Thousands of origami paper birds soar above my head, white and red. They lift my eyes upwards towards the cascading ceiling. So simple, and yet so elegant. I can’t help but smile. I enjoy origami, and started learning it when I was 9. Although I can make cranes in my sleep, I haven’t ever made anything quite like these elegant birds. Generally the instructions I’ve found to make origami swallows haven’t quite been this variation, but that goes to show the diversity within origami. Everyone has their own style.
This illustrated guide is probably the closest to recreating the swallows in my photo. I also came across a video version of a different model (in Japanese, but you can follow along easily even if you can’t speak Japanese):
From high on Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island, there is a spectacular view of the city below. The nearby skyscrapers seem surprisingly striking for this cloudy April day. On the other side of the harbor, shapes on the Kowloon peninsula fade in and out of the midday mists. The faint outline of the mountains looms in the distance.
Hong Kong Harbor can feel bustling, yet peaceful, depending on where you are. Generally I’m not a big fan of huge cities, but I like Hong Kong. It really is a place that has something for everyone. The city itself has everything you can imagine, and when you want to get away, town and rural areas are only a short metro, ferry, or bus ride away. It is also ridiculously easy to navigate. Hong Kong gets points for having one of the best airports and metro systems I’ve ever seen. My first time ever traveling alone was in Hong Kong, and it didn’t take me long to get comfortable exploring the city.
Upon arriving in Luang Prabang, Laos, I heard of a great hill from which to watch the sunset. Customs took awhile, and I reached the bottom of the hill with only about 15 minutes left until sunset. Still rather motion sick from the propeller plane I came in on, I hiked up the mountain as fast as I could, worried that I would miss the sunset. The hill was deceptively tall and long, so each time I thought the end was in sight, I discovered more stairs just around the bend. Although exhausted by the end, I somehow made it to the top of the “hill” in time to watch what turned out to be a very golden sunset. The beautiful mountains in the distance and the winding Mekong River made for a very peaceful setting. It was a rush climbing up there, but in the end it was worth it.
Other photos taken during Golden Hours (sunrise or sunset):
This photo is (a slightly belated) part of a weekly travel themed photo contest Travel theme: Motion! – my entries for other weeks can be found here.
When the Japanese holiday of Obon came to Hawai’i, it expanded into a whole season. There is a different Obon Dance every weekend all summer here, hosted by temples all over the islands. This photo was taken at the 2013 Bon Dance at the Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin temple in Honolulu. While the many dancers encircled around wearing kimonos, happi coats, and street clothes, I tried to capture a sense of their movement by experimenting with different exposure times and camera angles. The variety of different kinds of traditional bon dances (and even a few modern ones) amidst a live musical performance is one of the many highlights of Obon season.
Special companions are those who stay with us, even when we can’t be physically together. The bond that connects us is something that can transcend distance, and even the cycle of life and death.
At the Lantern Floating Festival in Honolulu on Memorial Day 2013, this little girl carries a lantern down to the water to release into the ocean. The lantern is in loving memory of someone close to her who has passed on, but it is also in honor of the special connection that the two of them have.
Why “lucky” chameleon, you might ask? Because she is very lucky to be alive! While visiting the Big Island, my sister and I found her trapped in a spider’s web. She had clearly struggled to try to free herself, but had only managed to become extremely tangled in the web, and had broken her tail in multiple places. By the time we found her, she was nearly dead and seemed to have given up on life.
My sister and I used a pair of tweezers to carefully remove strands of web off of the little chameleon. It was very painstaking work. At first, the chameleon winced at our touch, like she was expecting us to hurt her, but she was too weak to struggle more. Over time, she figured out that we were helping her, and started to trust us. Once we had removed enough of the spider web that she could open and close her mouth again, the life seemed to start to come back in to her. Before long, her once nearly lifeless form was happily roaming so much that it was hard to get her to stay still long enough to finish taking off the last few pieces of web! Her color started coming back, and with it, a new zest for life. Her hope had been restored. She seemed so happy to be free , and wanted to move about and explore. She climbed up and down our arms, and all over the area. We tried offering her some water, but she wasn’t interested. When she seemed ready, we released her back into the wild, feeling a lot more confident about her chances than we had when we found her. This lucky little chameleon had her second chance at life, and she seemed ready to take it head on.
The town of Nara, Japan is unique in how the local historical sites blend in to the beautiful winding trails through a forest full of deer. These deer are extremely friendly and used to people, and don’t shy away from walking right up to you (and eating the special deer crackers sold in the shops). Unlike in some other cities where there are tame deer like Miyajima, in which the deer come right into town, in Nara it feels like it is the people who are visiting the deer in their forest home.
What a peaceful forest it is! You wouldn’t expect a popular tourist destination to have such an atmosphere, but it is thanks to the natural surroundings. There are enough small walking trails that it is possible to leave the crowds and the modern world behind, and enter the serene world of small tea houses, ancient temples like Tōdai-ji, and deer who embody their spiritual surroundings.
To be fair, who doesn’t want to go to the beach in the summer? (Even friends in the Southern Hemisphere are probably missing summer right about now.)
As people from all over the world get ready to visit Hawai’i’s beaches this summer, I remind myself how grateful I am to live so close to the beach. Which beach I choose to visit depends on what I plan to do when I arrive, the tide/currents, and if I plan to stay on the sand or get in the water. Some places are peaceful and good for curling up with a book beneath a swaying palm tree. Others have interesting shells, broken off pieces of coral, and seaweed strewed across the beach. O’ahu doesn’t have any black sand beaches, but the beautiful sand that we do have varies in color and texture on different beaches. The kinds of waves range from the famous gigantic waves surfers love to ride on North Shore, to softly lapping water ideal for snorkeling.
Taking photos while riding an elephant through the jungles of Thailand can be an interesting challenge – and just the type of situation that can create unique photographs with good timing. Motion blur can be a beautiful element in photography. Since the elephant trainers keep the pace of the elephants, they are relatively in-focus compared to the foliage in the background. The key comes down to getting a feel for the rhythm of the elephant’s stride. Each part of the stride will have varying speeds, moving quite fast at some points, and slowing to nearly a stop at others. By experimenting with different timings and/or shutter speeds, can create unique effects . For more variation, or if your subject is moving at a different pace than you are, try leaning your body while snapping the picture. Similar techniques can create motion blur in other situations with rhythmic motion, such as while on a boat, or while riding horses and other animals.
Climbing the Great Wall is high on the wish list for many visitors to China, but not everyone realizes just how much of a climb it really is. China loves its stairs, and the Great Wall is no exception. However, these stairs are notoriously uneven, with small steps dispersed amongst giant steps, and plenty of steps that are sagging in places from the wear of millions of feet.
The surface of the wall isn’t the same rock that was there over two thousand years ago – it has been rebuilt multiple times, most famously during the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century, right on top of the crumbling ruins of the older sections of the wall. While scaling the wall today, it is hard to imagine how difficult it would have been for ancient Chinese troops to patrol up and down the mountain.
The climb, although not for the faint of heart, is very rewarding (and for more than the “I Climbed the Great Wall” t-shirts sold halfway up the mountain). The views are spectacular, as is the sense of accomplishment. Visitors aiming to reach “the top” are often surprised to discover that upon reaching what they thought was the highest point, that the wall really continues up and up beyond what they had previously been able to see. But all the little old ladies zooming past the young “in shape” tourists probably aren’t laughing at them (too much).