Feeding Chooks in Feng Huang

Chook Update

In addition to our new dog, my wife has also found it necessary to get three chickens. We built a special coup and stuff. And then after we built it, she decided she wanted it on the other side of the house. The chooks did not help with that move. And here we are, about 15 weeks into it, and these chooks have only laid THREE eggs. She says it’s because their too young… I don’t know what to believe any more with these damned things.

Daily Photo – Feeding Chooks in Feng Huang

When in Feng Huang, I decided to go down to the river to take some photos. There was a direct way, but I thought it might be more interesting to zig-zag my way there through alleys. One of the most wonderful things about China is how safe it is. I never had any fear for my life or anything as I move around these places. It’s so safe, in fact, that it’s almost eerie! But, eerie in a good way, of course…

Chickens China Feeding

Feeding Chooks in Feng Huang

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/1.4
  • ISO1600
  • Focal Length50mm (50mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

Thanks for all the nice feedback on the new tutorial!

As regular visitors know, we get a lot of new traffic here via my two tutorials. I basically created them because I was getting literally dozens of emails per day asking how I do these photos. I always feel bad totally ignoring people, but I just don’t have time to email back everyone. Instead, I put together two tutorials. The first HDR Tutorial is a free and has helped thousands of people get into HDR Photography. The second, newer tutorial is on Texturing has over an hour-long video and includes 100 hi-res textures. I selected them from over 2,000 textures and refined them down to just the best!

Here is some feedback from tutorial dowloaders!

Jeff Clow: “This collection of textures is truly world class – and by that I mean not simply how brilliant they are, but the fact that they’ve been compiled from fascinating places around the world. The unique textures work superbly well as backgrounds and overlays, and I highly recommend them to any photographer who wants to improve and enhance their images. This texture package is ‘must have’ tool for any serious photographer.”

Scott Dungan: ” What a resource! Stuck in Customs World of Textures has provided me with textures that are difficult or impossible to produce in Photoshop. These textures allow me to produce images with the hand coated look of early photographic processes. Thank you for your World of Textures Stuck in Customs.”

Scotty Graham: “I just downloaded the premium package, and am very impressed with both the quality of the textures and the video tutorial. Trey’s video tutorial is worthwhile to the professional as well as the Photoshop beginner. As a professional photographer, I enjoyed watching Trey’s workflow and creative process unfold right before my eyes….(would be nice to see the same kind of thing with his HDR images). His textures are bar-none some of the best I have seen and/or used. They rival anything else you may see for sale on line, and for 100 textures, his price is very fair. If you are looking to move your photography style up one notch, don’t hesitate to purchase this package….you will not regret it.”

Chris Nowakowski: “All I have to say is WOW! These textures are amazing! They blow everything and anything that I have seen out the water! The video tutorial is so easy to use, even the pro that I am, I still learned a few new tricks! I still remember when I first heard about you and I used your tutorial on HDR to further develop my skills. That tutorial helped me make the art I do today. Now, with this tutorial not only am I not worried about getting my ROI out of it, but I also know that it will inspire me as an artist to further per sue my photography and take it to new heights. It’s hard to sum it all up. All I know is that this rocks as much as you do.”

Thelonius Gonzo: “Just viewed the tutorial. I know dollars are worth something (less and less everyday) but honestly, if you are interested at all in texture effects, and like me, are not already a Photoshop expert, then this tutorial is well worth the asking price. I swear I may need a few weeks to really ingest all of it. The only downside of this is that I feel like I’m cheating.”

Below are a few shots with the effect:

Icelandic Horse, Stuck in Textures

Frozen in Time

Huge Camera Gear Giveaway!

Win the complete bundle of Peak Design Gear

We’re giving away a COMPLETE BUNDLE of Peak Design products to one lucky winner. Just drop a comment below if you want a chance to win! We’ll pick a random winner one week from today. The bundle includes:

 

I’m a big fan of Peak Design!

I’m a big fan of Peter Dering and the team at Peak Design. I supported their original Kickstarter campaign for the camera clip and now they’ve got a new Kickstarter campaign for two new camera straps designs, Slide and Clutch. Watch the video below for a full preview, I think it will really resonate if you’ve tried a lot of different straps.

Support the Peak Design Kickstarter and a portion goes to Charity

Stuck in Customs and Peak Design have agreed that 10% of all money raised today for their Kickstarter campaign will go to my favorite charity, Kiva.org. They help empower people all throughout the world via micro loans.

Sign up for the Newsletter to win a bonus strap!

We’ll give away one bonus “Slide” strap to a new newsletter subscriber! Just sign up on the Newsletter Page or right there on the right side of the website!

Slide Camera Strap

From the Peak Design Kickstarter pageSlide is a camera strap, but one that’s different from every other camera strap out there. Slide is more than just a neck strap, sling strap or shoulder strap. Slide is a new kind of camera strap that incorporates everything we love about existing straps, as well as feedback from thousands of photographers worldwide. In a nutshell, we think Slide is the most thoughtfully designed camera strap ever created.


Getting ready for the Wedding

Cheesy Wedding Photos

Do you know of any sites with crazy wedding photos? I’ve seen some crazy Russian ones… here, let me try to find it. Here’s a crazy one. Oh, and here’s another!

