Hans Zimmer in his Studio

Amazing Afternoon with Hans Zimmer

I sat nervously in his studio, waiting for his grand appearance, and I’m not really the type to get nervous.  I’m pretty cool-headed about such matters, but I’ve always considered Hans to be a great man.  And whenever I have a deep channel of artistic respect for someone, I start to feel the vapors a bit right before a meeting.

I geeked out and held my camera to take a photo of us, myspace-style. And then I took an iPhone pic o the back of my Nikon D3S f it to send to my family. It's not often I get to be a fan of someone, so of course I had to whip out the camera!

Waiting for him was nerve-wracking.  I had been in his studio about a year before, but that time I was alone the entire time. I wanted to come in and take photos since I had heard legends of his studio. A mutual fan (and friend now!) was able to get me through the impossible labyrinth of people to gain entrance to this valhalla.

Now, I’ll get to the bit about our meeting in a moment, and I’ll tell you about all the wonderful insights I uncovered.  It was so interesting.  But I won’t tell you everything we discussed.  There was some personal stuff, Hollywood stuff, project stuff, and things of this nature.  Maybe one day I can talk about them, but many things I can talk about here are still more than interesting.

I had been ushered into one of his studios by the security staff.  It was a Sunday afternoon around 2 PM, and his whole building there in Hollywood was fully staffed.  He had a full team running around doing god-knows-what.  I just assume it is awesome, whatever they are doing.  They were going about it in a nonplussed manner, but when they would disappear off into hidden doors and hallways, I could only imagine they must be working on amazing things.  I mean, they were probably not.  They were probably doing things like making sure there enough granola bars in the kitchen for the coming week, but part of me thought of fanciful things happening behind the doors.

While I sat there, I could see the entry hallway through the giant soundproofed door that led into his studio.  I had to think about where to sit in his cavernous boudoir.  There were about 13 different seating options, and every surface was so lavishly cushioned that I could have oriented myself 3 different ways, making a total of 39 different combinations I had to consider.  I didn’t want to sit too far away from the door, because then we would have one of those awkward walk-across-the-room handshakes where you have to hold your arm out while you approach the other person, almost as if it is a joust.

So I chose one of the couches near the door and put my bag on the ground.  I didn’t want to stare out the door, because then Hans might be uncomfortable while I watch him walk down a long hallway into the room.  And as I thought about this, I started to think I had made a bad seating decision indeed.

I then decided it would be best not to look down the hallway, and just look around the studio, which was fine enough.  There’s lots to see.  But every 45 seconds or so, I would hear another set of footsteps in the hallway.  Some sounded like slippers, sliding hurriedly across the floor.  I could picture Hans wearing slippers and a robe while he went about his composing business.  Maybe he was really eccentric like Hugh Hefner.  He is very German, after all, and those Euros can get away with being wonderfully eccentric.  I would not have minded, but I was also afraid to look.  For every click of the shoes, I tried to picture who might be wearing them.  But all this staccato wondering did is just add more butterflies to the mix.

Hans Zimmer Studio Images

Hans' amazing studio... It's everything I always imagined. Times ten.

While I was looking around his studio, I started looking at the lights.  They are these wonderful Cheesecake-Factory-like lights.  That seems like a horrible thing to say about the lights, but I think everyone can agree that the Cheesecake Factory has relatively cool lights.  They have warm colors with nice designs that cast a varied warm glow across the room…  Anyway, I was looking at them and the chains from which they hung.

There were four brass chains that came down from the ceiling, which itself is a textured deep red paisley pattern.  You could not see how many light bulbs were in the lights, but there must have been two because you could see eight shadows of the chains, splaying out in all directions across the ceiling.  Towards the middle of the circle, the shadows were tight and looked like well-defined sine waves.  As they got further and further, the amplitude and blurring increased, and they looked like sound waves shooting out in all directions.

And then, seemingly from nowhere, Hans blew into the room.  He shook my hand graciously, and he said, “You must excuse me, as I absolutely have to visit the loo.”  I laughed and said, “Of course, of course,” and with that, he had come in and out of the room like a pleasant jingle you’ve never heard before.

