Stuck in Customs – Trey Ratcliff's Travel Photography blog with daily inspiration to motivate you!

Stuck In Customs

My daily travel blog to inspire and get you motivated!

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My New Origin PC!

The amazing team over at Origin PC custom-built me a new PC! I was soooooo excited to receive it! Here is my rather random and silly unboxing video. It’s probably the WORST unboxing video they have ever asked someone to do. But, nevertheless, I finally got it done and I absolutely love the system.

This machine is screamingly fast, and it was a great move to put my main Lightroom library on here. It’s great to have my ~800K photos all in one place with no external drives (except for backups). And the speed… the SPEED! It’s so fast that not even the sloppy programming of Adobe Lightroom can slow it down!

Here’s the 360 video of the unboxing (you can move the camera around). I’ll put the specs below!

ORIGIN PC M-Class Desktop (Black)

  • 850W EVGA SuperNOVA G3 PSU
  • Blue Individually Sleeved Cables
  • Supermicro X11SRM-F Motherboard
  • Intel Xeon W-2145 8-Core 3.7GHz (4.5GHz TurboBoost)
  • ASUS ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
  • 64GB SUPERMICRO DDR4 2666MHz ECC Registered (2 x 32GB)
  • MS Windows 10 Pro
  • 500GB Samsung 860 EVO Series SSD
  • 1TB Samsung 860 EVO Series SSD
  • 12TB BarraCuda Pro Seagate SSHD
  • 12TB BarraCuda Pro Seagate SSHD
  • …and some LED lighting.



How many people believe in the idealized lives they see online?

Even though my new book is called “Under the Influence – How to Fake Your Way into Getting Rich on Instagram: Influencer Fraud, Selfies, Anxiety, Ego, and Mass Delusional Behavior” it’s not just those engaged with fraudulent behavior that portray an idealized life. It makes sense that those that fake their followings, comments, and likes would, of course, take photos that make them have a perfect life because of a purse, an outfit, a vacation, or a myriad of other materialistic things. Obviously, they want you to think that having more stuff or more glamourous vacations makes them a better person, and you too can be a better person if you just get these products and services they mention. Most of that is out of reach for people, so it naturally depresses them and causes anxiety. To me, this is a second crime against the public, as not only are they portraying a nearly impossible lifestyle, but they faked their numbers to get these products and opportunities. The public thinks it’s all real, and it causes undue anguish on a pandemic level.

So, let’s stop talking about those sorts of people for a moment (the ones committing fraudulent activity), and instead talk about all the other people out there who portray a perfect lifestyle. No doubt many of them are emulating those above, but there’s a huge Venn diagram overlap with basic ego tied any or all of the following: body image, materialism (bags or cars), special events, vacations, and this sort of thing. I’m not saying that every one of those posts is ego fuelled. For example, sometimes people just like to show off a new outfit without conceit. But, the more harmful ones are the type where they are either subtly (via a humble-brag) or overtly illustrating that their lives are incredible and they really want you to know about it. Because, in their twisted logic, only if you KNOW about it, then it must be true.

Some of these are paid posts from sponsors, where people may get paid a few thousand dollars to talk about anything from a teeth whitening product to a special sort of tea. They usually have special directives from marketing to explain a few talking points about their product. They are puppets telling you that if you had XXXX, your life would be better.


This kind of Influencer marketing is especially insidious because it sounds so authentic coming from a person you think you know. We all see ads on TV that tell you your life would be better with a certain car or your babies would be happier with a certain diaper. But we have grown numb to most of those as that’s what we expect with commercials. But when you hear about something from TV personality you respect, it has a different effect on your mind. It’s almost as good as a recommendation from a friend.

I believe the vast majority of “showing off” posts are not paid posts, but instead, people emulating the paid posts (of both authentic and inauthentic Influencers). As we all know and lament, there is a dirge of originality in the world, which means at least 90% of human behavior is merely a copy. I’m being generous and saying 10% of the 8 billion people on Earth create something entirely new that is interesting enough to be copied. Everything else is either a copy or an obvious derivation.

Remember too that it may not be the photo so much as the description that they copy to try to induce engagement. They may ask, “What is your favorite dessert?” or “If you could be in a jacuzzi in any country in the world, which one would it be?” or “What is your guilty pleasure?” Keep in mind this is a method they copy from other Influencers to get you to respond. The important thing to remember is: they don’t care about your actual response; they only care about a lot of comments.

