problems with the Chinese officials, a body of government with which I do not enjoy causing problems.Anyway, 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.This was a 5-exposure HDR shot at 100 ISO, and, of course, a sturdy tripod to get all the lights as steady as possible.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Boat in Feng HuangIt was a cool and calm afternoon in the ancient and impossible town of Feng Huang. It's an old town, wreathed in many legends.On the old river, you can occasionally see a boat passing here and there. The boatmen come in all shapes and sizes, but many wear the same hat and style. It is absolutely like a warp of time...- Trey RatcliffRead more here at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Morning Fisherman 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.I turned around to ask my guide, "How the heck does the boat driver know where he is going?!?"He calmly said, "Oh, no worry.  The river is very wide."I not-calmly said, "Well, that's great and everything, but I can't even see the edge to the river!"He calmly said, "But it is so wide."This line of questioning was not getting me anywhere, so I just decided to sit back and enjoy my possible last moments on Earth.  Then the sun started to rise, and we moved the boat over to the best bank for the angle.Want to hear something amazing about these fishermen?  You won't believe it... but maybe others can confirm this! The fishermen use these two trained cormorant birds that have their throats tied.  The birds dive into the water, eat a fish, but then can't swallow it because of the rope.  The fisherman rudely pulls the fish from the bird's throat and drops it into that basket behind him.  The bird then goes over to a tiny keyboard and sends out the tweet, "WTF".- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Dark and Light in LijiangHere’s a photo that I edited live during the class a few days ago. The motions I went through are also inside of one those “Trey’s Lightroom Presets” I mentioned a few days ago… you can do so much in Lightroom nowadays that it is kind of scary!This is one of the main streets in the city of Lijiang. During the day, it looks quite traditional, but at night, everything lights up and becomes wonderfully alive.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the entire post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Beijing PhotoWalk 2014! Join me soon on May 28 at 6 PM! Win a Sony A7r!

Many more PhotoWalks This Year Planned

I’m in the loose planning of many more PhotoWalks. Watch for dates in San Francisco, Dallas, New York City, Toronto, Burning Man, London, Berlin, Cape Town, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and maybe more. These are always free events, and for those of you that have been, you know how much fun they are! :)

Win a Sony A7r!

For this amazing event in China below, I’ll be giving away a Sony A7r, which is the same camerea I use! See my Sony A7r Review, recently updated, to find out more about it.

Winner announced!

The winner for the Sony A7r from the Beijing Photowalk is Jack Soltysik! There were MANY amazing photos taken on that afternoon, evening, and night… and I really enjoyed looking at them. And here’s the thing… Jack used an iPhone to take his photos! So I think he’ll really be excited about this new camera.

Here’s Jack Soltysik’s Tumblr page… at last count, the photos from the event were on Page 6 at Jack Soltysik.

Beijing PhotoWalk

I’ll see you in the 798 Creative Space on May 28 at 6PM. Bring your camera, bring your family, bring your love of photography. This is a free event, and everyone is invited!

When there, we’ll weave through the streets of the 798 (one of my favorite areas!) and I’ll be setting up to take a number of shots. I’ll talk through my photos, settings, etc etc, and you are welcome to come ask me any question any time.

Day: May 28
Time: 6PM
Location: 798 Creative Square – http://goo.gl/3Mmxo6 (more below)
Location Photos on Google Maps: http://goo.gl/2iNDkY
Length: At least an hour or two… or as long as you want! :)
Unofficial Afterparty: Yes, at a secret location that is not so secret any more (see below)
Prizes: Grand Prize – a Sony A7r, the same camera I use!
Hashtag for event: #BeijingPhotowalk2014

There’s more information on the Google+ event page and the Facebook event page.

Special Guest – Ms. Leona Yayan Xu

We’ll also be joined, all the way from Shenzhen in the Guangdong province, by Ms. Leona Yayan Xu ( her Weibo at http://weibo.com/p/1005051861918502 ) our famous model for the night! I’m going to bring her some goodies from all the way from New Zealand from Diamond — my friend here in Queenstown makes this new baby formula, so I thought I’d bring her some for her new baby!

