Stuck In Customs

My daily travel blog to inspire and get you motivated!

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Beautiful Hallway in Hong Kong

Fun Creative Gadget for Kids

Here’s a cool music maker I recently got for my 13-year-old daughter. I wasn’t sure if she would want it or not, but we watched a few videos and she got super excited.

Daily Photo – Beautiful Hallway in Hong Kong

Check out this hallway in the Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong. This hallway leads to some absolutely amazing restaurants where I ended up eating way too much food! Also, this hallway seemed to be very popular among Instagrammers. I had to be pretty patient to wait for all of them to get out of their egoic selfie zones so I could set up with my tripod.

Beautiful Hallway in Hong Kong

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-03-15 04:20:37
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time2.5
  • Aperture10
  • ISO400
  • Focal Length24.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias+2

The Incredible Disappearing Waterfall

What’s In Trey’s Bag?

Here’s a new What’s in Trey’s Bag video! I haven’t updated this in YEARS, so it’s time for some fun! I have all of this stuff listed at www.Kit.com/TreyRatcliff – you’ll actually see in there I have it separated into different sort of kits for beginners or experts. I also have other mini-kits in there for gadgets, books, and all other sorts of goodies. Enjoy!

The Fiordlands

Here’s a Google map that shows the fjords I was exploring. What a crazy place, eh? I’ve never been to the fjords of Norway, but that is next on my list! If you haven’t tried it, be sure to click the 3D button there on Google maps and you can use the Command/Ctrl key on your keyboard to spin the map around in any direction.

Daily Photo – The Incredible Disappearing Waterfall

A few weeks ago, I went and lived on a boat for several days down in Dusky Sound in the far southern fjords of New Zealand. It was so beautiful! I remember looking at that map above before I moved to New Zealand and thinking… wow, wouldn’t it be cool to explore all those little nooks and crannies in the fjords! Anyway, while floating around, we saw this incredible waterfall that seemingly came out of a cave in part of the mountain and disappeared into another cave.

The Incredible Disappearing Waterfall

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-10-28 17:45:27
  • CameraFC220
  • Camera MakeDJI
  • Exposure Time1/450
  • Aperture2.2
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length4.7 mm
  • FlashNo flash function
  • Exposure ProgramProgram AE
  • Exposure Bias-1

Pena Palace from the Sky

Russian Wedding Photos

I never get tired of looking at the latest crop of what happens in these Russian Wedding Photos. I was doing some research for this book about Instagram, and it ended up sending me down this rabbit hole once again.

Daily Photo – Pena Palace from the Sky

This was one of my more frightening drone flights! I’m not used to doing a lot of quad excursions that take the unit a few miles away from me, but I decided to go for it here because I might not ever have another chance. Also, there was not really a “perfect” angle to take a photo from the ground. There is lots of space all around it, but it’s covered in trees so you really can’t get a clear view. Getting a shot from the air seemed like the best solution!

Pena Palace from the Sky

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-04-17 19:32:21
  • CameraFC6310
  • Camera MakeDJI
  • Exposure Time1/15
  • Aperture2.8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length8.8 mm
  • FlashNo flash function
  • Exposure ProgramProgram AE
  • Exposure Bias

Derek Sivers in a Field

Sam Harris Meditation App

I have many meditation apps… this is a new one from Sam Harris that I really like. I think it’s perfect for people just getting into it for the first time. I’ve been meditating for a while, but it’s still fun to “start over” with a new set of techniques. That Sam Harris, he’s a cool cat.

Daily Photo – Derek Sivers in a Field

I think I really nailed it with the title of this photo. It came to me instantly. I don’t know what force brings about these amazing photo titles, but I am very thankful for it.

Man, I miss this guy! We were gonna do a big road trip across New Zealand, but we were both too busy to make it happen. He’s in Portugal now. Maybe I should make a trip over thataway and we’ll do a road trip there!

Derek Sivers in a Field

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-03-21 04:50:19
  • CameraX1D-50c
  • Camera MakeHasselblad
  • Exposure Time1/2000
  • Aperture3.5
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length30.0 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Tina Guo Ripping Up String Instruments

Hans Zimmer Live on Netflix

Don’t forget to jump on Netflix, turn up the volume, and check out this amazing concert. You’ll definitely be seeing Tina Guo slay a cello during some of the scenes.