Daily Photo – Getting ready for the Wedding

We were on the outskirts of the Forbidden City then went into a temple area and there were about 20 couples taking their wedding photos. It was so funny to see everyone posing and all the photographers taking photos. They were all trying to find angles where they wouldn't see the other couples. The men wore the craziest tuxedos, but the girls mostly had on really pretty dresses. I took this one while she was moving from one position to the next.

Getting ready for the Wedding

Photo Information

  • Date TakenMay 25, 2014 at 6:38pm
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/4000
  • Aperture
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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

On the way to Skipper’s Canyon

Pre-Leica Lens Buying Guide

I have this idea in my head that I need to put into action. I’m starting to learn a lot about Leica lenses, and I think I am close to recommending some. But, I think a good thing to know is that you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars. The Leica M-Lenses can be quite expensive, from $1,000 to $15,000 and well beyond! But the Leica R-Lenses are much more affordable. You can get some amazing deals with them, and they also work great on all camera systems. I know it can get confusing, so that is why I wanted to put together a little practical buying guide for people that want to experiment… I figure I could put something up, and then look at what advice and feedback you have, and then iterate.

Most likely, it would not be overkill and show all possible Leica combinations, but I would just hit on maybe 3-8 of my favorite lenses and give a few price points and options for all levels.

Daily Photo – On the way to Skipper's Canyon

We took a few people up Coronet Peak then around the bend towards the beginning of Skipper's Canyon. We didn't go all the way in, but we took a bit of time up top to explore just a little bit. These long grasses that come up here and there and tend to cluster around these old fences are usually good photo subjects. I shot this one wide open at f/1.4 on the Sony A7r with the 50mm Leica.

On the way to Skipper's Canyon

On the way to Skipper's Canyon

Photo Information

  • Date TakenFebruary 7, 2014 at 7:37am
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/4000
  • Aperture
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

HDR and Photoshop

How do I use HDR in Photoshop?

I get this question a lot! I have an answer for you, but it is not what you expect.

First, I can point you to the much more useful and practical free HDR Tutorial. You’ll see that Photoshop is part of the process, although I strongly recommend you use something else to do the “HDR” bit.

For HDR processing, I recommend getting something called Photomatix — use the code, TREYRATCLIFF, at checkout for 15% off. You can also get a free trial to play, but you’ll probably soon decide that you simply must have the full thing. Besides, it’s very inexpensive, especially compared to Photoshop! There are a few different Photomatix options at the website; personally, I use Photomatix Pro.

HDR in Lightroom

I have figured out a way to get a very strong HDR-like effect in Adobe Lightroom. You can see more on the HDR in Lightroom Presets page here on the site. That’s another option for you in case you already have Lightroom.

HDR in Photoshop Versus HDR in Photomatix

So I did an experiment to scientifically and artistically compare the two. To me, life is short and it doesn’t make sense to use anything but the best. Because I do use Photoshop quite a bit, I really do wish I could do everything in there. It would save me time and make my workflow easier. However, even with the latest version of Photoshop CC, I still can’t recommend using it for the HDR Processing bit.

Quick Verdict

Photomatix Pro 4.0 is the clear winner. Photoshop “Merge to HDR” is much better than earlier iterations of the software, but it has few other redeeming qualities.

Photomatix Pro:

  • Faster (MUCH FASTER – see the chart below)
  • Upgraded noise-reduction just for HDR
  • Better ghosting control
  • and more image control for higher quality images

Photoshop “Merge to HDR” Pro excels in:

  • Having one integrated solution right inside Photoshop
  • Easier to learn because there are a few less controls

Photoshop vs. Photomatix Pro Comparison

Note that this testing was done in CS5, although there have been no significant changes I can see since Photoshop CC has arrived.

Item Adobe Photoshop Photomatix Pro
RAW Photos – Loading 7 Images (before Tonemapping) 1:54 (Test 1)

2:01 (Test 2)

0:58 (Test 1)

0:56 (Test 2)

RAW Photos – I make adjustments, then click to process 0:50 (Test 1)

0:52 (Test 2)

0:08 (Test 1)

0:08 (Test 2)

RAW Total Processing Time (Average) 2:48 1:05
JPG Photos – Loading 7 Images (before Tonemapping) 1:01* (Test 1)

0:57 (Test 2)

0:41 (Test 1)

0:40 (Test 2)

JPG Photos – Loading 7 Images (before Tonemapping) 0:27 (Test 1)

0:29 (Test 2)

0:07 (Test 1)

0:08 (Test 2)

JPG Total Processing Time (Average) 1:27 0:48

* Photoshop Gives you a warning about not using JPG photos to make an HDR. You have to click “OK”, but I did not include that wait time in my timings.

Test Subjects and System:

I chose a 7-exposure session from a lake at sunset near Nikko, Japan. The exposures ranged from -3 to +3.

I have a speedy 17″ MacBook Pro. I bought it about 9 months ago — the specs are to the right.