Because some of the most-followed accounts are the ones that get the paid endorsements, less-followed accounts that aspire to that lifestyle end up copying the style, mood, and contents of their photos. And this is why your feed is full of such vapid, relatively uninspired content. But when you see dozens or hundreds of posts of people living the perfect life (90% of which are copies of paid posts), it will end up having an effect on your psyche.

Again, if you’re having an awesome experience or you feel great about the way you look today, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with sharing it online, as long as you’re not subtly or overtly making yourself sound superior to your followers.

How to get around this anxiety? Well, I talk a lot about this in the book. In fact, the whole second half of the book is dedicated to this topic of self-preservation in the online world. I could have called the book “How to Stay Zen on the Internet,” but I like the more clickbaity title. Besides the ideas in the book, here are some additional suggestions. If you notice one Influencer in particular that you follow causes you to continually feel bad about your life, just unfollow them. There have been studies that show people rarely unfollow after they choose to follow, but you can be the exception to this rule. It’s fun to cull! Another idea is to seek out accounts that make truly original, funny, or interesting content that inspires you and improves your mind or your life.

Consider this is your friendly weekly reminder that you shouldn’t believe everything you see on Instagram, especially if it feels too good to be true.

Real Instagram handles and names are used throughout as examples. I provide my personal opinion on what may constitute fraudulent behavior on social media, based on the evidence and data available to me. The reader is welcome to draw their own conclusions.

The Hills

Africa and India Workshops

We’re loosely planning a workshop for India! Stay tuned to our workshops page to see what we have in store for you! 🙂

Daily Photo – The Hills

There are about a dozen perfect little ponds around The Hills golf course. Most of the time, they have perfect reflections as well. Michael Hill has been trying to talk me into making a full set of photos for the golf course, but I’ve been pretty busy lately. Maybe I’ll get around to it… it’s not a terrible idea!

The Hills

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-05-03 16:35:46
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/400
  • Aperture7.1
  • ISO250
  • Focal Length32.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Kobe, Japan

Next Trip to Japan

I’m in the middle of planning one right now! This time I’m going to try to visit more places in the deeper part of the south… I may start with Hiroshima. I’ve heard it’s really beautiful and there are a few interesting things to see from the war. I wonder how long the radiation stayed around… it could not have been that long because it’s totally clear now. I thought radiation would hang around for hundreds of years, but it wasn’t that big of a bomb. Well, I mean, it was big, but not like the ones we have today. I need to look this up!

Daily Photo – Kobe, Japan

I had one extra day at the end of the Japanese tour, and I decided to visit a new place I had never visited before: Kobe. It was another awesome Japanese town, although I didn’t get to spend a lot of time there. You can see another town there in the distance across the way. That’s actually Sakai, which is near Osaka, and I was there a few weeks early to watch a blacksmith craft swords and knives using the old traditions.

Kobe, Japan

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-11-12 10:16:01
  • CameraILCE-7RM2
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1
  • Aperture6.3
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length122.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Behind the Scenes of my New Book

Inside info in the new book… The Making Of…

Now, this may have NO interest to you at all… because it’s not even about photography… it’s about the creation process of a book. My new book, actually… so, today, for you Passport members, you get to see my towards the end-cycle of a random creative endeavor!

Passport – Book Behind the Scenes Part 1

And now for something COMPLETELY different. I’m always trying new things… I think this is very important to keep the brain plastic and always learning. I’ve never written a book of this nature before, so here is some of the behind-the-scenes stuff of the things I was working through with the book. Enjoy!

Exclusive content for Passport members

Unlock Now

Abandoned Ships in the South China Sea

A New Photography Podcast

There’s a new podcast kicking about that is made by Derrick Story of Skylum fame. It’s called “The Nimble Photographer” and I was on a recent episode which you can hear here!

In it, we discuss one of my more successful photography based business ideas, including how reading about a stuffed shark led me to working out how a fine art business could succeed.

