Kea Campers in New Zealand

What Projects Am I Working On?

I am working on more cool stuff than I can talk about!

But, upcoming, I do have a full comparison of the new Photomatix (see the current Photomatix Review) and the Adobe CS5 Photoshop HDR stuff. I’ve been doing massive testing, as you might expect… and I am trying to put together something cogent for release soon. But, very briefly, so far Photomatix is faster and better with my recommended workflow.

Upcoming in the near future, I have a very long-form article about a wonderful adventure in Hollywood. It is taking forever to put together and is quite different from the usual post… but I think you will like it!

Besides all that, I’ve also been working on a huge new art project that I hope to display to you in the next few weeks. You guys may hate it… I dunno… I guess we’ll see. I’ve received too much rejection in life to worry about it, so I’ll just float it out there and see what you think!

Daily Photo – Kea Campers in New Zealand

While I was in New Zealand, I got up close and personal with my Kea Camper.  That thing was my home for almost a month, and my wife, two kids, and I lived the heck out of it.  Before the trip, I did a lot of research to find the best one… I wasn’t disappointed.  In fact, I liked it so much, I grabbed a bunch of pics of it!  I’ll add them to the New Zealand Campers page in a bit. I will also add a bunch more information on there about suggested routes, tips, tricks, and more. I’ve been meaning to do that for a while… can’t find the time.

Also, the Kea Campers people know about me and the site – they wanted to offer you a special deal. Just mention STUCKINCUSTOMS when you reserve, and you’ll get all free camping equipment! Cool deal, eh?

I put a few things about the “Camper Van” experience on that page… the good and the bad. The best part? The kids having a blast in their “Clubhouse” upstairs above the driver. The worst part? Getting that beast up curvy, tight, uphill mountains… that caused a bit of unnecessary stress!

HDR-Photo

Your Road Ahead

Charity Update

We are up to $4,200 donated so far in our Stuck In Customs Kiva Team! Thanks everyone. I know that those of you that put money in are having a good time watching what happens to it… I know that most everything I put in gets paid back. What has been your experience? I’m curious!

Daily Photo – Your Road Ahead

While in New Zealand, we took a series of roads in the south island to go out into the country for an afternoon of archery. On the way there, the roads became less and less robust, and smaller roads would peel off in different directions. I spotted this road and pulled over to take a shot. This one called for the 70-200mm lens to get that interesting compression factor.

The archery was a lot of fun. We visited a little farm, and a 10-year-old girl was running the archery bit. My 9-year-old, Ethan, took a liking to her. So that she could better understand him, he did his best to put on his fake New Zealand accent.

At one point, she asked Ethan, with eyes wide, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to visit America. Tell me! What is it like?”

Ethan crinkled his brow, in deep concentration, and said, “You see, it’s rather booooteefull.”

HDR-Photo

The Mysterious Moeraki Boulders

The Great Richard MacManus of the Great New Zealand

In the last two months, I’ve gotten to meet two great Kiwis: Richard MacManus (founder of ReadWriteWeb), and Ray Furgeson (NZ Ambassador to the US). John P, who put up the video of my art yesterday, set up a dinner down in Austin during SXSW with me, Richard MacManus, Elyssa Pallai, Cali Lewis, Sean Ammirati. We ate at the famous Oasis here in Austin and saw a beautiful sunset. John gave us all a secret look at some sweet new features of Woopra before we bloated ourselves on Mexican food. It was great!

I also was very happy to find out more about Richard, his background, and more about the way he thinks about things. I’ve always been a fan of ReadWriteWeb, and even went out to their “Real Time Web” conference last year. I hope I didn’t bore Richard and Elyssa by talking about my plans to move my family and StuckInCustoms.com to New Zealand… but I just get quite excited about their country. Maybe with today’s photo of the strange spherical boulders, you’ll see why.

If you want to find out more about what it looks like there, just click the New Zealand category here on the site!

The Six of us at Dinner at the Oasis.  BTW, I’m the one in the glasses.

New Tweetboard Widget

I added a new Tweetboard widget there on the left. It’s a quick way for you to check in on the latest tweets and conversations on Twitter. I am at Twitter.com/TreyRatcliff.

Daily Photo – The Mysterious Moeraki Boulders

These are some of the most mysterious and alien structures I have ever seen!

Yesterday I remarked that I had a major in computer science. Well, for a short time, I had a double-major in comp sci and Geophysics. I got pretty deep into it until I had a fight with a Geology teacher over an intellectual matter (he was wrong and still is), and I dropped that half of the major. Anyway, it never dulled my interest in rocks and Earth science. So, 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.