In the Photoshop test, the only things running were Photoshop (in 64-bit mode), Bridge, and Skitch for taking screenshots. In the Photomatix Pro test, I kept those running + Photomatix Pro.

HDR-Photo

Photomatix Pro 4

Special Conditions:

Now, the Photoshop Merge to HDR Pro option does not allow me to turn on and off Auto-Alignment, Cropping, or anything else. Normally, I turn that off in Photomatix because I use a tripod. To keep the tests fair, I turned on the Align Source Images, Cropping, and Reduce Noise in Photomatix Pro. That way, it was doing the same tasks as Photoshop. However, in my normal conditions, I don’t have those turned on, which makes Photomatix even faster.

Also, as you can see I processed with RAW and JPG files. I preach in my HDR Tutorial that using JPGs is just fine. I don’t see any difference in quality. But, I do notice that JPGs are much faster. This is important!

Overall Speed

In these tests, Photomatix Pro 4.0 was much much faster. There’s almost no comparison.

Photomatix Pro processed the images in 1:05 — Photoshop did the same job in 2:48. It was more than twice as fast!

There are two intense “Computer Processing” periods. The first is when you load the images into the program. After this is done, the human takes over and adjusts the sliders. Then there is a second period of processing.

Speed – Loading the Images

Photoshop “Merge to HDR” was slow. Painfully slow! During the loading of the images, it give a few indications of why it is so slow. After a period of time it says “Aligning”. Then, after another bit, it says. “Transforming”. Then for another longer period, it says “Crop”. I did not touch the computer at all during this time… I kept the timer on my iPhone going to watch.

In these tests, the only thing I had running was Photoshop and Bridge. This is not typical. Note that I am usually running Google Chrome, Tweetdeck, Mail, and iTunes for music. So all the times you see in the chart are actually much higher, and the delta between Photoshop and Photomatix Pro grows even more.

My first broken test:

What I had running in the background for all the tests before the reboot:

  • Tweetdeck
  • Google Chrome with about 6 tabs (gmail, websites, nothing too taxing)
  • iTunes playing music
  • Photoshop
  • Bridge
  • Apple Mail & iCal
  • Skitch

The first time I ran it with Merge to HDR Pro, it took 6:05 (six minutes and five seconds) to load. Just amazingly slow! Then, I thought, “Well, I do have it in 32-bit mode,” since I was also running some old plugins. So I tried it again in 64-bit mode. I shut down Photoshop and re-opened. Then I did the Merge to HDR Pro option through Bridge again. The second time it took 13:10. THIRTEEN MINUTES. I was just about to Force Quit the program — I was sure something was wrong! How can this be — in 64-bit mode? Isn’t it supposed to be faster?

So I decided to reboot and try again. I was worried that maybe there had been a memory leak or something had just gummed up the works. Because thirteen minutes just didn’t make sense! Now, I am using big images from a Nikon D3X. And these were RAW files, but that still seems like way too long…

After I rebooted, I loaded NO OTHER PROGRAMS expect for Photoshop, Bridge, and Skitch. I did not like doing this for the test, because this is not a “normal” environment for me. I usually have several things running. This time, it was much faster and clocked in at 1:54. So, after this, I decided to restart the whole test and have nothing else running to keep the results as clean as possible.

Speed – Processing the Images

After you make your slider changes, you can process them. There is a period of waiting whilst the image processes. Again, Photomatix Pro was not just a little faster, but way faster.

For the RAW files, Photoshop took an average of 8 seconds and Photoshop Merge to HDR Pro took a whopping 51 seconds (two tests at :50 and :52).

And remember… I wasn’t doing anything else on the computer… I wasn’t checking the mail or tweeting or anything… just watching the water boil…

Photo Quality and Control

I’ve been using previous versions of Photomatix for years, so I am familiar with the sliders. Because I am a private tester, Photomatix would not allow me to post screenshots of the new GUI. However, it is very similar to previous versions.

The new Photoshop “Merge to HDR” dialogs are very similar to that of Photomatix Pro. However, they do not have nearly as fine control. There are about 1/3 as many sliders, which is good and bad. It’s good in terms of simplicity, but it is bad it terms of flexibility.

I find that there are so many different sorts of HDR shooting conditions. The more sliders you have to adjust one part of a photo for one condition and another for a different condition — the better. I’ve processed a bunch of images with both now, and I prefer Photomatix Pro. I get much more fine-grained control.

More importantly, I feel like I get more “pop” with the Photomatix Pro controls. It’s tough to explain… what do you think? What’s your experience with these tools so far?

HDR-Photo
HDR-Photo

The two above images are from Photomatix Pro 4.0 (left) and Photoshop Merge to HDR (right). Although it is probably hard to tell at this resolution, I believe the Photomatix Pro one has finer control. Both tools allow you to move the sliders around until you are happy with the image… so there is not really a one-to-one comparison possible here… Also, I did not show the new GUI for Photomatix Pro 4.0 at the request of the developer.

Better Ghosting Control

I remember when Merge to HDR Pro was announced that it had this cool feature for repairing ghosts. Ghosts are those nasty bits where part of an image is moving around in the various frames. A dog running across the bottom of the frame would be a good example.

