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My Most Viewed Images of 2021

As I said this time last year when reflecting on 2020's most viewed content, if you've been following me for a while you'll know that I highly recommend ignoring likes, etc on social media... putting too much stock in them is an easy way to drive yourself a bit mad. I began to ignore negative comments 15 years ago when 80% of them were negative and hateful because photographers thought HDR was a sign of the devil. They didn’t know their hate gave me more power! So take that, haters. :) Comments (and interacting with your audience) are far more important and rewarding. That's why you'll find me in places like Instagram every day, doing stories, sharing content and responding to comments. That said, I do keep half an eye on which images are most viewed as I'm curious to see how what I like compares to what you might like. Rarely are the two the same!

Before we get to those, some other thoughts on the year as a whole. Given everything that is going on in the world and how difficult it is to get back into New Zealand if you leave, I've been here for the whole year. Two full years in one country. I think it's the most time I've spent in one place in at least a decade... maybe three? It's been tough from a family point of view, that's for sure, however Zoom and the like make that side of things a bit easier and of course I'm fortunate to live in a place where the effects of the pandemic have been minimal.

1000+ ETH in a few months? How the heck did that happen?

In terms of my creative side, I think this year has to be classed as the year of NFTs. I first heard about them a few years ago from a friend who worked at Pinterest and then went on to form MakersPlace, one of the leading NFT marketplaces. I have to admit, back then I just didn't get it and thought maybe it would work out but it wasn't something I jumped into. I did have a little more than a passing interest in cryptocurrency over the past few years, but it wasn't until February/March of 2021 that I really delved into the whole NFT scene...and what a journey it has been! My first drop, a couple of charity auctions on Foundation, went really well and made those organizations tens of thousands of dollars. From there it was a bit of experimentation and iteration with my main collection on OpenSea now with volume of over 420 ETH and in the top 5 Photography collections on Ethereum. Then of course there was AiVATAR. My developer friend Alex, Stu from my team and I took it from a small idea to launch in a matter of weeks and all 6000 sold out in a couple of hours with the collection going on to sell over 100 ETH in volume in 2nd sales since then. It was a great learning experience and there were times even in the week before launch where it looked like things might not work out but it's amazing what 3 dedicated people can achieve when they believe in a project. We're now working on loads more for the "brand" in the background, including the ability for your AIs to interact and also for them to make art. More on that soon.

Let's have a little photo break as that's a lot of text so far...

New Zealand Autumn Flight
Here's a quick image from a recent helicopter ride around the Southern Alps in NZ... actually, that's a complete lie. It's actually an image we created with an as yet unreleased AI. Quite convincing at first glance, eh? Soon it won't matter if we're all in lockdown in 2022, the AIs can just make photos of anywhere for us! I’m exploring this tech because of the 6,000 AIs avatar NFTs we made. I thought it would be a cool idea if your AI would make some art for you that you can sell as NFTs. It’s kind of like when you send your kid off to school and they make some piece of art and they bring it back home to show you and you say, “This looks like absolute shit.” :) Well we’re working on an AI where you don’t have to think in such negative terms of your clearly unartistic offspring.

Regarding those NFT things. Should you, as an artist, be considering them? Absolutely. There is a whole load of nonsense on the marketplaces and yes, some architectures have issues with energy use (for now) so that has to be a consideration however many now don't and going forward things will improve further on that aspect. Obviously the money, if you can make some sales, is important however there is a great community out there of artists all working together to make the industry a success. For me and others it has been a great way to get more in touch with my collectors. Sometimes that's in Twitter DMs, mainly though it's through Discord which seems to be the chat platform of choice for NFTs. In our private collectors chat the NFT holders have been involved in all sorts of discussions, including defining the rights they have to use the NFTs. Oh, and this is probably as good a place as any to announce that anyone holding a Trey NFT can get 25% off the price of my New Zealand photography workshop. We're also now starting to see some really interesting utility added to NFTs such as ongoing percentages of sales going to support charities, others where your NFT provides in game experiences or a really interesting one I just bought into this week where some of the profit is going towards... "Through donations and strategic investments in companies that are exploring Psilocybin research, we will provide support to those who are innovating the treatment of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder."

