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):
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.
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).
At dusk along the northern shore of West Lake in Hangzhou China there is a beautiful water show lit up by an array of colored lights. Right at the waterline there are dozens of little fountain heads that shoot the water high into the air – sometimes 50 feet or more. The fountains of water change angles as well in a coordinated fashion, making the mist seem to dance across the lake.
Hangzhou is one of my favorite cities in China. It’s a city that has modernized quite eloquently without loosing its charm or cultural heritage, and while still upholding the beautiful natural landscape that surrounds the city. Even when venturing into the main parts of the city, Hangzhou never quite feels like the large metropolis of over 8 million people that it is – which is part of why I like it. After spending the day peacefully meandering around West Lake, or exploring temples, tea fields, and museums, the light show is a nice finale. I easily become memorized by pretty lights.
On a rainy day in central China, a snail scooted along an ancient stone wall. The snail moved with a great sense of purpose, and amazingly fast for a snail.
Even on gloomy “days” of our lives, we need to keep moving forward as best as we are able. This snail didn’t let the weather get it down – on the contrary, the moisture probably made it easier to move across the wet surface of the stone. Perhaps that was the silver lining for the snail.
How can you best utilize the day’s circumstances to move forward in your life?
High on a mountain top overlooking Chiang Mai, Thailand, a the allure of a golden temple inspires many people to hike up to it. Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep (วัดพระธาตุดอยสุเทพ) is a dazzling sight to behold – full of light and color. A line of golden buddhas (standing, laying, and sitting in lotus position) shimmer in front of a reflective wall, showing a clear image of the temple in the reflection.
The illusion of this image is that what is “beyond” is really just behind the viewer. The “beyond” is not always as far off as it appears, or even where it appears to be, but rather is influenced by our perception of it.
What in your life once seemed beyond you at the time, that you later realized was accessible?
Not far from the mists of West Lake in Hangzhou, China, clouds of rising incense fill Lingyin Temple (灵隐寺). As Buddhist pilgrims meander through the hilly terrain, a young woman burning incense lifts her gaze with an intense focus and a sense of hope.
Having hope, especially in the midst of dark times, requires a focus on that inner light. Illumination from a Buddhist perspective also comes from within – the inner Buddha-nature of all sentient beings. Although she may gaze towards the luminous heavens, the light she sees is a reflection of her inner being.
How does hope illuminate your life?
Want to see the photo-editing magic that illuminated this once-dark photo? Check out my tutorial here!
mugs and more
Available at my Inner Bodhisattva Zazzle store – (due to Zazzle policies not allowing photographs of people, the image has been cropped and retitled “Incense Ascending”).
A few shout-outs to some other Illumination entries that I liked:
mikehardisty has two stunning photos and a great discussion of color balancing in both natural and artificial light
timetobeinspired shows multiple photos from different churches featuring different kinds of lights, my favorites being the candles, the chandler, and the church at sunset
sherrygaley has a beautifully lite photo with starbursts, with a corresponding poem
skww brings a peaceful Stockholm night a-glow with life with beautifully vivid colors
milnersblog used long exposures to capture the path of the International Space Station
museandsparrow shares night photos full of many bright colors that really pop against the black backgrounds
adayinthelifeofjennay shows a variety of different photos, my favorite being the soft glow of the autumn leaf