The Hellenistic Ruins

Great Time on the Hobbiton Movie Set!

Did you know they are already getting geared up to make The Hobbit?  And it will be a two-movie event?  Cool!

It turns out that Ian Brodie, who is a fan of the site and a big HDR enthusiast, works there on the Hobbiton Tours and offered to give my family and me a private tour of everything!  It was really cool to walk around the Shire and see all the various bits and pieces from the movies.  They are starting to move stuff around and get ready to shoot the next Hobbit movie there sometime in the near future.

I took a lot of photos and even made a little video of how I took one of the shots.  After I get back and get everything edited, I’ll get it uploaded so you can check my settings and all that good stuff!

New Print Avail – The Red and White Lighthouse

This new lighthouse print is a perfect little place was spotted in Iceland.  The skies are have such a nice tone there, and they are even better with the high icy clouds.  It’s such a treat to shoot there and to find wonderful things like this lighthouse that complement it so well.

Alone in Winter, Against the World...  (and I am selling my camera on eBay)

Daily Photo – The Hellenistic Ruins

For our weekly photo mystery, which is, mysteriously, neither weekly or all that mysterious, is up again!  Who can tell me where these strange ruins are from?  Or, maybe, at least, some creative guesses?

Fog in the Fishing Village

Black and White HDR Photography

In case you missed this article a few months back, I did a post on Black and White HDR Photography over at Photofocus. It’s a long-form article with a bunch more information, in case you are interested in this sort of thing!

Daily Photo – Fog in the Fishing Village

You all know that I hate waking up early in the morning. This is very true. A lot of my somewhat older friends say that as you get older, waking up early comes naturally. I look forward to this day. For now, it’s all hard work… but I know that is when the light is interesting and the weather patterns can be unexpected.

This is very early morning with a dense fog over this little harbor. I loved the details on these bits, so I did my best to capture them in the morning wetness. In the distance, you can see the anchored boats. This is also from the little bay of Portofino — the same location as the photo I posted a few days ago.

SmugMug Portfolio Contest

Portfolio Contest – Show us all your Portfolio!

A few days ago I wrote an article entitled “How to Make an Online Photo Album” about SmugMug.

I thought this would be a fun way to drive traffic to a bunch of different photographers and artists. Also, I can use it to promote one of my friend’s workshops – his name is Vanelli. You’ll read more about him below. Share your portfolio here, and The Judge will pick one that strikes him as unique and interesting for the winner!

More Info and full Review:

If you sign up, you can use a SmugMug Coupon of “STUCKINCUSTOMS” to save 20%.

How to Enter:

  • Simply leave a comment and link to your Smugmug site below.  The Judge will visit it.
  • To win, The Judge will simply select a portfolio that strikes him as “Wonderful” in one way or another.


  • An Ultimate Version of the Stuck In Customs Textures Tutorial and’ (a $399 value)
  • and… a Smugmug sponsorship to go on a Vacation with Vanelli!  (a $595 value) –  a great new workshop offering!

Who is Eligible:

  • Anyone on Smugmug! Most people who are on this hot new service are “relatively” new anyway, so I want to open it up to anyone that is “Proud of their Smugmug site”!
  • New people just getting started on Smugmug. Don’t worry – just because you might only have a few images on there will not make you any less likely to win.

Who is The Judge?

  • Not me! I don’t like judging contests because everyone pretends to like me until The Judging, after which time 99% of people don’t like me any more.
  • So, I give this dubious honor to none other than the extremely likable Vanelli (who is hosting the workshop), who everyone seems to love for some inexplicable reason.

When does it End?

The contest ends at midnight, EST,  on March 1. So yes, you have a bit to get your Smugmug site all spiffy. Go ahead and submit it now in the comments — it won’t be Judged until the end of the contest.

What else can I do to promote my Smugmug site?

You can link here in Twitter or your blog to this contest post and tell people to “Go see entry number XX!”, and then your friends can talk you up in the comments,… get your mom, sister, and friends in on the fun.

What’s going on with the comments in this contest!