Good luck out there in the brave new Web3 world! Now, for your viewing pleasure, here is my top viewed content of 2021 from the more image-based platforms...



Topping the list on Instagram for the second year running is an image from New Zealand. In fact the 2nd place image (used in the header for this newsletter) was also from NZ. It was a close battle between those and one from China which you'll find further down this newsletter.


Monte Fitz Roy

I can tell you that when I went out for a boat trip with some friends last new year that I didn't expect to have an image from that day be my most viewed on Flickr. In fact, given it was a bit of a wild party day it's a bit of a surprise that there were any useful images captured! Whatever the case, this is what connected with people on Flickr, grabbing over 100,000 views! Also, looking through the stats one of my images of Mount Fuji is now my 2nd most viewed Flickr image of all time with nearly 750,000 sets of (hopefully) appreciative eyeballs. It's been climbing for a while now and you can see it further down the newsletter.


Portrait of a Chinese Man

One of my lesser known social media stats is that I'm one of the most followed accounts on Pinterest? As for the image, this was taken in Chengdu, China and in a weird coincidence, just like last year's most popular Pinterest image, it's an image of a characterful older gentleman... hey, that's just like me!


Machine Elf Fractal Video

Fractal based videos have been a great creative outlet for me throughout the pandemic and it seems that they connect with a bunch of other people too. Always a bonus! This video was one of my earliest attempts, maybe the first I made publicly available? Anyway, it's gathered another 100,000 or so views throughout this year and that puts it first place in the YT list for 2021... it does have a special place in my heart being an early project but creatively I think something like "We Are Made From Stars" was a more successful realisation of my initial vision. Grab some headphones and settle in for that one for sure.


A new NFT Collection on Foundation - Worship

A preview of Trey Ratcliff's Worship NFT Collection

Sometimes in moments of fear, or from fear of death, the root from which all fear begins, people turn to faith and religion to try to give it all some sort of meaning. As I’ve traveled around to all seven continents, I’ve talked to many people I meet about religion… from taxi drivers to locals in restaurants to people who work in places of worship. Even though I don’t subscribe to any set of rules laid out by any religion, I think in most cases it’s a pretty decent thing, as long as no one is getting hurt or trying to make another group feel bad. I personally used to be a fairly hardcore atheist until I tried Ayahuasca and a few other plant medicines that have shown me there is something else going on. I don’t know what it is, but there are some entities out there that are helping us along. One message I continue to get: Everything is exactly the way it is supposed to be. And that’s comforting, although it is easy to view that via a nihilistic lens.

This is a first collection of images from a range of impressive and often inspirational places of worship around the world. View it here on Foundation!

A second preview of Trey Ratcliff's Worship NFT Collection


StuckInCustoms.com is a personal blog where Trey puts up a new unique photo every day and writes about the art, the technology, and the story of the adventures. Actually, this is Trey writing about this in third person. Both Trey and I appreciate your support very much!

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Reminder: The Text HDR Tutorial is Always Free!

I keep a completely FREE HDR Tutorial on my website. It is a living document that continues to evolve over the years. It goes over everything you need to get started and is a great introduction to the basics of HDR photography and post processing.


Some of the other most viewed images...

Church of the New Shepheard, New Zealand
Here's that second placed image from Instagram this year.
Mount Fuji
No.2 in all time views on my Flickr. Thanks all 750,000 of you! :)
VW Car Tube
The cool people on Pinterest liked this one, not as much as they like pics of old dudes, but it was up there. Hot tip: Pinterest analytics tells me that people like images of vehicles at the moment... maybe it's all the shortages that are causing people to browse and dream about new cars? Anyway, get sharing!
Stormy China
Here's that 3rd placed, non NZ image from the Instagram most viewed chart. A moody shot from Guangxi, China.
New Zealand Road Trip
This one was right up there as a most viewed image on Facebook... i mentioned "road trip" in that post, so again a car-based post does well! Go chase the algorithm... :D
New Zealand reflective water
This was the 2nd most viewed of my images on Flickr in 2021. People do love a good reflection.
New Zealand Lake
And finally, this is probably my favorite image from 2021. :)
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