Stuck In Customs

The place your mind can go before you travel there

Read the Blog Photo Tips

I’m doing a series of free, fun, family friendly, photo walks across Europe… plus a few unique day-long workshops. Wanna see the list of places? Come check out the new site at!

Some India Photos

How about a quick 3-batch of photos from India?


One place I entered did not allow any cameras at all, so I had to make do with my Android phone. Here’s a panorama made of multiple shots while inside Madurai.

Chennai Quadcopter at Night

Here’s a late-night quadcopter flight near Chennai. Usually, these are more noisy, but we were blessed with a still evening.

Mahamallipurum Detail

Beautiful details on the towers in Mahamallipurum. I could stare at them for hours.

Balloon in Morning Mist over Lake Hayes

Here are some quick aerial vignettes from this week out taking photos with our workshop of photo adventuring! We visited a ton of locations, but we only flew the quad in a few. Between taking photos, I set the quad into video mode. To see more about our workshops (everything is sold out this year, but maybe some secret ones coming up in Europe!) see our Workshop Page.

Workshop announcements first in our newsletter.

Music: The Radar: MBTS Vol. 2 Mixed by The Scumfrog

Daily Photo – Balloon in Morning Mist over Lake Hayes

One morning our NZ Workshop crew was lucky enough to see this amazing balloon alight over the morning mist. I go to this lake a lot for a run, but I've never seen a balloon do this. So awesome! I can only imagine the view from the balloon. This is on my list of things to try soon

Balloon in Morning Mist over Lake Hayes

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2016-10-21 01:55:55
  • CameraILCE-7RM2
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/100
  • Aperture4.5
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length49.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

Bel in Namibia

Amazing Documentary about Kowloon

I found this crazy documentary that was filmed in 1988. Right below it, I’ll put a photo of Kowloon I took last year.

The Less Populated Bits Of China

Daily Photo – Bel in Namibia

You may remember this from the Becoming an Artist Season 1 video when Bel and the Desert Rose started to pose together. These two were always up for posing. As soon as a camera came in their direction, they popped out a thousand different looks. Bel has such long and thick hair, it was like whirling around a vast black bearskin rug through the air.

Bel in Namibia

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2014-09-26 07:59:38
  • CameraILCE-7S
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/8000
  • Aperture
  • ISO50
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Another great Photo Adventure in New Zealand

Fun with the Girls

I decided to test out the new Mevo camera and help my daughters record something for their YouTube channels! Scarlett’s channel (Husky Fun) and Isabella’s channel 🙂

Daily Photo – Another great Photo Adventure in New Zealand

Be sure to check out our Workshops page for some hot upcoming stuff. Here's a place we usually always visit (weather dependant) on our photo walks. This is a beautiful area of the lake about an hour away from Queenstown. Every time I go there it's completely different and staggeringly beautiful!

Anyway, it was another GREAT workshop group. Thanks so much everyone for coming out. When people ask me how it went, I joke, “Well, no one asked for their money back!” hehe… but it's true that has never happened. Knock on wood! Or, “Touch Wood” as they say here in NZ.

Another great Photo Adventure in New Zealand

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2016-10-20 08:46:06
  • CameraFC330
  • Camera MakeDJI
  • Exposure Time1/680
  • Aperture2.8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length3.6 mm
  • FlashNo flash function
  • Exposure ProgramUnknown (58655)
  • Exposure Bias

Walking Home Again

Intense HDR

I used the new Aurora HDR 2017 to make this photo. Obviously, sometimes I go more extreme than others. As of the time of writing this, I’m about halfway done with the new HDR Tutorial. This is one of the photos from the Venice trip where we filmed the thing. Fun times!

Daily Photo – Walking Home Again

I probably stayed at least four weeks at the amazing Hotel O'lorogio in Venice. It's a great place and the team there is amazing. Wow, what a fun time! Anyway, there was basically only one way back to the hotel, and it was over a small bridge that gave this view. One evening, I stopped to take my time and capture this scene.

