Right after the photo walk in Moscow, Curtis, Olya, and I jumped on an overnight train to arrive in St. Petersburg for a day of photography and fun. Along the way, we stopped at several cool little coffee shops. This was the gal that was working there… I told her I thought she looked pretty cool and asked if I could take a photo. She said, “Yes, of course” in this long slithery Russian accent that made us all melt.
Welcome to Passport Sunday, that one day of the week where I post a special video for Passport Members. Today’s is all about how I organize my 5,000+ photos from this crazy event! Passport members, when logged in, see a “bonus” section of these blog posts on Sunday in addition to getting access to about 100 other behind-the-scenes videos. Thanks again for your support! 🙂
Want to see how I organize all of my photos in Lightroom from Burning Man? Wow, it is always an evolving process. I’m not saying this is the most efficient system in the world, but it certainly works great for me. Maybe this will give you some ideas on how to organize your photos!
There is a big auction soon in San Francisco to raise money for Burning Man artists. I might end up going out there for the big event. I believe I have four pieces going into the auction, and I guess we’ll see how they do. I don’t currently offer any of my BM work in our Fine Art series at www.TreyRatcliff.com – so this would be a good way to snag one of them, There’s more information about the event at the Artumnal Website.
Hey if any of you know Carl personally, send him a note and tell him to come hang out with me here in New Zealand before or after his big show! It would be fun to go take photos with him… I first discovered him at Burning Man.
Daily Photo – Another Perfect Sunset in Aruba
How pretty is this scene from our balcony? I don’t know if we were there a lucky week, but this was the view of the sunset every single night. It was so magical!
This is also kind of an extra-fun part of the evening for me for several reasons. One is, of course, I get to take photos. The second is that I know after it gets dark, we’re looking at an epic dinner coming at us! We were staying here at the Ritz-Carlton in Aruba and eating in the hotel every evening, so we knew an epic meal was on the way. I constantly ate way too much and was gaining about one pound per resort at this time. It was both amazing and depressing.
One afternoon and evening, we ended up in this abandoned spy-listening station in Berlin that was used during the cold war. Now it’s this spooky place that has become a haven for graffiti artists. Every floor has extremely elaborate art all over the place. We came here about halfway through our European tour, and I remember I was SO TIRED and EXHAUSTED. This whole place had such a weird energy too it. I felt so unusual the entire time.
I have just gone through an 8+ day epic journey to get a simple piece of $1,000 computer equipment through New Zealand customs. It’s just crazy… I’ll go on a little rant here about how useless and archaic the entire process is.
First, let me offer New Zealand Customs a Very Simple Solution. I ordered something off Amazon. Amazon is very smart. If NZ Customs worked with Amazon, Amazon could simply add the Import Fee at checkout, and then the money would go right to the appropriate account. I know this would be very easy for Amazon to code, and it would be much more efficient. Also, NZ would not have to employ so many people who do unneeded jobs that slow everything down.
The problem was my package was being shipped to “Trey Ratcliff” but my Official New Zealand Importer’s Code says, “Raymond Ratcliff.” I told them I’m the same person, but they refused to send me the package until the invoice was updated. I was like, come on guys, just send it to me, how many Ratcliffs are in New Zealand. I also sent them a copy of my passport that shows I am Raymond Franklin Ratcliff III, and Trey is a common name for the III. They wouldn’t budge.
So they started contacting the shipper to see if they could get it changed. That was a dry hole.
Then I called Amazon and spent HOURS on the phone with them and all their supervisors. I finally had to go into my settings and change my name on Amazon to Raymond Ratcliff, but that did not update the P.O. So they suggested that I send back the computer equipment, have it refunded, then I re-order with my new Amazon Account. I was like… you gotta be kidding me.
And if you think I’m complaining about the Customs process, you should have heard the Amazon people. They were ripping all Customs processes a new one.
