About Trey Ratcliff

“I’m a warm-hearted, old-school gentleman explorer with really cool toys.”

About Me:

I’m a Photographer, Artist, Writer & Adventurer

Follow me:

  • Speaking Engagements: Amie Yayor (ayahor@caa.com)
  • Advertising & sponsorships: advertising@stuckincustoms.com
  • Business ventures, partnerships, etc: business@stuckincustoms.com
  • Something unexpected and fun? wildcard@stuckincustoms.com

“Trey’s pictures are a daily source of inspiration for me. I can’t count the times that I’ve gotten stuck in my writing and, as I sit there staring at my computer screen desperately trying to think of the next idea, the screensaver kicks in with one of Trey’s images, and the shapes and colors triggered something in me that got me to the next note…”

Hans Zimmer, Composer,The Lion King, Gladiator, Batman, Inception, Sherlock Holmes

About the About Me page

Hello! :) I’m quite a humble person, really, but I know that people that come to this page want to know more about me. This page started out small, but people ask more and more questions, so the page grows and grows!

Briefly… a photography-centric bio

I’m best known for, well, I suppose, this site, StuckInCustoms.com, which has become the #1 Travel Photography Blog on the Internet. On average, the photos get over a million views a week, including a few from my mom. My work first became popular after I had the honor of having the first HDR photo ever to hang in the Smithsonian. After that, I was fortunate enough to be represented by Getty (who I have since dumped because they take 80%), been featured on the BBC, ABC, FOX, CBS, and NBC, and have had numerous showings around the world. I am known generally for the unique way in which I capture and process the world around me. I have my own “take” on HDR Photography, and you can see my free HDR Tutorial right here.

I grew up blind in one eye and this might have changed the way I view the world. I don’t know. It’s hard to be objective about the way one’s brain was wired. My background is in computer science and math, so I bring an algorithm-like process to capturing the scene in such a way that it evokes memories in a palpable manner. Whatever that means. My promise to you: One New Photo Every Day.

Speaking at Google Zeitgeist

If you are extra curious about me and HDR photography, this video is a pretty good summation of the whole shootin’ match. The talk “The World We Design – Technology and Beauty in Photography” is from Google Zeitgeist Americas

What I look Like

Don’t most people click on an “About Me” page to see what the bloke looks like? I don’t like photos of me, and I can’t ever decide which one is representative of me. For example, I look much different when I wake up at 4 AM to take photos of the sunrise. At those times, I look like death.

Okay this is me

My mom thinks I look cute in this photo. Who am I to disagree with my mom? I don’t know what else to say here other than maybe you would like to subscribe to my YouTube Channel where we have all sorts of videos. I don’t know if you are a photographer who likes tutorials or simply a fan. Either way, I have lots of videos there.


Tech Talk at Google HQ

I’ve given two tech talks at Google, and this is the second one of them… I talk about “Artists and the Internet: Digitally Extending your Natural Self” — and maybe you will find it interesting, even if you are not an artist!


After the hike

This was taken by a Russian friend in southern Argentina after we had backpacked about 40km through the Andes on a photography adventure. This is what I look like after she made me borscht for a solid week. My Russian roomate was a 300-pound beluga of a man who I shared a tent with one night. He smelled of gas and cognac. The next night I slept alone in my sleeping bag outside in the snow.


Tutorials and Reviews

I freely share my photos and many tutorials with everyone. I use the Creative Commons license, so people are free to use this stuff on their own, as long as it is not for commercial purposes. A lot of people come here the first time for the various tutorials or reviews. The first tutorial is about my style of photography which has a special little twist – the details are in my HDR Tutorial.  If you want know even more, we also offer a downloadable Complete HDR Tutorial. The Camera Reviews section has also been growing a lot lately with some good stuff. Perhaps you can get the inside scoop on cool things in there.


Coming Out of the Sandstorm

I was walking across the desert at Burning Man just after a massive sandstorm, and out of the dust emerged another photographer. His name was Luke Stephen Severn and he asked if he could take a photo, so while pulling up my brass goggles, he got this.

People always ask where I got those brass goggles. If you just jump on etsy.com and do a search for “Steampunk Googles” (or Steampunk anything), then you’ll see some cool results!


Categorical Breakdown of Me:

The Basics

  • Name: Trey Ratcliff
  • Gender: Dude
  • Primary Language: English
  • Place of Residence: New Zealand
  • Sign, although I’m not into this form of mysticism: Cancer
  • High School: Jesuit College Prep Dallas
  • University: Southern Methodist University (Computer Science and Math)



Here’s a photo of me on another one of my masochistic (but awesome!) photo adventures around the world. See all those spires back behind me? I’m actually up on top of one of them. This is a hard-to-reach area of southern China that was the inspiration to some of those scenes from Avatar. I climbed those spires twice in the same day. I got to one of the top of them just as the sun set, and had to descend in the middle of the absolute dark. I had a tiny flashlight on my camera that kept me out of trouble. I’ll never forget the time I was two inches from stepping on this very mysterious and bad-ass snake that would have liked nothing better than to rock my face off. And yes, when I travel, I miss my family. They often meet me for bits and pieces, or I just look at this nice Christmas photo of my kids to remind me!


