About Trey Ratcliff

“I’m a warm-hearted, old-school gentleman explorer with really cool toys.”

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“Trey’s images are other-worldly, mind-blowing creations that, at first glance, appear to be some digital trompe l’oeil; a Photoshop trickery post production creation. But no, Ratcliff’s photographs — through techniques he freely shares — are inspiring and real. Something which makes them all the more incredible.”

JJ Abrams, Director & Writer, Lost, Alias, Fringe, Star Trek, Super 8, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

“Trey’s pictures are a daily source of inspiration for me. I can’t count the times that I’ve gotten stuck in my writing and, as I sit there staring at my computer screen desperately trying to think of the next idea, the screensaver kicks in with one of Trey’s images, and the shapes and colors triggered something in me that got me to the next note…”

Hans Zimmer, Composer, The Lion King, Gladiator, Batman, Inception, Sherlock Holmes

“Someone once told me that a photographer is an artist that paints with light. I never understood what that meant until I saw Trey’s work.”

Patrick Rothfuss, Writer, The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear, The Doors of Stone

About the About Me page

Hello! 🙂 I’m quite a humble person, really, but I know that people that come to this page want to know more about me. This page started out small, but people ask more and more questions, so the page grows and grows! Remember, in saying All This Stuff about myself, I am actually egoless, which I think is the greatest creative gift any artist can give to one’s self. It wasn’t the easiest path, but books like this helped.

Briefly… a bio in brief bullet points

  • I was born blind in one eye and still only see out of my left. I call it “The Gift.”
  • My degree was Computer Science and Math and I did that until my mid 30’s until finally diving full-time into my creative side.
  • I started the blog StuckInCustoms.com immediately after getting a digital camera and started sharing one photo per day along with stories and free tutorials to help everyone enjoy this strange world of HDR Photography that I was discovering for myself. I was obsessed As of the time of writing this, that was about 10 years ago and I still publish one photo per day and I love it. Here is the HDR Tutorial by the way.
  • The site became very popular and I started getting into social media. Now, if you add up all platforms (FB, Insta, Pinterest, Google, Twitter), I have about 16 million followers and I love all these Internet friends!
  • Google tracks views, and on that platform alone, it’s over 140 billion views tracking at over 125 million a day of the photos. At least some of those views are from my mom, who is my biggest fan 🙂
  • I sell large prints to happy collectors around the world, and in 2017 we passed the $1 million mark in total sales. The fine art side of the business has been much more fun and exhilarating than I ever anticipated. All fine art info is over at our sister site at TreyRatcliff.com.
  • I do a lot of public speaking through my agent at CAA, I’ve been interviewed on most major TV channels around the world, and had the first HDR photo to hang in the Smithsonian. My young son went to go visit it in person, took a photo, and it made him proud. That made me smile.
  • I’m really into meditation and yoga. I also go to Burning Man (my photos) every single year and love it.
  • Over the past few years, I’ve started partnering with companies to build products and services. One good example is Peak Design, where we designed a number of bags on Kickstarter. The two Kickstarters made over $13 million and have been hugely successful. Most importantly, the bags make people happy! I give tremendous credit to the Peak Design team!
  • I also teamed up to build our own Photo Software with Macphun. It has over 3 million downloads total and been growing ever since. Last year we won Apple’s “Mac App of the Year.”
  • I love to do Free Photo Walks Around the World filled with tips and fun for the fans! Sign up for our newsletter to find out first about that or other goodies!
  • The company here has grown to about 10 people, full time and part time. Everyone helps one another out and we have a lot of fun!
  • I recently opened up a new private area of the website for members only called the Stuck In Customs Passport. This is where you can see all sorts of behind-the-scenes videos, how-to videos, inspiration, and more.
  • Lots more to talk about but already too many bullet points… more here on the site from Workshops to Fine Art sales to Business Development to our Online Store to Luxury Brand Partnerships to Home Videos!
  • What’s the core reason I do all of this? A bit new-agey but maybe you’ll dig it. I want to help spread consciousness and presence to the world. It’s hard to teach billions to meditate, but you can help teach them photography and creativity. I believe when people are being creative they are being fully present and conscious, and that’s the best thing we all can do for the world.