The thing is, that the entire purpose of the New Zealand Customs is supposed to HELP New Zealand, but, in fact, it ends up hindering New Zealand. Me NOT getting this computer equipment is slowing down business. I have an international business I run out of Queenstown, and if I can’t easily get the tools of the trade, then it’s ultimately bad for New Zealand. Plus, it frustrates tens of thousands of people per day and employs a bunch of people whose entire job it is to collect money in an antiquated manner.
There’s a larger economic policy that all import and export duties are ultimately bad for both the consumer and the worker. But I won’t get into all that “Free to Choose” Milton Friedman stuff.
I feel bad for these poor people that work in Customs that are stuck in a system not of their own making. The whole thing needs to be torn apart and brought into 2018.
Daily Photo – A Fully Clothed Dip in the Pool
This was my personal pool at my room in Koh Samui at the Ritz-Carlton there. Pretty fancy, eh? Well it got to be so hot in the daytime, and I was often just drenched in sweat, so I would come back and jump in the pool with all my clothes on. Man, it felt good, and it was a pretty effective way of washing my clothes. I would get undressed in the water, then lay out my clothes on the deck to dry off. That only took about an hour before they were bone dry again. Note this is something that only a guy would do.
If you don’t know what The Arcanum is, then this is a good chance to check it out!
Well, it looks like Google+ is going the way of the dodo bird and will disappear from the face of this mortal coil. I’m not too surprised, as the trends were definitely pointing in that direction! I remember the days when, personally, I used to max out at 500 comments per photo I posted. Now I’m lucky to get THREE. Personally, I moved most of my action and interaction over to Facebook a while ago.
But what does this mean for The Arcanum, which depends HEAVILY on the interaction provided by the amazing Group infrastructure here on Google+? Well, immediately it means nothing. In short, between now and when G+ “sunsets” in the middle of 2019, we can continue to use it. In the meantime, we have a migration plan.
The migration plan is tied to possible futures for The Arcanum. In one instance, we are looking at some investment opportunities from outside parties that like the idea of taking it to the next level. I know we all love this idea of our Master & Apprentice matching system for creatives. I always think about it as “Uber for Creative Brains” – I think traditional education, particularly for creatives, is especially lousy and based on an outdated institutionalized education system better suited for training lawyers than open-ended creative pursuits.
Another plan is a possible merger with a larger platform that provides complimentary services. We’re not at liberty to talk about that now, but there are some interesting possibilities.
Either plan will have us create a proprietary group messaging system that is ideal for The Arcanum. It would also be more mobile friendly. Remember, we’re just using Google+ as a fancy “Group Chat” and this kind of functionality is pretty easy to replicate in technological terms.
Now, in the meantime, since The Arcanum is definitely not a dictatorship (quite the opposite from its bottom-up design), we encourage all Masters to take their Apprentices onto whatever platform they desire! Facebook Groups is a pretty good option, as I have a private group (that anyone can join) over at https://www.facebook.com/groups/BecomingAnArtist. They don’t quite have all the same features as Communities, but they are not terrible. Some G+ people HATE HATE HATE Facebook, though, so this will probably be more of an individual decision. These private groups can also work great for a group of Apprentices in a cohort to share their photos, get feedback, and do all the fun “Level-Up” quests in The Arcanum.
I’ll also give a little “biz-update” here. Things are clicking along. We are barely (BARELY) profitable, which is a good thing! It’s nowhere close to paying back the hundreds of thousands of $$ that Peter, Rene, and I personally invested in the platform. But staying a little bit profitable means that it’s not hemorrhaging cash, which is a death knell for any young business. I think, also, because of this, it will make it easier to raise money either from angel investors or startup funds. Also, I know the Masters really appreciate the extra income they get every month. If we get a chance to amp this up by many orders of magnitude, the profits for all parties should go up an order of magnitude as well. This is exciting for all of us on the financial side. But it’s also endearing on the personal side because we know how we’re spreading creativity around the world via the tried and true classical traditions of the Master & Apprentice relationship. All the Masters inside The Arcanum already know how many lives they have touched and changed.
