San Francisco – Stuck in Customs

San Francisco at Dusk

Daily Photo – San Francisco at Dusk

I spend a lot of time in San Francisco trying to work out how to get into the higher buildings, sometimes it’s as easy as just booking a hotel room, usually though it involves a lot of persuasion with the staff in a lobby. Always a fun challenge. 🙂

San Francisco at Dusk

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2013-05-21 00:45:19
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1.6
  • Aperture4
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length13.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias


50 Beautiful Cities

Hey awesome blog reader… you’ll probably be aware that I’ve been delving into the world of NFTs in the past few months. So far, it’s been both a success and an interesting adventure. That continues today with my 2nd drop on OpenSea. This set of NFTs is based around 50 of my favorite cities spanning all seven continents. There are a wide range of configurations (and prices) available and I’d love it if you’d check them out. If you thought an NFT mixed with physical art was odd last time then how about several NFTs, wrapped in an NFT… mixed with some Aave tokens which should appreciate over time??!

The first drop on OpenSea did better than expected and broke $100,000USD in the first three days. This second one already has a lot of interest as more and more collectors are getting into the NFT world. Jump on in! I’ll make a detailed video soon that talks more about what I’ve learned, mistakes I’ve made, some new ideas, and other interesting stuff from this wild wild west of cryptofun.

Also, if you’re an NFT curious artist, be sure to sign up for Passport where I’ve been sharing videos about my NFT experience so far. If you’re thinking about listing your own, you may find those helpful. Speaking of your own NFTs, I’m now starting to invest back into other projects so if you launch something cool tag me on Twitter and I’ll be sure to take a look. 🙂

Trey Ratcliff Cities NFT OpenSea Preview


The 50 Cities Drop

OpenSea Preview for Passport Members

If you’re a Passport Member then you’ll see a fun sneak peek of an upcoming drop over there. I have a new strategy that will either be awesome or crash and burn. We’ll see! 🙂

The 50 Cities Drop

Here’s a sneak preview of the drop and a little bit about the pricing strategy. I don’t really know if it will work or not. I have very low expectations… so I guess we will see!

Exclusive content for Passport members

Unlock Now


Best Of: San Francisco

Continuing with the best-of situation, here are some of my favorite photos of San Francisco!

Exploring San Francisco from Above From on top of Twin Peaks in San Francisco, a good zoom lens when the fog rolls in can get a little crazy! The fog glows orange-red with all the lights and it feels a bit… apocalyptic. I took about 20 shots of this, and the fog would creep around this way and that. They all looked interesting, but in the end, I liked this one the best.- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

A Dishonest Image of San Francisco And with this image, I am once again launching full-out-assault on the hallowed traditions of photography. You know what I did with this image? I post-processed it! Oh yes, I really did. And I had so much fun doing it… at least as much fun as Dexter in his kill room.I guess if I was to be really “honest” and take a photo of San Francisco and keep with the tradition of the greats of photography, it would have to be black and white photo, right? I mean, the world really is black and white, isn’t it? Oh wait, no… it’s in color. Wait, now I’m confused.Oh no, look what I’ve done now. I’ve gone and upset people that think one form of artistic expression is superior to another form of artistic expression. How could I be so callous and open with my thoughts and techniques?- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

A Great Day at the Google HQ! Wow that was a cool experience.  Those guys and gals over there are super-nice.  You never know...  I guess maybe Google seems somewhat intimidating from the outside, but after I met guys like Cliff, Brian, and Chip -- I felt right at home.I gave an hour-long talk in one of their theaters there.  It was super-packed and people were standing all around because seats were gone.  We were graced with the presence of one Sara Jane Todd from @Peachpit to help out selling books - and we sold out!  Also, my Brazilian friend Fabio, the editor of Abduzeedo was there too, so it was great to see him.The Authors@Google (video link) program has a neat deal where they subsidize books, so Googlers don't have to pay full price.  I saw all kinds of cool stuff and took a lot of pics.  I have to get most cleared with Google Corp Comms before I can release... but I nabbed shots of a spaceship, a new pseudo-holodeck, and more mysteries await!  We even got to eat lunch there in the Google cafeteria, which had some of the most excellent food I've ever had in such a setting... they even have a small organic farm on the campus... well, I could go on and on...  but I was very impressed and happy to meet so many enthusiastic people!The video should be done in the next 2-3 weeks or so.  We've got good-man Brian at Google slaving away on editing the whole thing together!- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

Beautiful San Francisco I just got back from a crazy three days in San Francisco. The trip included everything from visits to Google, YouTube, Facebook, breakfast with Scoble, Smugmug, Microsoft at a Calacanis event (where the upcoming app WON Audience Choice!), then finally a PhotoWalk in SF with Thomas Hawk. It was completely exhausting, but very fun. After the Facebook talk, I headed to downtown San Francisco with Tom Anderson to get this photo. It was a great night!- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this post at the Stuck in Customs blog.