For those of you that are on Weibo, mine is here… my name in Chinese translates to “Special Thunder!” haha.

HDR Photo

Bonus Special Guest – Liu Ruowang

I feel so lucky that we’ll also be joined by the famous Chinese sculptor Liu Ruowang! You can see more about him at http://www.liuruowang.com/ — you all may remember some photos I’ve taken of those amazing wolves in New Zealand — that happens to be one of his sculptures!

Unofficial After-Party

The after party is a great place for everyone to buy their new friends drinks and share photos on the back of their cameras. It’s a proper photo-geek-fest!! :)

Cafe LAS 798
D-09-2, 798 Art District, 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu
酒仙桥路4号798艺术区D-09-2号

Trey Beijing Photowalk CN3

Some Favorite Photos from Beijing

Here’s a collection of some of my favorite photos from Beijing. If you want to see more from China, check out the SmugMug China Search of my photos! :)

Secret Treasures of Beijing These little finds are everywhere!  Sometimes, while stumbling around from alleyway to alleyway, I appear right in the middle of these perfect little scenes.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.They all looked at me in a confused way.  They had no idea why I would want to take a photo of their little boat and the bridge.  I imagine they find this so commonplace as to be hardly worthy of a photo...  and it makes me wonder about all the non-photographers (or fans of this site) out there.  Perhaps they just go through life and don't even notice anything interesting pretty and nicely composed.  What an empty visual life this must be!- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Sprawling City I’m experimenting with this style of city photography. I like this idea of reflection that is imperfect. I shot this from the top of one of the only television stations in Beijing. It was a perfect night without any wind. There was a lot of pollution, so the warm city lights cast a red glow into the ether…- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Rickshaws at the Drum Tower I've visited Gǔlóu many times and never taken a photo.  I just couldn't figure one out.And then, this most recent trip, I walked around the tower several times until I finally got an idea.This is the giant drum tower built about a thousand years ago by Kublai Khan.  An enormous drum rests in front, and it was beat rhythmically to announce meetings. The temple sits in the Inner City to the north of Di'anmen Street.- Trey RatcliffRead more, including a preview of an exciting announcement, here at the Stuck in Customs blog.

More Beijing at Night This was another one of those cases where I was not quite used to the 10-18mm lens. I normally walk RIGHT to the spot I want to be in then pop the 14-24 on my Nikon and fire away. But now, I’m always off by a few steps with the NEX-7! But, I quickly re-adjust then shoot. If you have shot with a wide angle lens, then you may know about this concept of picturing things from that vantage before you even do it! - Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Chinese Technopolis 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.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Painted Face in China I was walking along outside the Forbidden City trying to find a special entrance, and I saw these guys sitting on a bench. It was so interesting and amusing… I dropped down on a knee to take a quick photo while things were perfectly strange. What do you think is going on in this photo?- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

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!This is one of those places that has many perfect lines, shapes, and other interesting angles for composing photos.  It's almost impossible to take a bad shot!  There were nice clouds and nice light on this cool morning, so I considered myself very lucky in many regards!- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Downtown Beijing After Rain Just about the only time you get a break from the smog is after a good rain. I’m sure all that nonsense just ends up down on the ground and soaks slowly into the groundwater.Anyhoo, this is the CBD (Central Business District) of Beijing. And yes, I took this with the Sony NEX-7. I’m working on that other piece I mentioned above and will put it up on the blog soon!- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

New Zealand Autumn Workshop Announced for 2015

Announced here first on the blog!

We’ve only announced and planned one workshop for all of 2015 so far, and it’s going to be in the Autumn here in New Zealand! We just finished this one here, and it was absolutely amazing. The colors are just incredible. Don’t forget that Autumn here starts at the end of April, so I know it is a bit of a mind curveball!

