Happy Girls in Guangxi and more great feedback on The Arcanum

More Great Feedback on The Arcanum!

First, The Arcanum hit #8 of the Top 51 Websites for Learning Online. Amazing! That’s a great tribute the the team, the Masters, and the Apprentices! Thanks everyone!

And here are two wonderful Apprentices who made some lovely posts about their thoughts and experiences! The first is from Rose Fredriksen and the second is from Marjorie McDonald.

Daily Photo – Happy Girls in Guangxi!

One night I went out in the rain to take photos while staying in the little town of Yangshao. It was great fun! I was using my Sony A7r and my Leica 35mm f/1.4 which requires manual focus. Naturally, this means I need both hands to take photos. Luckily I had my guide Andy with me to help hold the umbrella!

Happy Girls in Guangxi!

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/500
  • Aperture
  • ISO4000
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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

The Dock Crumbles

Phantom 4 Video

We’re getting lots of good feedback on the new Phantom 4 review video! Thanks again everyone, and don’t miss the new updated Phantom 4 Review.

Daily Photo – The Dock Crumbles

You'll recognize this beach immediately if you saw the new quadcopter review above. I like everything about this photo except for ONE thing. Can you guess what it is before you read the next para?

It's a small thing… but a tiny thing that gets under my skin. You see the photographer down there by the broken dock? I should have moved the quad just a little bit so that his figure did not bleed into the pier.

The Dock Crumbles

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraFC330
  • Camera MakeDJI
  • Exposure Time1/147
  • Aperture2.8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length0.0 mm
  • FlashNo flash function
  • Exposure ProgramUnknown (58655)
  • Exposure Bias

SmugMug Review

Saving Money with SmugMug

If you end up reading the review and agree with me, that SmugMug is the best, then you can sign up over at SmugMug now and you will save 20% off ANY of their packages. What package to get? I recommend the Business plan (that’s what I use, click here to save $60!) because you can sell prints and make a some money to support your habit, but you can find out more below.

Try SmugMug FREE for 14 days and SAVE 20% on a new account!


The Two Best Things About SmugMug

Beauty and Flexibility. It’s like dating a hot yoga instructor.

But first, join me in Morocco with Smugmug Films!

I was really excited to have the crew from Smugmug come out to join me in Morocco for a bit. Here’s a video they made.

Is it really the most beautiful and flexible?

Yes! I’ve looked at all the others and this newest version of SmugMug is definitely the best. In all honesty (and they would be first to admit it), SmugMug started to lag behind some of the other sites until they announced the recent redesign. Now it does Even More than everything I ever wanted.

When I say beautiful, I’m referring to all the amazing themes and looks you can put on your portfolio website. It doesn’t matter if you do landscape or wedding or portrait or whatever — you can definitely find a theme that will make your work look very impressive.

When I say flexible, it is scary how much you can change to make your website uniquely your own. Even better, it is easy to customize with simple menus. I was able to make my site look exactly like I wanted without needing to do any code or scripting nonsense.

Great for Beginners but powerful if you’re Hardcore

The new SmugMug has a nice setup for all kinds of users. They have some basic templates where you can just click a design and nothing else is needed! I know this is a big segment of the market, and so do they. You can jump back and forth and try out a bunch of different templates that match your style or your business.

If you’re not a beginner and want to customize your site even more, then it is very easy. It’s so easy, in fact, that I bet a lot of beginners will feel comfortable doing it. I bet we are going to see some crazy customizations of SmugMug sites – I can’t wait to see what people do!

Interview / Review of SmugMug

Right after the new SmugMug came out, we did a little hangout review show that was a lot of fun. It had the big guns from SmugMug in here too… Lot’s of Q&A and cool stuff!

The Style of My Portfolio

I decided to go with a different kind of style for my portfolio. I don’t know if you care about my reasoning, but I’ll let you know here.