In a Nutshell

Most people find me odd, and others have trouble finding me at all. I’m often busy doing something terribly important, but it seems hardly important to the other person once they have found me and asked me what the hell I am doing.


Monks seem to feel my Zen power

This is me in Cambodia with Sokhoun. He’s a very nice guy that became a friend and helped show me all over the place. He’s the one in the robes. I tried to get him to carry my tripod and help out a little, but he said it was against his religion. I did not hold that against him. As you can see, I was very sweaty. Siem Reap is extremely hot and muggy, and it doesn’t help when you can’t even convince a nearby monk to help you carry all your stuff.



  • Photography
  • Philosophy
  • Genetics
  • Swarming
  • Computer & video games
  • Sociology
  • Anthropology
  • Writing fiction
  • Drawing
  • Raising kids (little RPG chars)


  • Soccer
  • Jogging with iPod on too loud
  • Snowboarding
  • Making up a lot of games if there is another guy and a ball involved
  • * above hobby sounded sketchy

Books (one from each genre…)

  • Patrick Rothfuss or George RR Martin (Medieval Fantasy)
  • His Dark Materials (Alternate Fantasy)
  • Cryptonomicon (Techno-Thriller)
  • Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Comedy)
  • Ender’s Game (Sci-fi)
  • Tale of Two Cities (Classic Fiction)
  • Atlas Shrugged (Fiction Novel)
  • Genome (Science)
  • Journeyer (Historical Fiction)
  • Winesburg, Ohio (Short Stories)
  • Free to Choose (Non-fiction)
  • I don’t want to list a ton of books…  but anything about genetics, patterns, anthropology, history, come visit my library and I’ll have a big pile of books for you to borrow!


(I hate listing movies because it makes me sound like a My-Spacey 13-year-old-girl, but people seem to like reading this sort of thing because they feel like it gives them a cutting Freudian insight into my psyche, a notion I heartily dismiss.)

  • Amelie
  • Tombstone
  • Fantastical movies like The Fall, Big Fish, and Pan’s Labyrinth
  • Crouching Tiger
  • Office Space
  • Serenity
  • Napoleon Dynamite
  • Best in Show and that whole line of movies from Christopher Guest
  • The Big Labowski
  • Ron Fricke movies like Baraka
  • Obvious predictable adoration of LOTR, SW, Batman series
  • Anything with Christian Bale
  • Anything with Woody Allen
  • Nothing that stars both Christian Bale AND Woody Allen


Where the plates split apart

Here I am out in Iceland right at the spot where the Eurasian plate pulls apart from the North American plate. The geography is really wild in this area and the ground is perhaps the slipperiest place on earth. I’m there with my ever-present tripod, which does a pretty effective job of keeping me balanced.



  • Ambient and world new age electronica
  • Gotan Project
  • Bel Canto & Anneli Drecker
  • Cesaria Evora
  • Dave Matthews Band
  • Patrick O’Hearn
  • David Darling
  • Acoustic Guitar… Spanish Guitar
  • Listen to almost all genres though, except for Eskimo music, which I despise.


  • Ricky Gervais shows…
  • Lost
  • Rome
  • Firefly (canceled, sadly)
  • Deadwood
  • House
  • Burn Notice
  • The Office (both)
  • All the Connections shows with the great James Burke
  • Good Eats
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • Arrested Development
  • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
  • Blackadder
  • Simpsons
  • Favorite Cartoon Voice – Foxxy Love


  • Italian
  • Chocolate
  • Anything with carbs
  • Chocolate (did I say that already?)


  • Englsih (barely)
  • French (enough not to get sneered at by the French themselves)
  • Spanish (enough to order Texmex)

Quotes I like:

  • Homer: (screaming) “Why must I fail at every attempt at masonry?”
  • Winston Churchill:  ”Success is the ability to move from one failure to the next with no loss of enthusiasm.”


A slide shade of evolution

This was shot near the Batu Caves of Malaysia by my best friend Will Kelly.  Now, it might look like me and this Macaque are smiling at one another.  Well, I am smiling.  That monkey is showing aggression (they do so by baring their teeth). My jugular is a warm, salty half-second away.  But, right after this moment, I threw him a piece of fruit and made a hasty egress.



Oh, also, I also like the to draw and I find it helps me quite a bit with the photography. I started teaching myself in an experiment to see if I could learn in April of 2008. Here is a compilation of some work I did between April and October of that year. I still don’t think I’m very good, but I look forward to improving.

If you would like to see more drawings and sketches, I’ve put them all in the Drawing category.

Learning to Draw by Candlelight (by Stuck in Customs)


Besides drawing, I also like digitally paint. I have done a few of these… none are for sale – just experiments. You can read more about it and see more on the Fire in Yellowstone page.


Welcome to STUCK IN CUSTOMS Welcome to my travel photography blog!
Enjoy the daily photos, tips, tutorials & more!
Newsletter Sign Up
The Most Beautiful Newsletter Ever!

  • © 2004 - 2014, SIC Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.