About Trey Ratcliff – Stuck in Customs

About Trey Ratcliff


“🏛️ Smithsonian exhibited 🖼️ Sotheby’s auctioned 🌍 NatGeo featured 📸 photographer 🎨 artist AND 🖋️ hilarious adorable wordsmith.”

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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, Mission: Impossible III, Fringe, Star Trek, Super 8, and some Star Warses

“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, Interstellar, Inception, Batman, Dune

Always a man of few, but important words, The Woz said… “To me, it’s great art.”

Steve Wozniak, Co-founder, Apple Computer Inc. Philanthropist, Silicon Valley Icon and “The Woz”

“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, Author, “The Name of the Wind”, “The Wise Man’s Fear”, “Doors of Stone”

About the About Me page

Greetings! While I consider myself a modest individual, I understand that visitors to this page are keen to learn more about me. Initially, this page was quite concise, but as curiosity grows and inquiries increase, so does its content. It’s important to note that despite sharing all these details about myself, I maintain an ego-free approach, which I believe is the ultimate creative gift any artist can bestow upon themselves. Embracing this mindset wasn’t a simple journey. If you’re interested in exploring various influences that have shaped me, take a look at my curated list of books and podcasts and other recommendations. To kick things off, here’s a brief third-person biography for your perusal.


Trey Ratcliff, a visionary artist and trailblazer, passionately endeavors to promote consciousness and mindfulness globally through the captivating power of photography and creativity. As the guy behind StuckInCustoms.com, the world’s premier travel photography blog, Ratcliff has traversed all seven continents, capturing awe-inspiring images that have garnered an astounding 140 billion views on Google and attracted a loyal following of over 5 million on social media.

TED’s Chris Anderson has hailed Ratcliff as a “pioneer” in High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, a testament to his groundbreaking work in the field. Ratcliff’s achievements include displaying the first-ever HDR photograph at the prestigious Smithsonian Museum and transforming his exquisite, large-format limited edition prints into a thriving, multimillion-dollar business catering to discerning fine art collectors worldwide. In 2012, Ratcliff made the prescient decision to relocate to Queenstown, New Zealand, before it emerged as a popular refuge for doomsday preppers.

With a diverse and illustrious clientele, Ratcliff’s fine art masterpieces have found their way into the collections of knights, professional athletes, and esteemed celebrities like Edward Norton and Leonardo DiCaprio. Never one to shy away from innovation, Ratcliff has recently ventured into the burgeoning crypto sphere, successfully launching multiple NFT drops that have accumulated an impressive 1,500 ETH in total volume.

For further insights into Trey Ratcliff’s expansive audience reach, strategic partnerships, and various projects, explore his comprehensive media kit.

Here’s a more quirky 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.” I’m working to get my right eye fully back online through a variety of techniques…
  • My degree was in Computer Science and Math and I did that until my mid 30’s until I discovered photography and it changed my life.
  • 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. I’ve written one blog post per day and shared a new photo for over the past 15 years and I still love it. Now it’s the #1 most popular personal travel photography blog with millions of views! Thanks, everyone!
  • I sell large format, limited edition 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 continually update my photo portfolio which represents over a decade of travels and discoveries.
  • I’ve somehow amassed over 5 million social media followers when you add up all the platforms (Facebook + Instagram + Pinterest + Twitter + Flickr). I love all these Internet friends! Thanks y’all!


  • Google tracks views, and on that platform alone, it’s over 140 billion views and around 30 million views per day, as you can see above. At least some of those views are from my mom, who is my biggest fan 🙂 .
  • I do some public speaking through my agent at CAA. She’s lovely, although sometimes kind of useless.
  • I’m really into meditation and yoga. I also go to Burning Man (my Burning Man 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 also teamed up to build our own Photo Software with Skylum . 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 a handful of people, full-time and part-time. Everyone helps one another out and we have a lot of fun!
  • I have some amazing luxury brand partnerships like with the Ritz-Carlton for example. I try to partner with companies that layer nicely on top of my travel and creative lifestyle. I feel very lucky and do not take any of these partnerships for granted…
  • I create a lot of videos that are all over the place and there is no real theme over on my YouTube channel. Some are inspirational. Some are how-to. Some are story-telling. I’m all over the show.
  • 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 mindfulness 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.
  • Last, but most important, is my family! I was married to beautiful Tina for a long time and we are still besties and we have three wonderful children. We moved from Texas to New Zealand over a decade ago for a variety of reasons, although we are now spread out all over the globe, my main home is here on the South Island of NZ.

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 on 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 (but I don’t believe in that stuff, but most of my friends do and that’s cool I guess as long as they are not too annoying about it)
  • 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!



  • Yoga (I know it’s not really a sport, but let’s just pretend)
  • Hiking
  • Jogging
  • Weightlifting
  • Making up a lot of games if there is another guy and a ball involved
  • * above hobby sounded sketchy

My TV & Movie & Book & Podcast Recommendations

I made a special page full of them HERE.

Having a break 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.

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.


  • Japanese
  • 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.

Conjuring Thoughts Deep in the Desert Berber Camp


Oh, also, I also like 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.