The Inner Sanctum Here is a cool and relatively unknown place in San Francisco.  Can anyone figure out where this mysterious location is?I went in here with my dad while we were looking for cool photo-ops.  We weren't so sure we were allowed in this place, but we just busted in quickly for a shot before anybody said anything.- Trey Ratcliff Read more here at

...and the SF Giants!I was down on the field with the SF Giants before a recent game. I got down there because Tom Anderson sent out a tweet, and the marketing manager for the SF Giants responded and got us in! So, we were able to go anywhere and do anything before and during the game. It was great! I made full use of it.I had my giant D800 Camera out there (see the Nikon D800 Review for more baseball photos from that evening).After I left the field, I went to the very very very top part of the nosebleeds to take this shot...- Trey RatcliffClick here to read the rest of this entry at the Stuck in Customs blog.


Machine Elf 34 and a Fun Day at Pinterest

Machine Elf 34

Sam and I are excited to release our newest creation: Machine Elf 34: Master Owl.

The owl knows everything and is often the one who allows you to see it. Graced by the owls presence, Machine Elf 34 takes us on an unpredictable adventure that delves inside the alien mind to see what hides within. This is our most mathematically complex fractal so far and is a combination of the Xenodreambuie in a hybrid with Atan2Power 2. As with all the others, watch in full screen with the volume up and allow yourself to fall away into the world.

These are also available in 360 for a cool VR app called TRIPP. If you have an Oculus Quest, Go or Rift, you can download TRIPP which features guiding experiences to make you happier, calmer and more focused. Grab that here:

For more Machine Elf creations, including physical installations, check out the website:

Made in the Mountains of Queenstown, New Zealand.

Fun Day at Pinterest

Here’s a fun trip down memory lane when I spent an entire day at the Pinterest HQ in San Francisco. This is just when they are getting started so everyone looks a bit younger! 🙂

Ben Silbermann, CEO of Pinterest, is just as nice of a guy as that smile would indicate...

One of the Pinterest employees works away, after seemingly emerging from a shampoo commercial.

This is what you see upon entrance to the Pinterest offices in the trendy SOMA area of San Francisco.

Ben Silberman is not only the CEO of Pinterest, but he's also a serious photographer.  Before we got down to the meat of our meeting, we spent about half an hour geeking out about photography equipment!

Chinese globes decorate the skyspace in the upper atmosphere of Pinterest...


San Francisco in the Fog

Deep Fakes

This is a really good deep fake. It’s really to the point now where you can’t believe anything you see! This is Robert Downey Jr and Tom Holland in Back to the Future.

Daily Photo – San Francisco in the Fog

This is an older photo that I recently re-worked for a show I am doing in LA. There were a few cities they wanted to be represented, and this was one of my favorites from San Francisco. I think a lot of people think you get fog every day there, but you definitely do not, so it requires quite a bit of patience.

San Francisco in the Fog

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2012-04-20 06:33:07
  • CameraNIKON D800
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time15
  • Aperture5.6
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length300.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+2


Robin Williams in San Francisco

New About Me Page!

I made a bunch of changes over to the “bio” area of the About Me page here on the site. I never quite know what to say there… now I have a bullet point list of all kinds of stuff.

Daily Photo – Robin Williams in San Francisco

Man, I really loved that Robin Williams guy. I just watched a documentary about him on the plane that was super sad for some reason. There’s not a lot of guys like that out there. We need more of them! It’s interesting too how a lot of these extreme creatives end up committing suicide. I am not nearly that creative, but I am, objectively, kind of creative. But I’ve never even had the slightest suicidal feelings, which turns out to be a rather good thing for me and people around me!

Robin Williams in San Francisco

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-11-12 11:10:28
  • CameraPixel 2 XL
  • Camera MakeGoogle
  • Exposure Time1/2500
  • Aperture1.8
  • ISO53
  • Focal Length4.5 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramProgram AE
  • Exposure Bias


The 16th Avenue Tiled Stairs in San Francisco

The Mavic 2 Pro Zoom

I got the Mavic 2 Pro Zoom (see it on my for one main reason: It has a cool feature where it zooms into 48mm and then takes 9 photos in a grid so you can stitch them together later as a panorama. In my first test, which you’ll see below:

1) I did a regular photo, which came out to about 4,000 pixels across (3992 to be exact)

2) Then I did the zoom-pano, stitched it together in Lightroom, and ended up with a photo that was about 9,500 pixels (9486 to be exact).

I find this to be incredibly exciting!

Compare it to my Sony A7r Mark III. It takes 42-megapixel photos, which translates to about 8,000 pixels across (7952 to be exact). This means that, effectively, the Mavic 2 Pro Zoom takes higher-rez photos than the Sony A7r Mark III.