I believe that the way people consume photography on the internet is evolving. The “old” style of galleries is full screen and you click NEXT NEXT NEXT (or right arrow) etc etc. And then you wait for it to load, and then you do it again…

I think people prefer to scroll vertically (they have been trained on this now thanks to Facebook and Google+ and Instagram) and they can stay on an image as long as they want. When they are ready to scroll to the next one, they do so at their own pace. For this reason, I went with my current style, to make it as full-screen and vertically-scrollable as possible!

Click here to try SmugMug FREE for 14 days and SAVE 20% on a new account!

How to customize SmugMug

I recorded a video below that shows more about customization in general and my specific customization.

You can Make Money with SmugMug!

Yes! Now all of your photos can make millions of dollars! Hehe, well, not really… BUT, you can make some extra money on the side by turning on various options.

  • You can charge people to download digital versions of your photos and set different prices for professional and personal use.
  • You can set pricing for Prints. Pick the size offerings and the costs. You can get up to 85% markup. That’s a great profit margin!
  • You can also sell merchandise. Smart!

Maybe you are a soccer mom that takes good pictures at the games and then wants to put them up on SmugMug, email the team, and then let parents buy photos. Easy! BTW, that’s not a bad idea is it? You know you already take pretty good pics (beter than those other parents), so why not make a little money off it!

Or maybe you take photos that are a bit different than everyone else in the world, but you have never quite found the perfect place to both host your portfolio and your storefront. This is a perfect solution, and it is so inexpensive to get started.

Below is a screenshot of a sale I had on SmugMug. You can see the customer bought four images. You can also see the base cost (what I pay) and the customer cost (what they pay). The difference in between is my profit. You can set your prices to whatever you wish.

SmugMug Review

You can set the prices for printing, downloading, or merchandizing options.
If you want some of these services, you will have to get the SmugMug Pro account. You get so many other features, it is totally worth it. Just think — you basically get to start an online photography business for really cheap! This sort of thing just was not possible a few years ago in an easy and simple way.

If, on the other hand, you want to take things to the “fine art” sales level, that is possible too. There are many print options that you will find available.

My Top Five SmugMug Features

The newly upgraded SmugMug means different things to different kinds of people. Think about the gargantuan task they undertook — how can a company build a portfolio website in the modern age that appeals to all types of photographers in the world? Some people just take photos for fun and want to a chance to be able to sell them for a bit of profit to support their habit. Others are wedding photographers, some of which struggle to make bookings, and others of which are overloaded with clients and proofs. Some (like me) are landscape photographers and want a pretty place to show our work.

1) Simple customization

The beautiful templates that are available (even at launch!) are super impressive. The idea that you can just click and pick a theme is very powerful. And then, once you realize you can easily swap between themes, it all gets a little bit too intoxicating!

They even named a theme after my friend Thomas Hawk, who is also an avid user of the site. That theme plays well to photographers like Thomas who take a ton of photos and want to be able to share them easily and beautifully. Other themes will work better for portrait or wedding photographers. And landscape photographers, like me, have a whole host of themes to choose from.

If you are generally afraid of getting into the details and changing your customization, then this one-click scenario is the way to go. Oh, and once you choose a theme, you’ll probably want to pay attention to #3 below!

2) Complete Customization

The previous SmugMug was very very very very very difficult to tweak out designs. Now, there are smart drag-and-drop controls with individual menus that let you make adjustments.

I was able to go into a complete customization of the default SmugMug template and make my site look exactly like I wanted. Awesome! I never had to look at any code or php or script or any of that nonsense. In fact, I found the whole process to be very fun and interesting. It actually made me think very hard about EXACTLY HOW I wanted people to experience my work on the internet. This is very philosophical in a way, you see. I enjoyed the process, and I loved using the tools to realize that philosophy.

Now, you can take a default template (like in #1 above) and simply add a few new controls or navigation items. So you don’t have to start from scratch. Say you don’t like the way the menus are laid out in one of the basic templates — well that is easy enough to change. And then if you want to change the way the photos are displayed, then you are in luck there too. The controls are very simple and powerful.