There is an open discussion below, and whenever we see a link to a Smugmug portfolio, we will consider it an entry, and it will be Judged by The Judge. Go

Daily Photo – The Boat at Portofino

Ahhhh Italy! But one thing — this isn’t Italy! This is in Orlando, Florida, at the Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Studios. They have gentle boats that float in the bay. There might be a better place for photography at sunset at Universal — but I could not find it! I thought it was cute how every boat had its own name (always a girl) painted in cursive on the back. Now, I’ve never been to the real Portofino, but many of my friends have, and they thought this might have been the real place! Maybe a bit cleaner? I am not sure… Let’s all go jump on a boat and go see! 🙂

The Boat at Portofino

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-01-05 12:02:41
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/5.6
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length21mm (21mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

The Portofino Bay

Lengthy HDR Workshop Review

First, I should make it clear that I don’t have any more plans to do more workshops. I know there is a lot of demand all over the world — and these two previous ones have been ultra-successful. I may end up doing a few exclusive workshops in select cities around the world, but nothing is currently planned. I get approached all the time for this and that – and I’m looking at everything… but nothing is decided yet.

For sure, you should get ready for the HDR DVD to come out. It’s being worked on currently. It will be ready when it’s ready, but you can sign up there to be sure you find out first.

As for the Florida weekend workshop, Terry Reinert wrote a lengthy review on his blog. He was a nice guy, and I enjoyed meeting him. After the workshop, RC Concepcion asked Terry and Vanelli (his site) to take me out to shoot the sunset. Well, it was probably a top 10 sunset. It was one of those perfect sunsets where the sun was twice as wide as the skyscrapers in downtown Tampa. Even better, it was a perfect half-circle on top of a cloud.

The only bad thing is that we were in a car the entire time. I’m not sure what the heck happened, but I am sure what the heck didn’t happen. I had a chance to get the greatest photo of Tampa ever made, but I was stuck in a car. I have not yet ruled out conspiracy.

After that, Vanelli, Terry, and I ended up at Tampa University. Or maybe it’s the University of Tampa. We moved around there and they used a few of the new tricks from the workshop. I got some great shots that I haven’t had time to process yet… But I was happy to hang out with those two guys. RC tends to be a good filter on these sorts of matters!

Daily Photo – The Portofino Bay

Today, I drove to Orlando and decided to put myself in charge of a sunset shot. Of course, since those two jokers where many area codes away, it worked out well.

We stayed here at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando. This place is gorgeous. I never know how I feel about these “recreations” of other real-world places. The REAL Portofino is very pretty and unique, of course, but this recreation is also really nice. I mean, it’s actually pretty here, even though it is just a facsimile. It’s not the same as being in Italy, of course. But, it’s better than being at a Walmart in Ft. Lauderdale, you know? Okay, it’s a WHOLE lot better. There are six Italian restaurants, a pretty boat that takes you back and forth to Universal Studios and Adventure Island, and a very nice staff that is helpful and attentive.

The Portofino Bay

Peaceful Disney in Resplendent Color

See you in Chicago!

The Chicago Book Launch Party is tonight at the Hotel Sax. It starts at 6 PM, and I’ll be speaking around 7 PM. If you are in the area, stop by so I can shake your hand and say hello! More details on the Facebook Event Page.

Secretly Signing Books at Borders

I’m going into bookstores all over the place to secretly sign my book. I did one today off Michigan Ave in Chicago, put up a quick iphone pic on the FB Fan Page, and sent out a tweet.

It’s causing little tweet-flash-mobs and is very fun! Whenever people are browsing in the section, and then I come up and start writing in a book — they certainly do give me some strange looks! I just give them a knowing nod, and that seems to do the trick.

Daily Photo – Peaceful Disney in Resplendent Color

Dinseyworld is probably the most awesome place in the world, at least, if you are like me and haven’t yet lost your childlike fascination with the fanciful.

I like to visualize things, and I always imagine a membrane in my brain between fantasy and reality. If you have children, or hang out with them much, then you know they have a razor-thin membrane, and thoughts swim back and forth between the two sides. In one moment, they are talking about something completely impossibile and in their heads, and in the next, they are talking about something right in front of them.

As we get older, that membrane thickens and solidifies. The realm of fantasy is for children and the harshness of reality is for adults. At least, this is what society at large wants us to believe. The only time that “grown-ups” are allowed the occasional dalliance into the realm of the fantasy is once or twice a week when they go see a movie. Only in these pre-described theaters and environments are grown-ups allowed to get lost in the fanciful side of things.  (or, maybe you are more like me!)

Peaceful Disney in Resplendent Colo

In the Nepalese Shadows of Everest

Thanks for the good fight on Kelby’s Blog!

