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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The Beach in Coney Island

Daily Photo – The Beach in Coney Island

While I spent a few days in Brooklyn to research it for an art project I was working on, my friend took me here to Coney Island. What a cool spot! Unfortunately, it was the same day as the mermaid march, so there was absolutely zero parking… but that gave us a chance to go a little further down the beach to take a look at what it’s like to be in New York and sunbathe on the beach!

The Beach in Coney Island

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2019-06-21 15:07:08
  • CameraILCE-7RM2
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/6400
  • Aperture4
  • ISO640
  • Focal Length24.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

The Old Town in Montreal

Daily Photo – The Old Town in Montreal

Not until the final two days there did I make it to the charming old town area of Montreal. The area wasn’t very big, but it was quite picturesque. I think you can walk most of it in less than 20 minutes, but pretty much every angle and corner was photo-worthy. We also ended up eating at a few different places around here and had an all-around blast. What a cool city… I gotta go back! )

The Old Town in Montreal

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2019-07-28 19:29:37
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time4
  • Aperture7.1
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length24.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Boy in Zimbabwe

Daily Photo – Boy in Zimbabwe

What an amazing day we had at the little village festival. There were about 100 kids there and we had the best time hanging out with them. They were totally fascinated by us and our cameras… they probably thought we were total freaks! These were some of the happiest and most curious kids I’ve ever seen… I think hanging out with children in Africa might just be even better than hanging out with the animals!

Boy in Zimbabwe

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2019-09-22 05:42:55
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/160
  • Aperture4
  • ISO160
  • Focal Length24.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Come to my New Zealand Workshop!

Today, if you’re a Passport Member you get to see a new 360 video from our recent workshop in Africa! We had a ton of fun… and you’ll get to hear a little from some of the guests!

You can see more about what happens on the workshop here.

More from Africa!

A few weeks ago, I shared a 360 video where I talked to a few of the workshop members that joined me in the wilds of Africa. This year you get to hear even more… I think my favorite one was when Phillipa and I were talking and lemurs were jumping all over us! 🙂

(As always with 360 video you can turn the video around while watching.)

Exclusive content for Passport members

Unlock Now

The Boston Harbor, My Updated Portfolio and a New Podcast

Updated Portfolio

I’ve recently updated my Portraits and People Portfolio on SmugMug. You might have to scroll down a bit to see some of the new goodies!

Trey’s 360 Podcast – Craig Mod on hiking, writing, Japanese culture and Leica

On this walk along a section of the Camino in Spain I’m with Craig Mod ( https://craigmod.com/ ). He’s a fantastic writer with some amazing content on walking (hikes) which you should check out… maybe start with his Review of Beds which is fun 🙂 Anyway, in this chat we discuss Craig’s various hikes through Japan and some of his observations on their varied culture. We also talk about his evolution from film cameras to ultimately opting for Leica as his main travel companion.

NOTE: If this is your first time seeing a 360 Video, note you can grab the screen and look anywhere!

And here is the audio version if 360 isn’t your thing:

Enjoy!

Daily Photo – The Boston Harbor

As one of the sunsets was winding up, I decided to start criss-crossing the bridges to see different vantage points. It’s such an easy (and fun!) city to photograph. I ended up doing a few different long exposures, and this one turned out to be my favorite one.

The Boston Harbor

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2019-08-11 18:10:44
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time0.6
  • Aperture8
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length24.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

3 Essential Tips for Making It as a Celebrity Photographer

I decided to write this article because I found a really interesting guy to interview about this subject-matter! Here’s a quick story of how we met…

I’ve ended up with a few celebrity/famous art collectors who get my limited edition large-format works. On occasion, I have them over to my art studio in New Zealand. One day, I got a request from Brandin Cooks, who some of you may know from the NFL. Anyway, he came into my studio here with a gentleman named Eric George. We all hit it off immediately! These are two of the nicest guys I’ve ever met in my life. We liked one another so much that we decided to visit Japan together!


