The Endless Skies

Teaching my little girl to ride a bike

I just did this yesterday and decided to record it with Google Glass. I wish I had this for my Ethan when I taught him about five years ago!

Your Desktop Wallpaper

I actually liked this photo so much I made it my new background, but I change it out at least a few times per week. How often do you change yours? (your wallpaper, that is)

By the way, you are of course welcome to grab any of my photos and use them as background photos. Just pop through to the SmugMug site and select Download. Enjoy! :)

Daily Photo – The Endless Skies

I’ve only taken two Disney cruises, but I’ve developed one good habit. Note it is only one. Anyway, it is getting up around 4 AM on the last day to take photos as we roll into port. I woke up extra early and took out both my cameras (the NEX 7 and 6) to collect as many photos as I could. I took a ton! In fact, I blew through an entire card and had to pop in a backup!

The Endless Skies

The Endless Skies

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraNEX-6
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/100
  • Aperture6.3
  • ISO2000
  • Focal Length55.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

Crossing the road in Roppongi

How I get light trails

I’ve taken to putting my NEX-7 into Manual mode AFTER I get my HDR sequence. Manual mode is pretty easy to get into on the NEX. After I’m in there, I just keep playing with the Aperture and the Shutter Speed until I get the length of the light trail exactly how I want it. I keep the ISO down at 100 (unless there is strange lighting) — so that keeps the noise down. It all depends on the speed of the traffic, so there is no rule of thumb. The best rule of thumb is just a lot of experimentation and then looking at the results!

If you want the light trail to be longer, just make your f-Stop a bigger number, which will allow you to increase your shutter speed without the rest of the photo getting too bright.

Daily Photo – Crossing the road in Roppongi

This area of Tokyo is great for photography, but it can be a little scary. I’ve been here about five times over five different years, and the kind of people that hang out there keep changing. There are a lot of international people, which makes it interesting… but there is always a bit of a dangerous edge there. Several years ago, every corner had these scary Nigerians who looked mega bad-ass and they would just kind of glare at you… they were involved with some sketchy clubs and whatnot… It always made me mega uncomfortable. Generally, I don’t like people glaring at me, especially when they are huge Nigerians. Call me crazy.

Crossing the road in Roppongi

Crossing the road in Roppongi

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time0.8
  • Aperture11
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length10.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

Driving through the Desert – Destination Vegas

How to get a red road at night

Usually I light up the road at night with my headlights, but I figured out this strange trick by accident! I was parked, facing the other way, and the tail lights were illuminated because the headlights were on. There was barely any red visible on the road itself, but the long exposure ended up making everything on the ground and walls a wondrous red!

Daily Photo – Driving through the Desert – Destination Vegas

Here is another recent photo from my trip to the desert. This was a very long exposure from a beautiful road in the Valley of Fire. Those glowing lights in the far distance? Those are the lights of Las Vegas, plainly visible even though it is still 60 miles away!

Driving through the Desert - Destination Vegas Valley of Fire

Driving through the Desert – Destination Vegas

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time15
  • Aperture4
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length10.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

The Clubhouse at Jack’s Point in Queenstown

What is Uber?

I know some people in big US cities already know what Uber is, but I was so excited to finally use it, being an outsider…

I tried to use it a few months ago in Vancouver, but it was outlawed there! :( Instead, I had to take a taxi with my family — wait – let me modify. No, I couldn’t. I was leaving the Ferry Building with my wife and three kids, but the taxi would only let four people in the taxi! Madness. So, I walked back to the hotel while they rode. This was confirmed when I got to the Four Seasons and they said they are not allowed to put five people in a taxi. These unions drive me nuts…

And, actually, speaking of unions, when I got this Uber below, the driver asked me to sit in the front seat with him because I was being dropped off at the airport. He showed me a ticket he had just gotten from a policemen because they have made it illegal for Uber to drop off at SFO. Crazyness!

Daily Photo – The Clubhouse at Jack’s Point in Queenstown

I went with my friend Eden to shoot the supermoon one night over in Jack’s Point. I thought it was a great idea, but it turned out to be a horrible idea because the mountains are so dang high that it took forever to crest! Anyway, while we were waiting, we got lots of chances to shoot around Jack’s point, including this one of the clubhouse at the end of the lake… it’s a great restaurant — I always have wonderful food whenever I go there!