Editing the photo of the abandoned yacht in Hong Kong

This is one of my favorite photos I took this year. Today, you awesome Passport people get to see me do a full edit of this one from the RAW file all the way through completion.

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Daily Photo – Tina Guo Ripping Up String Instruments

What do you get when you cross an out of control BDSM scene with a cello? You get Tina Guo.

Anyway, what’s so cool about this gal (where do I start?) is that she’s a total badass on stage. She looks angry and she’s about to rip the face off the first man she sees. Anyway, that’s what I see. Maybe you see something different. But then, off stage, she might be the nicest and sweetest person on the planet.

Tina Guo Ripping Up String Instruments

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-06-09 22:27:59
  • CameraILCE-7RM2
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/200
  • Aperture6.3
  • ISO1600
  • Focal Length240.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

The 16th Avenue Tiled Stairs in San Francisco

The Mavic 2 Pro Zoom

I got the Mavic 2 Pro Zoom (see it on my Kit.com) for one main reason: It has a cool feature where it zooms into 48mm and then takes 9 photos in a grid so you can stitch them together later as a panorama. In my first test, which you’ll see below:

1) I did a regular photo, which came out to about 4,000 pixels across (3992 to be exact)

2) Then I did the zoom-pano, stitched it together in Lightroom, and ended up with a photo that was about 9,500 pixels (9486 to be exact).

I find this to be incredibly exciting!

Compare it to my Sony A7r Mark III. It takes 42-megapixel photos, which translates to about 8,000 pixels across (7952 to be exact). This means that, effectively, the Mavic 2 Pro Zoom takes higher-rez photos than the Sony A7r Mark III.

Here is a single photo (24mm) taken from the same spot as today’s Daily Photo in the bottom of this post. I haven’t made any enhancements to it or anything…

Daily Photo – The 16th Avenue Tiled Stairs in San Francisco

I’m not 100% sure this is the stairway, as I ended up here by accident! If I am wrong, feel free to correct me.

This was my first test of the new 9-photo panorama. I have done a bit of touch-up to it using Aurora HDR and some other tools. Also, I did some fixes to the horizon. If you look at the first image above, you’ll see the horizon seems off. I think it’s actually correct, but the way the land slopes to the left makes it look like the camera was askew a bit. Anyway, I made an adjustment using the perspective cropping tool in Photoshop.

The 16th Avenue Tiled Stairs in San Francisco

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-11-18 17:24:22
  • CameraFC2204
  • Camera MakeDJI
  • Exposure Time0.5
  • Aperture3.8
  • ISO1600
  • Focal Length8.6 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramProgram AE
  • Exposure Bias

Pre-Interview Sunrise

Aurora HDR 2019

Hey guys, don’t forget to pop over to our store and get the new Aurora HDR 2019. Today’s photo is a good example of what it can make out of a single RAW file (handheld shot).

Daily Photo – Pre-Interview Sunrise

One of the New Zealand TV Morning Shows invited me down for an interview early one morning here in Queenstown. They were set up down by the lake, and it was freezing cold. I don’t know why they decided to do it at the coldest time of year, but, hey, I’m not in TV production. Anyway, I went down there to give a little interview about my fine art and some of my collectors. About 30 seconds before I ran onto the set, I took this photo!

Pre-Interview Sunrise

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-07-04 08:08:31
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/125
  • Aperture2.8
  • ISO1600
  • Focal Length23.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Checking out Books in the Tianjin Library

Kalebra Kelby Interview

I do a lot of interviews, but I think this might be my favorite one! 🙂 Right after Burning Man last year I flew to Florida to make some classes there. I sat down for a long-format discussion with Kalebra. You can see the full 1-hour interview here. Note you have to sign in and stuff, but you don’t have to put in your credit card number or anything… not a paywall! 🙂

Daily Photo – Checking out Books in the Tianjin Library

This library was both amazing and confusing, in more ways than one. I spent about three hours inside of here taking all sorts of photos. They would not let me use my “big boy” camera, so I had to use my Pixel 2 phone. But hey, I must say, that Pixel 2 phone is pretty incredible. Now I’m using the Pixel 3, and it’s even better!