Find out more on the New Zealand Autumn Adventure!

Daily Photo – Unbelievable Colors in Queenstown and Arrowtown in the Autumn

This place is just beyond belief! It's spot after spot after spot and the colors are on fire everywhere. They play so well with the blue above and the amazing quality of the light here in New Zealand. Last year I missed it because I was in China, so this was my first full proper Autumn in New Zealand and I was transfixed! You can pop over to the page above to see even more photos. And I hope you can join us for one of these events! :)

Unbelievable Colors in Queenstown and Arrowtown in the Autumn

Unbelievable Colors in Queenstown and Arrowtown in the Autumn

Photo Information

  • Date TakenApril 22, 2014 at 6:08pm
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/1000
  • Aperture4
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length47.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

Back in Hobbiton to make some more videos

New Stuff in the Works!

We just finished spending time on the Hobbiton movie set where we made a lot more videos a few days ago! They’ll take a while to edit of course, but at least the sausage is in the factory! Would you all be interested in a) A Lightroom Tutorial and a b) Night Photography tutorial? Let me know! :)

24-70mm Lens

I’ve been enjoying my new Sony FE 24-70mm lens on my Sony A7r (see my Sony A7r review if you missed it). I find it gives me that middle range I have been missing. In the meantime, I’m working (SLOWLY) on the Leica lens buying guide… trying to find some good affordable options that can unlock this really cool power of the new Sony bodies… I’m trying my best to understand it all myself, and then make it understandable to you! :)

Daily Photo – The Water Mill in Repose

This might just be a perfect water mill! I actually asked them to turn off the wheel (it works and everything), because it was messing up the reflection a bit. I mean, there was still some reflection, but not nearly as clean and lovely as this. It was a bit of a hard decision to focus on just this mill, since there was this really amazing stone arched bridge right beside it. Well, in honestly, I did not decide, because I got both photos! I just happened to process this one first :)

The Water Mill in Repose

Photo Information

  • Date TakenMay 8, 2014 at 8:38am
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/30
  • Aperture7.1
  • ISO160
  • Focal Length39.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-0.3

From Queenstown to Glenorchy

A behind-the-scenes video — first here on the blog

Hey everyone — I thought it would be fun to put this here first. Two days ago, I was driving back to Queenstown from Glenorchy (which is about 50 mins down the road), and the water was so smooth, I just had to jump out of my truck to take this photo! Anyway, here’s a little about the need to get down low… I make a lot of these videos for The Arcanum, but wanted to release this one here for y’all! :)

Daily Photo – Across the Crystal Lake

Those islands you see in the middle of the lake there are Pig Island and Pigeon Island. You can actually take a little kayak over there and there are huts where you can sleep for the night. No one lives there, and they just sit there empty almost all the time… I never see anyone on the lake at all… this is quite a remote area, really, even though it is quite easy to get to. This whole road to get here was only paved about 10 years ago, so it all still feels very fresh and undiscovered!

Lake wakatipu

Across the Crystal Lake

Photo Information

  • Date TakenMay 11, 2014 at 3:17pm
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/60
  • Aperture
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length0.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

One Surprise Slot for Namibia!

An opening!

We just had my friend Javier (sadly!!) cancel for our upcoming Namibia trip, so here there is one more opening. Find out more about it on the Africa Adventure Page!

Daily Photo – Happy Mother's Day!

To all the moms out there, including my own and Tina below, Happy Mother's Day! I took this photo yesterday when we went out on a little family Mother's Day walk around New Zealand. The youngest one, Scarlett, has run off ahead down the path… if she can't be the center of every photo, she wants no part of it! :)

Happy Mother's Day!

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/3000
  • Aperture
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

On Camel, Across the Sahara Desert

Camel-Riding

I’ll tell you what… these camels are not smooth rides. It’s a like you are in a slow moving car and you keep manually readjusting your seat forwards and backwards — like 1,000 times. You know when you get into someone else’s car and you try to adjust the seat? Then you find out the lever is underneath you… then you lift it and rear back and forth violently until you find the spot? That’s exactly what riding a camel is like, except the lever is always being pulled.

