The Panorama of Patagonia

I have put up a short Gigapan Review. The gigapan is a cool little machine that lets you make photos that are insanely huge.

This is the same photography tech that was used on the Mars rover, and I was able to jam it into my backpack during my hike in southern Argentina. Panoramas on the web are always a tough thing to show and share. The default size is always short and wide, and it loses a lot of the effect. Then scrolling and moving about seems to take away a little bit too. I think a lot about how people consume digital media on the web, and I’m not sure there is a great way to show off a panorama just yet. I’ve used dozens of GUIs, and they all seem a little bit clunky.

However, despite all those comments above, you can go here to the Gigapan site to see the full-sized version, zoom in, etc etc.

As you can see, it was a beautiful and rough place. I can’t believe I hiked for so long and didn’t twist my ankle once. The late afternoons heading into sunsets always had these clouds that were darker than the sky, making it all extra moody.

The Wiles of Patagonia, a 14K panorama (by Stuck in Customs)

View Comments

The Secret Emerald Lake and on a Radio Show Today

I saw the craziest and most unbelievable things in Patagonia. It was like nature rewrote its own rules to build this place. I’d like to make a reference to the ill-fated Genesis project in Star Trek II, the Wrath of Kahn, but I won’t.

I came across this shockingly clear and mysterious green lake. The water magnified the pure green algae that covered every strange underwater formation. There were also fish swimming around inside, but I kept the ISO so low on these shots, the fish got blurred out. I do have some higher ISO shots of the fish I will add at a later date. They were these little blue-colored fish. I think they were trout, but I’m not totally sure. Anyway, I felt lucky to be here in the Autumn, just after a small rainstorm, making all the trees nice and moist with a glistening glow.

Below that, I have posted a shot taken by my friend Dima. It is of yours truly with Yuri. He is looking particularly sour in this photo. If you’d like to see some other photos from Argentina, just click here.

Today I am on a radio show with Rodney Washington as the host. You can listen to it right here in the widget below at 2 PM CST. You can even call in – the number is (646) 716-4445. If you miss the show, it will be available for download (or podcast) after it is recorded. We are talking about photography, HDR, blogging, and all of that sorta thing.

In the meantime… if you are listenin’ to the show and lookin’ for somethin’ to click. Let’s vote up the site to see if we can get up to #1 in the 2009 Photoblog Awards! You’ll have to register on there so your vote is legit, but that is fast… Thanks in advance!

The Secret Emerald Lake (by Stuck in Customs)

3S6G2405-Edit

View Comments

A Winter Snow in Autumn

I was in Patagonia as the leaves were turning colors for the fall, and on the edge of the glacial zone of the Andes, it could snow at any time.

I had camped in a very picturesque little forest to get away from the wind and the elements. We were pretty close to a river, which was nice to listen to while I slept. Note that I wasn’t in a tent since I had removed myself from Yuri’s tent for the sake of sanity and sleep. Luckily my sleeping bag was rated for negative 10 degrees, so I stayed snug.

The next morning when I woke up, a gentle snow was falling all around. The inner sanctum of the forest was green and warm while snow started piling up on the edges of the trees. It all looked too perfect, so of course I had to set up for a shot to bring it home to y’all!

A Winter Snow in Autumn (by Stuck in Customs)

View Comments

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.

View Comments

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)

View Comments

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

View Comments

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

View Comments

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

View Comments

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

View Comments

I’ve Made it to the Edge of the World

Daily Photo – I’ve Made it to the Edge of the World

This was shot in the final hours of daylight, near the southern tip of Argentina and the edge of Chile, just a glacier’s throw from Antarctica.

In the morning, we woke up at 4:30 AM in -7 degree cold. I hardly slept 30 minutes the whole night. I was in a tiny 2-man tent with Yuri. The noxious fumes of our tiny prison reminded me, if you will, of the inside of a tauntaun that had spent its life consuming cognac and cigarettes. Furthermore, his snore had the sonorous bass and carrying power of a humpback whale with none of the beauty.

I started on one edge of these rugged peaks and moved around to this side, to get the view from the glacial lake. The spiked mountains there are Cerro Torre, and I was very lucky to see them without cloud cover. I understand they are covered up 90% of the time, so to have crystal clear air was fortunate. The glacier there, which presents on the right but really goes back behind many more mountains, is called “glacier grande”.

I did a lot of other things this day too, including a 45-minute 1500-foot ascent up an icy trail that was not really a trail at all. Dima and Vulva (Vulva is one of the other Russian gentleman who joined us on the trip — it’s hard to pronounce with a strange V-W sound, but he seemed to respond when I called him “Vulva”) went up the mountain with me in the pitch black, using only headlamps. I’ll have more on that story later because it was pretty sketchy. But, alas, we were able to see Fitz Roy as the sun turned the tips pink. After that, we began the long additional 10km hike that brought us to this location. I stayed here watching icebergs float by until the last morsels of dusk remained.

Last, I hope you like the new theme – it should come online sometime today. There are still minor little probs — the comments will get better, etc… but we will ease into it. The new design was done by one of the top graphic designers in the world – a Frenchman named Fabian Barral. He used images from my passport to create the look and feel. I think it’s great — let’s hope you do too! :)

I've Made it to the End of the World Patagonia Wilderness Photo

I’ve Made it to the Edge of the World

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/16.0
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length28mm (28mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

View Comments
Welcome to STUCK IN CUSTOMS Welcome to my travel photography blog!
Enjoy the daily photos, tips, tutorials & more!
Newsletter Sign Up
The Most Beautiful Newsletter Ever!


x