Tokyo Fun  (275 of 286)

We had a great time exploring Japan together! And, even better, we’re going back soon!

Anyway, it turns out that Eric often hires photographers for various purposes. Oh, it’s worth noting that he didn’t pay me to take these photos, since I was just doing it as a friend. However, since he does hire photographers often, I thought it would be useful to ask him a bunch of questions about this rather lucrative and unknown field.

Hmmm, so what’s up with this guy, Eric George? He’s a nationally renowned hand surgeon, serial entrepreneur, and investor. Apart from treating NFL and NBA athletes, and owning a hospital and several ambulatory clinics, he founded and currently runs ERG Enterprises, an investment company valued at more than $1 billion to boot. He’s also a recent author of the new book, We: Ditch the Me Mindset and Change the World. His book, released earlier this year, has received endorsements from names like Thomas Tull, founder/former CEO of Legendary Entertainment and minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers; Archie Manning; Jim Breyer (who was an early investor in Facebook and is a billionaire like Tull); and others.

This is all to say, Eric is among those in rarefied air, who celebrity photographers make their living on. I talked to him and here’s a copy of the transcript for you! 🙂

Question (Trey): Hey Eric! When do you look to hire a photographer?
Answer (Eric):
I feel like I’m always in need of a good photographer. From a personal standpoint, we hire photographers to travel with me and take pictures that I want to remember. Earlier this year, I took a trip to Southeast Asia with my family. We hired a photographer to travel with us and capture the experience. There are also other instances when I want to be photographed—most involve some degree of travel. A wedding, a party, a graduation. It always has to do with capturing a memorable experience, and it always involves the people who are most important in my life.

On a more professional note, I do a lot of speaking engagements and events where I need media captured. Partly to build my brand as a thought leader, and partly to stay active. For example, the best way to secure a keynote is to have a recent photograph of you giving a keynote. So, we look for photographers in that context too.

And beyond me specifically, we hire photographers for any number of reasons. To update a website, for instance, or capture pictures related to a project. ERG is a very active investment company, and we’re fully diversified, meaning we have a lot going on. We’re heavily involved in real estate and hospitality, for instance. Every property that we acquire, we need pictures. Our company has a unique investment philosophy, and that is to acquire and renovate existing properties, which means we always need pictures of the renovations and the eventual grand reopening. We’re also involved in other industries such as consumer goods, technology, health care, you name it. In those cases, we need photos that tell a company’s story, advertise a product, speak to a value proposition. We’re connected to all these different businesses that all need a good photographer with the right skillset.

Question (Trey): Yep… it’s all about good story telling. That’s a tough skill. What do you look for when hiring a photographer?
Answer (Eric):
To be honest, the people who work for me evaluate and select anyone we work with. But I can speak for them.

First and foremost, we look for someone with a strong network. I say this not because it’s most important to us, it’s just how we start the process of finding a photographer. Personally, whenever I’m looking to hire anyone, I ask my kids, wife, friends, professional connections. Our team does this too. “Do you guys know a good photographer? One I can trust to do [A, B, C]?” This isn’t unusual. All of us follow this process for any important transaction.

Starting with our network streamlines the process and it’s more effective in helping us find someone we can truly trust. So, having a strong network is key to getting our business. If I were coaching someone on how to be a successful photographer, I’d tell them to get out there, network, and build a base of loyal customers to grow from. That’s true of any discipline, but particularly freelance photography.

It’s also important to have a strong online presence. Once we get a recommendation, the first thing we do is look up that person on Google. We check out their website. When it comes to photography, at a bare minimum, we look for a portfolio, their bio, and any endorsements and testimonials they have. The portfolio is key and must show us that they know what they’re doing. If they have great pictures, great. If they have great pictures of recognizable celebrities or business leaders, even better. That speaks to their professionalism, marketing, customer service. It also tells us they’re adept at meeting high expectations.

