About to Explore Milford Sound

Met Joseph Linaschke!

Yesterday I met Joseph Linascke in LA. He’s as great a guy in person as I expected. I had hosted This Week in Photography with him several months ago, and we have always been trying to get together. It was good to finally meet him in person!

Do you organize your photos on an Apple and interested in using Aperture to make the job easier? You should get Joseph’s Aperture eBook. That thing is over 100 pages long and filled with all kinds of good stuff.

Daily Photo – About to Explore Milford Sound

Milford Sound was one of the three places that everyone in New Zealand told me I had to visit. And after arriving there, I’m glad I did! It was a bit foggy and cloudy while I was there, but it made for a nice mood.  The light rain would get a bit annoying on the lens, but we all learn to deal with these little bummer things that happen.  Nothing is perfect and nothing is easy…

These days are difficult for shooting. There is sometimes not a good or obvious angle, so it takes a lot of hiking and consideration before I finally pull the trigger. I hiked all around the coast for a bit before settling on this spot. Not too long after this, I got onto a huge boat to take me out towards the ocean.  That afforded me a lot more angles and unexpected shots, which I’ll be sure to include in a future post.

Pasture Sentinel

Daily Photo – Pasture Sentinel

After I drove through Nelson, I was ripping along the highway and noticed an old farmhouse. I’m not sure how I noticed it, but the area was so different, I just had to stop. I spent 90% of my time taking photos of the farmhouse, and on the way back, I saw this tree. It stood solitary and wonderful; I had to grab a shot.

Driving to Akaroa

Recap – Twitter and Human Evolution

I thought it time to resurrect my “Twitter and Human Evolution” article for people that are new to the site in the last year or so!

I’m back at an amazing conference in Yellowstone. Actually, it’s not really a conference… it’s an eclectic gathering of a few dozen scientists, economists, artists, and all sorts of other people. It’s at a private ranch that you have to hike 11 miles to reach. Days are filled with exploration, horse-riding, fishing, photography, art, discussions, etc. Nights are filled with a fabulous dinner with servants followed by several TED-like talks in the Great Room.

Matt Ridley is here and recently gave a talk about his new book “The Rational Optimist”. I have it up on “Trey’s Book List“, in case you are interested in something entirely different to read.

New eBook on HDR Mistakes Tomorrow

I plan on releasing this within the next 24 hours, if all goes according to plan. I’ll have it up on the eBook page, so get ready… I know you’ll love it!

That little preview page there on the right is somewhat of a table of contents, I suppose! I have used one of my worst photos ever to show off many of mistakes & solutions presented in the book!

As for the eBook Giveaway Contest, the random winners are commenter #40 Nora, #61 Gordon Brown, and #407 Lauren Blackwell! Congrats!

Daily Photo – Driving to Akaroa

Akaroa is a little French town on the coast of the south island of New Zealand. While in Christchurch, this was the #1 spot people told me I had to visit! It’s not a long drive at all, and it was a great destination for sure.

Along the way, we passed these perfect little hills and water inlets. Many people told me that the middle of the summer is not really the best time for this area because the grass is not green. But that’s okay with me… I think the golden hues of the grass and the green of the trees go nicely together.

Also, I got a nice email from Robert Peper, who wanted to inform people here of a New Zealand photography newsletter. You can sign up there on the bottom of that linked page.


New Zealand Wine

Father’s Day Tweets

I know the vast majority of you all are not on Twitter, but I thought I would show this little interchange I had yesterday.

@TreyRatcliff At Isabella’s dance recital. They said you can’t take photos. They can pry my 70-200mm from my cold dead fingers.

Among various responses, I received this one, which I thought was touching.

@oceanshaman What’s a dance recital w/ NO PHOTOS?!? I still have photo my dad took of me in my pink tutu! [email protected]

@oceanshaman [Tomorrow] is #FathersDay. My dad died young. Photo he took of me in pink tutu on my bedside table today. Thx Dad! @TreyRatcliff

Common-Sense Photography

A related issue is the silly treatment of parents by these kid-function-authorities. Who are these people that won’t let me take photos of my daughter or record the dance recital? It’s a crazy world… From my observation, there are three causes, all of which are silly:

  • Attorneys and the legal system – Often times, organizations arm themselves with attorneys who defy reason in order to set up situations in which they can make money.
  • Hyper-Scared Busy-body Committees – These do-gooder committees decide that anyone with a big camera must be some kind of child molester.  These people spend a lot of time watching prime-time TV and news reports that help reinforce their largely irrational fear. There is a reason that there is never a statue of a committee.
  • Professional Photographers – I know that many times, there is a professional photographer or video company there, creating products to sell. I don’t know how they get the operation to agree to “banning” photos and video, but somehow they do. Their motivations are obvious and insidious. That organizations actually agree to it – well that’s just insulting to their customers.

What do you think?  Have you run into these issues?  I’ve heard that it’s even worse in the UK than the US. I would wager that the countries that have a more robust legal system are those same countries that make common-sense photography more difficult.