And worse, I didn’t have a mobile connection to Wikipedia to help me figure it all out with my iPhone-tricorder!

After I got back, I was able to figure out a bit more of the arcane science around it all. Even more interesting, I read that 12 miles south of this spot is another are called the “Katki Boulders”. They contain the bones of mosasaurs and plesiosaurs. Cool!

HDR-Photo

The Lonely Church

Ethan Gets His First Camera in New Zealand

I gave Ethan my LX-3 camera in New Zealand. Actually, he had to “unlock” it by achieving a series of quests that involved photography. He reached an appropriate level, so he got the camera. In a few more levels, he’ll get the secret epic mount.

In fact, Ethan started his own little photo blog…  I don’t know how often he will update it since he’s a busy busy 9-year-old, but he seems to enjoy it so far!

Daily Photo – The Lonely Church

There is a beautiful little French seaside town on the east coast of New Zealand called Akaroa. We spent a few days here to relax and explore. After taking a drive a bit further from the town up the coast, we found this old church on the side of the road. Of course…. it’s impossible to drive by a place like this without popping out for a photo!

After taking so many shots, I can now say that I like cloudy days more than flat blue sunny days. In fact, I’ll just pass by a lot of scenic places if the sky is a boring blue. One common problem that many people notice with HDRs is that there is a “halo” effect. This happens a lot with those blue-sky days… A great way to get around that problem is simply to wait for sunset, a cloudy day, or something where there is not a vast expanse of flat color.

If you want to find out more about the technique, check out the full HDR Tutorial.

HDR-Photo

The Gentle Grasses of New Zealand

New Textures Tips From Vanelli

Back when I moved my portfolio to Smugmug (See my Smugmug Review), we did a little promotion where a winner got to go on a Vacation with Vanelli. Remember that guy? Well, here comes Vanelli blowing back onto the scene with something new – a video. He has made a cool variation of techniques with my textures, and he wanted to share this “grouping” trick with everyone.

See Vanelli’s New Texture Video there on his site. You will be able to tell very quickly that Vanelli really gets a kick out of all this stuff, and he loves teaching people. You might want to surf around his site a bit more for even more goodies.

New Zealand Images Groweth!

By now, we have posted 17 images of New Zealand! Cool. It’s a beautiful place, and surely you can see why I plan on moving the family (and StuckInCustoms.com) there. In fact, today I got a little email from Roy Furgeson, New Zealand Ambassador to the US (and former ambassador to North Korea)! I was so excited. In HUGE red letters on it, the email said, “UNCLASSIFIED“, which I suppose means that I can mention it without any untoward Kiwi repercussions.

I went to the official New Zealand website for these sorts of diplomatic matters to see what else has been happening of late. This week, besides the historic occasion of emailing me, the Ambassador has been quite busy.  A Kiwi bird was born, and Mr. Ferguson had the honor of naming it “Hiri”.  Hiri is a Maori word that means, “Kiwi Egg Was Not Eaten By A Dirty Drunken Aussie Possum”.

Daily Photo – The Gentle Grasses of New Zealand

As we moved from the North to the South Island (by grinding our Kea Camper onto a moaning ferry), we expected the terrain to change dramatically. Everyone in the north told us how different things were in the south!

But right after we arrived in Picton and started making our way to Nelson, the terrain still had the soft hills and flowing greens of the north. Not that there is anything wrong with that, mind you. But, for a while (until we made it further south), I thought that the whole North Island was playing a huge practical joke on me, and the South Island was actually a perfect replica of the north. After ravenously consuming the comedy stylings of The Flight of the Conchords, I thought I would be able to scry every type of Kiwi humor.  While driving through this bit, I thought perhaps I had fallen prey to old Country-Wide-Giant-Practical-Joke.

HDR-Photo

Video – Behind the Scenes in the Shire

Still Migrating Servers

We are still in the midst of a major migration, so stay tuned… more news to come! :)

New Video

While I was on the North Island of New Zealand, I was invited by the very kind Ian Brodie (links to his photography website) to visit Hobbiton! He is also an avid HDR Photographer, and extended a wonderful invitation to my family and I to visit The Shire. It’s located on a farm nearby the town of Matamata.

Ian works with Hobbiton Tours, which you should also look up if you want to have a visit yourself!

New Behind-The-Scenes Video and Manhattan Living

Behind-the-Scenes in New Zealand

I recently edited together and posted this scene from the south island of NZ, when I was out in this beautiful meadow at sunset. I was using a 70-200mm lens, so I used this to add to my Nikon 70-200 Review.

If you’d also like to see the resulting photo, check out the Video on the Valley of Abundance page.