Jack's Point in Queenstown

The Clubhouse at Jack’s Point in Queenstown

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time15
  • Aperture4.5
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length55.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

The Monuments of the Earth

Benedict Cumbarbatch-athon

So, ever since I started recently watching the BBC Sherlock, I’ve become a huge fan of Benedict Cumberbatch. Either you know who I’m talking about or you don’t! If you haven’t seen this amazing series, I cannot recommend it any more. I’ve since been watching more his work. Of course he was in the new Star Trek, but many people know that. Two other great recommendations are a Vincent Van Gogh series from BBC called “Painted with Words” and another is Stephen Hawking BBC movie. I’m now kind of hoping that Benedict appears in every show I watch!

Daily Photo – The Monuments of the Earth

Here’s yet another amazing place in Utah that I’ve never been until just recently. You know how politicians try to gerrymander the county lines so they get votes from certain kinds of people? I think Utah did this back in the day to make sure all the awesome geographical anomalies were inside their borders! They are kind of spread out, however. I did spend a small eternity driving from one place to the next, so they are not exactly tightly packed together.

Monument Valley

The Monuments of the Earth

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/50
  • Aperture5.6
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length30.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

Tips for Shooting Out of a Helicopter

How to shoot out of a helicopter

I’m not at all an expert on this, but I have taken a lot of photos out of choppers, including the one below.

The two most important things to keep in mind seem to be shutter speed and window glare. Experiment with the lighting conditions before you get into the chopper and set your camera into Aperture priority (or Manual if you wanna go mega hardcore). Get the F-Stop nice and low since everything you’ll be shooting is far away and you won’t have any focus problems. Also, get your ISO around 100, but you may need to increase that if you feel your shutter speed is dragging a little. If it is super-bright, you may not want to be at the lowest F-Stop, because then everything will be blown out.

When I was doing this shoot below, I felt like the shutter was dragging a little bit, so I kept increasing the ISO. When you are in Aperture Priority, doubling the ISO makes your shutter speed drop in half.

The last thing to keep in mind is the glare. You want to minimize this of course, and it is very hard when the chopper is always turning this way and that. Just be mindful of it and get very close to the glass to minimize the effect. You can fix some of it in post, if it is not too terrible!

Daily Photo – New Zealand with Choppy

There are more valleys and rugged mountains around here than I could ever explore. I’m starting to really believe this! I know there is a lot of cool stuff around me, and, in the beginning, I had a confidence that I would be able to explore it all — but maybe not! Whenever I get up in a helicopter and fly around, I’m reminded how vast this place is. Vast and mostly empty. It’s like scary-awesome-empty… it’s really kind of a strange feeling flying over it in a way… so remote and beautiful and empty…

NZ

New Zealand with Choppy

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraNEX-6
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/250
  • Aperture6.3
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length55.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

Driving through the Valley of Fire at Night

Google Drive Woes

Anyone else out there use Google Drive? I’m having a pickle of a problem where I’m getting duplicate folders… I can’t figure it out. I only have one folder on my computer, but inside the web interface I have duplicates. It’s so confusing and it gives me a headache whenever I try to work out what is happening and then reverse-engineer the whole thing so everything is synced. Maybe I am alone with this problem!

Daily Photo – Driving through the Valley of Fire at Night

This was my first time through the Valley of Fire just north of Las Vegas, and I spent so long taking photos through the day and into the night that I ended up staying right through the dark. When I drove through here, the headlights looked so magical against the rocks that I threw it into reverse to back up and take a photo. One of the strangest things about this place is that after the sun set – it was completely empty and I never saw another car.

Driving through the Valley of Fire at Night

Driving through the Valley of Fire at Night

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time25
  • Aperture4
  • ISO1600
  • Focal Length18.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

High Atop Tokyo

Help with Leica Lenses from savvy People out there!

Okay, so I want to start getting some Leica lenses, but I have never felt as clueless as I do when I go Leica lens shopping. I know that there are many very intelligent and practiced Leica experts and collectors out there. I respect you greatly! Maybe I can just have a small iceberg of your knowledge from the wide and deep glacier. I need some advice:

1) What are the first four lenses I should get?
2) There are so many different prices even for the same lens – how do I know if I’m paying for quality or a collector’s item? (I’m more interested in quality of course!)
3) Where is the best place to buy them online?

I think I’d like a good wide-angle lens and then two good ones for portraits/people/things and then maybe a good telephoto lens too. Thank you in advance!

Daily Photo – High Atop Tokyo

After the fun Tokyo photowalk in Harajuku, we had a big dinner for everyone at an Italian restaurant on the top floor of pretty tall building. Somehow, we managed to get ourselves all the way up onto the roof for a bit of night shooting. It was so awesome up there, and I was immediately reminded of the blade-runner-esque feeling of Tokyo.