Checking out Books in the Tianjin Library

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-06-13 14:50:43
  • CameraPixel 2 XL
  • Camera MakeGoogle
  • Exposure Time1/120
  • Aperture1.8
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length4.5 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramProgram AE
  • Exposure Bias

The Airport in Madrid

American Airlines Story

Wow, I really don’t like flying with these guys. This is gonna be a little negative, which is strange for me, being a zen positive guy that generally is not bothered by all the things that seem to bother other people.

When I go back and forth to New Zealand, I generally prefer Air New Zealand or Qantas. The planes are great and the service is even better.

I have a great travel agent that I love (hi Hans!) and sometimes I take a more inexpensive option to save money. That usually means I end up on American Airlines. This one was a business class seat, so one would not expect any complaints at all, but I’ll tell you two quick stories.

About halfway through the flight, I got up to use the restroom in the front. I walked past the flight attendant in the galley to go to see if the restroom was open. The pilot was there, and he looked like either he was hanging out or waiting on the restroom. Anyway, this flight attendant JUMPED in front of me very aggressively and said, “You are not allowed to be here while the pilots are swapping out. Use the other one!” My goodness. It was really crazy. Did she think I was about to put the pilot in a headlock and gouge out his eyes or something?

Are Americans now so full of fear that they institute these insane policies into their airlines? We all know airport security is mostly useless (I call it “security theatre”) and it’s mostly a big process to make people “feel” safe but it doesn’t actually do that much. Now I see the same policy happening on planes. Hey, what if I just wanted to talk to the pilot? I’m a great conversationalist. I’m sure he’s bored as hell. Anyway, I found this entire situation to be incredibly stupid,

Here’s the second story, although this one is a rather minor complaint.

I woke up with about 3 hours left in the flight. They were serving breakfast. This time it was another flight attendant that came by. She asked if I wanted coffee. I said yes, and I also wanted a bloody mary. International waters, and stuff, you know.

Anyway, she rolled her eyes and said, “Well, we’ve already locked the liquor cabinet.” I wanted to say, “Listen, lady, who are you? My mom? I’m a little hungover. Get me a bloody mary stat.” Anyway, I didn’t say that, but I gave a sheepish, “Please?” She gave a heavy exhale and went back to the galley to go through what must have been a tremendously exhausting experience to “unlock” this devilish den.

She finally brought it to me with the rather passive-aggressive comment, “I can do it this one time, but now everything is locked.” I was thinking… omg, I have to spend at least 2.5 more hours sober with this bitch.

So yeah, that’s kind of a mean thing to say, but it’s objectively true. I travel a lot internationally, and I’ve noticed many (but not all) flight attendants that fly for US-based airlines have a real attitude. They don’t really want to serve you and they clearly think of it as a “job”. Compared to Air New Zealand or many Asia based airlines, it’s the complete opposite. In those, the flight attendants are obviously enjoying serving people and they consider it a noble and proud thing to make people around them happy. Anyway, rant finished.

Daily Photo – The Airport in Madrid

I know people say a lot of negative things about the economy in Spain, but, for some reason, they have absolutely beautiful airports. They are better than almost any airport in the USA. I spent many many hours walking around and just taking photos. If you plan on traveling internationally, I always recommend putting big gaps between your flights to explore all these airports photographically!

The Airport in Madrid

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-09-19 18:08:50
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/125
  • Aperture4
  • ISO1600
  • Focal Length31.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Part 3 of the Camino Story – Aaron Lammer and New Matt

Where do I start with this guy? Maybe here with this 360 video (a reminder that you can grab the video and turn the camera any way you want).

When I was invited on this 150km hike in Spain with 10 people, I didn’t know most of them. But I did a little googling ahead of time so I would get a sense of the sorts of characters I’d be stuck with for a week. One of them was Aaron Lammer, who was easy to get-to-know because he has three podcasts. One of them is on cryptocurrency, one of them is about weed, and one of them is about long-form writing. I only listened to the crypto ones and I was immediately impressed by his approach to the subject matter.

See Part 1 with Kevin Kelly talking about Death here.
See Part 2 with Hugh Howey talking about World Building here.

What impressed me the most was his openness in his understated approach of “I don’t know anything about Crypto, but let’s figure this out as we go along by talking with other experts and funny, strange stories from the crypto world.” Note that isn’t an exact quote, but that was basically his pitch for the show.


Aaron Lammer, always ready to ham it up.