Well, Photomatix Pro 1-ups Photoshop! It allows you to control various ghosts around the frame at the same time! Basically, there is an intermediate step where you can drag the mouse around one area and select a new single “source” image for that area, and then do it again for another section. For example, you may want to pick the dog from one exposure and the blowing tree from another. It’s great flexibility and very smart.

Noise Reduction for HDR

Photoshop did make some very nice changes with Noise Reduction, but that is part of the RAW import process. Since the Merge to HDR Pro option goes around that, you don’t get any of the good Noise Reduction for HDR images inside Photoshop.

Photomatix Pro 4.0 has a newer, more robust way to reduce noise. It even allows you to adjust the noise in the “input” images before they even begin the processing period. Smart.

The image there to the right was taken from a single RAW. As most of you HDR veterans know, noise at night is a big problem. The new Noise Reduction in Photomatix (which works even for a single RAW photo) really saved me a lot of time.

You can click on the image there to go see the full size on SmugMug. You’ll notice little white bits… they almost look like stars that I drew in, but they are falling sparkles from previous explosions

HDR-Photo

HDR Toning – Are you kidding me?

I was also intrigued by another little feature in Photoshop that all the videos were raving about. It is called “HDR Toning…” and it allows you to take your image inside Photoshop and give it an “HDR Look”. Cool, I thought! Well, I got in there to try it, and it told me that I had to Flatten the entire image first! That means, basically, that you have to take all of your layers and make them one. This is a deal-killer for me, since I like to have several layers open while I am working on an image.

Worse, it makes no sense! Most of the other Photoshop filters and controls work on a single layer without requiring the entire thing to be flattened. What’s up Adobe? You gotta fix that up… it’s sloppy.

HDR-Photo
HDR-Photo

The Final Photo – The Lake at Nikko

This place was Cold with a capital C, as you can plainly see.

And worse, I had forgotten my special little gloves with the flip-up fingertips. So I was goin’ finger-commando while trying to line up this shot. The wind was pretty stiff in my face. The wind always seems to be against you, eh? I think I just never notice it when it comes from any other angle.

By the way, there is only one place that is convenient to quickly warm up your fingers.

There is an older, historic part of Nikko that is about a 30 minute drive away. The drive is practically straight up a mountain, through a series of switchbacks. During the entire time up the mountain, I was surrounded by clouds. I thought it would be quite miserable at the top. But once I poked out, everything was free and clear. I was between cloud layers, exactly where this chilly lake sat at sunset.

HDR-Photo

HDR Photos for you made with a combination of Photomatix and Photoshop

Here are a few photos photos for you. You can see more on at my Portfolio. I make a new one every day here on the home page at StuckInCustoms.com, so you are welcome to come back daily! :)

The Bamboo Forest While exploring Kyoto, I eventually found my way to this fanciful bamboo forest.  There had been a light rain most of the morning and everything was quite lovely.  The rain does strange things as it moves its way through these sorts of trees.  I waited and waited, and that was nice too.  In the early afternoon, the rain stopped while the sun peeked through the top.  It shone down while the earlier rain misted down from the tops of the trees.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

 Moonrise Kingdom This is one of my favorite new pieces from this year! I just shot it a few days ago.It was shot waaaay after the sun went down in Big Sur, California. This is a crazy waterfall that pours off onto the beach. You can’t see it from the road, and it requires a short walk. I found it thanks to Stuck On Earth, although I am sure other locals have known about this semi-secret place forever! You can go here too… it’s not terribly difficult. It’s called “McWay Falls” and it’s beautiful any time of the day.Also, btw, I’d like to thank those of you that have been ordering more prints recently — I am honored! :) You can always click just below the photo to check sizes and prices to find something to fit your budget. Thanks again!- 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.