So then I was more relaxed.  He’s just a regular guy that has to go to the bathroom, like anyone else.  And that made me feel better.

And then he came back in, graciously re-introduced himself, and sat down at his nearby chair.  I remember that chair from my last visit, because not only did it sit in the middle of a semicircle of NASA-like equipment, but it also had a had a black sweater draped across the back.  It seemed a very personal thing to me, a favorite sweater over a chair, and I remember thinking how nice it was to touch it.

So Hans was in his chair and asked me what had brought me to LA.  I told him about meeting with my agent and inchoate plans/projects, but I didn’t really want to drone on about my stuff.  He doesn’t really care, I figure.  Or maybe he does… I didn’t know at that point, but generally I prefer to keep my synopsis of “What’s new in Trey’s Life” to a minimum, because I’d rather take the conversation into uncharted territory.

What did I want to talk about? I’m most interested in talking about things that no one has ever talked about before.  Asking the sorts of questions that are unexpected — not because I’m trying to be random, but because I genuinely wonder things about Hans.  His music fills my right brain while I’m out on location, taking photos, or when I’m in my home studio, candles lit, and Photoshop firing away on all 8 cores.

The Chair

Every corner has something worth several hours of investigation. I'm glad I had a lot of alone-time on the first visit so I could drink it all in. I kept looking and looking, and then when I felt myself getting a bit too creepy, I went on to a different area.

When I look at a photographer’s work, I mean really look at it, I feel like I get a little insight into their soul.  With music, I’m on uneven ground, and occasionally see the shape of certain truths.  I try my best to reverse engineer his thoughts and feelings when it comes to a particular part of a song, but all of this is laced with a lot of uncertainty from my standpoint, you see.

And it is a delicate thing to ask these questions in a reasonable manner.  As we get going here with our conversation, I’m secretly hoping that Hans is also only interested in discussing the kind of things that have never been discussed before.

I don’t want to ask questions like an annoying NPR reporter that is trying so hard to let the author know, “Hey I’m also smart because I’m spouting off all this BS that I kinda know about, and I can ask really long questions because I’m so freaking clever.”  People do this to me all the time, and I know the red flags.  I had a certain advantage here, in that I have vast experience with the full spectrum of empathy.  Since I am slightly famous in my own field, I am approached all the time by all sorts of people.  Most all are good-intentioned, and I’m sure a good many of them are nervous as hell, but I do notice when something is a bit awry.  It’s hard to explain, but you can feel it.

In a way, none of this was part of my conscious thought …  Because very quickly we were talking about art.  And when it comes to this topic, I do not worry about the conventions, nor do I second-guess anything I am saying.  And neither is he.  I ask him admittedly clueless but interesting questions about music, and he asks me admittedly clueless but interesting questions about photography.  We generally agree that there is a “ring” when something feels right and you know you are done with a piece.

30 minutes into 3 hours

We had planned on a thirty-minute meeting, but we ended up together for about three hours.  Here’s more or less everything that happened.

I’ll start with one of my favorite discoveries.  You go through your whole life thinking something is for sure, and you take it for granted, and then something pops out of the unknown to rock your foundation.  This was one of those times, and this is a pattern that I’ve been seeing again and again in the past few years.  And the only way I’ve figured out to challenge these cornerstones is to ask interesting questions to see what happens.

Before I get to the bit about Hans, I’ll tell you the bit about Matt Ridley.  And I’m not name-dropping here — but his is part of the theme of great men that I had false assumptions about.  Not that they are not great men — but there is something that I had always believed that was suddenly no longer the case.  It didn’t make me think any less of them, but it does clarify things in a poetic sense.

Matt Ridley is a famous author that has written countless best-selling books like Genome, The Origin of Virtue, and The Rational Optimist.  And, before meeting him, I had read them all.  Voraciously.  Now when I met this guy, I was thinking, this guy is going to be one smart son-of-a-gun.  It’s going to be like having a conversation with Wikipedia.  He’s going to find me completely mundane, like a graduate student who keeps using the centrifuge in the wrong way.  Anyway, I’m thinking all this and worse before I meet him.  So I build up this whole impossible relationship situation based on his Deep Blue knowledge set, and none of it pans out once we actually get to know one another.