Daily Photo – Abandoned Ships in the South China Sea

Now I’m not technically sure these are abandoned, but they probably are. This is near Sanya, which is an island off the SE coast of China. I flew my drone over about 50 of these ships and got in close. There was definitely nobody aboard the ships, and they don’t appear to be terribly seaworthy. If anyone else has more info on these, let me know!

Abandoned Ships in the South China Sea

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-03-19 18:27:25
  • CameraFC220
  • Camera MakeDJI
  • Exposure Time1/470
  • Aperture2.2
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length4.7 mm
  • FlashNo flash function
  • Exposure ProgramProgram AE
  • Exposure Bias

The Art Zoo in Singapore

Hitchens

I just updated my book list over at my Kit.com to include the book by Christopher Hitchens called “God is not Great.” I listened to the audiobook, which I also recommend because he has an incredible voice too!

Daily Photo – The Art Zoo in Singapore

I was watching this all the time out of my room at the Ritz-Carlton there. I was wishing my girls were with me. This is the kind of place they would love. But, I also thought it looked like a really fun place to HDR! I’m not exactly sure what all that stadium seating is for… Maybe they clear out all the kid stuff and use that for a big outdoor performance stage.

The Art Zoo in Singapore

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-03-25 00:42:01
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time0.3
  • Aperture4
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length62.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Kuala Lumpur from the Traders Hotel Bar

Live on Video on Facebook

I should do more of these! Here’s one from a few weeks ago when I went live on Facebook to stream my screen while editing some photos. (If you click through to Facebook you can read the comments.)

Daily Photo – Kuala Lumpur from the Traders Hotel Bar

I think the bar on the top of the Traders Hotel has the best view of the Petronas Towers. I tried a few other rooftop bars in the area, but this one is still the best. While I was there, you can see that dark, foreboding Four Seasons hotel on the right. Maybe it wasn’t open yet? I can only imagine that because not many lights are on and the sign on top is not lit up.

Kuala Lumpur from the Traders Hotel Bar

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-03-30 02:04:27
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time4
  • Aperture2.8
  • ISO160
  • Focal Length16.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias+2

White Sand Beaches in Florida

I’m Behind This Book

It’s kind of fun to check Amazon Best Seller Rankings for my new book. We are #1 in a few categories, but definitely not OVERALL Kindle rankings, which are full of some Rather Silly Sounding romance books. For example, my book is many slots behind, “The Benefits of Bad Decisions,” which has the following description:


After a bad decision lands me a role on a reality show, I expect it to be my big break as a TV star. Despite getting kicked off the first night, I land on my feet again when a talent agent who saw the show offers me an audition as back-up dancer for a popular rock band.

Knowing this could be my stepping stone is exciting, but the real thrill is watching Brody bang on his drums every night. It’s a bad idea for a dancer to hook up with a band member, but after he kisses me, I can’t stay away.

Facing the consequences was inevitable, and it only takes one scandalous mistake from my past to cause our complete destruction.

Bad decision or not, I always manage to come out on top… until I don’t.

Woman that Can Smell Parkinson’s

Not 100% of my time on reddit is wasted. It’s more like 99%, with this very interesting article as the 1% exception.

Daily Photo – White Sand Beaches in Florida

I didn’t know Florida had white sand beaches! I don’t know why it’s that surprising, I suppose… I just had never heard of it. I can’t imagine how many millions of years it takes for the ocean to beat down quartz rocks into this fine, powdery sand. Can anyone guess exactly what beach this is?

White Sand Beaches in Florida

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-01-21 09:18:06
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/500
  • Aperture9
  • ISO400
  • Focal Length43.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

The Pantheon

#1 on Amazon!

Hey thanks everyone for getting the new book! You helped get it to #1 in its category!! 🙂 It’s officially released now, and you can get the paperback version if you want that too. 🙂

Jim Gaffigan Comedy Special

Make sure you check out his new special on Netflix. This guy cracks me up…

Daily Photo – The Pantheon

Here’s the Pantheon in Rome. It’s hard to believe this building is 2,000 years old! I edited this single RAW photo using Aurora HDR 2019. This is an old photo, from probably over eight years ago. I still have SO MANY unprocessed photos, and it’s fun to go back to them now and process them using new tools.

The Pantheon

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2016-01-19 19:20:31
  • CameraILCE-7RM2
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/60
  • Aperture4
  • ISO1600
  • Focal Length11.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-0.7

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