The Long Road to New Zealand This is one of countless beautiful roads that crisscross New Zealand.  I'm afraid I've forgotten exactly where I was when I took this photo!   I know that is very lame, but I bet people around here can help me pinpoint the area.As far as the camera settings, this is the kind of shot you can get with something called "compression," a method where you use a zoom lens and zoom in quite far.  It takes images in the distance and makes them larger than life.- Trey RatcliffRead more here at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Inception: New York I took these photos in New York City before going to LA to prepare for Burning Man. I found this spot below in midtown during a walk from Bryant Park over to the Facebook HQ in NYC. If you check my Facebook page, you’ll see some photos that Luke shot of me while I was taking this shot. It’s the one when I was awkwardly up under my camera shooting almost straight up in the air! You know that position…- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Mysterious Rock of Wonder The day in Death Valley was about 115 F (46 C). It wasn’t a dry heat either… there has been a lot of humidity here and there is flash lightning in the day and night. This location here took a lot of time, effort, and 4×4 to find. I took five gallons of water, a map, and some warnings from the place that rented the jeep that this area was inaccessible because of recent road wash-outs from rivers. Well, they were right! So getting the 4×4 over and through the washed out rivers took many more hours than expected. I only suffered one minor injury when my head slammed into the rollbar during a clumsy maneuver. But after I finally found this place I’ve always wanted to visit, it was late afternoon with plenty of time to hike around before night fell.I look forward to your theories (from the boring to the surreal) of what makes these rocks move across the playa on their own!- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the entire post over at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Central Park in the Fall I had spent the afternoon alone while traveling (as usual, it seems) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the middle of New York City. It sits on the Eastern edge of Central Park.  It was a little cold outside, but I decided to walk across the park anyway, just as the sun was setting.  As I moved through the trees, I found this little place and thought it would be fun to share.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Secret Workshop of Jules Verne This is perhaps my favorite find on my most recent trip to Europe.  How can a place so wonderful exist in our world?  It's amazing.I got a recommendation from a close friend that told me I would love this place.  And he was right!  As usual, to see the full-size image, click Original in the menu that appears when you hover over the image in SmugMug.This is the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle and is one of the least-known places in Paris.  Everyone goes for the hot tourist spots, and this museum sounds rather boring, yes?  But as you can see... au contraire!- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Reflections on the Eiffel Tower Isn't it romantic?  What could be more perfect than a beautiful sunset here in Paris?There was a big storm all day long, but I could see the clouds were beginning to break up a little to the west, and I knew there was a possibility the sun would dip into an opening beneath the heavy clouds.  So, with that intense possibility, I headed over to the Eiffel Tower area hoping the light would turn out right...I also made a behind-the-scenes video.  Since you guys have been so nice over on Google+, I'll share that video exclusively there first, so be sure to stay tuned... I'm still editing the thing together!- Trey RatcliffRead more here at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Fourth on Lake Austin It was a tough night because I was on the edge of a bridge that was rumbling as cars went across. The evening was very windy, and there was a light driving rain right into my lens. I had to wipe down the lens after every few exposures and try to cup my hands over the top during the shot.  This ended up being the first HDR photo to hang in the Smithsonian, and it made my mom very proud.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Southern Lights in New Zealand I’m busy getting everything ready for the upcoming one-day event in Christchurch. I have a few surprises in mind, but they take a bit of preparation!I know that there will be many skill levels that I need to work with, and that’s okay. I think we’ll start really slow, then start moving faster and faster. Even when it gets a bit complex, I still think it will be interesting to new people!As for this photo, I took it during the amazing light show from the Aurora Australis down here on the south island of New Zealand.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

-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.

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.

Lijiang at Night This is the old town of Lijiang, China, where I spent the week with Tom Anderson (the MySpace guy).  I think I mentioned him before.  Anyway, we got to be friends over the past several months, and we ended up spending a week together here in the south of China.Tom had first been here many years ago when he was setting up the MySpace office in Beijing.  He had great memories, and he thought it would be great for a big return now that he is getting more into photography.  So, it was definitely a week full of non-stop photography action.One late night after the sun had set, we weaved through the old streets until we found this place.  Looking up, I knew it would be a wonderful place to take a photo, so I set up for this one.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Secret Crystal LakeThis remote lake was so icy cold.  You would think it's about 33 degrees or something, right?  It felt like absolute zero.  I dropped a little piece of my tripod in here and my hand almost froze off trying to retrieve it.In the distance you can see where the glacier comes into contact with the glassy lake; it gives a sense of the epic scale here.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this 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.

Sunset in Ibiza Ibiza is a fabulous island off the coast of Spain that is the "in" destination for all the Euros that like to get trashed, party, dress in white, do medium-level-drugs, and stay on the beach without many clothes.I saw this girl bouncing around and very happy about something, so I went over and said hello, introducing myself.  She didn't speak much English, but I managed to ask her if I could take a photo of her.  She enthusiastically said yes, and I explained the sitch as we walked over to the water, mostly using interpretive dance to span the language gap.  She was Italian and her name was Wendy.  I think that is a strange name for an Italian, but I didn't question it.  Anyway, I asked her just to walk off into the ocean and I would take a photo.  She did just that, and I grabbed this shot just as the sun was dipping below the horizon.- Trey RatcliffThe rest of this entry resides here at stuckincustoms.com.

The Treetop Temple Protects Kyoto I'm just finishing up almost two weeks in Japan, and it has been an amazing trip! Usually I try not to start posting shots until the trip is at its close, and this is the first.While there, I spent time all over the country. I got a rail pass and just jumped on the bullet train to take me from one remote spot to another. I ended up with a few days in Tokyo to do my best to capture the city. I'll be posting photos from the trip throughout the next few weeks, months, and years, as usual. I hope this is a new line of photographs that will be interesting to you.Photographed here is the Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto. The city is known for its traditional Japanese architecture, slower-paced life, natural beauty, graceful geishas, and zen peacefulness. I probably could have stayed in Kyoto capturing scenes the entire trip. I remained here until the sky turned black, and then I headed back down some winding streets to find an old small restaurant where the food was mysterious and every course was served with a gentle bow.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Approaching Mount Fuji from the Old Village What a perfect place this is!I’ve been to Japan many times, but I never had the chance to visit Mt. Fuji! This time, Tom and I made a point to do it, and this was one of our fist stops. You can see much more about it in the video above!- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