Daily Photo – On Camel, Across the Sahara Desert

I absolutely loved my time in the Sahara. I did not expect the dunes to be as overpowering as they were. It was completely overwhelming, in an awesome way. Everything is so minimalist that it makes photography extra-fun and challenging. To move across this endless sea of sand — where do you aim your camera? This one I actually took while I was on a camel. Taking photos while riding a camel Is Not Easy — this I now can say with all certainty! :)

On Camel, Across the Sahara Desert

Photo Information

  • Date TakenMarch 8, 2014 at 5:47am
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/500
  • Aperture8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length70.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

The Worst Thing About Mike’s Bar

More Stu in St. Bathans

I thought I might share a photo of Stu right before we went over to Mike’s Bar.

Walking on Water

Daily Photo – The Worst Thing About Mike's Bar

is Mike.

I mean, beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is a great place to eat and get drinks in St. Bathans. Wait let me qualify that. It's the only place. There is a very small town, and Mike has absolutely cornered the market in these two areas, but he has yet to corner the market in grace and civility. He's got a hard edge, that Mike. I went here with Stu and ordered some drinks. This process had all the charm and trappings of trench warfare with mustard gas.

Actually, we did quite like Mike. His unwavering negativity and general disregard for any basic human empathetic standard was worthy of a grisly respect.

The Worst thing about Mike's Bar

The Worst Thing About Mike's Bar

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/20
  • Aperture
  • ISO50
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

荒井沙織 with Umbrella in Asakusa

The Neighborhoods of Tokyo

Tokyo has many different neighborhoods, and each one is honestly a city in itself. They are all crammed together, and each one is worth a visit. If you ever go to Tokyo, I think it’s worth staying at least a week and then hitting a different sub-city every day. Here’s a good listing of all the various neighborhoods!

Daily Photo – 荒井沙織 with Umbrella in Asakusa

Here's a fun photo from my recent photowalk in Tokyo. I went there to give a speech at Google for the new “Cool Japan” marketing launch. Just beforehand, we all went on this photowalk in Asakusa.

Asakusa is a district in Taitō, Tokyo, Japan, most famous for the Sensō-ji, a Buddhist temple dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon. I want you to know that I copied that previous sentence straight from Wikipedia! Haha I never do that, but I decided to this time because it felt strange just to re-arrange the sentence and pass it off as my own. That's just lazy, you know. I guess what I did was pretty lazy too.

Anyway, Asakusa is a really awesome part of Tokyo, and I had never been there before. I have to go back!

荒井沙織 with Umbrella in Asakusa

荒井沙織 with Umbrella in Asakusa

Photo Information

  • Date TakenMarch 20, 2014 at 8:49pm
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/1500
  • Aperture
  • ISO2500
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Ginza from High Above

Vertical Signs

When you see all these vertical signs stacked up there in the photo below, you might realize something that took me many trips to figure out! Since each of the buildings is quite tall, there are often different retail stores on each floor. So, each little square that is stacked up is actually a different sign for what is on the next subsequent floor.

Daily Photo – Ginza from High Above

This place was a bit tricky to reach!

I love going to Ginza at night (one of those many-neighborhoods in Tokyo I mentioned a few days ago). It's bright, colorful, and extremely clean. Well, all of Tokyo is clean, but especially this part. As I went down one of the little streets, I saw this high bridge up seven or eight stories. I climbed up through one of the nearby stores and tried to work my way back around to the right spot and eventually found it. When I got up there, I noticed the bridge had that diagonal thatchwork of metal wires embedded in the glass. But I opened up this lens all the way to f/1.4 and was able to see right through it!

Ginza from High Above

Photo Information

  • Date TakenMarch 24, 2014 at 11:35pm
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/250
  • Aperture
  • ISO1000
  • Focal Length0.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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