I was recently reminded of how powerful The Arcanum is in people’s lives last week when I was in Porto, Portugal. I made a friend there named Jose Santos. He’s about 55 or so, and he’s been in The Arcanum for two years under his Master, Trace Aiken. We were having wine and watching the sunset across the river and taking photos. He was speaking so fondly of Trace. I totally agreed, mentioning that I could watch his critiques on video in The Arcanum video archives forever. Trace has definitely had a positive impact on Jose’s creative life, and that is a noble thing! And then, believe it or not, a few days later I was connecting in Tokyo on the way home to New Zealand. I had 10 hours, so I jumped on the subway to go to a remote part outside the city I had never visited. I wandered for an hour, found a cute little Japanese cafe, and went inside, setting down my camera on my table. The couple beside me saw the camera and could see I was a travel photographer. We talked, and after about 10 minutes they asked if I had ever heard of The Arcanum and a Master named Glenn Guy? I said, are you kidding me? Not only was I one of the founders of The Arcanum, but I met Glenn around the same time randomly while taking star photos in Milford Sound. A totally true story… I took a photo of them and sent it to good man Glenn!
Anyway, this little anecdote just reminds me that We Got Something Good A’Goin’ On Here, and it’s all the more reason to keep it alive. In short, don’t worry about G+ shutting down in the middle of next year, as we can continue to use it until then (9+ months left). In the meantime, we’re working on making an even better way for all of you communicate, share, and create.
Daily Photo – Pants in Porto
On my very first trip to Porto two years ago, I only got to spend one day here. It was great fun, though! This is one of the first things I saw… It’s not an amazing photo or anything, but it does show off the incredible color range and texture that the Hasselblad medium format brings out.
Hey everyone, I’m doing a free event in Glenorchy, New Zealand next week on Saturday the 20th at 7 PM. Come one, come all! Actually, don’t come all as there is only room for 120 people. I’ll be doing an Art Talk + Q&A. The event itself is free, but if you want to do a wine tasting beforehand, that is another option. Here is info and links below:
Trey’s Art Talk
Sat 20 Oct, 7:00pm–8:00pm
Where: Camp Glenorchy, 35 Oban Street Register Here
Free, but should register to ensure a seat. F&B available for purchase.
I’ll go ahead and assume you have a Netflix account. Anyway, go do a search for Hans Zimmer Live and get ready for an amazing show! Best watched Super Loud and with a beverage of your choice!
Daily Photo – Hans Zimmer in Concert!
I was lucky enough to see my friend Hans perform twice in Europe. Once was in Hungary and the other time was in Germany. Both concerts had a lot of similarities, but I was surprised how much Hans ad-libbed a lot of the stuff he was saying between each song. He was especially popular in his hometown of Germany where the fans went absolutely nuts.
I ended up with about 50 (or so) good photos of the two concerts and made a special book just for him and his crew.
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.
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.
Thanks again to Curtis and the rest of the team for getting the new site finished at www.TreyRatcliff.com! I think it’s looking pretty spiffy. The blog here is very casual… I talk in a very normal, laid back way… hey that’s how I really am! But for our Fine Art site, I wanted to make it a bit classier, you know. I mean, I’m a classy guy and all. Well, kinda.
Anyway, if you’re a Passport Member, you’ll see a video today where I talk all about how we price prints, how we sell to collectors and this sort of thing. Enjoy!
Here’s photos of a few of my prints hanging in homes around the world.
Behind the Fine Art
I’ve never really made a video like this. I’m a bit sheepish about this sort of thing, because I don’t like talking about money and this sort of thing. In a lot of ways, I think it can sully things. But, well, business is sort of a way of life. Anyway, in this video you get to hear a lot of details about how we price and sell fine art. Enjoy!
Here is the short story of my 150-kilometer trek from Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Over 200,000 people hike each year on this pilgrimage. In the olden days when people were still stoned, this used to be a Christian pilgrimage to visit the grisly bones of Saint James. Nowadays many people make the hike and it’s no longer purely religious, although many people are still stoned.
Either way, it’s certainly a spiritual journey.