Daily Photo – Manhattan Living

When I was in New York City, I had the good fortune to spend time with Steve Simon. We had breakfast at this great little French place and then went around to do a bit of shooting. We stopped at his place and went up to the roof. Peering over the side, I saw this and thought it was kinda nice… so I grabbed a quick one.

Be sure to visit Steve’s site on the link above. He has amazing work and I am sure you will get a kick out of it!

The Spray of the Tasman Sea

Art Show in Austin

I arrived a little late to the show, and the girl that clicked us in said there were over 200 people there! Crazy! But it was really awesome to see this World’s Largest High Resolution Tiled Wall display. I enjoyed meeting a bunch of new people, seeing other artists, and checking out the whole scene.

A gentleman there named David Ingram (Dingatx on Flickr) grabbed this photo below to give you some idea of the scene.

Daily Photo – The Spray of the Tasman Sea

This was an incredibly difficult photo to achieve!

I did this one live, in front of my HDR Workshop in Tokyo. I like to tackle new photos in front of people so they can see how I struggle through the HDR process. It’s never easy… and I like to talk out loud and let people know my thinking process. I think this is a very interesting way to give a live tutorial, rather than go by some automated and predictable script. The way you think about all the unexpected problems, dodge and roll with the issues, and synthesize various tools to accomplish an end goal is an interesting process.

You’ll also see this on the upcoming HDR DVD. One night after an outing, I came back to process some brand new photos, and they all got to see me struggle through a few pieces to come up a satisfying work.

This was shot very recently when I was down on the extremely frigid coast of the Tasman Sea, on the southwest edge of New Zealand. With a wide-angle lens, you need to get in really close to this icy cold spray to get the splashes just right… I was completely soaked after this, and it felt (and smelled!) like I had just finished a multi-week crab hunt in the arctic!

Flashback Photo – I’ve Reached the End of the World

You can see the edge of this one from the giant wall display above… This one was also taken not too far from Antarctica…but on the opposite side of the globe down near the southern tip of Argentina and Chile. The huge display allowed my son and I to walk up very close to it… there is a little iceberg there, and he saw the two rocks. He asked me what they were, and I told him that I threw them out there while waiting around!

From the Forest, Across the Valley

Upcoming Review of Nikon 18-200 Lens

This is probably an unexpected lens for me to buy, but I’m really getting a kick out of it! I’ll be sure to update the Nikon 18-200 Review when it is all done.  I’ve been using it a lot in the last few weeks and I quite like it.  I wasn’t sure for a while…  mostly because it is a DX lens.  But I am using it in a bit of an unconventional way — anyway, a full review will come when I get a bit more time!

I added a few pictures of the new lens on my camera while here in Japan. You can get an idea of the relative size of the thing… it’s certainly a lot smaller than the 24-70mm or the 70-200mm. By the way, this will be the crux of my review… that is more convenient and lighter, and the higher f-stop is not a problem whilst in a tripod.

The 18-200 lens retracted at 18mm on the body of a Nikon D3X

Daily Photo – From the Forest, Across the Valley

I’ve read several interesting anthropological studies of what people like to see in paintings.  I assume the same thing goes for photos.  I don’t hyper-analyze all the constituent parts, but I do notice when they come into play naturally.  There are a number of features that are desirable, most of which track back to a genetic history of the Pleistocene.  One interesting bit is that we like the idea of being near the protection of a forest while looking out across a wide plane that has a sense of scale.

Well there is plenty of that in New Zealand!  This spot was found on the long drive to Milford Sound.  I had so many wonderful distractions along the way…  how can I not stop for something like this?

The Artist’s Palette in Rotorua

The World in HDR, now on the Kindle

I found out that my HDR Book is now on the Kindle. That is kinda cool! Although, frankly, in all honesty, I would recommend you get it on the iPad rather than the Kindle when it is available. It will just look so much better in color. Anyway, I thought you guys would like to know that little update… I have no date yet on the iPad version. I did talk to my editor on the phone, and everything is moving forward!

Daily Photo – The Artist’s Palette in Rotorua

Isn’t this spot awesome? I did not expect all this geothermal activity in New Zealand — it was just as impressive as Yellowstone.

This area of the north island is called Rotorua. This, specifically is the Champagne Pool at the Artist’s Palette at the Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland. The term “Wonderland” always makes me think of a cheap attraction on the side of the road where you can buy rubber snakes after the kids have had a great time and the parents are bored out of their skulls. But this Wonderland really was a Wonderland for all ages! I made a few videos here as well… I need to get around to editing these things together for y’all!

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