The Mighty Castle

More TED Talks

I added a few new TED talks to my list that I keep here on the site. If you all have some suggestions, be sure to drop them in… I do my best to scour the web to find the most inspirational stuff, and I always appreciate your input.

Daily Photo – The Mighty Castle

The beautiful castle shifts and changes its color every few minutes. The way the light cycles and changes on it is mysterious. If you just watch it steadily, the light never seems to change, but after a short while, upon reflection, you’ll realize there is a whole new color splashed onto the surface. It’s quite mesmerizing!

I set up here at the base with a 12-24 lens. I felt sorry for everyone else with their cell phone cameras that were trying to get a proper shot of the place from nearby! Whenever I set up and take a while, sometimes it draws a smallish crowd. This crowd, in turn, pulls out cameras and starts shooting from my same perspective. I often turn about and give people a knowing nod.


The RAW Fireworks & a Photomatix 4.0 Preview

Two Weeks in Iceland!

Watch for me Live on This Iceland Webcam. I should be strolling in and out of those from time to time.

To the right, you can see some of my upcoming notes from the trip. I’ll be focused on the coasts with a concentration on the fjords in the northwest part of the country. We are getting close to 24 hours of daylight, so I think this will be an amazing time to go. If you have any suggestions or recommendations, feel free to let me know!

As you all know, Iceland is one of my favorite places in the world for photography. You can see the entire Iceland Photo Collection here — several pages there for you to enjoy!

Planning the trip to Iceland-1

Full Photomatix 4.0 Preview

I’ll be sure to post it when it is ready on the Photomatix Review page. Actually, even better than a preview, I will do a quick head-to-head with Adobe Photoshop CS5. It’s all pretty much complete… just want to get a few more metrics for you.

I would like to get it up this weekend… not sure – a lot of busy stuff lately!

Daily Photo – The RAW Fireworks (and yes, that is a handheld single shot)

So, I have in my hot little hands an Advance Copy of Photomatix Pro 4.0 (BTW, the TREYRATCLIFF Coupon Code will still save you the most money). Wow this thing is cool! I’m in the middle of a full review/preview. This isn’t really it… just a preview of a preview. I know… how lame of me, but I am so excited that I want to leak out a few details.

Today’s fireworks photo below from Disney World a few nights ago was just processed with Photomatix 4. This is from a single RAW photo. This was a handheld shot as I was walking along a pathway near the Crystal Palace. Amazing, eh?

Well, I can’t take all the credit – so much goes to Photomatix Pro. Here are a few points for you to chew on:

  • There is all new Noise Reduction code in there…  a fresh dialog appears when loading a RAW photo like this one.
  • If you already own Photomatix Pro 3 (or buy it now), the upgrade to Photomatix Pro 4.0 is FREE.  (cool!)
  • There is a new way to control ghosting… very nice.
  • So far in my testing, it’s way way way faster than Photoshop CS5’s new HDR feature.  But I am still testing with metrics… full results soon.


Beautiful Disney World at Sunset

Minor Altercation

A few nights ago, I had a minor photography/police incident at Downtown Disney (Twitter followers saw the ordeal realtime). Everything is resolved now, and maybe a result of the whole thing is that security will be easier on photographers in the future. We live in hope!

Now, I’ve never had a problem using tripods or “professional-looking equipment” at any of the Disney Parks, like the Magic Kingdom or Epcot, but Downtown Disney seems to have a special set of rules. I was approached by security when they saw the tripod – they asked what I was doing. I said I was a blogger and was taking personal photos. They pressed me more. They asked if I had permission, and I said that in fact I did have permission, although that should not matter; I’m just a photographer taking photos of a place to show the world some beautiful things.

I didn’t have my ID with me, since everyone in Disney World carries around these little Disney ID cards that you get at the resorts. You charge food, goodies, and everything on it. You don’t need a wallet or anything, so I just leave that back at the resort. Since I didn’t have ID, they called in the Sheriff’s Department. I called my wife, who was shopping elsewhere with the kids to swoop in and vouch for me.

My wife was of course quite worried and upset, seeing me surrounded by four security guards and a newly-arrived member of the Sheriff’s department. Luckily (I guess?), she had her ID with her. The police took all her information down (why?) and then left. I assume they finally got the right people on the phone at Disney that knew who I was and that I had permission.

