Inside the Green Dragon in Hobbiton

Organize Your Photos!

Today’s photo may remind you of the opening, rather hot scene from the “Organize Your Photos!” promo! Here it is again in case you missed it.

Daily Photo – Inside the Green Dragon in Hobbiton

Here is a rather amazing place on the Hobbiton Movie Set — inside the Green Dragon after night has fallen. There is a roaring fire, and I mean absolutely roaring! You may remember this fire as being the thing behind me in the intro to the “Organize Your Photos!” tutorial. Man, that thing was so hot behind me, it almost melted me and that dang cat. Of course, Pickles just sat there, taking it all in stride!

Inside the Green Dragon in Hobbiton

Inside the Green Dragon in Hobbiton

Photo Information

  • Date TakenOctober 19, 2013 at 5:07am
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time0.5
  • Aperture6.3
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length11.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

Hobbiton in the Morning

More Behind-the-Scenes Videos on the way

We have a brand new behind-the-scenes video in the works! I did a ton of shooting here in Hobbiton. It’s all under production, and I’m excited to release it soooooon. Thanks for coming back here often, btw… I’ll keep trying to keep things fresh for you! A new photo (maybe, hopefully, with a bit of inspiration) every day! :)

Daily Photo – Hobbiton in the Morning

It was a lovely and peaceful morning in Hobbiton. There was a light mist on the pond and the only sound was the gentle water mill churning through water. You can see it there on the left side. I can’t wait to go back here in explore more!


Hobbiton in the Morning

Photo Information

  • Date TakenOctober 17, 2013 at 5:39pm
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/100
  • Aperture4
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length13.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

Bilbo’s Hobbit Hole at Bag End

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Daily Photo – Bilbo’s Hobbit Hole at Bag End

One brisk evening on the North Island of New Zealand, I was on the Hobbiton Movie Set and I was able to take a photo of Bilbo’s home as the day fell away and the warm lights came on. I was completely transfixed by this day. I had spent the entire day there, from 5 AM until late into the night (and well beyond this). A few little rainstorms came and went throughout the day, dropping fresh, glowing rain all over the 40+ hobbit hole-homes there. I spent some time here inside Bilbo’s hole during those times… just sitting there, watching the rain fall across Hobbiton.

Bilbo's Hobbit Hole at Bag End Hobbiton

Bilbo’s Hobbit Hole at Bag End

Photo Information

  • Date TakenOctober 18, 2013 at 6:58am
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time5
  • Aperture5
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length10.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+1

Air New Zealand Photoshoot – Sneak Preview

Visiting Middle Earth and Bilbo’s Home in Hobbitton with Air New Zealand

Here’s an official unofficial sneak peak at one of the new photos from my über secret event with Air New Zealand.

Air NZ contacted me to shoot their new ad campaign, but I told them I really have no idea what I’m doing and probably wasn’t the best choice. I did! Regular readers of the blog here know that I’ve always said “no” to client engagements. There is nothing wrong with them — I just simply choose to shoot whatever I want and own all the photos. Normally, really, I’m a travel and landscape photographer. I don’t even know what happens at client shoots for products or services or whatever. I told them this repeatedly, but they kept at it until we finally came to something that would work. Air New Zealand is famous for their crazy safety video briefings, so I had a good vibe on the whole sitch.

We have an amazing behind-the-scenes video here from the Hobbitton Movie Set for this shoot that will be available soon made by the great Bel Jones. Be sure to check back here or sign up for the newsletter to see when that is available.

A Nightlong Day

a nightlong day - trey ratcliff for airnz

In this photo, I wanted to create something magical in front of Bilbo’s home in Bag End in Hobbiton. These flights to New Zealand are long, and day blends into evening which blends into night. It’s all a blur of movies and drinking and being served and thinking about landing in New Zealand.

So, on the right are two daytime passengers plopped into the anachronistic space seat whilst reading a medieval scroll of the inflight entertainment in a nod to the contract that Bilbo had to sign. On the left, descending from the the night and the warm Hobbit hole, is a rather studly flight attendant partially clad in leather armor and +1 Gauntlets of Riesling. Between them, the night flows into the day with a glow of evening and dusklight. I drove the image to be on that veil between fantasy and reality, but just on the one side of the veil that felt right. Technically, it was composed of over 45 photos taken at different parts of the day from the exact same location. It was all fused together using HDR and some of this crazy stuff I do… you can see more in the HDR Tutorial here on the site.

There are a great many more stories and a lot more how-to, but all that will come in time here to the website. I’d also like to thank Bel Jones and Jenna Young for all the great help!