Here is a single photo (24mm) taken from the same spot as today’s Daily Photo in the bottom of this post. I haven’t made any enhancements to it or anything…

Daily Photo – The 16th Avenue Tiled Stairs in San Francisco

I’m not 100% sure this is the stairway, as I ended up here by accident! If I am wrong, feel free to correct me.

This was my first test of the new 9-photo panorama. I have done a bit of touch-up to it using Aurora HDR and some other tools. Also, I did some fixes to the horizon. If you look at the first image above, you’ll see the horizon seems off. I think it’s actually correct, but the way the land slopes to the left makes it look like the camera was askew a bit. Anyway, I made an adjustment using the perspective cropping tool in Photoshop.

The 16th Avenue Tiled Stairs in San Francisco

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-11-18 17:24:22
  • CameraFC2204
  • Camera MakeDJI
  • Exposure Time0.5
  • Aperture3.8
  • ISO1600
  • Focal Length8.6 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramProgram AE
  • Exposure Bias


Longboarding in Beijing

Upcoming Event in San Francisco!

I’ll be heading out to San Francisco tomorrow for about a week to attend this Burning Man Art Auction – The Artumnal! It should be a great event, and I have a few pieces in the auction. I think there are still some tickets available – see you there! All the money goes to Burning Man artists (none for me).

Daily Photo – Longboarding in Beijing

How cool is this gal? This picture doesn’t even illustrate how graceful she was. I guess I haven’t seen a lot of longboarding, but there is almost kind of a dance that takes place while they are rolling from place to place with an occasional stunt thrown in. There were probably over 100 longboarders out. In the background, you may notice the famous “Bird’s Nest” from the Olympic Games.

Longboarding in Beijing

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-06-10 23:44:23
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/200
  • Aperture2.8
  • ISO1000
  • Focal Length16.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias


What I would have done if I was designing Google+

This is simply a hypothetical thought-experiment, especially since it’s all too late now.

I am (soon to be was when G+ shuts down next year) the #1 most followed photographer on there with over 8.5 million followers (and 140+ billion photo views across the G+ ecosystem). I use these social networks a lot. ALL of them. Over on Pinterest, I have over 4.2 million and a decent number on the other platforms too. I’m not saying this to be showy, and I certainly don’t take myself seriously in the least. I’m simply indicating I have some authority in the matter.

All these social networks are kind of a fun game for me. Observing them from a distance, I see humans slowly forming a super-organism like bees and ants. I think it’s important to have a good infrastructure for humans to communicate, cooperate, and inspire one another. You need to be able to trust in that network. I’m starting to not trust places like Instagram, where you can buy hundreds of thousands of fake followers, fake likes, and fake custom comments for a very inexpensive price. Last year was the year of fake news. This year is the year of fake followers. And when you can’t trust the infrastructures in which you invest time, it causes our level of global anxiety to get even worse.

I’m not bitter about G+ shutting down. It doesn’t matter to me personally since I’m on all the other social networks, and, most importantly, none of those have a significant impact on my business or personal life. They are just sorta “fun” places to share your creations, help people, get inspiration, and inspire others. We could all use a little more of that.

If anything is upsetting, it is that all of the Google+ effort was largely a waste of valuable time, not just for the users that fed the machine, but for the team at Google that built it. Along the way, I did make some GREAT friends, was inspired, and it helped to fuel a lot of my creativity. This is one reason I hate to see the ride coming to an end for so many people.

San Francisco PhotoWalk

The attached photo is from a really fun Photo Walk I did with Thomas Hawk in San Francisco with over 500 people. The idea that this entire community is now dispersed across the diaspora of the internet is kind of depressing.

Anyway, if I was in charge of Google+ now, I could do nothing! I’m talking about if I was in charge, say, a few years ago when they began to notice the trend lines to plateau rather than grow. THAT was the time I wish I was in charge of the design!

What would I have done?

I’d immediately make a fancy pivot-move to make it a photo-centric Instagram competitor rather than a Facebook competitor.

Of course, I often look at the world through the “lens” of a photographer, and I’ve always believed photography and imagery to be a much more interesting way to communicate, rather than words. I wrote an article for Facebook Stories several years ago that envisioned an alternate reality world where we learned to take and share photos BEFORE we developed a written alphabet. Link to article: Humans Evolve a New Form of Visual Literacy… Through Imagery. What if the principal way humans communicated was through a photo or a series of them? The article explores that idea. But the basic premise is that, presently, I do find photos to be an extremely stimulating way to communicate.

Instagram was just going up a big curve a few years ago. I loved it (here’s my Instagram @TreyRatcliff) and could see this was a very fun way to interact with photos and the people behind them.