However, I still strongly believe that even if I didn’t have permission, that I, or any other photographer, should be allowed to take photos. It’s 2010! Everyone else is taking crappy photos with their mobile phones and uploading to Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, and all over the place. I’m doing the same thing as them, but mine are simply taken with a bigger, nicer camera. What’s the crime? Even more importantly, all I’m doing is promoting the beauty of this place to hundreds of thousands of people here on the blog.

With what little influence I have at Disney, I suggested that they tell the powers-that-be to stop bothering photographers (I know good man William Beem, among others, also had a run-in). I understand there are some new conversations in the works, but I don’t know if anything will really change.   Let’s hope so.

Daily Photo – Beautiful Disney World at Sunset

Hey, you know… I can’t stay mad at Disney for too long.  I think those issues are just at Downtown Disney.

This photo below, from Epcot, is one of the reasons I keep coming back again and again.  It’s such an amazing place, and Epcot may be my favorite new spot for photography at Disney.

This is the “France” area of the World Showcase, which is a huge lake that is circumnavigated by about 10 different countries or so.  Each one has a cluster of buildings set in the theme of the country.  They are all quite authentic, and the areas are staffed with people from the countries.  The Norway area has authentic-looking and -sounding Norwegians.  The Germany area is filled with Germans in postcard-German-clothes.  The Canada area has people that look and sound like Americans.

The afternoon had ripped open a wicked thunderstorm on the whole park.  It was subsiding around sunset, so the clouds were swirling about with these wonderful tempestuous formations.  I set up to take this shot before moving over to the Japanese area to watch the big fireworks show on the lake.  While I was taking these shots, by the way, I had sent my family into one of the pastry shoppes here in the France area to load up on wonderful little morsels to keep us fully loaded during the fireworks show!

If you have seen the wonderful fireworks show at Epcot — where is your favorite place to stand?  I’ve got a new spot.. I’ll reveal that with a bunch of new tips/ideas soon!


The Galaxy Cafe

New Prints Available

In the fray of the new servers, I missed a week’s announcement of new prints that are now available. They are two of my favorites, of course. As always, each of them is a Limited Edition Numbered Print, so each one is unique and collectible.

The first one, “A Razor to the Sky” nearly killed me to capture… even if I accidentally shattered my camera into a million pieces whilst climbing that icy cliffside in the Andes at 4 AM in the pitch black — I would have been happy just to see the morning sun hit these mountains. It was so lucky to see the mystical peaks of Fitz Roy without them being covered in clouds… but I felt happy enough to survive!

The second one, “The Skeletons at Sunrise“, is a different sort of photo.  These are the old dead trees from the fires of Yellowstone back in 1998, just as the morning fog is beginning to burn off.



Daily Photo – The Galaxy Cafe

When I was recently at Universal Orlando, Ethan and I made a late night getaway to do some exploration. We were staying at the Portofino, and they have a wonderful boat system that skirts you down to the main park. We jumped on the boat after dark to go down and visit this little area of shops, restaurants, and dozens of other interesting things to see and experience. I’ve gotten him used to the idea of roaming aimlessly, taking photos of this and that, with no real goal other than exploration and noticing little things.

Ethan and I stopped at a tiny trinket store and bought a few necklaces and bracelets for ourselves and the girls. After that, we grabbed a few hot cocoas, got on the boat, and drifted back home. We took our time, drank our hot cocoas, and helped each other put on our bracelets.

Galaxy Cafe

The Lonely but Beautiful Path

The HDR Tutorial, Still Going Strong

I think it’s been over three years since I first posted the HDR Tutorial here on this site!  By the way, if you are new to the site, then what you are mostly seeing here is HDR Photography.

I go in and update the tutorial every three months or so, as I discover new techniques and further refine the process. We have SO many comments on there (especially on page 3 of the tutorial!) — I am not able to answer them all. But I am happy that so many people are learning this fun new sport. As usual, if you have any feedback, please let me know. The reason it is so good now is based on that very feedback, so keep it coming!

Daily Photo – The Lonely but Beautiful Path

I have a lot of alone time. When I am out shooting, I am totally in my own world. In fact, I’m even double-in-my-own-world because I have my iPod on and I drift away into pure right-brain mode. It’s quite nice, in a way, because I do achieve a zen-like peace where time does not matter.

