A Notable Burning Man

This was my sixth Burning Man in a row, and each one is special in its own way. Every one of them leaves you completely physically, spiritually, and emotionally spent. I think if you don’t come out of it with barely any wits holding you together, then you haven’t done it right!

What made me go in the first place?

I started my photography blog at StuckInCustoms.com about eight years ago, and I had more and more people stop by the blog and tell me that I MUST go to Burning Man. I was like, “Why would I want to go there? A bunch of hedonistic self-absorbed hippies getting dirty!” Finally, after enough trustworthy people told me it’s not like that, and, well, you just kinda gotta go to see what it’s like. And they were right! It wasn’t like that at all… and then it made me feel a little silly for being so judgmental.

What I thought was just pure hedonism or self-absorbed people were really people that were simply comfortable with their own sense of self-expression (or in the middle of creating and experimenting with different selves). There’s a big difference! Since I’m an artist myself, I’m really comfy with this idea of not finding yourself but creating yourself. It’s a scary but awesome thing… and this is the safest place in the world to dip your toe into those waters.

It’s a great place for me to experiment with my camera too. I get weird ideas and try different styles. There are so many amazing things to see every year, and you never know what you’ll see next! There are basically 50,000 people there in amazing costumes all week long, and 99.9% of them are cool with their photo being taken. The only ones that say no are people like school teachers and stuff that want to stay super-off-the-grid, which is cool too. Anyway, I could talk about it forever…

Favorite Photos and Burning Man Blog?

First, I’ll share some photos from this year’s burn in 2015, then I’ll share some favorites from previous burns. :) I’ve thought about starting up a “Burning Man only” blog, actually… let me know if you’d like to see one!

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com

Here’s one of my favorite places from Burning Man 2015 called the Totem of Confessions. Susan Sarandon helped with this art project and it held Timothy Leary’s ashes inside. After it burned, there was a little ceremony where she drank the ashes! Stuff like this happens all the time out in the playa.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com

Another amazing art piece here. Okay I’m gonna stop saying that. This is R-Evolution by the great Marco Cochrane who always delivers! One of the most amazing things about this giant statue is that when you get up close, you can see that she’s slowly breathing… her chest moves in and out in the smallest way.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com

This year had crazy sandstorms. It was almost two days straight and it really sucked the life out of me and my camera. Of course I had to go out and shoot in the sandstorm! Here, you can see The Man on the left and in the middle is a huge articulating monkey-thing with ropes that anyone can pull to make it have a ghastly dance.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com

Sometimes the sandstorms get so bad you can’t even see your front bike tire. Here, the storm let up just enough so I could launch my DJI Phantom up to get a shot of the man from above.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com

On Saturday night, the man burns, and all 50,000+ people come out for big show. At one point, these HUGE gas bombs blow up (you can see them up high) and the force of the blasts shakes all our skeletons.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com

Here’s another aerial quad shot of the line to get in… this is the point when you’re wondering if it’s really worth it… and then, once you’re there, you promise yourself you’ll come again next year no matter what.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com

There’s usually about 50 people on stilts around the playa. There’s even a special place called the Stilt Bar that’s super tall and you can only drink there if you have on stilts. Everything is free once you get into Burning Man, btw. It’s a wonderful gift-based week of happiness!

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com

One of countless pieces out in the desert… they look different in the day, night, and in the storms… it’s worth visiting all of them multiple times to see how the light changes.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com

Every day features 500+ events, all wonderfully random and inclusive. In this one, about 3,000 people dressed up as bunnies and did a march to protest humanity. They are very upset because humans are much too tall and don’t hop enough.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com

Ahhh, off in the distance there on the right, you can see one of my favorite vehicles… I was riding through another storm, and it cleared suddenly and I saw this scene.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com

And here it is up close. El Pulpo Mechanico. It’s a huge vehicle in the form of a steampunk octopus that shoots fire from it’s eight excitable arms! Awesome.

This year, they dramatically reduced the number of drones you could fly. I think they only allowed 30 licenses or something. I can’t figure out if that is a good or bad thing… I love getting up there and taking photos in new and interesting ways. Well, I hope they ease up the restrictions a little… I felt very lucky to get one!

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com

On the final night, the temple burns and all the art car vehicles light up and surround the temple.

from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com

And here is the beautiful temple from this year. People walk inside and leave notes on the walls, add pictures of loved ones who are sick or dying, write down stuff they want to forget or remember, and all sorts of meditations. It’s hard to believe they burn the whole thing down, but it’s a very peaceful time as opposed to the Bacchanalia of the Man burning.

Some of my favorite photos from previous Burning Mans!

Here’s “Bliss” another amazing statue from Marco Cochrane. One of the most amazing things is there are no “wires” or anything to hold it up. It’s massive and never blows down in the storms.

Coming Soon...

Here’s one of the temples from a previous year in the background. Every year they look different. In the foreground is Eden Muse, who I happened to find randomly walking around the temple one morning.