Other Controversy and Consternation

I’ll also share in the future many more stories and reactions to the whole scenario. For one thing, I showed up on the set with 20 people while wielding my tiny Sony NEX-7 (see my Sony NEX-7 Review) instead of the giant DSLR system they were expecting. What were the reactions from the ad agency, the marketing group, creative directors, etc etc? What was it to shoot like on my first client job? Would I ever do anything like it again? What happened that I would have never expected?

Happily, Air New Zealand was thrilled with all the photos I submitted. I knew they wanted me for artistic reasons, so I took the style in the direction it felt like it needed to go. They were great partners, and I felt honored be have a short time among such excellent and admirable hobbits. :)

Teaser for future photos

I’ll leave you with this little teaser photo below for future shots… Here is one of the flight attendants we dressed up like an elf. I took this quick photo while waiting around for make-up and costumes to get everyone ready for another scene that featured Elves and Hobbits. She is 25% Maori, which is the indigenous people of New Zealand. One awesome thing about Air New Zealand is that they use all real Flight Attendants in their ads and videos.


Moving to New Zealand

Why Did I Move to New Zealand?

There’s a long story to it all… but I think you can see a lot of the reasons in the video below.

By the way, if you are looking to buy a house here and need a recommendation, contact me via and the team will get you to me. I can make an excellent recommendation for you!

This video was made with Animoto!

I used a cool online thing called Animoto to make this video. I also wrote up a full Animoto Review here on the site.

You can also use the Animoto Coupon Code of “STUCKINCUSTOMS” to get 2 months free with a pro account… thanks for the team there for providing that for us!

New Video – Turning to Peace in New Zealand

It’s a hi-rez video… I recommend listening with earphones or good speakers too – enjoy :)

From Bilbo’s Hobbit Hole

The Hobbit in New Zealand

It’s funny that I happen to be in New Zealand while all the financial wrangling about The Hobbit movie’s future. It’s all they talk about on the local news and the radio!

I only have a cursory understanding of what is going on, but I believe it had something to do with the unions, and the movie studio was getting a bit worried about committing a bunch of money to something unstable. At the last second, the NZ gov’t jumped in to toss $10mm in guarantees into the deal to ensure that the 2-part movie is made here.

Daily Photo – From Bilbo’s Hobbit Hole

When I was in a little town called Matamata, which Peter Jackson’s team selected as the perfect place for Hobbiton, I was lucky enough to receive a private tour from Ian Brodie (see Hobbiton Tours for more info!). Ian is also quite the HDR enthusiast (see Ian’s Photo Website), so it was great to spend several hours with the guy! I put a video of us together below… and we talked a bit about taking photos of the party tree.

After that, we got to adventure inside of Bilbo’s actual hole! Cool! I turned around to take a photo from the inside out. The huge tree there is the famous party tree, where Bilbo had his birthday party with Frodo before he slipped on the ring.

HDR Photo

Video – HDR in Hobbiton

I took this video earlier in the year with Ian. You can take the tour too! Just go visit Hobbiton Tours, and be sure to say hi to Ian if you see him while running around Hobbiton!

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!

Bilbo’s Hobbit Hole and the Party Tree in the Shire

Visit Ian Brodie at HobbitonTours!

Little did I know that one of my newsletter subscribers is also an HDR enthusiast and one of the guys at! How cool! He sent me a nice note before I came, offering to take my family and I on a private tour of the Shire. Anyway, I wanted to make sure to link back to his website, even though he did not ask me for any favors. Also, I should tell you that Ian Brodie made the official guidebook for the Lord of the Rings tour around New Zealand, and it shows where every scene was filmed… kind of a fun way to do a travel guide!

One of the coolest things about this is that the set is currently being rebuilt for the two-part move of The Hobbit! The landscaping crew is already there, moving around trees, shrubs, and they even have the stakes in the ground to rebuild the Green Dragon. I understand that tours of the Hobbiton Movie Set will still go on, even while they are getting ready to film The Hobbit.

Much of the original set has been destroyed from rain and storms and general wear-and-tear, but you can still see where many of the main Shire shots were taken. If you are a fan of Hobbits, then you simply have to go!

Behind-the-scenes Video

Want to see how I made this shot? Here is a behind-the-scenes video of me talking about the shot with Ian.

Daily Photo – Bilbo’s Hobbit Hole and the Party Tree in the Shire

I showed my 8-year-old son all the Lord of the Rings movies prior to our trip to NZ. He then re-watched the first one three times on the car trip… so he was just as excited as I when we arrived.

You might remember Bilbo Baggins’ hobbit hole and all the scenes with Frodo and Gandalf inside. That is it right there, on the right hand side at the top. The huge tree on the left is the “party tree”, which was the centerpiece for the big party for Bilbo’s birthday. It was the one of the main reasons that Peter Jackson chose this remote farm outside of Matamata on the North Island.

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