HDR Photo

3) Photo organization

I might be alone in thinking that it has always been a pain to re-organize photos after you’ve uploaded them to the web, but I don’t think so. I’ve never seen anyone do it right and slick until now. For some reason, the engineers at SmugMug were able to do something that not even Google or Flickr can do.

I have a lot of photos in my two albums, and I find that I’m constantly re-organizing them. The order is really important to me… I’m always getting new favorites in my top 25 or top 100, or I begin to dislike ones I once enjoyed. I’m indecisive like a woman, but that’s okay. Let’s just say I’m in touch with my feminine side.

Anyway, it’s very fun and fast to re-order my albums and move files around folders. It’s logical and snappy. It has also given me a great chance to get in there and clean up all the clutter that happened over the years.

HDR Photo

4) Help menus

When I occasionally have a question, I’ve been very impressed at the built-in help. It’s smart in the way it points you to the solution right within the UI. This is hard to explain, but you’ll know it when you see it.

SmugMug also has a bunch of Human Helpers — I think they call them Heroes — that are online waiting to help you out too. That’s nice… I doubt you could ask for human help on Flickr/Yahoo and get any kind of timely response (if at all!).

HDR Photo

5) Scalable for every device

Wow this is a big one. People now access the web using a huge variety of devices. It’s depressing, but you’d be shocked at how many people first experience your portfolio on a little phone. I know you don’t want it to be true, but, really, it is! And this percentage will just continue to grow.

We all (me included!) like to think that people experience our portfolio on a nice big monitor with huge resolution. Of course, that is how WE like to look at it, but the number of people that actually experience the portfolio site in this high-res web browser mode is not as high as we hope.

So, it is even more important that the portfolio site is responsive from every device, from dinky iPhones to tablets to huge monitors. The way the site bends around to every kind of device is super-impressive. There is a lot of secret-sauce happening, I can tell. At some point as the width shrinks to a mobile phone, for example, my navigational elements change from a horizontal arrangement to a vertical arrangement. This is cool! I bet there are a few people that might complain about this, but not me. It’s more important that people be able to navigate your site than it to maintain the original orientation and have an unreadable, tiny font.

HDR Photo

Any negatives with SmugMug?

Well, it’s not free. I guess you can complain about that if you are a Marxist. You will have to pay some money, but, in exchange, you do get a lot of great services (beautiful portfolio, backup, ability to make money through your prints).

Some people may also complain about the lack of social features. I don’t mind this at all — I don’t need SmugMug to be a social network… I just want it to hold my portfolio. It does work easily with Google+, Facebook, Twitter, etc etc… and I think that is smart. There is no need for SmugMug to make its own social network.

I’d prefer better WordPress integration. Currently, all the images on my website here are housed on SmugMug, and I have to jump through some copy/paste gymnastics with the daily post. That’s not a huge problem, but it is a slight inconvenience.


Look. It’s great. Life is too short not to use the best. If something better was out there, I would definitely switch to it… Even if you are on a another site and already have a lot of momentum, I’d consider making the switch now because SmugMug is a powerhouse and it’s only going to get better.

Click here to try SmugMug FREE for 14 days and SAVE 20% on a new account!

Why I use SmugMug Business

SmugMug put together this little video a looong time ago… you’ll even see the original style of my portfolio before the New SmugMug… I think it came out pretty well! BTW, they didn’t pay for this or anything… it’s just a cool video, so that is why I’m sharing it!

The Ritz-Carlton, Phulay Bay, Thailand

A Thailand Recap!

Now that I’m back home from a the 50-day trip, I’m gonna do a little 5-day recap of the 5 countries we visited along the way! Wow, what a trip… I’m still getting my head around the whole thing. Now, some of you may know how I absolutely love staying at these amazing Ritz-Carlton locations all around the world. I feel so grateful for our partnership and everything…I know I gush about them all the time, but, I mean, comon, really! Check out how beautiful it is there… and the whole team is so nice. Anyway, I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you! I never want to check out of any location…

Thailand Videos

Anyway, here’s a few favorite videos of Thailand.

Thailand Photos

Here’s a few favorite photos of Thailand this trip, both on the property and around the environs!