Walking Home Again

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2016-01-27 19:16:18
  • CameraH5D
  • Camera MakeHasselblad
  • Exposure Time8
  • Aperture8
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length70.0 mm
  • Flash
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

Glacial Details

Another Flight

Here’s a tiny (unpublished on YouTube video) that we took on a recent scouting trip to the burn. This was a really intense snow day. We expected to get a ton of water flow, but it was so cold that all the water was trapped into snow.

Daily Photo – Glacial Details

While in Earnslaw Burn, we made a variety of landings. Some were down in the valley, but one of them was very high near the glacier. On the upper landing, we were right by these very unusual rock formations. I've never seen anything quite like it, so I spent a lot of time taking little detailed photos like this one.

Glacial Details

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2016-05-05 00:32:43
  • CameraH5D
  • Camera MakeHasselblad
  • Exposure Time1/25
  • Aperture16
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length70.0 mm
  • Flash
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

Four More Burning Man Photos

I’m dropping four new photos in every four days or so! 🙂

Trey Ratcliff

When the man burns, the heat must be extremely intense. I’ve never been in that close before, but next year I may ask permission.

Trey Ratcliff

On my last day, I decided to take a very long ride around the outside, along the trash fence. This is a view looking back towards the city.

Trey Ratcliff

I thought this gal was cute during the bunny march. She was there with her dad and it turned out he was a fan! 🙂

Trey Ratcliff

This was one of the first nights after the temple was completed. I loved all the hanging lanterns… it really gave the whole temple that X-Factor.

Behind the Scenes with Hans Zimmer

Let’s start this right. Listen to my Hans Zimmer playlist on Spotify while you read this, yo.

Hans is even more amazing than his humble self will allow.

I was invited to join him at the “Eastwood Scoring Stage” (Eastwood of Clint) at Warner Bros one afternoon in Los Angeles. It’s a huge gymnasium-sized recording studio where Casablanca and Rebel Without a Cause (among others) were scored. The space is massive and more than big enough to fit a fully realized symphony orchestra. Hans was recording the soundtrack for his latest movie (his other soundtracks you may know from Inception, The Lion King, Gladiator, Batman, Interstellar, etc etc etc!)

from the blog

Here’s a recently remastered shot of Hans Zimmer’s studio in Hollywood where he creates these masterpieces. He begins the process here, then finishes with a live orchestra on a sound stage (LA, London, etc) to record the final soundtrack.

We had just finished our Tour across the USA and I was trying to catch up on sleep in LA. But then I remembered Hans was there! Forget resting! So I jumped in an Uber to go visit him at Warner Bros. I got out in the middle of this massive movie studio and had to negotiate my way through security. It appeared I was a random dude with a big camera trying to sneak into movie studios. I had to go through that awkward routine where you have to pull up emails on your phone to prove that someone of my suspicious caliber was actually allowed to be in a place like that.

I’m of course incredibly excited. Even though I’ve been to Hans’ studio several times, I’ve never actually witnessed the recording of a soundtrack for a movie.

So, I walk through a series of alleys and rather non-descript buildings until I found my way to the Eastwood Scoring Stage. I walk in, and there are about 20 people inside, all scurrying this way and that. It’s unclear what anyone is doing. There’s a lot of shuffling of paper and pointing and smiles. People are laughing at things that are happening that are far beyond my ken.

from Trey Ratcliff at

Hans in the middle, engaging with me as he’s probably got better things to do.

From left to right: Bob Badami – Music Supervisor, Tina Guo – Cellist, Andrew Kawcinski – Synthesist, Alan Meyerson (standing) – Recording Engineer, Bruce Fowler – Composer, and Hans Zimmer– Composer.

Then, in the midst of the maelstrom, Hans sees me and stands up abruptly, stares bullets into me, opens his arms like an Attenborough bird of paradise and announces, “ALERT EVERYONE!”

Then everyone gets quiet. I shrink back into the corner, assuming, as usual, I’m someplace I really shouldn’t be. Private Catholic school probably fucked me up and made me feel, by default, guilty just for being alive and having fun.