There in the gypsy’s creation.  It pulsed around us like a thick red vein; a timeless conduit that promised to hold a time machine between worlds.  And, I’d have it no other way, as every time machine should come appointed with the comforts of the sultans as they slowly wind throughout the edges of the Orient.  The colored lights cast new tones and shadows upon the rich, supple textures.  Small windows around the edges gave outward portal-glances to worlds and times that whizzed by, each one inviting a new pause to the story.  The light, I noticed, did something unexpected as it tumbled and flowed and rolled across the skin, drifting over small sinuous shapes as the crimson rays slid up and over the flowing curves of a dune in the middle of a faraway desert.  The lines would only stay a moment before the wind blew them into a new form.  The light tore time away from the shapes, and I could not figure out what was happening until much later in the story.

This is one of my favorite smaller vehicles — a little gypsy train. You can get on any art car any time… it rolls around the playa randomly and then you can get off, stumble around, then get on another art car and see where you go next!

Another random scene… I was riding my bike and happened to catch her shadow on the umbrella. I forgot her name but I asked her what she did in real life. She said she ran an online dating website! I was like okay whoa!

Embrace 2014

This is a favorite sculpture from last year. It’s called Embrace. It cost over $250,000 to build and stood for four days before it was burned (on purpose). Some people think this is crazy… that’s okay. I think it’s all part of the art, in that it shows how ephemeral everything is. There on the right are two of the people that made it, embracing.

Another one of Black Rock City’s 50,000 inhabitants, just hanging out in the deep playa.

Most everyone on the playa has bikes to get from place to place. If you look at the ground, you’ll see it’s like a hard-packed white powder, so it’s not really like beach sand. This white color also gives everything a nice glow from the bottom… we photographers like to call it the perfect reflector, because it just lights up people in unusual and surprising ways.

Japanese Tea in a Sandstorm

A Japanese tea ceremony in a sandstorm… I came upon this totally randomly. After I took the photo, I was invited to sit down and partake. It was beautiful. There was a five-minute ceremony, and he even put some gold leaf into my tea. Also, I’m pretty sure the tea had some vodka in it.

And, to bring this photo party to a close, here’s what Burning Man looks like from above. I took this from a small plane when a friend gave me a ride. About this time, I looked up above the window and saw the sign, “This plane is not approved by the FAA. It was built by a hobbiest.” I got a little nervous at that stage and thought this might be my last photo ever!

The Textures of Antarctica

Homemade Chicken Broth

At home, we’ve gotten into the habit of making homemade chicken broth. We had a friend named Rani come over from Aro-Ha (he’s the head chef there) to give a few cooking lessons… he showed how easy it was to make with some special recipes… we keep it going for 3 days at a time now and all the kids come over and get refills all the time because they like it so much. It’s actually cut down a lot on how much soda my teenager Ethan consumes, so that’s a good thing!

Daily Photo – The textures of Antarctica

What a wonderfully desolate place. In many ways, it was perfect for someone like me, who spends so much time alone and is very comfortable with it. I don't feel lonely or anything… and Antarctica IS only an “alone” place. Even if you happened to be near someone, it's still a place were everyone feels alone, but, strangely, together. And when you get out here on the main continent, camping for a few days, you really feel the isolation of everything.

The textures of Antarctica

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7S
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/2500
  • Aperture9
  • ISO320
  • Focal Length16.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-0.3

People of Papua New Guinea Part 7

Dramatic Time Change for the Blog

We’ve made a dramatic time zone shift! Now the blog is based on PST… I bet you couldn’t tell the difference could ya? haha yeah… every day there’s a new post that comes up at midnight. Maybe I should make it midnight New Zealand time. Okay now I’m getting confused… let me think about this! :)

Daily Photo – People of Papua New Guinea Part 7

We visited a coastal village where many of the women have fully tattooed faces. It starts at an early age. Here, you can see a little girl laying in her mom's lap while she gets her tattoo. It was very cute!

People of Papua New Guinea Part 7

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/2000
  • Aperture
  • ISO1000
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias+0.3

Aurora HDR Pro is Live!

It’s been 10 long days, now it’s here!

Want to see what the new Aurora HDR Pro is all about? Here’s a Deep Dive video that shows how fun and amazing the software is!

It’s really just incredible… I use it to make all my HDR images. It has layers, curves, special glows, and more! I think you’re gonna love it. Here it is in our store!