Daily Photo – The Wines of New Zealand

I’m afraid I’m not much of a wine aficionado.  I will not deny that I am always envious of those that are (or, appear to be) quite knowledgeable about the subject matter.  Although I’ve been on about 10 different winery tours, I think I retain very little since I am not a wine drinker.

It’s all very interesting scientifically, of course, the growing and wine-making process.  I’m can’t appreciate any of the end-result, but I do like to listen to people prattle on about it.  I occasionally find myself in small social groups where 90% of the conversation revolves around the consumption of alcohol.  I listen attentively, but can’t contribute…

We stopped at a huge winery in New Zealand, which is becoming quite famous this sort of thing.  After having a great lunch, I walked around the vineyards for a bit to find interesting bits here and there…


The Last Pier

New Video Soon

I made a quick video as I was going from one fjord to the next in Iceland just two days ago. I’m editing it now and hope to upload soon… so stay tuned!

Daily Photo – The Last Pier

I made two long drives to Milford Sound. Actually, on the first one I didn’t quite make it all the way because it got too dark. These are the perils of stopping a lot to take photos… but no matter, really, when you see stuff like this. How can you not stop for a photo?

It’s tempting to go out on the dock to take photos, but tiny ones like this tend to shift around with the waves. That can cause all the photos to be misaligned and can cause quite a processing mess. I spend enough time post-processing as it is, so I can’t imagine purposefully setting myself up for more!


Kea Campers in New Zealand

What Projects Am I Working On?

I am working on more cool stuff than I can talk about!

But, upcoming, I do have a full comparison of the new Photomatix (see the current Photomatix Review) and the Adobe CS5 Photoshop HDR stuff. I’ve been doing massive testing, as you might expect… and I am trying to put together something cogent for release soon. But, very briefly, so far Photomatix is faster and better with my recommended workflow.

Do you primarily use a Mac to edit your photos? If so, then check out Aurora HDR Pro! I worked with Macphun for over a year to build the ultimate HDR software!

Upcoming in the near future, I have a very long-form article about a wonderful adventure in Hollywood. It is taking forever to put together and is quite different from the usual post… but I think you will like it!

Besides all that, I’ve also been working on a huge new art project that I hope to display to you in the next few weeks. You guys may hate it… I dunno… I guess we’ll see. I’ve received too much rejection in life to worry about it, so I’ll just float it out there and see what you think!

Daily Photo – Kea Campers in New Zealand

While I was in New Zealand, I got up close and personal with my Kea Camper.  That thing was my home for almost a month, and my wife, two kids, and I lived the heck out of it.  Before the trip, I did a lot of research to find the best one… I wasn’t disappointed.  In fact, I liked it so much, I grabbed a bunch of pics of it!  I’ll add them to the New Zealand Campers page in a bit. I will also add a bunch more information on there about suggested routes, tips, tricks, and more. I’ve been meaning to do that for a while… can’t find the time.

Also, the Kea Campers people know about me and the site – they wanted to offer you a special deal. Just mention STUCKINCUSTOMS when you reserve, and you’ll get all free camping equipment! Cool deal, eh?

I put a few things about the “Camper Van” experience on that page… the good and the bad. The best part? The kids having a blast in their “Clubhouse” upstairs above the driver. The worst part? Getting that beast up curvy, tight, uphill mountains… that caused a bit of unnecessary stress!


Your Road Ahead

Charity Update

We are up to $4,200 donated so far in our Stuck In Customs Kiva Team! Thanks everyone. I know that those of you that put money in are having a good time watching what happens to it… I know that most everything I put in gets paid back. What has been your experience? I’m curious!

Daily Photo – Your Road Ahead

While in New Zealand, we took a series of roads in the south island to go out into the country for an afternoon of archery. On the way there, the roads became less and less robust, and smaller roads would peel off in different directions. I spotted this road and pulled over to take a shot. This one called for the 70-200mm lens to get that interesting compression factor.

The archery was a lot of fun. We visited a little farm, and a 10-year-old girl was running the archery bit. My 9-year-old, Ethan, took a liking to her. So that she could better understand him, he did his best to put on his fake New Zealand accent.

At one point, she asked Ethan, with eyes wide, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to visit America. Tell me! What is it like?”

Ethan crinkled his brow, in deep concentration, and said, “You see, it’s rather booooteefull.”


The Mysterious Moeraki Boulders

The Great Richard MacManus of the Great New Zealand

In the last two months, I’ve gotten to meet two great Kiwis: Richard MacManus (founder of ReadWriteWeb), and Ray Furgeson (NZ Ambassador to the US). John P, who put up the video of my art yesterday, set up a dinner down in Austin during SXSW with me, Richard MacManus, Elyssa Pallai, Cali Lewis, Sean Ammirati. We ate at the famous Oasis here in Austin and saw a beautiful sunset. John gave us all a secret look at some sweet new features of Woopra before we bloated ourselves on Mexican food. It was great!