And after a small silence of a thousand pins, Hans says, “I want everyone to know that the greatest photographer in the world has just joined us!” Everyone clapped and I was like “HOLY SHIT” but I didn’t say that. I just gave a little Japanese bow and folded myself back into the shadows.

I never know how to take a compliment, and I know he was simply being bombastic and nice. I tried to indicate that I don’t actually take myself seriously at all (you guys know I don’t), and also I felt like was INTERRUPTING ACTUAL WORK. I mean, there are 20 people on this side of the glass and a whole symphony orchestra on the other side. I’m picturing $$ odometers over their heads all the time. Even with a few minutes of downtime, I feel like it’s equal in value to 250 Warner Bros. power lunches.

from Trey Ratcliff at

Here’s the view Hans had through the glass of the symphony orchestra on the other side.

Then Hans comes over to give a quick hug. I ask if I can take a few photos and meander about while not interrupting anything. He says of course of course. Just don’t publish anything before the movie comes out (it was one of the new Batman movies, which I am publishing this way after.). He knows I won’t do anything like that… not that sort of photographer / blog here. I’m the best secret-keeper in the world, and people keep trusting me with their secrets! Anyway, it’s safe to publish all this stuff now.

from Trey Ratcliff at

I ventured “Beyond the Glass” to hang out with the orchestra. A VERY AWKWARD story is coming up below. I wasn’t too far from here when it happened.

Everyone gets back to work doing tasks I can’t decipher. One guy is twisting dials. Another is pushing buttons. Some people are on microphones talking to the conductor on the other side of the glass. Random interns are bringing in drinks and wraps. People are sitting on couches on the back row apparently not doing anything but watching. In fact, most people are doing nothing as I watch. But they look incredibly busy doing nothing. This is a remarkable skill, but some of us notice this two-dream-level inception of deception.

I’m about to go through to “the other side.” I’m going through a giant sound-proof door to the orchestra. Hans signals to the conductor, Nick Glennie-Smith, that I’m cool and it’s okay. He comes over and holds me around the shoulder and points to three red lights. “Trey, when those lights turn red, don’t move. Don’t make a sound. You’re a statue.”

“I understand,” I whispered like I was huddling in a corner after calling 911. I was already petrified.

from Trey Ratcliff at

There’s the conductor, Nick Glennie-Smith. He’s a wonderful guy blessed with the senses of 100 bloodhounds.

So I walk into the orchestral area. Incredible. I immediately want my son Ethan to be here with me. Well heck, I want all the kids to be here, but especially Ethan (15 yrs) because he’s our brilliant piano player. He was currently working on the full version of Pirates of the Carribean, another tune from Hans Zimmer. It’s good to inspire kids, you know? I’m thinking… I’m already MEGA INSPIRED. I don’t deserve to be here… my son does! Anyway, I’m feeling like a lame dad, having an amazing time here in Hollywood while my son is stuck in some boring math class back in New Zealand. I gather my wits and think, okay Ratcliff, let’s try to take an interesting photo.

Which brings me to another point. Most of my photos ARE NOT that interesting. Most are just little studies or ideas. Not all the photos I post here with this article are world-killers or anything. Just little ideas. Little things I saw. Small studies and small captures… little ideas. Just sharing.

from Trey Ratcliff at

Here’s the view just behind the glass.

from Trey Ratcliff at

And here’s the view from the backside. Each day they bring in different groups from the orchestra to play different bits. Today was a strings day, so no need for a massive brass section. Look at me, it’s like I know what I’m talking about. People in the music industry immediately see a dozen things I’m not seeing.

Well, this sets the stage for a potentially #1 Most Embarrassing Trey moment of his life.

Okay, so this is a critical scene they’re recording. It’s the big scene where the good guy and bad guy have some kind of a reckoning.