Here is where Google had a huge advantage. Android is used by over 75% of humans on the planet that have a smartphone. The cameras were clearly only going to get better, especially as we add in x-factors like machine learning, AI, cloud processing, better mobile editing software, and more. At the time that G+ growth plateaued, Instagram “only” had about 500 million users, but Android had over 1.5 billion. The core idea is not to make the user download a separate app, but instead to have this Google photo sharing feed as part of the built-in camera/photo app itself.

Train the users the benefits of sharing after taking a photo

Rather than JUST taking a photo and doing some simple editing, Google could have “trained” its users to have one final step that is integrated into that process: to share it in your feed. New users automatically get a free private photo sharing account set up which is called Google Photofeed (or something – simply the best bits of G+ re-purposed). Existing users can use their existing G+ account along with all their followers and people they follow.

The way to beat Instagram would be the new user experience, however. To train hundreds of millions of people that a photo is not “done” after you take it and tweak it with software. It’s only “done” after you share it with others. I have many artist/author/creative friends who also believe in this. If you create something in solitude and never let the light of the rest of the world shine on it, it might as well not exist.

Of course, you don’t have to share all 100 photos you take every day. Just some. Just the best photo of your cat, your casserole, or your catamaran.

The new user’s “Sharing” account has been automatically set up like an online gallery with the initial setting to private. Users continue to get prompts after they add to their gallery that they might want to share it more widely in their “feed”. Maybe at first, just family. Then friends. It’s still private, and that is okay (many popular Instagram accounts are private too). But, over time, the OS (note that I say OS and not the app because this would be an OS-level priority) guides them into making a public profile, so that anyone can see whatever photos they wish.

The users also get regularly prompted to “follow” others that might be of interest, the same way the integrated OS-integrated Google News feed suggests new topics now. New users would come to see there is a big ecosystem of sharing, and they are encouraged to take their favorite creations more and more public.

It is quite exciting (and not necessarily an ego-feeding thing) to have strangers stop by and leave a comment on your photo. The idea that you had some kind of positive impact on someone else’s life is great. It’s a noble human goal. Also, under a larger goal of consciousness, I think that artists and creatives can help save the world. And the more we encourage creativity and sharing, the better it is for the entire world. That sounds a bit high-minded, but I really believe it. How great would it be if the OS had this as an underlying goal as well, rather than simply robot-like efficiency?

Make photo sharing part of the OS experience, not a different app

And this is where they could have steamrolled Instagram because your Android OS would not even need a separate “app” to download, install, set up a username/pw. All those are funnel hard stops for many users. The entire experience is simply built into the phone. By tying each phone to a user, it would also do quite a bit to diminish fraudulent behavior we see on Instagram with people buying followers/likes/comments to become slimy “influencers” that swindle big companies out of millions of dollars. $1.1 billion was spent last year on influencer marketing with hundreds of millions going to fraudulent accounts. I’m working on an article about that right now (maybe for Wired).

After we nail that experience and workflow, we can layer in the other great stuff Google+ was developing at the time, like Communities. The G+ Communities are an amazing feature and still beat out Facebook Groups in many ways. We’re doing the best we can with our Facebook Group for Creatives. There are many things in Communities that I hope Facebook steals, especially the “categories” feature.

We still use Google+ Communities for an online education platform we built called Of course, this is causing us a few issues as we have to scramble to migrate to a new platform. I am sure many people are having similar problems as G+ Communities have become an extremely active part of many people’s lives. It’s kind of like if your local bingo hall for retirees suddenly disappeared.

Anyway, please note this is not anti- Vic Gundotra/Bradley Horowitz/Sergey/(or any of the other people I met there at Google). I love those guys and they are still good friends! But 12+ years ago when I used to work in corporations before I became a full-time artist, I understand how sometimes things go astray, and it’s never exactly one person’s fault. I think there was just simply some hesitation about whether or not Google wanted to play the “social” game or the “organizing information/building an AI” game. I wished they had stayed in both games because observing social behavior could have also fed some important cultural data into that Google AI that is a’rollin’ down the tracks towards us all.

Well, that little flight-of-fancy thought-experiment is complete. It’s too late now. I guess we’re stuck in a world of Instagram and its follow-bots, Facebook and its angry people in their blame-the-other-group echo chambers, and XXXXX with its YYYYY problems.

That sounds a bit dour. I’m actually pretty optimistic that either A) something new will come along or B) one of the existing infrastructures will make them an absolute DELIGHT to use all the time, like Google+ was in its first few years.

And if you followed me on Google+, since that is vaporizing, here are other places to find me 🙂

Best Places with Rich Content
Free Newsletter about Photography & Inspiration:
My Blog, Stuck In Customs, updated DAILY with new photos and stories:

Follow Me (Trey) Online!
MySpace: nada, but I do quite like MySpace Tom.

More Great Stuff!
My Portfolio,
My Photography Gear and Gadgets,
Camera Reviews,
Software Reviews,