The Fisherman and his Mindmelded Cormorant Bird

Leica Lens Buying Guide

I started a Leica Lens Buying Guide here on the site and linked to it from within the Sony A7r Review. It’s kind of version 0.9 — so I look forward to your feedback!

Now, btw, as of the writing of this, comments WORK fine on pages like those two above, but they don’t work here for daily blog posts :( We are working on that now, though!

Daily Photo – The Fisherman and his Mindmelded Cormorant Bird

This was the wildest thing I've ever seen. I got in close to this fisherman on the Li River, and he had his trusty bird-friend right behind him. No matter which way the fisherman turned his head, the bird looked the exact same way. It reminded me of the daemons from His Dark Materials. I have about 6 frames I shot where they are all looking in the same direction as they rotate their heads… I wish I had it on video!

This is a Cormorant Bird, and they have a little ring around their throats so they can't swallow the fish they catch… the fisherman takes the fish out of his mouth and puts it in a straw basket at the back of the bamboo boat. The ring is just wide enough to let little fishes go through…

(this was taken with the Sony A7r and the Leica 24mm at f/1.4 – processed with my Lightroom Presets – “Fire of the Chandrian” I think)

The Fisherman and his Mindmelded Cormorant Bird

The Fisherman and his Mindmelded Cormorant Bird

Photo Information

  • Date TakenJune 4, 2014 at 12:28am
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/500
  • Aperture
  • ISO2500
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias-0.3

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Little Girl and Thought

Very nice post about The Arcanum

I know we have more people signing up all the time and we just can’t meet the demand for The Arcanum, but for the few that are in, the experience has been magical I think! Here’s a nice post by Tricia Booker about what it is like to be an Apprentice within the system.

Daily Photo – Little Girl and Thought

I was walking through a little town in Xingping talking to a local man that was making some silver jewelry by hand. While he was working, his daughter was running around across the street while his father sat nearby. I snapped this quick photo while she was running free…

Little Girl and Thought

Photo Information

  • Date TakenJune 7, 2014 at 2:33pm
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/2000
  • Aperture4
  • ISO3200
  • Focal Length48.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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The Blueness of Li

Amazing time in Guilin

Would you be interested in joining me here in Guilin next year? If so, sign up for the newsletter there on the right side of the page! We’re thinking about doing a fun workshop event here! :)

Daily Photo – The Blueness of Li

This is at the top of a rather sweaty and humid climb a few days ago here above Xingping in Guangxi, China. In fact, it may be the absolute sweatiest I have ever been. I remember starting out and going slow thinking… okay… I'm gonna take it easy… gonna take it easy… and then the heat and humidity hit and I was like… awwww no…. it's on now… it's on… so then I just started working it all the way up. Oh man – clothes were flying off left and right by the time I got to the top… but I got there just in time to take this photo!

The Blueness of Li

Photo Information

  • Date TakenJune 4, 2014 at 11:02am
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/4
  • Aperture8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length15.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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Chinese Megamalls

Best Mall in the world

What is the most interesting or beautiful mall you have heard of? There are many out there now… This one below is filled with all kinds of crazy sculptures (although you can’t quite see them in this photo).

Daily Photo – Chinese Megamalls

These malls all seem very parallel-universe to me. It's strange to walk around and see all the shopping-mall-trappings of the western world but with a Chinese twist on the whole thing. And to see it covered in Chinese people is also something I'm not used to. I'm sure they are used to it of course… and I am sure the opposite is totally true, maybe even more poignant because 98% of Chinese never even leave their own country.

Chinese Megamalls

Chinese Megamalls

Photo Information

  • Date TakenMay 26, 2013 at 6:06am
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/5
  • Aperture6.3
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length10.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

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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.

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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.

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A Street Scene from Beijing

On Karen’s Blog

Karen has written something very cool over on her blog about The Arcanum. Go check it out!

Shooting in the rain

It goes against every instinct of mine to go out and take photos in the rain. It’s literally something I have to force myself to do because I know how interesting streets and places with people can be when there is a bit of rain splashing about. I usually always come back with at least one or two keepers, and that makes me thankful I forced myself to do it. I’m hoping some day that my instincts flip around the other way and I no longer have to force myself! :)

Daily Photo – A Street Scene from Beijing

This is one of my favorite new areas of Beijing. Even though I've been to Beijing four times or so, it was my first time to this area. I was also lucky that it was raining, so it was even more interesting. This is a very old part of the city that was razed and widened during the Olympics. I actually have no idea what is original and what is rebuilt… although I have a sneaking suspicion that none of it is original.

A Street Scene from Beijing

A Street Scene from Beijing

Photo Information

  • Date TakenMay 28, 2013 at 12:18am
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/100
  • Aperture8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length10.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

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The Charming Streets of Lijiang

New Alexia Sinclair video

Here’s a new video from my friend Alexia. She really hit it out of the park with this one! I’m so glad she’s one of the Masters over at The Arcanum!

Daily Photo – The Charming Streets of Lijiang

All the streets in and around this town in southern China are amazing and full of life right before closing, and then everything goes quiet and dead. It's so strange… it reminds me of those time-lapse photos where you see flowers open up when the sun comes up then close down as the sun sets.

The Charming Streets of Lijiang

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraNIKON D3X
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time3
  • Aperture4.8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length15.0 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

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Boats in waiting

SmugMug Review

Don’t forget to go check out the SmugMug Review — I’m adding to it all the time!

Daily Photo – Boats in waiting

Along Beihai Park in Beijing is a collection of boats that wait for passengers. Some of the touring companies are so strange. I walk by these, and there is absolutely no one there. It’s not staffed and I’ve never actually seen anyone in a boat. If I wanted a boat ride, I would have no idea how to go about getting one! This is one of the strange things about some of the consumer-facing operations that are still under the full domain of the government — general confusion! Many (probably most that you see in public areas) are not under the thumb of the government, so they operate in the way you’d expect a normal business to operate…but not these boats… oh no, there’s no way you’re getting on them!

Boats in waiting

Boats in waiting

Photo Information

  • Date TakenMay 27, 2013 at 8:47am
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/5
  • Aperture1.8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length24.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

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Asian Blade Runner

I need a life-sized sheep that is not real

Does anyone in Queenstown know where I can get a full-sized or nearly-full-sized sheep? I need it for this Rather Strange Charity Thing I committed to with Patrick Rothfuss. Here’s a link right to the fundraising page.

Philip K. Dick Books

What’s your favorite? I’m on a new PKD kick thanks to a new friend. He is recommending book after book, and I am drinking them all in voraciously!

Daily Photo – Asian Blade Runner

Speaking of PKD, the Blade Runner city was based on Los Angeles, but I think it is probably the asian cities that are more likely to move into that future. Whenever we hit that, “Okay, this is absolutely Blade Runner” moment will be from some place like this. For example, this is Beijing. And it’s kind of a tight race between here, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and maybe a few others. Which city will be the first to escalate itself to this sci-fi ending???

Asian Blade Runner

Photo Information

  • Date TakenMay 25, 2013 at 9:20am
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time6
  • Aperture6.3
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length83.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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