It reminds me of a very funny thing Eckhardt Tolle said in one of his talks. He says, “I can sum up every single movie plot with three words.” He chuckles like the Dalai Lama softly and looks off into the distance. The whole audience is sitting there, enraptured. They’re thinking, “What! You can’t sum up EVERY movie with three words!” But they’re also trusting in the Eckhardt. Then he gives the three words: “Something Goes Wrong.”

Anyway, at this point in the movie, which is playing on screens in all the studios, things are going terribly wrong. So the music needs to underscore this without dominating what’s on the screen. Hans has said this again and again. He doesn’t want the music to be the “star” — it should just dance along with the screen and add to the vibration.

They keep replaying this critical loop in the movie, trying to get the cellos EXACTLY right. But it’s not quite where Hans wants it. So they do it again and again. And there’s a strange CREAKING sound coming from somewhere. It’s really bothering the conductor Myerson and everyone in the control room. It’s now been 15 takes and they are not getting this bit right. It’s a huge problem and everyone is getting frustrated. The musicians, Hans, Myerson, and you can even see the interns are getting agitated. Their wrap delivery has decreased in efficiency by at least 33%.

And I can hear it too, the squeaking. I’m in the middle of the orchestra. I’m ONLY taking photos when the red “recording” light is not on. My camera makes a fair bit of noise. But I’m being a very good boy. I’m moving like a ninja. Like, Kato. Like a nubile young cat, my moves are like a soft breeze. In fact, I’m rarely so focused on trying to get interesting photos while being so stealthy. Well, there was that one time in the Forbidden City with a drone when I was arrested for NOT being so stealthy. This time, I’m trying to be better and smoother. Smooth dolphin in the water. This is what I keep saying to myself. Smooth dolphin in the water.

But things are about to go pear-shaped, as they say here in New Zealand.

“What the Fuck is that NOISE!!” The conductor shouts. I freeze. I’m like HOLY MOSES, this is the end.

And then somebody playing a violin says, “It’s the photographerrrrr!”

This is it. This is the beginning of my downward spiral. I knew it. Well, I had a good run.

I’m now as still as an Easter Island statue. Only my eyes are moving, furtively darting right and left. I’m pretty sure that I was so still that my heart stopped beating as I slowly flatlined.

Myerson, the conductor, snapped, “It’s NOT the photographer!” He pointed at me with one commanding finger. “It’s coming from OVER THERE,” as he pointed with his other hand to the other side of the room. “It’s someone’s chair. I know sound, and I know where sound comes from! Sit STILL.”

I was like Holy Fuck this is some intense shit. I looked up and Hans and everyone in the control room were laughing. I almost collapsed into the kettle drum.

from Trey Ratcliff at

In my frenzy, I hugged my camera in mid-shot. It made some nice, accidental musical patterns.

I was off the hook and in the clear. I re-gathered my wits (which I find I need to do a dozen times a day), then started taking photos again. I feel bad because I’ve inadvertently publicly shamed some random violinist that probably went to Royal Academy of Music and has played for the Queen, but, hey, that’s the past. Let’s just take some photos and have fun! Yeah!

I got my fill. I recorded a bit of video here so you can see what was going on after that fiasco.

Here’s about a minute of video I captured. That first deep breath you hear is me, trying to recenter myself after the Event. Can you name the movie now? Add in the comments!

from Trey Ratcliff at

The view back through the glass in the control room as things are getting back to normal.

I went back in the control room and I was descended upon by paperwork. I was signing stuff saying I won’t release any sensitive IP too early. No problem. I sign and sign. I think they were a bit worried since I had already taken 100 photos before signing anything. You know how people get… but Hans trusted me and that’s all I need, eh?

Well, that’s the end of the story, really. I took a bunch more photos. I’ll add them below along with a few extra side-stories. First, let me share one of my favorite new videos I made with Hans Zimmer’s music. This is a collection of all the quadcopter footage I’ve gathered from around the world in the last 5+ years. It’s also accompanied by the words of one of my favorite philosophers, Alan Watts.