High Atop Tokyo

High Atop Tokyo

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time3.2
  • Aperture4
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length10.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+2

Nikon and Canon will be Marginalized in the next five years, so say the tea leaves

How much longer will they last?

Almost two years ago I wrote an article that said DSLRs are a dying breed, and many people thought I was crazy. Let’s be honest. Many still do.

Three months ago I permanently shelved my Nikon DSLR system and switched to the 6x-smaller Sony NEX system. See Hello Sony. Goodbye Nikon. (many sample photos there too!)

Even though this data is anecdotal, I can also be very objective and tell you that the camera doesn’t matter (with certain exceptions). For example, if you’re doing hardcore animal or bird photography, then you’ll probably want to keep around those specialized DSLR systems. But that is the whole point of this piece – that use cases for giant camera bodies and glass will become increasingly marginalized to the point where Nikon and Canon are on the edge rather than the hump of the bell curve.

I have a very good friend that is high-placed in the industry — I won’t repeat his name — but he had the lovely prescient quote: “Nikon and Canon will become like Lionel trains – for collectors.”

The Camera doesn’t matter

So, I see you’re sitting there saying, “Trey, the camera doesn’t matter!” Yes, I’m here to tell you the camera doesn’t matter — I agree! And, assuming you’ll be buying more camera equipment in the next five years, then why, pray tell, do you think that you’ll continue buying giant DSLRs? You’ll have ever-increasing superior choices that enable you to a) buy a much smaller camera that has superior performance and b) spend a fraction of the same amount.

And you can look at me and a few other pros that have made the switch. I don’t compromise on quality. Sony didn’t pay me to switch or sponsor me or anything. They even offered to send me unlimited cameras and lenses and I told them no. So that’s not what drove my decision – I simply want the best. When I travel around to awesome locations, I only want to use the best because I may never get back there again. My Sony cameras are a mere fraction of the size and a mere fraction of the cost. Look, you can easily spend $4,000+ on a big DSLR system, but my little NEX was only about $1,000. I can also buy all the lenses I need for a song too.

Furthermore, who knows what Sony will announce next? It’s just 2013… this is the most exciting time ever in the history of camera technology.

Look at the scary numbers

Okay, so let’s say you don’t like my anecdotal extrapolations. Let’s look at some of the actual numbers. Nikon makes 78% its profit from Camera sales. Yearly sales of DSLRs have dropped 10.9% percent (according to IDC’s Christopher Chute research director of worldwide digital imaging). Canon’s in the same boat, but at least they make printers and have other businesses to fall back on. But their DSLR line is in the same boat as Nikon. And to think, the DSLR market used to be one that was growing by double digits for the last ten years.

Even scarier, the rate of market decline is accelerating each quarter.

Nikon shares are down 33% on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Interesting that people outside of the camera industry see this trend better than those of us in it.

Shooting with the NEX system in Tokyo

So, while I’m here in Japan, the executive teams at Nikon and Canon are continuing to bury their heads in the sand. I have wondered why Sony seems to be so much more on the ball and making such interesting cameras and systems. I think it is because they have a younger management team. Also, I notice they are much more engaged with social media. I know this Sony guy here in New Zealand named Tim Barlow that totally gets social media and how it is tied into product development, marketing, and the photography community as a whole. I never really got that feeling from Nikon or Canon.

Don’t feel threatened

I notice that when I write these “Death knell of the DSLR” articles that people come out with pitchforks. Hey man, I’m not telling you that you have to get rid of your camera — I’m here with good news! Since you’ll undoubtedly be buying more equipment for the next X years (you will concede this, yes), you’ll be able to upgrade in every possible way that matters: smaller size, more flexibility, better software, lower cost. Every single trend line points to this.

The current DSLR system you have will serve you very well. In fact, you can of course make the argument that you’ll never need anything else for the rest of your life! But com’on… let’s be honest… most people that are into digital photography also enjoy buying new stuff every few years. Just keep an open mind…

I know I’m pretty much alone in these thoughts. I go set up my tripod in a popular spot and I’m surrounded by 20 other dudes with DSLRs. They look at me at my little camera and scoff. Whenever people give me those wonderfully condescending looks, I take solace in the lucid truth of their own insecurity. Furthermore, for years, photographers have been brainwashed and told that the only way to take a professional photo is to use a DSLR. That’s rubbish. And I’ll Hemingway fight anyone that wants to fight about it.

So many options with smaller, mirrorless cameras!