So while I’m talking to Matt, we’re talking about circulatory systems and I mention this passage in one of his books where he talks about bees.  They don’t really have circulatory systems and the blood just kind of sloshes around their body while they fly around.  He doesn’t recall this, and I find amazing since he probably knew this fact and a great many others.  Now, it doesn’t mean that I remember all the stuff in his books, but I remember the part about the bees.  And then I mention another part of his books, and he doesn’t quite remember that either.  While I say this stuff, he squints his eyes as if he has a shadow of a memory of something like that, but it’s not within his immediate grasp.

And then I remember this one moment that I will never forget.  I was getting ready to give a talk at this science-libertarian event, and I was making sure Matt was comfortable in his chair before the talk.  I’m always nervous before the presentation for people like him.

We are exchanging small talk before the event, and then it dawns on me!  I look at him, and I say, “Matt, I have it figured out! You are a great writer, and you take all of this amazing stuff you find, piece it together into a theme, and write very complex books.  It all goes down on paper into these fantastic tomes.  But, you are, in a way, like a cheese-cloth, and some of the knowledge sticks on you, but most of it just passes through.  You only have command of about 5% of that stuff at any given time, yes?”  And then he looks back at me and says, “Yes, exactly.”  And he bobbles his head in such a way as to say, “Of course, doesn’t everyone know that?”  But that’s the thing — I think we all assume that people that write these amazing books know everything that is inside of them.  But this is not true, and it was very exciting for me to learn this.

I don't think you can get lamps like this in the Skymall catalog

Now back to Hans, because I made another exciting discovery.  And the one with Hans was even more meaningful because it was directly related to my life.

Hans loves technology, and he didn’t get serious about composing until he had computers.  All of the software tools have helped him to do amazing things.  Even though much of his youth was infused with music, he did not go about composing the way others did.  He waited and brought a unique background and started relatively “late” in the game.  Straight to digital.  He certainly knows how to play instruments, but from what he was saying, he never got into the “composing” elements until computers were sophisticated enough to enable him to take things to a new order of magnitude.

And this is exciting to me, because he’s the only other person that I have met that has leap-frogged his way into an artform.  I told him how other photographers constantly cast aspersions that I’ve never done film, and I’ve had no formal training, and all this sort of stuff.  I never know how to react to this.  Of course, I know that not having formal training enabled me to bring a completely different tool set to the sport.  And since I don’t know the limitations of film, I don’t know the limitations of film.  While I am in a digital world, I know there are no limitations.  I never thought of a “right” or “wrong” way to do anything… but of course this is the exact opposite of the conventional wisdom.

While I talk to Hans, I’m still getting my head around what he is telling me here.  I’m trying not to “see what I want to see”.  People do this, of course.  Sometimes when I talk to people, they’ll hear whatever they want to hear, no matter what I’m saying.  So, I’m careful of this when I talk to other people, and I probe further.

He’s off in the bookshelves trying to find a photography book to show me.  I’m still trying to see if this new realization is true, and I ask him, “Don’t you have other musicians come up and ask you about other famous musicians that you are supposed to know?  You know, the famous composers that everyone learns about when going through formal training?”  And Hans says yes – this happens to him all the time, and he rarely knows who the heck they are talking about. Because he’s off in his own world, doing his own thing in his own way.  And this is very insightful to me.  He kind of feels bad about it, like I do.  But then we talk a bit and decide that we have no need to feel bad about it.

And, even writing about it, I should not even use the word “we” anything.  It’s not like I am at that level of awesomeness in my own field.  But, I did get great insight from this exchange.  It is clear to me that you can excel in any field if you do not know the proper rules of how to excel.

Hans designed the whole room so that furnishings could be easily moved around to get other musicians in to play music together.

Africa Sounds

I had been a Hans Zimmer fan a long while before I realized he did the music for the Lion King.  I mean, come on, the Lion King!  It’s spawned countless musicals, stage-plays, and multiple versions of all that music.  And the topic of the Lion King comes up.