I’ve worked with a few photographers that will copy and paste a sky from one photo and put it into another photo. I don’t do that stuff – that is waaaay too much editing for me. All the clouds and colors you see are true and wonderfully there. I even sat with a guy once who would take a perfect moon out of one photo and paste it into another! I simply can’t bring myself to do anything like that… it’s just too over-the-top!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this new photo from Florida… I’ve got some more beautiful ones coming up in the next week, so stay tuned!

The Lonely but Beautiful Path West Palm Beach Florida

The Lonely but Beautiful Path

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/4
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length10mm (15mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

The Hellenistic Ruins

Great Time on the Hobbiton Movie Set!

Did you know they are already getting geared up to make The Hobbit?  And it will be a two-movie event?  Cool!

It turns out that Ian Brodie, who is a fan of the site and a big HDR enthusiast, works there on the Hobbiton Tours and offered to give my family and me a private tour of everything!  It was really cool to walk around the Shire and see all the various bits and pieces from the movies.  They are starting to move stuff around and get ready to shoot the next Hobbit movie there sometime in the near future.

I took a lot of photos and even made a little video of how I took one of the shots.  After I get back and get everything edited, I’ll get it uploaded so you can check my settings and all that good stuff!

New Print Avail – The Red and White Lighthouse

This new lighthouse print is a perfect little place was spotted in Iceland.  The skies are have such a nice tone there, and they are even better with the high icy clouds.  It’s such a treat to shoot there and to find wonderful things like this lighthouse that complement it so well.

Alone in Winter, Against the World...  (and I am selling my camera on eBay)

Daily Photo – The Hellenistic Ruins

For our weekly photo mystery, which is, mysteriously, neither weekly or all that mysterious, is up again!  Who can tell me where these strange ruins are from?  Or, maybe, at least, some creative guesses?

Fog in the Fishing Village

Black and White HDR Photography

In case you missed this article a few months back, I did a post on Black and White HDR Photography over at Photofocus. It’s a long-form article with a bunch more information, in case you are interested in this sort of thing!

Daily Photo – Fog in the Fishing Village

You all know that I hate waking up early in the morning. This is very true. A lot of my somewhat older friends say that as you get older, waking up early comes naturally. I look forward to this day. For now, it’s all hard work… but I know that is when the light is interesting and the weather patterns can be unexpected.

This is very early morning with a dense fog over this little harbor. I loved the details on these bits, so I did my best to capture them in the morning wetness. In the distance, you can see the anchored boats. This is also from the little bay of Portofino — the same location as the photo I posted a few days ago.

SmugMug Portfolio Contest

Portfolio Contest – Show us all your Portfolio!

A few days ago I wrote an article entitled “How to Make an Online Photo Album” about SmugMug.

I thought this would be a fun way to drive traffic to a bunch of different photographers and artists. Also, I can use it to promote one of my friend’s workshops – his name is Vanelli. You’ll read more about him below. Share your portfolio here, and The Judge will pick one that strikes him as unique and interesting for the winner!

More Info and full Review:

If you sign up, you can use a SmugMug Coupon of “STUCKINCUSTOMS” to save 20%.

How to Enter:

  • Simply leave a comment and link to your Smugmug site below.  The Judge will visit it.
  • To win, The Judge will simply select a portfolio that strikes him as “Wonderful” in one way or another.


  • An Ultimate Version of the Stuck In Customs Textures Tutorial and’ (a $399 value)
  • and… a Smugmug sponsorship to go on a Vacation with Vanelli!  (a $595 value) –  a great new workshop offering!

Who is Eligible:

  • Anyone on Smugmug! Most people who are on this hot new service are “relatively” new anyway, so I want to open it up to anyone that is “Proud of their Smugmug site”!
  • New people just getting started on Smugmug. Don’t worry – just because you might only have a few images on there will not make you any less likely to win.

Who is The Judge?

  • Not me! I don’t like judging contests because everyone pretends to like me until The Judging, after which time 99% of people don’t like me any more.
  • So, I give this dubious honor to none other than the extremely likable Vanelli (who is hosting the workshop), who everyone seems to love for some inexplicable reason.

When does it End?

The contest ends at midnight, EST,  on March 1. So yes, you have a bit to get your Smugmug site all spiffy. Go ahead and submit it now in the comments — it won’t be Judged until the end of the contest.