In terms of religious hikes, it doesn’t really compare in numbers to that of Mecca, where 15 million people walk each year. That walk mostly originates from Jeddah and clocks in at around 70 km. Either way, this epic Santiago hike I did has multiple routes. The full route is over 1200 km from France or a lighter version from Portugal at around 200 km. Mine was just 150 because we started right at the border in Tui, Spain. It’s also shorter because we are all kinda lazy and get the point after 150km.
I’ve decided to tell a multi-part story via conversations I had with my nine other walkers. This event was put together by Kevin Kelly and Craig Mod who have completed a few of these sorts of walks around the world. The idea is a bit of a “Walk n’ Talk” where we mostly philosophize about the world, make jokes, and engage in a stimulating amount of mutual mental masturbation. Everyone on this adventure was from different walks of life. We had everything from tech magnates to authors to photographers to entrepreneurs to DNA researchers, and well, you name it.
It was great, for me personally, to establish deep connections with each and every member of our hiking tribe. At least, I think I did! 🙂
Below is one of many 360 videos (link to subscribe to my YouTube channel) I made while on this hike. I’ll post them a bit out of order. I talked to Kevin about several disparate topics in different videos including AI, an enormous underground clock he is working on that lasts 10,000 years, a series of bottom-up libraries that are being built in a Nevada desert, Burning Man, and last, something that sounds a bit macabre: Death.
You can click the gear to amp it up to 4K. In this 360 video, I am walking with both Kevin Kelly and Hugh Howey. We talk about rituals, in particular, a special ritual he invented for his kids when they turned 21. After that, we talk about death, and our nefarious plans to split up Kevin’s body as a new idea for a death ritual to honor him. It all sounds a bit dour, but it certainly isn’t. NOTE: If you have not seen a 360 video before, you can grab the screen and look in any direction you want!
The overall idea was that we spend most of the day discussing philosophy, science, and other erudite matters. Each night at dinner we had a different discussion. World governance, urbanization, religion, and relationships just to name a few. We would record about three hours of these blatherings and they’re putting together all the transcripts now.
Anyway, that was the texture of the seven-day hike. I’ll get started with an overall paintbrush stroke of the trip then get into Story #1 with Kevin Kelly. In the next one, I’ll talk about my discussions with Hugh Howey, whom you may recognize as the author of Wool and the Silo series of books. I’m starting with those two because I knew a lot about them either in person or via their work before the trip. After, that, I’ll share stories from some of the other ne’er-do-wells that joined us.
We started on the edge of Portugal, and you’ll see a bridge below that links northern Portugal and Spain.
This was a nice little surprise to find this bridge that connected the two countries. Strangely, even though we walked directly north after you touch the Spanish soil, you have to set your clocks back one hour.
This mini-bridge walk was technically before the whole hike even started after our motley crew assembled for an introductory dinner.
After dinner, I walked across this bridge around midnight with Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress and current CEO of Automattic. In a short time, we talked about a bit of everything from him changing my life by founding WordPress (my blog at www.StuckInCustoms.com) to doing recreational drugs at Burning Man. But I’ll save more of that for the Matt Mullenweg story day!
It was sort of unusual being thrown into a group of ten people who you don’t really know. I remember one of our fellow walkers, Chris Barclay said on the final night that he felt a bit intimidated in the beginning. You know, trying to figure out who the cool kids were and trying not to make a fool of one’s self. That’s a universal feeling everyone has when entering a new group. As we paired off in organic one-on-one situations, as I did on this first night with Matt, everyone could see there was nothing to worry about and this was a very cool, non-judgmental group. In a very short time, all that self-doubt disappeared like fog in the morning.
Many mornings laid a cool moist blanket of fog on us. Each day was usually 8-11 hours of hiking, and we wanted to get the bulk of it done before that brutal 2-4PM Spanish sun started to drill into us. Now I know why all Spaniards take a siesta between 2 and 4!
Above you see one of our typical mornings. We would often pair-up, but not always, and talk about a wide myriad of subjects. It made the countless hours of walking go by extremely quickly. I was so busy listening to other people that I barely even realized that 20km had already flown by.