And keep in mind, this wasn’t an interview or anything.  It’s just two dudes being dudes.  The only reason I write about all this is, well, I have a blog, and if this stuff is interesting to me, than I know it’s interesting to you too, yes?

I mentioned I was recently in Beijing and I heard sounds from instruments that struck me as completely foreign.  And, in fact, they didn’t sound right at all.  So that led to a discussion of certain vibrational instruments and if he thinks that some tones and sounds ring back through our ancestry.  I wondered if perhaps we like particular sounds and we just don’t know why we like them.  He enthusiastically said, “Oh yes!” and then went on to tell me about the Lion King.

“You know, Trey, that song in the beginning?  When the African guy is singing all those sounds?”  I nod. “Well nobody knows what the hell he is saying!”  He laughs and goes on to say that these tones and sounds that have roots in Africa make sense to everyone around the world.  There is something that is soothing and happy in a lot of these sounds, and no one can quite put their finger on it.  But, obviously, something ancestral is going on.

And these sounds I heard in China, it was after the ancestral split, and the music there evolved in a different way.  There are still elements that have their tonal roots in Africa, but newer, unknown sounds came into their “genome” as well.

Sterile MP3s

Hans is very visual.  There is some popular thought out there that people are either inclined to better perceive audio signals or visual signals.  And, further, there is an old chestnut that people are “visual learners” or “audio learners”.  Well I’ve never accepted most conventional wisdoms, and I don’t accept that one either.  I don’t like to use Hans as an example, because he’s obviously an exceptional human, but he is indeed a perfect manifestation of audio and visual working in concert.

I was hoping he might sit down at the piano and get lost for a little while, but we were too busy moving from one side of his studio to the next!

He told me about seeing a famous pianist in concert.  I forgot his name.  But Hans mimicked the motion on his keyboard of his finger coming off a key and hanging in the air.  He said the sound stayed in the air, ringing for a long time. He loved it so much, and he got the MP3 to listen to at home.  But, he said, the experience was more sterile and somewhat dead.  Without the visual of the performance, he had trouble getting into the music.

And this, he thinks, is a problem with MP3s.  They are just audio, and he thinks that we need many senses to fire at once, all together, to have a moving experience.  This makes sense, and helps me better to explain my old thing about “we don’t record the world around us like JPGs on a hard drive” van-down-by-the-river-talk that I always give.  Hans has said it in a more elegant way, and that is nice to think about.

So, putting two and two together, this is obviously why Hans likes to make the soundtracks for movies.  Because you cannot think of a scene without the music, and you cannot listen to the music without thinking of the scene.  They are connected in that important neural network that forms emotive memories.

I thought I had a bad cat5 situation behind my desk, but this made me feel a lot better about my situation.

Overloaded with Responsibility

“There are many out-of-work musicians, you know,” he laments.  We’re in the middle of a conversation about working on so many sequels.  He told me which ones he’s doing, but I won’t repeat them here. There’s another aspect that I never considered that drives him, all of the people in his orbit.

With is NORAD array of computers, he can “fake up” an orchestra with a slide of his mouse. But, Hans is aware of the “fragile existence of orchestras.” The idea that we can all come together as the public and hear a real orchestra play is still very important, so he still commissions the actual work to be done by a mass of passionate individuals. The new sounds that emerge are still so different, and much more organic, than what comes out of a computer alone. Many humans can come together to make something more special than several computerized sound-samples coming together.

And then Hans has an even higher magnitude level of romanticism around the entire orchestra. He says that we, as humans, “would suffer an irreplaceable loss of grace” if he and other Hollywood entities stopped being a vital part of this circle of life. And if everything were to be computerized, he laments, “the uniting emotional experience we get from hearing and seeing a great orchestra would end.”

So this too is very interesting to me. I am often off on my own, doing my own thing. I have no orbit of people that depend on me, save the small family-like team here at Stuck In Customs (clever sys admins like Dean, jaunty support like Luke, and I could go on and on). The idea that Hans can be an independent creative force whilst maintaining a tether to a huge economic subsystem is remarkable.