And here’s a list of all the features! :)

  • Revolutionary tone-mapping technology (less noise, realistic results).
  • Advanced high quality image processing engine.
  • JPEG, PNG, TIFF support
  • Adobe RGB wide color profile support.
  • ProPhoto wide color profile support.
  • Built-in sample photos.
  • Native RAW files support (Aurora HDR Pro)
  • Real-time image processing.
  • 38 HDR presets in 5 categories.
  • Signature presets by Trey Ratcliff (Aurora HDR Pro)
  • Custom presets import and export.
  • Layers & Masking.
  • Support of different Blend modes for Layers.
  • Custom texture overlays
  • Luminosity masking.
  • Custom brush for selective editing.
  • Gradient masking tool.
  • Layer source changing.
  • Masking with brackets.
  • Color clipping preview.
  • Duplicate layer.
  • Advanced Tone Mapping controls.
  • Smart Tone technology
  • Highlights / Midtones / Shadows adjusters.
  • Whites & Blacks.
  • Advanced Structure & Clarity technology.
  • HDR denoise.
  • Image Radiance effect.
  • Color contrast tool.
  • Image Details enhancer tool.
  • Glow effect.
  • Graduated ND filter emulation (“Top & Bottom Lighting”).
  • Tone curve tool.
  • Color filter tool – Selective coloring.
  • Color toning.
  • Vignette.
  • Automatic Alignment
  • Automatic Deghosting
  • Automatic Chromatic aberration reduction.
  • Histogram.
  • Crop tool.
  • Align image.
  • Quick compare
  • Side by side comparison.
  • Image navigator window.
  • Full Screen preview mode.
  • Facebook sharing.
  • Flickr sharing.
  • SmugMug sharing.
  • Export to email.
  • Export to iMessage.
  • Export to other apps.
  • Export to Photos for Mac.
  • Export to Creative Kit apps.
  • Photoshop plug-in (Aurora HDR Pro)
  • Lightroom plug-in (Aurora HDR Pro)
  • Aperture plug-in (Aurora HDR Pro)

Some of my favorite Aurora HDR Pro Images!

Thar She Glows

Slack

Have you ever heard of Slack? It’s a really cool tool for teams to communicate… they don’t sponsor the site or anything… but we all use it here at Stuck In Customs to keep the team communicating since many of us are far apart… all over the world!

Daily Photo – Thar She Glows

Here's a new favorite shot from down here in New Zealand near Glenorchy. We took our photo group out one morning for a hike, and we pulled off the side of the road when we saw these beautiful lighting conditions. It's very unusual, and I don't often get to see this kind of morning light coming in under a heavy blanket of clouds…

Thar She Glows

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/80
  • Aperture6.3
  • ISO250
  • Focal Length89.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-0.3

Boating Around Venice

The Blue Hour

This is my favorite time to take photos. I’m not always in amazing places like Venice, but when I am, it’s A VERY EXCITING TIME. The city looks amazing all the time, but things go gangbusters at the blue hour. And it’s a fun kind of nervousness inside too since you want to see as much as possible in a short time!

Daily Photo – Boating Around Venice

Whenever I get in one of these boats, I probably literally take at least 500 if not 1000 photos. Everything looks so awesome, and you're moving so fast, so the stimulation is at an extreme factor. Normally, you are kind of used to a walking-pace, so stuff appears very slowly, and you have a moment to get used to it. But these boats go about 10x that speed… and 10x the visual excitement!

Boating Around Venice

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/60
  • Aperture
  • ISO1000
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-1

People of Papua New Guinea Part 6

Only 3 days Left!

Don’t forget to grab the pre-order of Aurora HDR Pro to get all the extra goodies right now! :)

Daily Photo – People of New Guinea Part 6

This was a pretty intimidating tribe for sure… did a little dance of wits with them a few days ago here. They totally won and were way more intimidating, but was happy to have the chance to get a few photos. There are hundreds of tribes here that adorn themselves in different ways. This one is known for painting half their body white and half their body black…

People of New Guinea Part 6

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/3200
  • Aperture
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias-0.7

Before the Aurora!

A recap of San Francisco

Wow that San Francisco Photowalk was amazing! Here’s our recapped video for you of all the highlights.

Daily Photo – Before the Aurora!

I know I keep talkin' about the new Aurora HDR Pro, but I'm so darned excited about it! I was especially just thinking about it because of today's photo from San Francisco. I processed this one with Photomatix, and I got that strange banding and chunky noise in the sky. I don't have those problems with noise in Aurora HDR Pro because there are two ways to get rid of it, using HDR Denoise and a tricky Clarity slider

Before the Aurora!

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time13
  • Aperture5.6
  • ISO250
  • Focal Length43.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

Intense Canterbury

Trello

I have a hot tip for you if you work with small (or big!) teams to help keep track of all the projects. We use “Trello” here at Stuck In Customs to figure out what projects are happening where! It’s a web app, and it’s pretty fun. I’ve actually never been so organized! :)

Daily Photo – Intense Canterbury

This is a rather intense and colorful photo today, eh? I tell ya, it was a pretty golden light there… it was so unusual that I pulled over on the way to Tekapo to take this photo… and I was an even more colorful mood when I processed it!

Intense Canterbury

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/2000
  • Aperture
  • ISO125
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

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