Stuck In Customs

My daily travel blog to inspire and get you motivated!

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High over Shanghai and a Studio Tour for Passport Members!

New today for Passport Members!

If you are one of our awesome Passport Members then today you get to see a 360 Video tour of my updated studio with seasonal art! It’s also the first 360 video I made since upgrading the firmware on this cool Insta360 camera. Before, it was honestly pretty bouncy, but now I find it to be quite smooth!

We’re on a good pace to put up 60 new pieces of content per year for Passport Members, so at least once a week, I’ll be bringing you something fresh and new!

Stabilizing My Studio

It’s a new season around here, and time for another art hanging at my studio! I’ve been making one of these every three months or so to celebrate the turning of the season and a new set of art to hang! You’ll see it’s a bit snowy outside as I make my way over the studio… oh, and notice how mega-smooth the upgraded firmware is on this Insta360 camera!

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Daily Photo – High over Shanghai

I was really excited to return to Shanghai with all my new photo skills! I'm not saying I have all the skills in the world or anything, but I certainly have a lot more than my first trip there almost ten years ago. I look back on those older photos and I don't even like them that much. Since I was here for a solid week or so, I decided to shoot my heart out and see what I could achieve. This spot was one of my favorites because it made for a perfect vantage point in Pudong. This is shot from the rooftop bar at the Ritz-Carlton there. We actually took over the whole venue one day for one of my art talks about the 80 Stays tour. On that particular day, it was quite cloudy, but our first night here made for the perfect view!

High over Shanghai

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-06-18 23:32:42
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/4
  • Aperture4
  • ISO400
  • Focal Length28.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

The Sun is Rising or Setting in Sydney

Helping my Son with his Resume

My son Ethan is trying to get his first job and he really has no job experience except when the cops got him to go try to bust a few local bars. So I decided to help him write a more colorful version of the episode:

Undercover Cop (said in Cartman’s voice)
New Zealand Police Department

The NZ Police employed me to infiltrate dins of iniquity and use my cunning guile to expose lackadaisical standards of serving minors in local drinking holes. In disguise as my pre-drinking-age self, I surreptitiously entered pubs in Queenstown and Wanaka to beguile the local glasswipe with a bit of witty repartee before ordering a simple beer, a pilsner, a varied spirit, or a perhaps, on a whim, a rather complex girly drink. Despite my stage training, I was never able to bring any drinking establishment to its knees, a result that I entrust is an accidental benefit to my future employer after they leave work, tired of my musings, and “need a drink.”

Daily Photo – The Sun is Rising or Setting in Sydney

When I initially posted this, I thought for sure it was a sunset. But then my clever Aussie friends told me I was facing towards the East here, which means I was definitely 100% wrong. It's so strange, though, because I don't remember waking up for the sunrise there. But, clearly, I did. This just once again reminds me of how my memory is a slippery slope slipping more all the time.

The Sun is Rising or Setting in Sydney

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2012-09-25 16:50:09
  • CameraNIKON D800
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time1/125
  • Aperture8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length28.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

Two Girls Wander Through a Bamboo Forest in China

Editing Fireworks Quick Tip

Two days in a row for a Luminar Tip! Don’t forget you can download it here. This is a quick n’ dirty video that shows you how to edit fireworks and give them a bit more pop!

Daily Photo – Two Girls Wander Through a Bamboo Forest in China

This was my first trip to Chengdu, China, and I was surprised to find they had this giant bamboo forest near a temple complex. There are these cool red-walled tunnels that weave all around and through the forest. This area is also known for their giant pandas. I was kind of hoping to see one swinging around the trees, but no such luck. But there were a lot of festive people out walking around, like these two girls.

Two Girls Wander Through a Bamboo Forest in China

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-06-15 19:01:02
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/100
  • Aperture2.8
  • ISO1000
  • Focal Length16.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

The Magical Castle at Night

Luminar Quick Tip

If you don’t have this amazing tool, be sure to get Luminar on Skylum’s website. It’s really a great tool! In this video, I show a bit about how to enhance foliage with one of their cool tools. I also briefly mention my new drone tutorial in this video, which is now available in the store.

Daily Photo – The Magical Castle at Night

Many hardcore people get angry when I call this a castle because it's actually more of a monastery on top of a medieval village. But I'm not much for semantics and the form largely ticks the “castle” pattern-recognition part of my brain. This is Mont St. Michel in the Normandy area of France. I still recommend this as an amazing destination, even if you are not into photography. It's kind of touristy in the daytime, but it really clears out in the evening. If you're looking for a “lively” place with lots of cool bars and restaurants, it's definitely not that kind of place. But if you're looking for a place where you can play real-life Assassin's Creed, well it's much more that kinda place.

The Magical Castle at Night

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2012-11-13 22:50:04
  • CameraNIKON D800
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time15
  • Aperture5.6
  • ISO400
  • Focal Length250.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+3

Shanghai, The Bund, and Beyond

Working on a new China Video

While in China over the past year, I’ve done quite a few drone flights. I used the Mavic Pro almost exclusively, and it held up perfectly. I’m currently in the middle of a longer project where I’m putting together my favorite aerial footage into an all-China from the air video. I hope to have it ready within a week or so! I’m having my friend Stephan Bollinger put some finishing touches on the titling and credits area.