Outside of just finding a website, we also check out social media. For photography, that means mostly Instagram. Again, we’re looking for a great portfolio. We also take notice of the number of followers they have. It’s an added benefit if we know they have, say, 10,000 people following them, since that’ll go a long way in terms of promotion when they share their work.


My Last Photo Of Anthony Bourdain

I take a lot of photos of celebrities. To me, it’s all about the connection and understanding who they are in the eyes. That’s the best storytelling mechanism of all.

Question (Trey): Let’s say you find the right photographer. What do you expect from that person?
Answer (Eric):
During the actual process of working together, I expect great customer service. That’s because there’s nothing for me to see yet. What does great customer service mean? It means anticipating, sensing, and addressing my needs. Am I uncomfortable? Do I need assurance? Direction? It also means being honest and direct. We don’t have much time together. Should I do something to improve the shot? Does the light make me look terrible? If it does, I expect that person to tell me. (Tactfully, of course).

Great customer service means making the experience a positive one, while providing me the direction and information to make the best product possible. It means taking care of me as customer during the present as well as the future.

That’s very different from someone who only tells me, “Everything’s great. These pictures are wonderful.” Sure, I’ll enjoy the photoshoot, but I’ll be incredibly disappointed when I see the finished product. To me, that’s an example of terrible customer service, it’s customer disservice. There’s always a way to make the experience enjoyable while adhering to the parameters of one’s craft.

That brings up another thought worth mentioning. For personal photos, customer service becomes even more important. That’s because I want whoever I’m working with to become a part of the experience of a family trip, say, or an excursion. I want them to blend in with the experience at the very least, enhance it if possible, but certainly not to hinder or distract from it.

I sound like I have really high expectations, and I do. But again, I wouldn’t say I’m an outlier. I think I’m a part of the majority in this respect.

Question (Trey): What qualities do all successful photographers share in your experience?
Answer (Eric):
The most successful photographers, in my experience, are entrepreneurs. What I mean by that is they’re great at all the functions needed to run a successful enterprise. It’s not just about being skilled at the craft and mechanics of photography, even though that’s most important. Success means they have to be great at marketing and relationship-building, which helps us find them. They also need to be skilled at sales, so we buy their value proposition. Of course, they also need stellar customer service, which I just mentioned. They need to do all these things, and it’s a lot for anybody. But the most successful photographers can manage each process effectively. That’s what I think it takes to compete at the level we’re talking about.

Question (Trey): OK, last question. Do you plan to hire a photographer soon, and if so, for what?
Answer (Eric):
For ERG, we have several projects underway that call for a photographer. Two are luxury hotels that we’re very excited about and plan to announce soon.

I’m also going on a book tour and need a photographer to come along. I also plan to take a long trip next spring with you, Trey, and Brandin Cooks, who is like a son to me and a good friend of yours. The plan is to go to Japan, and of course we’re relying on you as our tour guide.

Trey: See you guys in Japan! Let’s have another sushi party and take some crazy photos!

If you want to learn more about Eric, head over to his website, www.ergenterprises.net. There, you’ll find the exciting businesses and projects he’s involved in. I’d also encourage you to check out his book on Amazon. It’s a great read and provides insight into how Eric approaches life and business. He’s one of the nicest people I have ever met!


Tokyo Fun  (40 of 286)

Here we are exploring the Kabukicho area of Shinjuku, Japan. Right after this, I took them over to one of my favorite secret bars in Golden Gai that is only big enough for about seven people!

Tracking Male Lions in Botswana

New Tutorial in the Works!

Now that I’m back in the studio in New Zealand after 4-5 months on the road, I’m getting organized! One of my to-do items is to put together a new tutorial I recorded while in Africa. If you’re a Passport Member then you’ll see a few sneak peeks along the way!