And then the topic moves from this and sequels to new things. You can see a massive change of countenance when he talks about these new things, like Inception.  He can really be wildly creative and experiment boldly.  Have you seen his Inception music-dream app for the iPhone?  He put it out there for free for the fans… and it has over a million downloads.  These are the kinds of paths that appear with his unencumbered creation.

Hans' swiveling chair in the middle of a mesmerizing array of audio and computer equipment.

Digital Overload

So Hans has all of these tools at his disposal.  All kinds of software, hundreds of thousands of sound-samples, visual textural overlays that can be converted into sound, and more.  He gesticulates towards them and says he doesn’t know why he has all this stuff because it takes him an eternity to make something he likes at times.

He jumps up and motions me over to this bizarre Chinese instrument.  I don’t know what it is, but it looks like a wooden harp laying on its side.  He stands over it, and I’ll never forget his expression.  He’s both glowering at it and admiring it at the same time.

Looking up at me he says, “I have a deadline approaching and I need some Asian music.” He shakes his head, motioning over towards all his digital stuff on the other side of the room.  And then he says, “Watch this.  I will make this up as I go.”  And he begins to pluck a few strings on one end of this instrument.  It sounds perfectly magical, and he raises his eyebrows in a humorous way.  I’m laughing now, because I’m completely enamored that Hans has created something just for me, and because he’s hardly even trying.

Little Sounds

Back on the couch now, and he’s showing me a photo book called “Chaos” by Josef Koudelka, the Czech photographer.  I flip through it slowly while he talking about using his iPhone to snap photos.  He’s wishing he could take better photos.

I mention that it’s better than nothing, and I wonder about people that take no photos.  I wonder if they even notice the beauty in little things and I feel like it is a waste.  Then I say, “But you must think something in parallel about people like me, that do not have a sophisticated ear for sound.”  To him, I must move through a world bereft of interesting noises, much like non-photographers move through a world where little things have no beauty to them.

“Oh, yes,” he smiles in a serious and fanciful way.  “I find tremendous beauty in the sound of an air conditioner clicking on.”


Finally, it is time for me to go.  I had actually tried to leave earlier, even though I didn’t want to.  He was very busy, I know, and I felt like I was slowing down the wor

  • it’s a great piece, trey. read it from start to finish. a lot of times, we forget that pictures are not always about the finished product, but about the journey to make that product. thanks, as always. you’ve taught me more than you care to know.


  • Susan

    Wonderful story Trey – what an experience – glad you got to know Hans a bit and it helped gather your thoughts – sometimes when we least expect we meet someone like that – and your thoughts and his bring us all closer together. He sounds like a great guy!

  • Louis

    Really cool pics, but in my opinion you “overdid” hdr a bit on the first one, because what’s really cool is the contrast between the really high-tech stuff, but the picture draws a lot of attention to the chairs and all the red stuff around it “hides” the other parts of the pictures. But, that’s me.

  • Awesome write up, it looks like you had a lot of fun and he seems like a great guy! I think its cool because no matter how much you excel at something, we all have our own heros or people we look up to lol. There were a lot of interesting points you made, my favorite being where Hans talked about how to truly appreciate the audio, you need that visual side as well, I completely agree with this. Also, the pictures all look great! Thanks for sharing your experience Trey!

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  • Absolutely stunning mate, that room is simply amazing every time I look at it… Hans sounds like an amazing guy, on my list of famous people to meet! Horrible earthquake in Christchurch, NZ today. I’ve put up an elegant river shot to calm the nerves…
    My thoughts are with anyone here who is involved or affected by this disaster.

  • Simon Morris

    WOW… what a write-up, excellent… and as for the studio, fantastic!
    Probably not the place Trey, but I know you have a special connection with NZ so here goes… our heartfelt sympathy goes out to those who lost loved ones today in nearby Christchurch and surrounds… a devastating blow to Canterbury, especially after the BIG September wobble! We’re all OK here 30km north of the city… phew!

  • Jeanine

    Amazing story. I love to read about your interactions with your heroes and how you both find a common ground in your art. It’s all very deep and thought provoking. I imagine the whole experience is very much like a fan meeting you on your home turf with the same sense of awe and reverence. Everyone has heroes and its great to read about meeting them. The images from this piece have inspired me to do similar photography for some of the people in my life. I hope to honor their spaces in much the same way you have honored Zimmer’s. Thanks for putting the effort in to this piece!