Hehe – my guest post on Scott Kelby’s Blog was not even about HDR, but that is what the discussion down below concerned. I was surprised that we ended up having so many defenders, including the likes of Scott Bourne, RC Concepcion, Moose Peterson, Frederick Van, and many many others! Thanks everyone for the healthy discussion… I do love making art as much as you guys do… so I’m happy we’re all in the same boat!

Daily Photo – In the Nepalese Shadows of Everest

I always like how all these Nepalese monkey statues look a little bit evil. They seem to be a bit like gargoyles, and everyone thinks those things are great. I don’t know why we all like gargoyles so much, but I am never bummed out when I see them on a building.

This photo was shot at Disneyworld in Orlando. It’s a great place to bring your tripod, and I am happy I’ve never had a problem there before. Well, I do have problems with my family sometimes because I get too busy taking photos… but there are so many awesome things — it’s like I’m in Disneyworld!

In the Nepalese Shadows of Everest

The Magic of Disney’s Main Street at Night

Disney after dark is very cool…  All the lights change and it comes alive even more, if possible.  One trick that I have picked up is the essential nap while at Disneyworld for the entire family.  We head back to the room after a busy morning and a carbo-bloat lunch for a family nap.  It keeps everyone sane.  And then, we can all stay up late with minimal chance of breakdown.  Seeing kids breakdown at Disneyworld is just not right… it’s not so Disney…

This one also has some nice details in the original size if you want to zoom in on Flickr… about 4200 pixels across methinks.

I hope you all enjoyed the Newsletter!  #3 went out yesterday on an automated schedule, so you should have received it at some point during the day.  Check your SPAM folders if it did not come through…  Feel free to forward it to your friends and relatives.  The site has grown virally over the years, and the more, the merrier.  I enjoy reading people’s comments and thoughts on things (not just positive feedback… but all sorts of thoughts around photography, family, travel, etc etc.).  Also, as always, feel free to share links to your own photography in the comments!  I don’t frown on that one bit.

The Magic of Disney's Main Street at Night

Castle in the Black

I had a hard-edged rule that I am now considering breaking. Who am I kidding? I’m gonna break it for sure.

Now that Ethan is eight, we’ve been able to take him to Disneyworld a few times. Isabella is three and she has never been. I had a rule that it is silly to take kids on vacation before they are five, since you really can’t form long-term memories before that age. Yes yes, I know… Some people disagree with this. Like my wife. She says it is not good that there will be a missing child from our family vacation photographs, no matter how good I am at photoshopping Isabella’s head on a stunt-body. I try to offer the counterargument that a sub-five-year-old can have the same quantifiable amount of fun (within an acceptable margin of error) while at home with Disney movies. This, then, is thrown back in my face with my three-year-old having a dangerous fascination with Cinderella’s castle. She can hardly believe that it is a real place.

So now we are going to take her to Disneyworld. Not for her, but for us. Well, also for her. Okay it’s kind of for all of us. Rule broken.

Castle in the Black (by Stuck in Customs)

Disneyworld for us

Disneyworld is the perfect place for 7-year-olds and the 7-year-old in me.  We had a great time there and I can’t wait to get back again.  Tina took this shot for us one afternoon in the Animal Kingdom.

This picture reminds me of how nice it is to be a hero to someone.  It’s kind of one of those things that I’ve always wanted to be.  I’m afraid some day I will lose this “hero” status.  I don’t want to think about that right now!

Disneyworld for us (by Stuck in Customs)

Moonlight over Everest

If there is one thing that is almost as cool as being deep in the Himalayas, then it’s being at Disneyworld after dark near the Expedition Everest ride. This is probably one of my favorite rollercoasters, and I endeavored to stay here late one night to try to grab the moon in the right spot. The whole area is riddled with excellent little Buddhist offering temples, where you can submit fruits of offering in exchange for the blessing of not tossing your lunch right before the Yeti takes a swipe at your runaway train.

I also got a very nice Twitter message yesterday from a dad who was excited that his kids were getting him my Textures Tutorial for father’s day. I thought that was kind of cool and I was flattered! Of course, that means he’s going to have to use the techniques to make some memorable photos of his family… This is something that I always hear too… that I don’t take enough photos of the family, but I do I do! But I don’t think that the grandparents can ever be happy unless I have a webcam on them 24 hours a day like a non-stop grandchild Truman show.

Moonlight over Everest

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