Stuck in Customs – Page 9 – 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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Maybe I Should Not Have Published This Book?

This is one of many stream-of-consciousness polemics about the new book. I know the book is controversial; I don’t expect these posts to be less so.

Many people warned me not to publish this book including my COO, my wife, my accountant, and @miss.everywhere. In a rather exaggerated state of solipsism, I decided to publish it anyway.

One person you will not see in the enumerated list above is my attorney. In a phone call before we published, she affirmatively acquiesced, “It’s not libel if it’s true.” That provided me a bit of vim to my vigor and I doubled down with the data analysis. Under her direction, as she parried my social pariah predilection, prefaced the book with the proper wording to ensure that the public could make up their own minds based on the data.

I must admit that I did awaken some mornings, between that dream state of sleep and wake, in worry. Maybe I shouldn’t pull back the curtain to show the wizard? Maybe everyone knows it’s a silly game? The literati certainly know we’re in a simulation, but perhaps the others are willingly playing the game, too dull to rise above it. That one seemed a bit nihilistic. Thoughts of this nature danced around with no end.

As with many things in life, it boils down to living a life without fear. The crux of the book, for those of you that have made it to the later chapters, know the book is more about how to stay zen on the Internet, live life without fear and without ego. The book certainly airstrikes egoistic fraudsters with unapologetic napalm. But let that act as a counterpoint, an alternative, to living your life in a way to uncover and share your true self. When you see people “acting out” on social media, understand this is their fear-instinct acting to protect its own egoic construct. If it repels you, recoil into your true self. You may not know that true self, but be open to letting it develop without any need to share it online.

If you want to give the book a read and decide for yourself go buy a Kindle or physical copy on Amazon.

I started a conversation (please share your thoughts) about this artificial world into which we’ve been thrust here on Facebook. Yes, I see the irony of that link.


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.

Tribal Boy in Papua New Guinea

The Kevin Rose Show

Hey everyone! Here’s a really fun podcast I did on the Kevin Rose Show. We talk about all sorts of things like fine art, the new book, Japan, Burning Man, psychedelics, and more!

Here’s a list of timestamps:

00:13 — Kevin talks natural UVB supplementation
00:39 — Who is Trey Ratcliff?
00:53 — Trey’s short film, Life From Above, and Beyond, with words from Alan Watts
00:59 — Who is Alan Watts?
01:30 — Intro to Trey
03:23 — Kevin on Trey’s 360 Podcast
03:27 — Interview begins
04:12 — Trey’s 360 Podcast
04:37 — Insta 360 One X
05:43 — Trey’s podcast topics & release info
06:11 — Walking & talking
06:28 — Nature & calm
07:00 — Forest bathing
07:30 — Japan, wind chime garden
07:51 — Japan, puppet town
08:41 — Japan, fishy ice skating rink
09:22 — Travel in extremes, embracing new experiences, travel & connection
11:07 — Trey’s family move to New Zealand & travel ‘round the world
11:35 — Trey’s family tour of world religions
13:21 — Trey’s professional roots, finding photography as an adult
15:07 — Trey’s “moment” with nature photography & digging in
16:15 — Coding for better photos
17:16 — Retinex
17:28 — Trey’s blog
17:49 — Trey on Creative Commons, free tutorials
19:13 — Trey’s evolution – passion into business
20:13 — Collectors & limited edition prints
21:13 — Book, The $12 Million Stuffed Shark
21:38 — “…people want what is rare…”
22:18 — Pricing collectible art, swapping art, & smaller collector prints
26:21 — Trey’s new book, Under the Influence – How To Fake Your Way Into Getting Rich on Instagram: Influencer Fraud, Selfies, Anxiety, Ego and Mass Delusional Behavior
29:27 — Brand-building from a place of authenticity
31:25 — Buying followers, influencer marketing fraud, & fake account anecdotes
35:08 — Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari
36:12 — “Maybe this is the year of fake followers…”
37:42 — Kevin Kelly, Wired
39:23 — Legitimate tactics & tools to grow a following
40:20 — Stephen Tobolowsky, EG Conference
40:25 — Storytelling, anxiety, mass delusional behavior, Dunbar’s 150
42:28 — “Podding” on Instagram
46:04 — Instagram security, pod detection, Digg security anecdote
49:22 — Practical jokes, buying followers, custom comments
50:19 — Back to the book, how to differentiate & build a following
51:30 — Trey’s best advice on life – true self, storytelling, honesty
53:58 — Exploring life, finding what’s exciting, childlike mindset
56:12 — Psychedelics & sense of self, creativity
57:35 — Alcohol & drugs, Trey’s family
59:17 — Burning Man, mushrooms, removing filters & intellectual stimulation
1:00:55 — Trey on what psychedelics & hallucinogens do for him, meditation practice
1:05:11 — Sharing consciousness with others
1:06:12 — “I think it’s up to artists & creatives to save the world.”
1:06:23 — Clinical trials, benefits, & uses of mushrooms; childlike wonder
1:10:46 — Michael Pollan on The Kevin Rose Show, How To Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan
1:11:52 — Institutional anxiety about psychedelics & resurgence in intellectual community
1:13:39 — Opioid, benzo addiction & natural compound psychedelic treatments
1:15:14 — Psychedelic work with reputable counselor, family anecdote
1:16:20 — Closing & Trey’s hope for his work going forward