A Neo-Rockwellian Christmas When dad is a photographer, then there is a major degree of pressure to deliver photos on all the requisite holidays and celebrations! So, I decided to try to re-invent the family Christmas photo with HDR. Please note that many of my inventions go down in flames, but, as Winston Churchill said, “success is the ability to go from one failure to the next with no loss of enthusiasm”.Christmas scenes have a lot of light levels. The lights on the tree, the deep greens withn the branches, a roaring fire, lights in the room, reflections off the ornaments, and the like. It’s wild! I’m pretty sure this is why people like Christmas scenes so much - a wonderful treat for the eyes that is rich in texture and rich in light. Traditionally, it’s been very difficult to capture so much richness in a single photo, saving a lucky and heroic combination of shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and lenses.The tree lights made the faces of my three stunt-children (who are also my real children) glow perfectly. No flash could have achieved this, unless you are the kind of Rambo-flash guy that would go bury one inside the tree to hit their faces from the left. But, let’s face it. That’s hard.This was a 5-exposure HDR. You will notice that I often use 5 exposures, but note I could have done it with 3 exposures at -2, 0, and +2. Some silly Nikon cameras, like the D3X I use, will not let you step by twos, so I had to take 5 at -2, -1, 0, +1, and +2. The middle exposure, from which the kid’s faces were masked in and perfectly lit, was shot at f/4 aperture, shutter speed of 1/250, 100 ISO, and at 28mm.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Farewell India I had a truly wonderful time in India and I can't wait to return.  After spending most of the day exploring the Taj Mahal, I found a car to take me across the river.  The bridge was over 100 years old and crowded with every type of locomotion - from donkey to pull cart to bike.  After working my way down to the river, I found I could not quite get low enough to take the photo I wanted.  So, reluctantly, I took my camera off my tripod and buried it in the mud, about half an inch above the water.  I spent all night in the bathroom saying I was sorry to the camera... cleaning her up back into her old self once again.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Road to Mount Cook along Lake Pukaki These lenticular clouds are pretty rare — but not on the south island of New Zealand! This is called the land of the long white cloud… I’m not sure of that means these lenticular clouds or not. Maybe a smart reader here on the blog can tell me!Anyway, I do love this photo… I think it is one of my new favorites…- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Photomatix Review

Photomatix Full Version or Free Trial

If you end up buying, use the code, TREYRATCLIFF, at checkout for 15% off. You can also get a free trial to play around with, but I think you’ll decide quickly that it’s a must have. There are a few options at the website; personally, I use Photomatix Pro.

For a limited time use the coupon code “TREYRATCLIFF” to save 15% on all Photomatix products.

TRY PHOTOMATIX TODAY!

Great Photomatix Presets

Once you get into Photomatix, you may enjoy using my presets! They are not-so-cleverly-named Trey’s Photomatix Presets. I use these every time to give me a lookbook of many different variations on a photo. If you want to see some of my work that uses these techniques with Photomatix and whatnot, pop over to this portfolio.

Photomatix Pro 5 Review

I started using Photomatix many years ago, and it’s a big part of the free HDR Tutorial here on the site. HDR is an acronym for High Dynamic Range, and it basically lets you see all the range of color and light in the final photo that the human retina can see on the scene. Naturally, Photomatix allows you to create a “subtle” or “extreme” photo using these techniques, and that’s the fun part about it. You can use Photomatix to make your photos look totally unique!

Photomatix Pro 5 – Is it worth the upgrade and what’s new?

Yes, I think i is certainly worth the upgrade. Having the latest tools that are reasonably priced has always been important to me. There’s nothing wrong with the older versions, of course, but generally this kind of software in general tends to get better with time. There are hundreds of minor little changes that you will notice, but here are some of the bigger ones (at least, to me).

First, the new Tone Mapping method called Contrast Optimizer is really good at balancing realism and keeping that cool “HDR Look”. Everyone has their own balance, and this new way is much better at helping you find your own line of comfort.

Second, the Automatic deghosting is much better. I had hit-and-miss success before with de-ghosting, and now am consistently getting better results. It’s not always perfect of course if you have a massive amount of chaos, but it’s pretty dang good.

Third, the Real-Time slider Rocks!! If your computer is fast enough, be sure to pop into preferences to turn this on! In the “olden” days, you’d have to click and wait. Seeing what the slider actually does while you slide it is bizarrely satisfying!

Fourth, the auto-aligning is even better!

Fifth, there are a bunch of other little things that I have not had the occasion to use yet, but I am glad they are there. Things like the batching of photos and more options for creating a tonemapped image from a single RAW.

This is an aesthetic thing, but I much prefer the new “Unified Workspace” option on the Mac rather than having little windows floating all over the place. That always bothered me and made things feel clutter-y !

Photomatix in action

Here is a sample below of what the new interface looks like after I combined the these three images.

Trey_Lightroom_Catalog_-_Big_Computer-2 lrcat_-_Adobe_Photoshop_Lightroom_-_Library

Adjust_and_Preview_-_Milford_Trip__180_of_637_And2more_and_Photomatix_Pro_5 0

Merging to HDR

Before you begin using all the fancy sliders and fun stuff above, the first step is making a few decisions. You can see the updated “Options” box below along with my most commonly checked items.