I also was very happy to find out more about Richard, his background, and more about the way he thinks about things. I’ve always been a fan of ReadWriteWeb, and even went out to their “Real Time Web” conference last year. I hope I didn’t bore Richard and Elyssa by talking about my plans to move my family and StuckInCustoms.com to New Zealand… but I just get quite excited about their country. Maybe with today’s photo of the strange spherical boulders, you’ll see why.

If you want to find out more about what it looks like there, just click the New Zealand category here on the site!

The Six of us at Dinner at the Oasis.  BTW, I’m the one in the glasses.

New Tweetboard Widget

I added a new Tweetboard widget there on the left. It’s a quick way for you to check in on the latest tweets and conversations on Twitter. I am at Twitter.com/TreyRatcliff.

Daily Photo – The Mysterious Moeraki Boulders

These are some of the most mysterious and alien structures I have ever seen!

Yesterday I remarked that I had a major in computer science. Well, for a short time, I had a double-major in comp sci and Geophysics. I got pretty deep into it until I had a fight with a Geology teacher over an intellectual matter (he was wrong and still is), and I dropped that half of the major. Anyway, it never dulled my interest in rocks and Earth science. So, when I saw these strange round rocks for the first time, I was extra-fascinated. Not that I had any idea what they were. My years of geology training did me no good at all… I think it was even more frustrating because I knew all the things they could not be. The remaining possibilities just seemed off-the-chart impossible.

And worse, I didn’t have a mobile connection to Wikipedia to help me figure it all out with my iPhone-tricorder!

After I got back, I was able to figure out a bit more of the arcane science around it all. Even more interesting, I read that 12 miles south of this spot is another are called the “Katki Boulders”. They contain the bones of mosasaurs and plesiosaurs. Cool!


The Lonely Church

Ethan Gets His First Camera in New Zealand

I gave Ethan my LX-3 camera in New Zealand. Actually, he had to “unlock” it by achieving a series of quests that involved photography. He reached an appropriate level, so he got the camera. In a few more levels, he’ll get the secret epic mount.

In fact, Ethan started his own little photo blog…  I don’t know how often he will update it since he’s a busy busy 9-year-old, but he seems to enjoy it so far!

Daily Photo – The Lonely Church

There is a beautiful little French seaside town on the east coast of New Zealand called Akaroa. We spent a few days here to relax and explore. After taking a drive a bit further from the town up the coast, we found this old church on the side of the road. Of course…. it’s impossible to drive by a place like this without popping out for a photo!

After taking so many shots, I can now say that I like cloudy days more than flat blue sunny days. In fact, I’ll just pass by a lot of scenic places if the sky is a boring blue. One common problem that many people notice with HDRs is that there is a “halo” effect. This happens a lot with those blue-sky days… A great way to get around that problem is simply to wait for sunset, a cloudy day, or something where there is not a vast expanse of flat color.

If you want to find out more about the technique, check out the full HDR Tutorial.


The Gentle Grasses of New Zealand

New Textures Tips From Vanelli

Back when I moved my portfolio to Smugmug (See my Smugmug Review), we did a little promotion where a winner got to go on a Vacation with Vanelli. Remember that guy? Well, here comes Vanelli blowing back onto the scene with something new – a video. He has made a cool variation of techniques with my textures, and he wanted to share this “grouping” trick with everyone.

See Vanelli’s New Texture Video there on his site. You will be able to tell very quickly that Vanelli really gets a kick out of all this stuff, and he loves teaching people. You might want to surf around his site a bit more for even more goodies.

New Zealand Images Groweth!

By now, we have posted 17 images of New Zealand! Cool. It’s a beautiful place, and surely you can see why I plan on moving the family (and StuckInCustoms.com) there. In fact, today I got a little email from Roy Furgeson, New Zealand Ambassador to the US (and former ambassador to North Korea)! I was so excited. In HUGE red letters on it, the email said, “UNCLASSIFIED“, which I suppose means that I can mention it without any untoward Kiwi repercussions.

I went to the official New Zealand website for these sorts of diplomatic matters to see what else has been happening of late. This week, besides the historic occasion of emailing me, the Ambassador has been quite busy.  A Kiwi bird was born, and Mr. Ferguson had the honor of naming it “Hiri”.  Hiri is a Maori word that means, “Kiwi Egg Was Not Eaten By A Dirty Drunken Aussie Possum”.

Daily Photo – The Gentle Grasses of New Zealand

As we moved from the North to the South Island (by grinding our Kea Camper onto a moaning ferry), we expected the terrain to change dramatically. Everyone in the north told us how different things were in the south!

But right after we arrived in Picton and started making our way to Nelson, the terrain still had the soft hills and flowing greens of the north. Not that there is anything wrong with that, mind you. But, for a while (until we made it further south), I thought that the whole North Island was playing a huge practical joke on me, and the South Island was actually a perfect replica of the north. After ravenously consuming the comedy stylings of The Flight of the Conchords, I thought I would be able to scry every type of Kiwi humor.  While driving through this bit, I thought perhaps I had fallen prey to old Country-Wide-Giant-Practical-Joke.


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