Walking in Chengdu

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Daily Photo – Walking in Chengdu

I didn’t even realize Chengdu had one of these cool bamboo forests like Kyoto. It might even be a little better because of the red walls that complement the green so well. This was my hostess here, and she offered to act as a model, walking slowly right down the middle. At first, I had a shot without a person, but I think it’s a little better with her in there. I kind of wish she wasn’t wearing that color shirt, but, hey, I’m really looking for stuff to complain about, I suppose.

Walking in Chengdu

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-06-15 18:44:40
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/30
  • Aperture2.8
  • ISO400
  • Focal Length16.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias+2

Comments

Between Operas

Trey’s Bulletproof Coffee Recipe

Have you ever tried Bulletproof Coffee? I have it almost every day and it provides a very good energy balance through the first chunk of the day. There is a recipe on the official site, but I will reduce the recipe to something more simple. That site seems to be trying to upsell some products. The recipe actually works, but you don’t have to follow their links. Here’s my recipe, link-free:

1) 1 full cup of coffee (made from coffee beans or instant)
2) 1-2 tablespoons of MCT oil (available from any health food or bodybuilding shop)
3) 1-2 tablespoons of Unsalted butter

I know it sounds strange to mix butter and oil into your coffee, but it actually helps to slowly deliver the caffeine to your body in the most efficient manner.

Daily Photo – Between Operas

I was in Chengdu near a hot pot place that was entertaining the diners with a little opera variety show. Between shows, the girls would go sit outside and eat snacks, still with all their makeup on. I just kinda sat there and watched them for a while, drinking the whole thing in.

Between Operas

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-06-14 22:34:37
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/250
  • Aperture4
  • ISO320
  • Focal Length105.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Comments

Shanghai Skyline

Russell Brand and Sam Harris

I just finished listening to this podcast. It was really good… I like them both a lot… I’m definitely more in Sam Harris’ side in this discussion. I think Russell will come around to his way of thinking eventually.

 

Daily Photo – Shanghai Skyline

Here’s another shot I took out of my hotel room at the Ritz-Carlton there in Shanghai. It was the end of our Asia tour and I was feeling exceptionally lazy, so sometimes I would just relax in my room, read books, and then lazily walk over to the window and take some photos. I’m not used to being lazy, and it made me feel rather lame, actually. I’m generally much more stimulated when I’m running around doing ten different things. I mean, I can still be quiet and meditate for a while, but, when that is done, I’m ready for extreme action!

Shanghai Skyline

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-06-18 23:32:14
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/4
  • Aperture4
  • ISO400
  • Focal Length105.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Comments

Bridge Views in Tianjin

Christmas idea – Invite your friends and family to Passport Sunday!

Hey guys, this is a little self-serving for sure, but it is also you-serving! I find that finding good Christmas presents is Very Difficult! I want to give something unique, and never sure what to give. Anyway, why not give the weekly present of the Stuck In Customs Passport?? It’s a fun thing for anyone who is either creative, into photography, or maybe just curious. Today is Passport Sunday, where I release a new video every week… It’s a fun gift because every week, your family member or friend will be reminded of how much you love them! 🙂

And here is the image I created in today’s video… quite a bit of Photoshop gymnastics was required but that’s all part of the fun!

Eliminating Window Glare

Here’s a rather tough edit from an older photo from Chicago where I had quite a bit of glare on the window. That’s perhaps the best part of the lesson, and I clean that up pretty quickly. Most of the end of the video is about me trying to correct the buildings to make them look more upright. That was sort of a bear!

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Daily Photo – Bridge Views in Tianjin

Tianjin is kind of an interesting city and kind of a strange city, like most Chinese cities. All cities there remind me like some kind of parallel universe where people use some of the same rules as Western cities and also do some incredibly random stuff. It’s clear the Chinese have a different aesthetic to city living than Westerners. I’m not saying it’s good or bad; it’s just different. Anyway, Tianjin is one of the first cities I’ve visited that has a ton of bridges crisscrossing the river. Here’s one of the best views from the most centrally located bridge.

Bridge Views in Tianjin

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-06-14 00:16:10
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1.6
  • Aperture9
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length73.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Comments

An Autumn Wander

Aurora HDR 2019

I used the new Aurora (that is available for PC and Mac) to make today’s image. If you haven’t picked it up yet, then be sure to pop on over to the store and make it happen!

Daily Photo – An Autumn Wander

Last Autumn, I took the time to have some random walks around the countryside here between Queenstown and Arrowtown. There are hundreds and hundreds of little scenes like this everywhere. Most are on private property, but it seems to kind of okay to wander around anyway. No one has ever stopped me. In fact, I’ve met a lot of nice people. They see me with a camera and are a little suspicious, but then they chill out after we talk for a while and see I am just one of their friendly neighbors!

An Autumn Wander

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-04-30 11:59:04
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/800
  • Aperture5
  • ISO250
  • Focal Length24.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Comments

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

Comments

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

Comments

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

Comments

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

Comments

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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