Merge_to_HDR_Options_and_Trey_Lightroom_Catalog_-_Big_Computer-2 lrcat_-_Adobe_Photoshop_Lightroom_-_Library

Ghosting

If there is movement between the frames, then this is called ghosting. Photomatix has gotten much better in cleaning this up! If you did select the “Show options to remove ghosts,” then you are presented with another dialog. I often choose the “Automatic” one as you can see, but you can also manually draw a shape around the area that is ghosted.

Deghosting_Options_and_Photomatix_Pro_5 0

Real Estate

Here’s one of the latest Exposure Fusion options — Fusion/Real-Estate. I noticed it actually only works in that exact situation! A lot of people take photos of indoor situations with a very bright outside through a door or window. This is a pretty cool new feature for those sorts of shots.

Adjust_and_Preview_-_Trey-Ratcliff-France__4069_of_4795_And3more

Presets

You can see a bunch of the default presets that come with Photomatix below.

Adjust_and_Preview_-_Tokyo-Big-Sur-Trip__4005_of_4969_And4more

Finishing Touches

This is my new favorite dialog ! After you are done processing the photo, you can do a few final things to it. In this example, I’ve zoomed in pretty far to add some serious sharpening to this crazy mountain. Normally I don’t do it this much, but I was just showing how this feature works!

Finishing_Touch_-_Trey-Ratcliff-New-Zealand__46_of_252_And4more_fused_and_Trey-Ratcliff-New-Zealand__46_of_252_And4more_fused___23%

Crazy results

I’m loving the new Photomatix 5. I remember trying to process this photo below with other versions of Photomatix, and I just could not get something like I wanted. Now it just seems like a much more smooth experience for getting the results I wanted. First, I’ll put up the original photos then one of the many versions that Photomatix can produce below.

Trey_Lightroom_Catalog_-_Big_Computer-2 lrcat_-_Adobe_Photoshop_Lightroom_-_Library

Adjust_and_Preview_-_Trey-ratcliff-france-adventure__28_of_177_And8more_and_Look_at_the_way_-_tratcliff_gmail com_-_Gmail_and_Photomatix_Pro_5 0

Video of Photomatix in action

Below is a video of an older version of Photomatix. Much of the functionality is still the same, so the new versions won’t act much different.

Sample Photomatix Photos

Below, I have put a few samples of my final photos where Photomatix was used!

 Moonrise Kingdom This is one of my favorite new pieces from this year! I just shot it a few days ago.It was shot waaaay after the sun went down in Big Sur, California. This is a crazy waterfall that pours off onto the beach. You can’t see it from the road, and it requires a short walk. I found it thanks to Stuck On Earth, although I am sure other locals have known about this semi-secret place forever! You can go here too… it’s not terribly difficult. It’s called “McWay Falls” and it’s beautiful any time of the day.Also, btw, I’d like to thank those of you that have been ordering more prints recently — I am honored! :) You can always click just below the photo to check sizes and prices to find something to fit your budget. Thanks again!- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Bamboo Forest While exploring Kyoto, I eventually found my way to this fanciful bamboo forest.  There had been a light rain most of the morning and everything was quite lovely.  The rain does strange things as it moves its way through these sorts of trees.  I waited and waited, and that was nice too.  In the early afternoon, the rain stopped while the sun peeked through the top.  It shone down while the earlier rain misted down from the tops of the trees.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

-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.

Inception: New York I took these photos in New York City before going to LA to prepare for Burning Man. I found this spot below in midtown during a walk from Bryant Park over to the Facebook HQ in NYC. If you check my Facebook page, you’ll see some photos that Luke shot of me while I was taking this shot. It’s the one when I was awkwardly up under my camera shooting almost straight up in the air! You know that position…- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Lijiang at Night This is the old town of Lijiang, China, where I spent the week with Tom Anderson (the MySpace guy).  I think I mentioned him before.  Anyway, we got to be friends over the past several months, and we ended up spending a week together here in the south of China.Tom had first been here many years ago when he was setting up the MySpace office in Beijing.  He had great memories, and he thought it would be great for a big return now that he is getting more into photography.  So, it was definitely a week full of non-stop photography action.One late night after the sun had set, we weaved through the old streets until we found this place.  Looking up, I knew it would be a wonderful place to take a photo, so I set up for this one.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this 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.