I’m not going to talk much about crypto here. I’m a believer that this will be how most humans transact in the future. Actually, even though I love my friend Hugh Howey, he could not disagree more! I’ve met many people that are quite divided on this subject. It’s interesting at a meta-level how an idea can be so divisive. But most people on this walk were really into philosophy, so it made for some great conversations.

I’ll step back a moment and explain why I liked Aaron so much.

He has a lot of deep knowledge in a vast myriad of subjects. I think whatever subject I brought up, he had strong opinions about everything.

Also, during our final dinner with all of us, he had a good old-fashioned cry, as most of us did. That’s a big deal. When you can cry in front of a bunch of other dudes. I won’t say what we all talked about because I’m the best secret-keeper in the world, but it was all wonderfully emotionally stirring.

Aaron does so many things! He even just produced a music video for Francis and the Lights. How does one guy do so many things that appear to be unrelated?

My armchair psychoanalysis is this: Aaron gives 100% of his energy to things that are interesting to him. The only commonality between producing music to crypto to weed to long-form writing is Aaron himself. I get the feeling that he’s tried hundreds of things, but they just weren’t all that interesting to him, so he focused everything on these items. And, if they don’t serve him in a few years, he’ll be onto something else interesting to him.

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

All along the path of the Camino, we would see signs like this, showing us how much further we need to walk. By the way, in a lot of the world, people use commas rather than periods to denote a decimal.

Perhaps my favorite part is that he’s unapologetic about his interests and beliefs. It’s a delicate balance to have strong opinions on a myriad of subjects and not be an egoic asshole about it.

I really like this quality in people. Maybe this is a solipsistic thing because I am very similar. I’m easily distracted but when I find something interesting, I put 100% of my energy into it without apology.


One of our foggy mornings, walking on the Camino in Spain.

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

When the fog cleared, we would often walk by some of the most beautiful plants, trees, and flowers.

There is a funny story along the Camino with Aaron. Well, there are dozens, but I’ll tell you this one in particular.

Just before the final day of our hike, Matt Mullenweg (founder of WordPress, my roommate, and the subject of a future story) left us because he had to go speak at their annual conference. Also, his knee was really hurt and he was hobbling around in a terrible way that made us all feel bad for him. Anyway, our group was one short, and we made a “friend” at one of the rest breaks that we called “New Matt”. I don’t remember the guy’s actual name, but it doesn’t really matter because he was New Matt.

New Matt totally sucked.

We all hated him, but he walked with us for many hours anyway. Who hated him most? Aaron Lammer. He turned out to be the diametric opposite of Aaron. For example, Aaron knows a lot about music. This New Matt could not have infuriated him more. New Matt says he refuses to listen to music after The Beatles and thinks everything is terrible.


This is Old Matt. He was awesome. When we thought of old Matt, it only reminded us more about how much we hated New Matt.

What really ground Aaron’s gears were the same argument techniques that seem to be used by people raised in the Jewish culture. Aaron is not a practicing Jew, but he definitely has those funny Woody Allen argumentative tendencies. New Matt was a bit more hardcore Jewish, from Israel, and even more opinionated than Aaron. The big difference is that New Matt had his entire ego and “story of self” tied into his opinions and he was completely blind to hearing other viewpoints. This drove Aaron absolutely crazy and, even after New Matt finally left our crew, it was the subject of conversation for countless hours. It was like Aaron ventured off into the forest to have a pee and he got a splinter in his nutsack he couldn’t extract for weeks.

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

A random scene along the Camino.

I think our experience with New Matt really helped us to get to know Aaron better. Not until one meets their foil does one come to know oneself. And we were all listening in to their heated conversation with reckless delight. You don’t want to get on Aaron’s intellectual bad side. No matter how cunningly Aaron attempted to paint New Matt into a corner of his own logical demise, New Matt would slip away into a straw man argument that was only loosely related. Aaron prepared a riposte with a steel man, only to be deflected in a subtle way with another unconnected point that would increase Aaron’s frustration and re-direct the verbal battle.

We recorded countless hours of our talks, but that is the ONE talk I wish we had recorded.

Anyway, we all love you Aaron. You all should go listen to one of his podcasts now.

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

Oh, look how sad Aaron is here. I’m sure he’s still thinking about that dastardly New Matt.

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