Daily Photo – Shanghai, The Bund, and Beyond

This might be one of my favorite new photos! I took this from the Sky Lounge around the 50th floor of the Ritz-Carlton on the Pudong side of Shanghai. These cool ships sail up and down the river and right in front of the warmly-lit Bund area. Those old colonial buildings have hardly changed in over 100 years while the rest of the city has built up behind it. Along the riverfront there, you can see a bunch of people walking around – that is the same place we had our awesome photo walk a few weeks ago. Thanks again everyone for coming out for the event!

Shanghai, The Bund, and Beyond

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-06-20 23:04:10
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/10
  • Aperture4
  • ISO800
  • Focal Length91.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

My Two Girls, Horsin’ Around

Horse Riding Tours

If you like riding horses and are coming to New Zealand, you should definitely schedule a few horse rides through the countryside. They are offered in almost every area. I’d recommend doing one in Glenorchy or Paradise, which is just about an hour away from Queenstown. That is the beautiful area where they shot Lord of the Rings and a lot of other movies. You can see many of my Glenorchy photos here.

My Two Girls, Horsin’ Around

My girls absolutely love horses. Below are two photos of them at their horse-riding school. It’s not just horse-riding, but all the stuff around it too. They do everything from brush and clean the horses to pick up the horse poop. They appear to love all aspects of this horse-care bit, which boggles my mind. They have been trying to talk me into buying a horse and keeping it here on our property. I have told them this is a preposterous idea and I will never do such a thing.

The Long Plane Ride to Antarctica

Tip Video – Making Grass more Supple and Dreamy

In today’s video, I show how to use Aurora HDR to make the grass look extra soft and alive. I have a theory about landscape photos in that people imagine walking around inside of them. A lot of people imagine walking barefooted around inside… so I like to do little things like make the grass look extra squishy or sand look extra warm and soft. Anyway, enjoy!

Daily Photo – The Long Plane Ride to Antarctica

Now, I always get a bit of feedback from plane experts when I give the model number of this particular unit. But I THINK it is a CL-130 Hercules. It's modified so that it lands on skis instead of wheels for the giant ice runway on the mainland of Antarctica. As you can see, it's not exactly built for comfort and business-class service specs on board. But, all things considered, it was actually quite comfortable. I spent most of the time up, walking around and taking photos. I got to be good friends with Randy the loadmaster and a lot of the rest of the crew too. There was plenty of time because I think it was about a ten hour ride! On board here were people from all four bases. I was on my way to the New Zealand base, but the other nations represented were the US, Italy, and Korea.

The Long Plane Ride to Antarctica

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2015-01-06 10:04:15
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/45
  • Aperture
  • ISO2000
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias+2

Three Girls Sit in an Impossible Library

China Daily Article

While I was in Shanghai, I was interviewed by the biggest newspaper in China, this China Daily. Here is a link to the article. There are a few factual errors in there, but that’s okay… I don’t think anyone there will mind too much, nor will they see this, since I am pretty sure my blog is still banned in China. That is too bad, because I actually have lots of nice things to say about the place and lots of pretty photos of China! Oh well. Here is a link to the article.

Daily Photo – Three Girls Sit in an Impossible Library

How amazing is this library? I made a special point to go here while in Tianjin, China. It's almost an hour outside the city, but it's totally worth it. There are some secrets about this library I won't tell you, but you would thank me if you actually knew the secrets! Anyway, it was full of lots of young girls who were taking way more selfies than reading books.

Three Girls Sit in an Impossible Library

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-06-13 14:42:14
  • CameraPixel 2 XL
  • Camera MakeGoogle
  • Exposure Time1/60
  • Aperture1.8
  • ISO149
  • Focal Length4.5 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramProgram AE
  • Exposure Bias

Burning Man Photo Editing

This Week on Passport

Today’s how-to video for Passport members is a bit longer than usual. I usually try to keep them under 5 minutes, but this one clocks in at over 15 minutes to edit a single photo. You’ll see everything from alpha to omega. I do a lot of detailed work on this one… probably a bit overkill, but I hope you enjoy!

Some favorite Burning Man Photos

Speaking of Burning Man, I thought I’d add a few from my //Burning Man Portfolio// over on SmugMug!


Trey Ratcliff - StuckInCustoms.com - Creative Commons Noncommercial contact licensing@stuckincustoms.com


Here’s how I edited a photo of the Black Rock Lighthouse. You’ll see me begin with Aurora HDR to make adjustments then end up in Photoshop to align and create some margins for artistic purposes. You’ll also see a lot of content-aware + clone-stamp action to clean up some of the mess!

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The Remarkables Across from Lake Johnson

New Luminar Tip – AI slider and Removing Color Cast

If you don’t have Luminar, grab it here! Today’s tip shows how to remove that color cast you may not know is there and how to use the AI-Accent slider.

Daily Photo – The Remarkables Across from Lake Johnson

Here's a photo I took on my three-hour hike around the lake. I think it only takes half that time, but I was really going slow and getting distracted. I didn't see another human soul the entire time, so it was sort of surreal. A lot of the Queenstown and Arrowtown area is overrun with tourists, so it's rare to spend times like this alone. I have a rough plan to come back here after a fresh snow, because I think it will look incredible!

The Remarkables Across from Lake Johnson

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-05-05 11:45:55
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/640
  • Aperture7.1
  • ISO250
  • Focal Length36.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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