The Secret Workshop of Jules Verne This is perhaps my favorite find on my most recent trip to Europe.  How can a place so wonderful exist in our world?  It's amazing.I got a recommendation from a close friend that told me I would love this place.  And he was right!  As usual, to see the full-size image, click Original in the menu that appears when you hover over the image in SmugMug.This is the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle and is one of the least-known places in Paris.  Everyone goes for the hot tourist spots, and this museum sounds rather boring, yes?  But as you can see... au contraire!- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Treetop Temple Protects Kyoto I'm just finishing up almost two weeks in Japan, and it has been an amazing trip! Usually I try not to start posting shots until the trip is at its close, and this is the first.While there, I spent time all over the country. I got a rail pass and just jumped on the bullet train to take me from one remote spot to another. I ended up with a few days in Tokyo to do my best to capture the city. I'll be posting photos from the trip throughout the next few weeks, months, and years, as usual. I hope this is a new line of photographs that will be interesting to you.Photographed here is the Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto. The city is known for its traditional Japanese architecture, slower-paced life, natural beauty, graceful geishas, and zen peacefulness. I probably could have stayed in Kyoto capturing scenes the entire trip. I remained here until the sky turned black, and then I headed back down some winding streets to find an old small restaurant where the food was mysterious and every course was served with a gentle bow.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Impossible Mountains  The mountain is very spiky and narrow, and it’s embedded in a very rough patch of peaks.So I did my best to capture it in context. There are great super-hairy horses everywhere, and four of them were playing on one side of the river. I set up… and waited…waited…waited…. for them to get in the right spot and then finally took a photo.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Long Road to New Zealand This is one of countless beautiful roads that crisscross New Zealand.  I'm afraid I've forgotten exactly where I was when I took this photo!   I know that is very lame, but I bet people around here can help me pinpoint the area.As far as the camera settings, this is the kind of shot you can get with something called "compression," a method where you use a zoom lens and zoom in quite far.  It takes images in the distance and makes them larger than life.- Trey RatcliffRead more here at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Walking Home

Approaching Mount Fuji from the Old Village What a perfect place this is!I’ve been to Japan many times, but I never had the chance to visit Mt. Fuji! This time, Tom and I made a point to do it, and this was one of our fist stops. You can see much more about it in the video above!- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Big Announcement! The Arcanum Opens its Doors!

New kind of Master & Apprentice based Academy for Art and Photography

Want to join in early for the initial launch? Jump on the waiting list now over at The Arcanum! We’re bringing back the Master & Apprentice method of teaching photography and art through modern technology. Come join with us in the new online movement and explore your own, personal, artistic path.

We’ve got some great Masters now for the first batch too, and we’ll have many more soon. But here are just a few Doug Kaye, Thomas Hawk, Catherine Hall, Karen Hutton, Jeremy Cowart, Dallas Nagata White, Frederick Van Johnson, Dallas Nagata White, Gordon Laing, Nicole S. Young, Doug Kaye, Alexia Sinclair, Laurie Rubin, Lisa Bettany, Dave Cross, Jaime Ibarra, Miss Aniela, Jason Law, Brian Matiash, Mike Hollman, Frank Doorhof, Mike Langford, Jackie Ranken, Doug Kaye, Tim Pierce, Bel Jones, Cliff Baise, Peter Adams, James Brandon, Alex Koloskov, Damion Hamilton and even more! Those names took a long time to type in, but they are worth it! Honestly, I am so excited to work with these amazing people — we’re building something completely new, in a way. This idea of Master & Apprentice is very powerful, and we are going to build this new kind of self-replicating Academy from the ground up in an organic way.

I am truly honored to be spending time with such excellent Masters. My theory is that the knowledge that is in their heads is extremely valuable, and the best and most human way to unlock it is by establishing Master & Apprentice relationships. This system allows the idea to flourish and self-replication. I know that even me, personally, if I could have someone like an Alexia Sinclair to mentor me, give me challenges, critique my work — how awesome would that be? I’d never forget it! I did the same thing with Jaime Ibarra , but I actually had to drive over to his house in Austin and have him show me stuff. How inconvenient! And it’s much better than just watching his videos on the Internet; often times watching videos on the Internet feels sterile and lonely without a human connection.

But I could go on and on… Pop on over to The Arcanum and see and read more for yourself!

Thanks Peter Adams!

Many people have been saying lots of very nice and exciting things today. I hate to pull just one out, but here’s a nice take on everything from one of the Masters, Peter Adams:

The Arcanum Launches!

Here’s another big idea from +Trey Ratcliff.

I’m super excited to be a part of this and here’s why…

Many of the photographers that I consider living masters today got their start as “assistants” to other photographers. They agreed to work all hours of the day/night (for very low pay) in order to learn the craft from their master. Needless to say, being a photographer’s assistant isn’t something that everyone can do.

What’s so cool about The Arcanum is that technology now makes this same master/apprentice learning model much more accessible to a far wider group of photographers. Apprentices can access/learn from masters but do so at their own speed and on their own terms.

If you’ve ever been on a photowalk with Trey (or any of us) you might have experienced shades of this. It could have been while listening to how/why a shot was setup, watching how flash can be used to light a scene, or just getting feedback on your technique.

Well, now there’s a way to take your learning process to the next level by tapping into that kind of coaching/feedback on a 1:1, ongoing, basis.

I’ll see you at The Arcanum.

Daily Photo – The Infinity of China

Here is a new photo I really love.

It was taken in the old city of Li Jiang, China when I last visited there. I did not get a chance to work on it until just recently. In fact, I love it so much, you can probably see it up there on The Arcanum website behind some of that parallax scrolling text.

I like the idea of this kind of Chinese infinity, the repetition, the slight variations on a constant theme. It all kind of came together in this scene.

liJiang China

The Infinity of China

Photo Information

  • Date TakenSeptember 13, 2011 at 6:39am
  • CameraNIKON D3X
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time1
  • Aperture6.7
  • ISO160
  • Focal Length28.0 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

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