And here was our final destination at the mighty cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
Not to skip ahead to the END of the story, but the photo above is where the journey ended 150km later, in Santiago de Compostela. The town itself was beautiful and the energy was palpable. I think, because so many people reach here every year in such a euphoric state, that it suffuses the town with positivity.
And here’s our awesome hiking group!
I’ll talk more about little things along the adventure here and there as I talk about each individual person… but, first, let’s start with the guy that invited me, and one of my only intellectual heroes: Kevin Kelly!
Part One: Walking & Talking with Kevin Kelly
I was glad to see that Kevin didn’t have ALL the answers to the universe. But he seemed to have most of them.
I only have a handful of heroes, and not many are alive! You all may have already read my story about another living hero, Hans Zimmer, but now this is my story of Kevin Kelly.
Kevin is best described (if possible) as a philosopher that ties together technology, history, and futurism into a central theme of optimism.
When I saw his first TED talk (now he has about four), it had a tremendous impact on how I approached life, the blog, my work, photography, and more. Even though Kevin himself is an accomplished photographer with countless crazy stories about traveling all around the east, most of the information he synthesizes is from a plethora of other subjects.
All pilgrims on the trail wear one of these special scallop shells. It indicates to everyone in the region that you are on the Camino walk. People will go out of their way to help you when they see this special symbol.
What exactly did Kevin affect during my “formative blog years”? Even though he didn’t specifically speak to this, it confirmed my instincts to make almost everything free. I would upload full-rez photos every day to the blog. I would not use watermarks. I used Creative Commons Noncommercial as a means to drive traffic back to the site. I gave 110% to the very few early fans that seemed to enjoy the work. Kevin has a great essay called 1,000 true fans that really resonated with me very early in my arc.
While passing by some vineyards near Portugal, a very nice lady came out and gave us more of the sweetest grapes than we could ever eat.
I first met Kevin about seven years ago when Thomas Hawk and I did that mammoth ~500 person photo walk in San Francisco. Kevin came up to introduce himself to me. I was like, “WHHAAAAAT! Kevin you don’t need to introduce yourself! I’m a mega fan!” And I was. I was just about as close as one can get to being a stalker without crossing the creepy line.
Since that time, we’ve been together on many occasions. We met in San Francisco and he even invited me over to his home in Pacifica, a Valhalla of sorts for me. That is when I first met his wife Gia-Miin, who also joined us on this walk.
Hugh Howey and Kevin Kelly taking a break on the walk
Last year he invited me to go eagle hunting in Mongolia with Tim Ferriss. I wanted to go, but it was right after Burning Man, and my wife would have killed me for being gone so long. So this year, when he invited me on the Santiago hike, I agreed! I had no idea what I was getting into, but I generally say yes to adventures then figure everything out later.
On occasion, we would go on ancient stone pathways and you could still see where the wagon wheels had carved a rut.
The whole week was such a treat for me and I was honored to hang out with Kevin. I felt like a little kid around him, asking 1,000 questions. I was trying not to be annoying… well, at least that was my goal. By the way, I am not really an “interviewer” or anything. I’m just a curious guy.
I came up with this plan to ask Kevin a different question every day and record it. I wrote down six questions beforehand, but I changed most of them as the week went on. For example, I never thought about talking to him about death until I was having a one-on-one with Hugh Howey and we came up with an idea on how to divvy up Kelly upon his exit from the mortal coil. It was of course influenced by this stimulating walk he encouraged all of us to undertake. All that talk began as a side-conversation after Hugh told me he planned on killing himself at 40. That’s another video I’ll post. I mean, the video of the discussion, not the actual suicide.
After I got to know the other walkers, I decided to take this idea to many of them too. So now I have many of these 360 videos with most of the walkers. Time and data didn’t allow me to record all 100+ hours of our time together, so I kind of picked randomly. Once again, Kevin inspires me intentionally or unintentionally to try new things and just be authentic in your awkwardness. I mean that in the nicest way, of course. I can tell that Kevin is an introvert, like so many of us. This comes across in his speaking style, a style that is uniquely his own. He’s so authentic and real that he both believable and endearing. I am sure this comes with something else he encompasses, being comfortable in his own skin. So many people aren’t, and he also got me started on that path about ten years ago.