Daily Photo – Tracking Male Lions in Botswana

I didn’t see a male lion until my fourth trip to Africa! I don’t know why, but I kind of thought these guys would be all over the place. They’re not endangered or anything, but they are quite elusive. Male lions are not as elusive as leopards or wild dogs, but they are quite hard to find. I had this amazing guide and he didn’t mind me asking dumb questions. It turns out that male lions are hard to find because they basically sleep most of the day in tall grass, do nothing to help the kids, and, when they’re not being lazy, they are thinking about being lazy. We came across a few males… and one took a break from his laziness to climb on top of this log to appear to be rather majestic.

Tracking Male Lions in Botswana

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2019-07-17 19:28:48
  • CameraILCE-6400
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/800
  • Aperture6.3
  • ISO250
  • Focal Length289.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

The Amazing Organ at Notre-Dame in Montreal

Passport Freebies!

I wanted to give you two free videos that we released to Stuck In Customs Passport Members earlier this year! This is obviously an incentive to get you to join. When you do, you’ll get fresh videos every Sunday! Also, I’d appreciate your support… it keeps the website going and we can keep feeding the machine! 🙂


Daily Photo – The Amazing Organ at Notre Dame in Montreal

This organ is one of the only organs the Catholics are allowed to touch and look at during services. I have all sorts of ways I poke fun at the Catholics… probably because I went to an all-boy Jesuit school for four years where they tried to brainwash me. But, it didn’t work! However, having just poked more fun at them, I do actually have a decent amount of respect for the Jesuits. They at least have a lot of critical thought and philosophy that makes up the backbone of their teachings. There are a few logical fallacies here and there where it breaks down for me. But hey, that’s just me. I want to go back and do some DMT with some of my old teachers to see what they think.

The Amazing Organ at Notre Dame in Montreal

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2019-07-27 08:12:30
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1.3
  • Aperture5
  • ISO250
  • Focal Length24.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Luminar 4 Approaches

Pre-Order Luminar 4 with AI Skin Enhancer and Sky Replacement

Well, Luminar 4 is now ready for pre-order and it looks like they’re really going for Adobe’s throat! It already had a ton of features and tools that are sorely lacking in Lightroom. This one has a bunch of new tools that are pretty wicked-smart and fast!

One is the AI Sky Replacement. Below is a picture I took of those famous Baobab trees I visited last week in Madagascar. I went all the way to Madagascar and the sky was so boring… what a bummer! Anyway, this AI Sky replacement is pretty rad because there are a ton of different ones to choose from (or use your own), and it’s a simple one-click operation. Besides blue skies, it’s also easy to choose from a ton of sunsets and other dramatic skies. You can make a few other adjustments too as you can see in the screenshot.

The second cool feature is the AI Portrait stuff. It’s pretty amazing how simple it is to change someone’s face – either a little or a lot. Some people like their faces to get a bit of fluff and others don’t. Who am I to judge? In the example below, this was actually a picture of the Unabomber that I turned into my previous assistant Tane. You can see all the sliders on the right. It’s really quite incredible.. and if you’re a portrait kinda person, don’t miss it!

The third sweet tool is the AI Structure enhancer. The cool thing about it is that it doesn’t make any adjustments to humans in the scene. AI Structure can really make textures and other elements “pop” without making the humans in the scene look overly sharp, gritty, or illustrative. As you can see in the screenshot below (another one I took a few weeks ago in Zimbabwe), it’s just two simple sliders!

Grab it here today for a discounted price before it launches in November.

Amazing Museum Show in Montreal

Thierry Mugler: Couturissime

Check out the museum show yourself at this link! It’s definitely worth a visit if you are in the area… and I’m not even that much into fashion!

Daily Photo – Amazing Museum Show in Montreal

Whenever I go to museums, it can be quite challenging to take photos. At best, my work is a derivative of something original. I’m very sensitive to that, so I try to find interesting perspectives and ideas that help make the work more original. I’m pretty happy with the mystery in this one.

Amazing Museum Show in Montreal

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2019-07-29 21:12:26
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/80
  • Aperture4
  • ISO2000
  • Focal Length29.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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