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  • Glad to hear it Simon, I know Trey likes NZ… Hence my comments above 😉

  • That opening bit is very true – i’m usually very laid back but meeting someone I have a huge respect for gives me a kind of ‘I’m not worthy feeling’ – it is a true story that when I was 6 i went along to meet my favourite footballer at the stadium and promptly vomited at his feet. I still get like that even though i’m 29 but without the vomiting thankfully which was lucky for you as I was nervous/excited about meeting the great Trey Ratcliff at the photowalk in London!

    Superb photos as always though – i must get a skull lamp liks Hans’ – tremendous!

  • Hi Trey this is the only way i know how to get hold of you .Christ church has been hit hard by a quake and many after shocks with buildings and old churches just collapsing I thought you would like to know as you have friends down there.
    Regards louis

  • Trey in Christchurch in New Zealand the after shocks are 1 every hour and many people hurt and all have had enough and are getting out the city very sad as you well know. Forgive me but this is the only way i can contact you to let you know the damage this quake has caused.

  • tom

    So Trey. What did his studio / office actually look like? OTT HDR tonemapped pics don’t really tell the story.

  • Dude! I love it!
    I’m kinda jealous, I love Hans Zimmer’s work! U did a fantastic job on the picts again btw! 😀
    I need to hurry up and finish school so I can focus on my business like you! 😀

  • Wow – I’m a musician, producer and HDR photo enthusiast and this interview has everything! You made my day Trey! What a studio! What pictures! what a great interview!

  • Trey, awesome long format article! I enjoy these immensely and this is no exception. You continue to inspire. I find my own work a pale copy of what you do so well (and seemingly so easily) But I find this makes me want to try harder and find an artistic style of my own (eventually).
    One point that stuck with me was what you mentioned about not knowing about the limitations of a particular art, the ‘do’s and don’ts’, which can lead you to take a fresh approach to something like photography. The results could end up being quite innovative like your own unique flavour of HDR Photography! I liked this idea very much.
    Thanks for sharing your moment with Hans. Before coming across your site, I had no idea who he was, but I like his music too actually. I would find it very nerve-racking as well. In fact I felt the same way when I met you in Auckland for very similar reasons! Silly perhaps but there you go.

  • Hampus R

    I’d say the wall of text took over this post. The picture was just a small combination with it that made it abit more interesting and gave me a point of view of how Hans Zimmer’s studio looked like.

    Thanks for the pictures and text, Trey!

  • This is an amazing post. Your words painted a great hdr picture of both your worlds. Thx for this,

  • Cindy Williams

    Once in awhile you find yourself walking in the valley of the gods.

  • Gail in Montana

    Amen to what Eden said about the earthquake. I cried watching the news this morning, where it is nighttime there. So, Trey, please don’t move to that Pacific ring of fire!! I worry about your Mom, Simon, and Eden being in it, too. Now, I’ll go and read your blog. Wow, what a great blog, Trey. So glad you spent 3 hours with Hans. He sounds like a very interesting fellow. I love the pictures of his studio, etc. He sure likes red ;-).
    To add to my first comments, we all live near places that could destroy us. We aren’t that far from Yellowstone, one of the worlds largest calderas. If it blows, we are toast here as is a lot of North America. We have several thousand small quakes in Montana over the course of 10 years or so, but that seems to let the pressure out. We have actually only felt two in 12 years. No such thing as a safe place. Arkansas has even been having little earthquakes, and they have no idea what is going on there. But, anyway, the choice is yours as to where to live. Since we aren’t psychic, we just have to take our chances. Ok, now I’ve babbled on enough, lol. God bless us all and keep us safe, and be with the families of those killed in ChristChurch as well as the injured and missing. Now, I’m going to take a look at Edens river, I think I need that!! Thanks Eden!!

  • Gail in Montana

    Adding Louis to my list, too!!

  • Gail in Montana

    P.S. I posted a comment on flickr about your river photo, Eden. So beautiful!!!