Daily Photo – Tribal Boy in Papua New Guinea

Check out this little badass! I think he probably could have killed me with his bow and arrow if he wanted to. However, he seemed to like me. After I took the photo I showed it to him and he gave me some sign like a thumbs up. It also could have been a fuck you, but I didn’t get that vibe.

Tribal Boy in Papua New Guinea

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2015-10-13 12:16:16
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/3200
  • Aperture
  • ISO640
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

The Light Show in Singapore

Opulent Temple

Here’s one of my favorite go-to Soundcloud artists, Opulent Temple. They are one of the many “sound” camps that go to Burning Man every year.

Daily Photo – The Light Show in Singapore

A few times every night, there is a big laser light show that seems to please people. I’ve seen it many times and finally decided to try to get a photo of it. I think this photo is not that good, to be honest. It seems a bit banal. That’s probably my fault, as I was probably feeling a bit nihilistic when I took this.

The Light Show in Singapore

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-03-26 02:15:08
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/5
  • Aperture2.8
  • ISO500
  • Focal Length35.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

The Owl Cafe

I don’t actually like this place, so I am not sure why I am posting a photo. Well, I guess it is to honor how awesome this owl looks! When Ethan and I were in Tokyo, we decided to go to an “Owl Cafe.” There are all sorts of cafes all over the city where you can dine with all sorts of animals. It took us forever to find this place, and we had to walk up about six flights of some pretty sketchy stairs. We were instructed to wait outside until our “seating time.” We stood out there looking at a bunch of other Japanese owl-seekers, whom all seemed pretty excited.

Finally, the door opened and we were ushered in. It wasn’t a cafe at all unless you consider humans feeding owls the goopy entrails of mice to be a cafe. We each got a little apple juice carton like we were in kindergarten. There was a small green circle sticker on it. They instructed us to take the green circle sticker and put it on the wall to signify our favorite owl. I voted for this one, which already had about 500 stickers… but there was this one really ugly owl that was not even close to symmetrical. It had only three stickers. It was both super sad, and I was wondering what three crazy people would vote for that owl.

Anyway, I don’t recommend going to an owl cafe… I thought the owls would be happier or get to fly around some big awesome owl Disneyland or something, but I was wrong.

Trey Ratcliff - - Creative Commons Noncommercial contact

What the F-Stop? In Okinawa

In the spirit of today’s post about Japan, here’s a video I made about F-Stop when I was in Okinawa. BTW, Okinawa is ALMOST like a different country than Japan… many different customs, food, drinks, and even weather. Also, people in Okinawa are some of the longest-lived people in the world.

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Awesome Tokyo

Interview on USA Today about the New Book!

I was just interviewed by USA Today about the new book. Here it is for ya! This was a fun interview and I hope it helps to ease some of the undue anxiety out there on social media! You can find the audio below and here’s a link to the book.

Daily Photo – Awesome Tokyo

I feel like I jump on here every week and talk about how awesome Japan is. It reminds me a little bit of Austin in a strange way… in that, in Austin, everyone sits around coffee shops and talks about how awesome Austin is. It’s sort of a strange thing, and quite the existential self-compliment. But, I do the same thing in Japan when I meet another English speaker. It’s always the same conversation: “Can you believe how awesome Japan is?” then they say, “Yes, how about the Japanese people?!?” then I say, “Yeah, like totes.”

Awesome Tokyo

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-11-03 00:43:32
  • CameraX1D
  • Camera MakeHasselblad
  • Exposure Time1/15
  • Aperture3.5
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length30.0 mm
  • Flash
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

Shopping in Singapore

Burning Man Survival Guide

Have you read my Burning Man Survival Guide? I’m thinking of making a more blog-friendly version of it here… but I can tell that will take quite a bit of time.

Daily Photo – Shopping in Singapore

There may be something wrong with me in that I enjoy taking photos of places that people shop rather than shopping. I almost do zero shopping… I’ve turned into more and more of a minimalist. Mostly, I spend money to buy experiences and travel rather than physical goods. That’s one reason I enjoy going to Burning Man so much… it is a giant expense, but it’s always worth it… so far, I come away with great stories and a few decent photos!

Shopping in Singapore

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-03-26 00:34:14
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time0.3
  • Aperture5.6
  • ISO400
  • Focal Length16.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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

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