A very personal video

I made this video from 3+ years of drone footage combined with the word of the British philosopher Alan Watts. FInd a quiet place, put on your headphones, and enjoy.

Speaking at TEDx

There’s a grouping of questions about me that come up pretty often. How did I become a photographer? What’s the backstory? What are some of the counter-intuitive things that I figured out along the way via series of embarrassing stories? Well here’s all that and more!

Social Media Reach

My audience largely consists of people with disposable income seeking inspiration and adventure. They span all ages and countries and are passionate about travel, high-tech gadgets, the environment, camera equipment, and learning photography.


Pie Chart March 2017

Speaking at Google Zeitgeist

If you are extra curious about me and HDR photography, this video is a pretty good summation of the whole shootin’ match. The talk “The World We Design – Technology and Beauty in Photography” is from Google Zeitgeist Americas.

What I look Like

Don’t most people click on an “About Me” page to see what the bloke looks like? I don’t like photos of me, and I can’t ever decide which one is representative of me. Anyway, I’ll post a few different ones here, but don’t think I’m one of those Instagram non-stop selfie people haha… (and if you simply MUST see more, here are a bunch of photos that other people have taken.)

Okay this is me

My mom thinks I look cute in this photo. Who am I to disagree with my mom? I don’t know what else to say here other than maybe you would like to subscribe to my YouTube Channel where we have all sorts of videos. I don’t know if you are a photographer who likes tutorials or simply a fan. Either way, I have lots of videos there.


Photo Walking in Europe!

Here’s a highlight video from our photo walks in Europe. Enjoy! If you want to join me for an upcoming one, why not sign up for our free and beautiful Newsletter!


Atop a 100 Story Building in Dubai

Getting to the edge of this building was probably not the best idea, but I really wanted to get this shot of Dubai! It was an incredible city and we had a great photowalk there as well. If you want to join me for one of our photowalks around the world, be sure to check out the events page!


Tutorials and Reviews

I freely share my photos and many tutorials with everyone. I use the Creative Commons license, so people are free to use this stuff on their own, as long as it is not for commercial purposes. A lot of people come here the first time for the various tutorials or reviews. The first tutorial is about my style of photography which has a special little twist – the details are in my HDR Tutorial.  If you want know even more, we also offer a downloadable Complete HDR Tutorial. The Camera Reviews section has also been growing a lot lately with some good stuff. Perhaps you can get the inside scoop on cool things in there.


Adventuring on Antarctica

I spent about three weeks down in Antarctica taking photos all over the place. I flew down in a CL-130 and we landed one skis on the sea ice. The whole experience was absolutely incredible. Everything happened from digging out an ice cave to sleeping next to a glacier on the continent. You can read more about it by looking at all the blog posts with the Antarctica tag.


Categorical Breakdown of Me

The Basics

  • Name: Trey Ratcliff
  • Gender: Dude
  • Primary Language: English
  • Place of Residence: Queenstown, New Zealand
  • Family: Wife, three kids. Son: Ethan. Two daughters: Search and Destroy
  • Sign: Cancer
  • High School: Jesuit College Prep Dallas
  • University: Southern Methodist University (Computer Science and Math)


PhotoWalking Around the World

Check out our upcoming photowalks and events here! I’ve gotten into the habit of meeting you guys all over the world! Whenever I have an extra day or night in a city, I always try to make time for a free PhotoWalk. These are tremendously fun events! Here’s a photo of one we did in Melbourne, and they even get bigger than this! We’ve done them in Paris, London, Tokyo, Beijing, San Francisco, New York, Dallas, LA, Auckland, Christchurch, and many more places. Be sure to watch our Newsletter to find out when I might be coming to your city too!


In a Nutshell

Most people find me odd, and others have trouble finding me at all. I’m often busy doing something terribly important, but it seems hardly important to the other person once they have found me and asked me what the hell I am doing.



Most people don’t know that ROBOT TREY is my true identity on Snapchat (treyratcliff). It says all kinds of crazy things and Trey really can’t be held responsible for what you may or may not see, hear, or feel. Luckily, ROBOT TREY does not feel anything, being a robot. So if you have any complaints or anything, they will assuredly fall upon his deaf robot ears.