FLASHBACK: I met Hans the first time about 5 years ago (reading for later) and we’ve just stayed friends ever since. I always wonder why we like one another. I think it’s because it’s one of those strange relationships where we don’t actually want anything, other than to hang out. I assume that Hans’ world is 10x mine, where everyone you meet just wants something, so it creates a strange dynamic. We come from different worlds (music / photography), so the only overlap our mostly futile attempts to tap into the natural flow of creativity in the universe.

Here’s a quadcopter video I made with the music from Hans Zimmer and words by Alan Watts.

How amazing is this speaker? I’d love to hear this thing maxed out. I need speakers like this in my studio to listen to while editing photos!

from Trey Ratcliff at

Here’s the great cellist Tina Guo who was in attendance. She recently went on a worldwide tour with Hans Zimmer to play their music to audiences.

from Trey Ratcliff at

Here’s my friend Stu Robertson. He’s working on a global art project called Peace in 10,000 Hands. He was with Hans not long ago and captured…

And here’s the photo of Hans holding the white rose, the world’s oldest symbol of peace.

from Trey Ratcliff at

A final photo here. After recording was wrapped and as all the musicians were leaving, Hans and I went outside to talk for a while. His son Maxiumus was there. Sometimes I think it’s hard for dads to see, but it’s clear to me how much Max admires and loves him.

Heading to the Burgermeister in Berlin

A little embedded action

Here’s a Vimeo of one of the sets at the Mayan Warrior I mentioned yesterday!

DJ Three – Mayan Warrior – Thursday Night – Burning Man – 2016 from Mayan Warrior on Vimeo.

Daily Photo – Heading to the Burgermeister in Berlin

We asked our concierge for a unique restaurant in Berlin, and they recommended we visit this burger place that used to be a public toilet under the train tracks. Sign us up! And that's where we headed, to the famous Burgermeister. It was a TASTY Burger for sure… while waiting on said burger in said former public toilet, I went across the street to take this photo… you can see the train tracks up above to the right.

Heading to the Burgermeister in Berlin

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2016-09-29 01:24:40
  • CameraILCE-7RM2
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time2.5
  • Aperture5
  • ISO50
  • Focal Length26.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-0.7

Luminar is Now Avail!

Just announced (Mac Only)

Here’s a link to grab Luminar.

What is Luminar?

It’s a new program that is a very powerful photo editor. It’s from the same team that brought you Aurora HDR (I collaborated with them on this), so you know it’s gonna be good.
Luminar is an extremely powerful and fast photo editor that can do not only the most basic adjustments, but literally millions of “looks” for your photo. It’s extremely easy and fun to use and designed for all skill levels.

Better than Lightroom?

That’s the big question you’re wondering, right? Well, YES, it is better in many ways. Remember, this currently is only a way to edit your photos — not to organize them. As of the time of writing this, I’m still using Lightroom to organize my photos.
You’ll find the controls in Luminar are much more powerful than the ones in Lightroom. I’d also wager to say that Luminar has 5-7x as many control options as Lightroom.

Screenshots and commentary


Here’s a great example of some of the power you can’t get in Lightroom alone. You can see I’ve chosen the “Orton Effect” filter. It’s extremely fast and this is a “look” you just can’t get in Lightroom because it involves a blending of layers (all of which is automatic in Luminar).



Yes, Luminar has layers, but you can see how much you can do with a single layer. Here, I’ve made use of a really cool filter called “Foliage Enhancer.”

You may notice that each screenshot has different controls over on the left. This is because you can organize your workspace however you wish, with whatever filters you wish. In this case, I wanted more details, so I pulled up the appropriate filters. You can even save your workspaces to your liking.



Naturally, there are many vintage-feels to the filters as well. There are a ton of presets if you’re feeling lazy or just in a hurry!



I was also impressed how it is quite easy to get an “HDR Look” by using many of the filters.



I’m a big fan of cross-processing, and Luminar comes with a variety of tools that help you to give these a more special look. Here I’ve used both Cross-Processing and Bi-Color Toning.

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