There is an amazing community around these mirrorless cameras now – and we are all so excited it is crazy. Have you seen all the vim and vigor around the micro-four thirds cameras like the Olympus OMD and the Panasonic Lumix? Those are also awesome cameras and they can do some things no DSLR could dream of. They even have one feature that I wish my Sony had! I was with my friend Gage here in New Zealand when he came over for a week’s photo adventure, and he showed me this feature that blew my mind! We were shooting some fire dancers, and he opened up the shutter and showed me the photo developing on the sensor as time moved forward. I saw the light trails building section by section! He can just stop it whenever he wants. And this is just one of a thousand different cool things this new technology brings.

Soon, DSLRS will go the way of the Blackberry.

There is so much disruption in this space. Another reason for the decline in DSLRs is the rise in mobile phone cameras. Androids and iPhones now come with some amazing little sensors and great software. Many people who once opted for a DSLR are now happy with their mobile phone cameras. I think that these mirrorless systems are still vastly superior to mobile phone cameras, but this delta may decrease over time as well.

Nikon and Canon have released mirrorless systems but they have been generally considered quite weak. I don’t know if this is because of a generally bad design ethic and lack of innovation, or if they were worried about creating a mirrorless system that could cannibalize their sacred cash cow. I worry it is the latter.

More on the switch away from DSLRs

I sat down with Frederick Van Johnson from This Week in Photography to go through all the various reasons and dispel misconceptions. He asked a ton of different questions and we got into the meat of it all. “‘To take an interesting photo, some may choose to carry around a lot of metal and glass and mirrors and silicon. I choose to carry around less metal and glass and silicon. Oh, and no mirrors.’ – Me, quoting myself.” – Trey Ratcliff

Small cameras on a client job?

Heck yeah! In fact, regular readers know that I don’t do client work — I’ve been a professional photographer for a long time, but I’ve always said no to client work. There is nothing wrong with it of course, but I instead prefer to take whatever creative photos I want, own all the rights, then license them out later. Clients will hire you based on the quality of your portfolio, not the size of your camera. Or, at least, they should (and increasingly will).

However, I have made ONE exception! Air New Zealand came to me with an incredible situation. So I said yes! This is my new home-country and I think it’s gonna be an awesome shoot. In a few days, I’m headed up there with my little Sony NEX cameras. I’m sure the crew and the 20+ people on the ground there will be aghast! I love it. I’m just gonna own it and blast in there with all my chakras pointing forwards.

I’ll have a film crew also coming to record a behind-the-scenes of this whole shoot, so you can see what it’s like. I’ll get that up here on the blog ASAP, but I think the whole thing will be a lot of fun and hopefully continue to dispel all the irrational fears people have about smaller cameras. You can look for that new video here on my YouTube channel too (subscribe for free).

Sony NEX-7 Review

If you want to find out more about this camera I’m using, see the full-on Sony NEX-7 Review here on the site. Enjoy!

Daily Photo – The Lower Antelope Canyon

This was my first time into the famous slot canyons — I’ve always wanted to go! Look, here’s the honest truth. You just can’t take a bad shot in there. That’s nice, really – lay up after lay up… so then I guess you can goof around and try to do something interesting and unique and have fun with it… that is what I did here at f/11 exposure and playing with multiple shafts of light streaming in from above.

(and yes, of course I used the Sony NEX!) :)

The Lower Antelope Canyon

The Lower Antelope Canyon

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/10
  • Aperture11
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length10.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

The Mighty Walls of the Glacier

Unsolicited Jet Lag Advice

This gentleman gave a comment here that I did not want to go unnoticed! It was so strange… and I have not actually tried this yet. Has anyone tried this trick? I’ll paste it here:

David Stickney
Yesterday 7:11 AM

+Trey Ratcliff the vodka jet lag remedy works like a charm. The shot before you go to bed produce enough lactic acids in your blood as an entire day’s muscle usage. The vitamin c help kick start the liver and the extra water and salt help with the metabolism. Getting outside while the sun is still coming up resets the Circadian rhythm of your sleep cycle and get your penal glands set to the time.

Try it next time, I used to take 2-3 days to get into a new location using this method the next full day I feel adjusted.

the science behind it is pretty well documented http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phase_response_curve

Daily Photo – The Mighty Walls of the Glacier

This Alaskan was a very pretty glacier to see after seeing the rather dirty glacier near Mount Cook in New Zealand! I mean, the NZ glacier was awesome because we were out in a zodiac and pretty close, but this one was so clean and blue… just exactly how you would imagine a glacier to be!

Glacier

The Mighty Walls of the Glacier

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraNEX-6
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/1600
  • Aperture7.1
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length210.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

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