  • Photography
  • Philosophy
  • Genetics
  • Swarming
  • Computer & video games
  • Sociology
  • Anthropology
  • Writing fiction
  • Drawing
  • Raising kids (little RPG chars)


  • Soccer
  • Jogging with Pixel on too loud
  • Snowboarding
  • Making up a lot of games if there is another guy and a ball involved
  • * above hobby sounded sketchy

Books (one from each genre…)

  • Patrick Rothfuss or George RR Martin
  • The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • Almost anything from Philip K. Dick
  • Eckhart Tolle books
  • His Dark Materials
  • Cryptonomicon
  • Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Ender’s Game
  • Tale of Two Cities
  • Atlas Shrugged
  • Genome
  • The Journeyer
  • Winesburg, Ohio
  • Free to Choose
  • I don’t want to list a ton of books…  but anything about genetics, patterns, anthropology, history, come visit my library and I’ll have a big pile of books for you to borrow!


Having a drink near a glacier

This is a very typical photo of me getting off a chopper near my home in Queenstown, New Zealand. Thanks to Choppy for the ride and the martini! I got that jilaba while in Morocco… it’s so warm and cozy. I bought it in Fes and then in Marrakech had extra pockets sewn inside (like Kvothe) to hold all my lenses.



(I hate listing movies because it makes me sound like a My-Spacey 13-year-old-girl, but people seem to like reading this sort of thing because they feel like it gives them a cutting Freudian insight into my psyche, a notion I heartily dismiss.)

  • Amelie
  • Any Wes Anderson Movie
  • Tombstone
  • Fantastical movies like The Fall, Big Fish, and Pan’s Labyrinth
  • Crouching Tiger
  • Office Space
  • Serenity
  • Napoleon Dynamite
  • Best in Show and that whole line of movies from Christopher Guest
  • The Big Lebowski
  • Ron Fricke movies like Baraka
  • Obvious predictable adoration of LOTR, SW, Batman series
  • Anything with Christian Bale
  • Anything with Woody Allen
  • Nothing that stars both Christian Bale AND Woody Allen



  • Ambient and world new age electronica
  • EDM – well good EDM
  • Gotan Project
  • Cesaria Evora
  • Tipper
  • Patrick O’Hearn
  • David Darling
  • Acoustic Guitar… Spanish Guitar
  • Listen to almost all genres though…weird stuff!


  • Ricky Gervais shows…
  • ?????, Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)
  • Firefly (canceled, sadly)
  • Rick and Morty
  • House of Cards
  • Game of Thrones
  • Burn Notice
  • The Office (both)
  • All the Connections shows with the great James Burke
  • Good Eats
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • Arrested Development
  • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
  • Southpark
  • Blackadder
  • The Simpsons

A slide shade of evolution

This was shot near the Batu Caves of Malaysiay.  Now, it might look like me and this Macaque are smiling at one another.  Well, I am smiling.  That monkey is showing aggression (they do so by baring their teeth). My jugular is a warm, salty half-second away.  But, right after this moment, I threw him a piece of fruit and made a hasty egress.


  • Italian
  • Chocolate
  • Anything with carbs
  • Chocolate (did I say that already?)


  • Englsih (barely)
  • French (enough not to get sneered at by the French themselves)
  • Spanish (enough to order Texmex)

Quotes I like:

  • Homer: (screaming) “Why must I fail at every attempt at masonry?”
  • Winston Churchill:  “Success is the ability to move from one failure to the next with no loss of enthusiasm.”



Sleeping in the Sahara

I went camel trekking across Morocco in the Sahara desert and approached the border of Algeria. I was with a group of Berbers, and I ended up staying in their camp for the night. The desert was so cold… I was taking a photo of the fire and decided to sit down in front if while I took a selfie of sorts. After the photo, I sat there for a long time, conjuring strange thoughts from the fire.



Oh, also, I also like the to draw and I find it helps me quite a bit with the photography. I started teaching myself in an experiment to see if I could learn in April of 2008. Here is a compilation of some work I did between April and October of that year. I still don’t think I’m very good, but I look forward to improving.

If you would like to see more drawings and sketches, I’ve put them all in the Drawing category.

Learning to Draw by Candlelight (by Stuck in Customs)


Besides drawing, I also like digitally paint. I have done a few of these… none are for sale – just experiments. You can read more about it and see more on the Fire in Yellowstone page.


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