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

Here’s the beautiful entryway where I would come to meditate. More on that below for the daily photo!

Exploring The Archipelago Around Krabi In Thailand

We had the most amazing boat ride around the archipelago. By the way, this is a pretty good example of the “type” of photo the Hasselblad takes.

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

My daughter feeds a baby elephant on the beach. How Cute Can You Get?

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

Isabella pauses after dinner on a bridge before we return back to the room for the night. We were hoping the elephant would be there too, but he was not…

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

On one of our last nights here, we were treated to an amazing show from all the locals. The kids were enraptured and my camera was in a state of constant motion!

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

This was one of our nightly walks, from the bar to another beautiful restaurant for dinner. They had so many amazing restaurants on the property that our minds were in a state of constant-blowage!

Daily Photo – The Ritz-Carlton, Phulay Bay, Thailand

This is a pretty peaceful view on the way to morning meditation, wouldn't you say? By the time I walked through all these bamboo pathways and peaceful shapes, I was already in the right mindset. In fact, I think this is maybe my favorite memory of this place. It's not a specific moment, it's more that I felt like I was in a constant flow of meditation while there. And I can't wait to go back!

The Ritz-Carlton, Phulay Bay, Thailand

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraH5D
  • Camera MakeHasselblad
  • Exposure Time8
  • Aperture4
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length28.0 mm
  • Flash
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

HDR Software

I’ve been creating HDR photographs for about six years, so I am well-versed in this topic!

There are a number of HDR Software packages available on the market. Some are free and some cost money. I have tried the vast majority of these packages. Because this site is considered on of the top HDR Photography websites on the web, companies often send me their packages to test. It’s always been my goal to find the easiest and most robust software. Regular fans of the site know that I only review and recommend software that I actually use. I have two recommendations depending on what computer you use to edit your photos.

Mac or Windows?

Do you primarily use a Mac to edit your photos? If so, then check out Aurora HDR Pro! I worked with Macphun for over a year to build the ultimate HDR software! If you’re primarily a Windows user then I would definitely use Photomatix Pro. I’ve used and recommended Photomatix Pro for many years. They gave me a Photomatix Coupon Code of “TREYRATCLIFF” that will save you 15%.

HDR Tutorial

I have a FREE HDR Tutorial for Mac or HDR Tutorial for Windows here on StuckInCustoms.com that describes the step by step process. If you’d like to dive deeper, I also have video tutorials for Aurora HDR Pro on a Mac and a separate one for using Photomatix Pro on Windows. Both tutorials show how I use the tools for a variety of situations… landscapes, sunrise/sunset, people, motion, etc..

HDR Camera

You do not really need a special type of camera, but I do have my HDR Camera recommendations here on the site. There is a bit more explanation there, in addition to a description of my own personal gear.

HDR Photos

Below are some sample HDR Photos that I’ve taken.

Merry D3Xmas from Trey and Stuck In Customs!

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

My Last Night In Venice

The Ritz-Carlton, Phulay Bay, Thailand

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

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

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

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone has a GREAT 2016… I think it’s gonna be an amazing one! I don’t really make New Year Resolutions, although I know it’s kind of a popular thing. I’m usually pretty good about making Completely Arbitrary Resolutions, and I do them randomly and just put them into motion immediately. This method has varied success.

Traveling Ratcliff Photo Circus Around The World!

I know I’ve done 3 days in a row here… I can’t commit to it because all this takes a lot of time and work, actually! But we did do some amazing things today that were worth capturing. It started out with all of us in a party van with a mirrored ceiling for a short ride to get on a boat. We took the boat for about an hour to visit four small islands around Phi Phi. They were amazing and we had a great time snorkeling and swimming. Where are they exactly? See This Google Map. We ended with a lunch on Bamboo Island before coming back… and pretty much after we got back, it was time to visit CoCo the baby elephant on the beach! CoCo is 3 years old and it was on the way to being a circus elephant, but the group here rescued him and now he does nothing but rest and relax and eat! Sounds nice… they say that chain is on him when in public because sometimes boats scare him and he runs wild!