  • Dan

    8 cores??? What kind of rig are you running your workflow through?

  • “The” Gino

    Gotta love anyone who describes an AC unit firing up as beautiful.
    Glad you are getting to meet some of the people you respect. That’s cool.

    In my own way I know what you are referring to when you mentioned people being critical of your work who are from the old school. I have a few friends that never fail to point out if I centered something or failed to use the rule of Threes or didn’t blur something or whatever. I am really just trying to create images that are appealing to me and not every book on photography that came before me.

    Really nice blog Trey.
    Best wishes for those in Christ Church and surrounding areas.

  • Thank you for the thoughtful comments everyone. It’s good to read your insights as well, because I think we think the same way about many things.

    Louis, Simon Eden, and all my countless NZ friends that comment (and don’t) – VERY sorry to hear all of this. I was in the tiniest of Earthquakes when I was there, and that was unnerving enough… I figured the worst had come and gone… so this is really bad. My sympathies are with you.

  • Very interesting, I had no idea that Zimmer used so much digital technology in his work. You had a great session with him.

  • Thank you Trey!



  • Michael Petersheim

    I deeply enjoyed reading this post, not so much for what I learned about Hans (although that was fascinating too) as for the personal view you gave us into you. Similar to what you said about Hans being human, it’s nice for me to see that you’re a normal human too; the kind who can become nervous while waiting to meet someone else. 🙂

  • Trey,

    I have no doubt the experience you describe here held meaning for you, as I think this must be the longest post of your I’ve ever read. It’s nice, not only to see you share the experience with us, but to gain a little insight to you as you process those memories. I’m a bit of a geek in that my way of getting to know people is to try and understand how they think. Glad to know you had such an enjoyable experience and thanks for sharing it with us.

  • “The” Gino

    Treyster –

    I noticed that the lights in Hans studio seem to be slightly angled off the sides, especially in the third picture. Is that just distortion from the wide angle lens or do those lights actually tilt off like that? And if so, do you know why they are set up that way? I am assuming the answer in the wide angle lens. but if not, how cool is that?

  • Thanks all!

    Gino – yes – that is a bit of lens distortion there for sure…

    And thanks again everyone for all the thoughtful comments! 🙂

  • Andre

    Wow!!! These are absolutely gorgeous photos!!!!

  • Jim

    Just tell it like it is Trey. No need for the big vocabulary and typical overcooked HDR.

  • Sergio García

    2 of my heroes together at the same room (and, what a room!) If I were there the meeting would have lasted 3 hours more due to my questions for both of you as a musican and as a semi-photographer.
    I felt the same as you describe the day I met the great musical producer David Foster. I’m sure his songs have been part of your playlists while you work even though you don’t know they’re Foster tunes.
    Sergio from Madrid, Spain.

  • Harmo Jones

    Hi Trey,

    i remember the first series of his studio you did indeed..back then i was already impressed by de colors…and beautiful interior.
    now i envy you;-) what a great opportunity to be with such a master..thanks for the nice pictures and report…

    best regards,

    Harmon Jones

  • There is nothing I admire more than someone with a thirst for understanding of the creative process and the humble but fearless way you are always trying to understand it (and yourself) better. Love your writings and your travels and your photography too. Why people need to critcize is beyond me, it’s art, it’s beauty. it’s all good. Thanks for letting us look inside and learn as you travel on your path.

  • Trey;
    This was, by far, my favorite of any of your write-ups. I REALLY dig Hans Zimmer’s work, so it was such a pleasure to feel like I was sitting in that room with him, as you did, listening to him discuss music, art and photography, and even create a new piece of cool music for you. I found his comment about the music he “hears” in the sound of an A/C clicking on particularly interesting, and some much the way I feel about how I “see” things as an amateur photographer. Thanks for the sharing this beautiful engagement with the great Hans Zimmer with me!

    Kind regards;

  • I’m not a Hans fan at all but I really enjoyed this! The way you write brings universal themes and topics to an otherwise niche subject matter. I like the way you include what you were thinking at the time and little back stories that explain how you perceive something in the story you’re telling. I must make more of an effort to do this with my own writing in the future.