One thing we share in common is that we have spent a tremendous amount of time in the east (China, SE Asia, Japan etc) with local cultures and taking photos. It’s made us both very attentive and present, I believe. When you’re talking to him and vice-versa, it’s like you’re the only two people in the world. I’m lucky I didn’t fall into a river or fall off a cliff while we were talking because it was so engrossing. He’s adopted somewhat of an eastern philosophy that seems to inform all of his thoughts and actions.
It’s impossible to summarize our 20+ hours of one-on-one conversations. Impossible. But you’ll see a few highlights as we release videos.
After a while, Kevin and I finally found the Internet.
I think his books and TED talks have influenced me so much that sometimes I don’t know where he begins and my brain ends. We were making obscure references to books, authors, tech, etc… at some point, I mentioned one of my favorite quotes. I asked him if it was Feynman that said it, and Kevin said, “Wait a minute, I said that!” I was laughing so much and apologized… I’m getting old.
Along the way, after we stopped in a town for the afternoon, Kevin and I went off on our own little adventure to record an episode of his “Cool Tools” podcast. He interviewed me then we walked around the park a bit after the recording. He turned to me and said something nice. “Trey, you surprise me!” I didn’t know what to say.
Here is one of the beautiful places we stayed along the walk. It was a family’s old farmhouse and our group was pretty much the only people in there!
One thing that I’ve noticed about Kevin that is not initially expected is how silly he is. He laughs a lot and says funny things. He is also very quick to laugh at jokes the rest of us make. It’s a wonderful thing because so many intellectuals can be so boring and self-serious.
My degree was in Computer Science and Math, so I’ve always been interested in tech and the future. This is a very strange time with the acceleration of everything from AI to Robots. I try to figure out where it’s going, but I get a lot of guidance (and optimism) from Kevin’s bullish outlook on these matters. See more about what he thinks about the future of AI in his TED Talk on AI or his latest book The Inevitable.
Of course, another typical question that comes up among geeks is: “Are we living in a simulation?” This question has been officially banned from Elon Musk’s hot tub conversations (for real) because Musk sees it as a “circular argument”. Kevin is a bit more practical with it, indicating it doesn’t really matter. He says the important thing is that we have a tangible effect on everything and everyone around us. That’s a pretty cool stance and helps get the mind out of that circular argument.
Kevin holds an umbrella over Gia-Miin to protect her from the hot Spanish sun.
Kevin’s super-IQ wife joined us on the walk too, Gia-Miin. She was the only female on the walk, so she was able to keep things fairly classy. You don’t want 10 guys together for a long period of time or else it can spiral down to nonstop tales of ribaldry. Anyway, Gia-Miin works at 23 and Me as a genetics researcher in the cancer area. She told me all about it one afternoon. I could immediately tell I was out of my depth when we started comparing the progress of genetic therapy and whether that would outpace tech innovation when it actually comes to helping humans get better. But they’re doing all sorts of amazing things over there, and it looks like they are going to figure out a lot of the “bad code” that makes humans have bugs.
Kevin and Gia-Miin have a really interesting origin story to their relationship. I won’t tell the long version, but it really seems to work and they are best friends. How wonderful! I know their daughter Ting from a few times when we have been at the E.G. Conference together. I need to send her a note that says, “Hey, Ting, you know… your parents are kinda weird.” I can’t wait to see her response. But, of course, I mean weird in the best possible way.
I’ll end the story of Kevin on the final night’s dinner after we all finally arrived in Santiago de Compostela. We again had a round-table discussion. At the end of dinner, everyone was a little bit teary. Kevin turned his chair to me as we were all getting up to leave. He put his hand on my knee and said, again, smiling “Trey, you know, you really surprise me.” Even getting more teary-eyed, I playfully pushed at his shoulder. “Hey man, that’s what friends do. They surprise each other.”
Here’s a photo that was taken by Craig Mod on the final hiking day of around 30 kilometers as we approached our goal.