What else can I do to promote my Smugmug site?

You can link here in Twitter or your blog to this contest post and tell people to “Go see entry number XX!”, and then your friends can talk you up in the comments,… get your mom, sister, and friends in on the fun.

What’s going on with the comments in this contest!

There is an open discussion below, and whenever we see a link to a Smugmug portfolio, we will consider it an entry, and it will be Judged by The Judge. Good luck!

Daily Photo – The Boat at Portofino

Ahhhh Italy! But one thing — this isn’t Italy! This is in Orlando, Florida, at the Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Studios. They have gentle boats that float in the bay. There might be a better place for photography at sunset at Universal — but I could not find it! I thought it was cute how every boat had its own name (always a girl) painted in cursive on the back. Now, I’ve never been to the real Portofino, but many of my friends have, and they thought this might have been the real place! Maybe a bit cleaner? I am not sure… Let’s all go jump on a boat and go see! :)

The Boat at Portofino

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/5.6
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length21mm (21mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

The Portofino Bay

Lengthy HDR Workshop Review

First, I should make it clear that I don’t have any more plans to do more workshops. I know there is a lot of demand all over the world — and these two previous ones have been ultra-successful. I may end up doing a few exclusive workshops in select cities around the world, but nothing is currently planned. I get approached all the time for this and that – and I’m looking at everything… but nothing is decided yet.

For sure, you should get ready for the HDR DVD to come out. It’s being worked on currently. It will be ready when it’s ready, but you can sign up there to be sure you find out first.

As for the Florida weekend workshop, Terry Reinert wrote a lengthy review on his blog. He was a nice guy, and I enjoyed meeting him. After the workshop, RC Concepcion asked Terry and Vanelli (his site) to take me out to shoot the sunset. Well, it was probably a top 10 sunset. It was one of those perfect sunsets where the sun was twice as wide as the skyscrapers in downtown Tampa. Even better, it was a perfect half-circle on top of a cloud.

The only bad thing is that we were in a car the entire time. I’m not sure what the heck happened, but I am sure what the heck didn’t happen. I had a chance to get the greatest photo of Tampa ever made, but I was stuck in a car. I have not yet ruled out conspiracy.

After that, Vanelli, Terry, and I ended up at Tampa University. Or maybe it’s the University of Tampa. We moved around there and they used a few of the new tricks from the workshop. I got some great shots that I haven’t had time to process yet… But I was happy to hang out with those two guys. RC tends to be a good filter on these sorts of matters!

Daily Photo – The Portofino Bay

Today, I drove to Orlando and decided to put myself in charge of a sunset shot. Of course, since those two jokers where many area codes away, it worked out well.

We stayed here at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando. This place is gorgeous. I never know how I feel about these “recreations” of other real-world places. The REAL Portofino is very pretty and unique, of course, but this recreation is also really nice. I mean, it’s actually pretty here, even though it is just a facsimile. It’s not the same as being in Italy, of course. But, it’s better than being at a Walmart in Ft. Lauderdale, you know? Okay, it’s a WHOLE lot better. There are six Italian restaurants, a pretty boat that takes you back and forth to Universal Studios and Adventure Island, and a very nice staff that is helpful and attentive.

The Portofino Bay

Another Magical Disney Fireworks Show

New Print on Sale

Every week a new print comes available in Limited Edition Numbered series. This week it is “The Fallout Bunker”, the unique and wonderful airport architecture in Thailand. This is the sort of print may not work so well in a traditional home (like my others), but for the right environment, it will be a real stunner.

Stuck in Customs in Space

Daily Photo – Another Magical Disney Fireworks Show

Disney has a very cool “Pirates and Princess” party where they really take their fireworks to the extreme. I worked hard to find a nice reflective surface, even though I had to elbow a few little princesses to get this spot. They started to complain, and I just said, “Stop being such a princess!”

Now, if I can only convince the Powers That Be at Disney to fire off these fireworks at dusk – now THAT is a photo. The thing is… everyone shoots off their fireworks in pitch black, well, because everyone ELSE does. However, I can make a strong case that fireworks look better when there is a bit of ambient light in the air. The fireworks are still bright and beautiful — they do not have to be against a pure black backdrop to “pop”.

Another Magical Disney Fireworks Show

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