Right before Coco walked home for the evening, the owner stopped for a moment for Scarlett to give a final snack for the night as the sun was setting.

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

Daily Photo – Right before Coco walked home for the evening

The owner stopped for a moment for Scarlett to give a final snack for the night as the sun was setting.

Right before Coco walked home for the evening

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraH5D
  • Camera MakeHasselblad
  • Exposure Time1/125
  • Aperture4
  • ISO400
  • Focal Length35.0 mm
  • Flash
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

People of Papua New Guinea Part 5

Top Questions Answered!

So, we’ve been looking at the comments about the New HDR Software from all different networks, newsletter, blog, and more! I thought I’d take a moment to answer some of the most common!

1) Does Aurora HDR do Luminosity Masking?
YES! Like, totally.

2) Is there a Windows Version Coming?
We’re talking to the team about it, so, yeah based on your outspoken feedback PROBABLY! haha… Look, I get it. This new software was released the same day as Fallout 4, and I bought that on Steam before I realized it was Windows ONLY! OMG I was gutted… I’m a huge gamer. I’m thinking about getting a Windows laptop JUST to play that game, which seems ridiculous, but I’m actually really thinking of it!

3) Can I do “Milder” HDRs?
Of course! You can set the opacity to whatever you wish. Everyone has their own tastes, and that’s supa cool. All the samples I show you on the webpage at http://www.stuckincustoms.com/aurora-hdr-software-for-mac/ are my “style” but you don’t have to go that extreme… or you can go MORE extreme. It’s all good… it’s creativity! :)

4) I don’t need Lightroom or Photoshop?
Nope! I still use Lightroom to organize my photos and to process some of them that don’t call for HDR, but I JUST use Aurora HDR Pro now. Also, thanks for all the suggestions… I’ve dropped lame Adobe Bridge and now using OnOne Perfect Browse for moving my photos around my computer and getting them ready for processing/sharing!

5) Is there a trial version?
NO! haha… BUT, if you’re not happy, you can have all your money paid back… we’re not worried about it! :)

Live on Facebook Video

Recently I went out to Glenorchy to Aro-Ha to see the hanging of one of my pieces. We did a little video while there and you can click here to see it!

Daily Photo – People of New Guinea Part 5

Well, this was an exciting moment. I didn't quite catch this chap's name, but it wasn't the first thing on my mind. Actually, I don't know why the first thing on my mind was to take a photo instead of run! Part of my nature, I guess.

Here's the full story… I was walking near the western coast of Papua New Guinea near a place called Tufi. Here's a map — it's a sinking volcano that makes a bunch of crazy jungled fjords. It's kind of a unique area for many reasons… one is that many of the local women permanently tattoo their entire face, starting from a very young age. I'll have a photo of that coming up soon…

I was there with my friend Rene and four other friends from Queenstown. We got a hot tip that we could take some canoes down one of the rivers with some natives that we knew through a connection. We all went and our plan was to visit a local village and drink in some of the local action.

After our canoe trip, which was quite beautiful and serene (you could sometimes see natives darting this was and that through the jungly bits), we came to a stop and disembarked. We had about three canoes and two locals with us. They spoke English pretty well and we started to head down a path to their village. At one point, they warned us that some of their tribe may come out with a show of force, so that added a tinge of excitement. And within a few minutes, these two guys with spears blasted out of the jungle with the same force that I blasted into my undies.

I couldn't totally figure out if they would follow through on the threat… I got the impression it was just the PNG equivalent of a Larry David staredown, which I find to be a more comical situation and highly preferable. Also I couldn't figure out if they just wanted to give us a tour of their village, or if they saw as a 6 creamy Twinkies.

Well, I figured, I could not beat this guy in single-hand combat since he was holding a Spear of +2 to Cannibalism. Since I was holding a Camera of +1 to Autofocus, I decided I'll try just to properly compose this, which could have been my last photo ever.

People of New Guinea Part 5

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/800
  • Aperture5
  • ISO320
  • Focal Length25.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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