  • Jerrald King

    The studio is in Santa Monica not Hollywood. Something you might want to fix.

  • Wow, Very moving, the entire thing. Its interesting to know that other peoples thoughts are so close to our own, on such a deep level.

  • Incredible article, I didn’t expect it from your blog at first but it was both a pleasure to read and view, like slipping inside a secret room and discover a little about Hans Zimmer’s creative process. Thanks a lot.

  • I am so incredibly envious! Soundtracks are pretty much all I listen to when I’m out shooting, and Zimmer’s are some of the best!

  • Ed Faith

    Trey, enjoyed the article. It truly shows how we can get so much more from the unexpected if we are open minded. Keep up the great work.

  • Suzanne


    Awesome pics and yes we all need to “stop, look, feel, enjoy, listen, – be overwhelmed with all that is right in front of us. Your pics of Hans studio were candy for the eyes…didn’t want to stop but had to because i went on overload. Thank you for sharing with all of us the time you spent with Hans. Truly you have been given a great talent and are blessing many of us with it. Your Mom and I are so very proud of you.

    Love you,
    Suzanne “Miss Ann”

  • Rick

    Your thoughts on the need for classical training before being striking out on new creative work struck an old chord with me. Creativity can occur at higher levels than imaginable by precedent creators and may not be appreciated by them. Elegant computer programs can be written without knowing machine language code :: creative HDR images can be created without experiencing darkroom procedures.

    I find your discussions very interesting, largely due to the (apparent) honesty of outlook.

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  • Josh B

    I like the way you wrote of the expereince. Thanks for sharing a little piece of what its like for two artists like you guys to get together.

  • “Haters gonna hate”—In regard to people calling your photography ‘overcooked’, HDR is often an entirely different medium than photography. No one would liken 50s pop art to charcoal, you’re an excellent photographer, and I feel like people don’t understand that HDRs–even when overdone–is not because you are zealous with overprocessing photos; it’s an entirely different medium, in a way.

    It’s like making fun of blues because it’s not hip hop. Keep doing what you do, the haters just don’t understand how to see the world through different filters.

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  • Thanks for writing this piece up Trey, I felt like I was in the room with two men whom I’ve so much to learn from.

  • What a fantastic post. I know this is from like 2 years ago but I could not stop reading. Zimmer is such an amazing person, and his signature is on some amazing sountracks and scores. This must have been a magical opportunity for you. Thanks for giving me a peek!

  • Good webpage, cant wait to see more and future updates. Very nice layout too! Thank you!

  • Big Matty

    Holy cow Trey! What a dream come true. I found myself geeking out over the components in the walls and missed all the instruments the first time through. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Top banana. 

  • Thank you for sharing this profound experience. So much the same on seemingly a thousand levels for me when I write. I saved it in my Trey Ratcliff folder to read again. Isn’t it so true that often nothing is as it seems. 

  • DennyLittle

    You are right I did find the story about your time with Hans interesting I appreciate how you delve into how an idea becomes fixed then with some new info there is new insight.


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  • Such a great write-up!

  • Karin Nelson

    This is truly an amazing experience. Thank you for the writeup and for the pictures. I am still green (from envy), but I appreciate you sharing with us. 🙂

  • I just loved this post. I had never heard of Zimmer, and when I read about your weak-kneed reaction to him, I downloaded something by him to listen to and try to get what moves you. Well, I, sincerely, hated it. 🙂 I couldn’t get to the end of the CD. And the funniest thing is that I probably would describe his work as those who hate HDR describe yours. And I love HDR…
    All that makes things even more awesome, as, to my eyes, you, Trey, are *the* guy I want to shoot like when I grow up. My reaction in your studio (and I shot film, and I am a musician, and so on) would probably be very much like yours in his.
    Different strokes for different folks, and all that, but it is wonderful to see how we all react to those we find inspiring. Thanks for the tour around your mind as a fan that you give us, your fans. 🙂

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  • Thanks for letting us get an inside look into the mind of Mr. Zimmer and appreciate him even more.

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  • WOW, I just found this, this is absolutely nuts. I can’t wait to read this later.

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