Zen Garden Hula

Good early Wednesday morning to you. It’s appropriate that I write this particular post given the content, the date, and my current actions. I am waiting for my roommates to go to bed. Or rather, one is already asleep and I’m waiting on the other. Why am I waiting? Well, what are the odds that both of my roommates share a birthday, this Wednesday December 4th? Yeah, small world. Since their birthdays fall in the heat of our impending dooms (read: the end of the semester with its projects and final exams), I figured I would do something nice for them. I made them little goodie bags filled with chocolate and birthday crowns and a bunch of other fun stuff. I also bought balloons and streamers to decorate the apartment (and the award for best roommate goes to..). But this one roommate won’t go to sleep. In the mean time, I figured I’d share what my sleeping roommate called her early birthday present:

I’ve never really thought about using a photo shoot as a present to anyone. I mean, there was that one time I took my friend’s picture along with her sister for Mother’s Day, so maybe that counts. But otherwise, photo shoots and gifts haven’t really gone hand in hand for me (as common a thing as it is). That was not the original intention of this, failed, shoot. The story is as follows: I’ve been having photography withdrawals and needed to get back into it. I need photography like fish need water. It’s a survival thing now. My roommate, the one from Minnesota who accompanies me on many of my Hawaiian escapades, volunteered to help. I had the idea to focus on something she knows and loves: the Hawaiian dance form of hula. If you’ve never seen someone perform hula, you need to. It is legitimately one of the most graceful, peaceful things I have ever witnessed.

The original idea was to do this shoot on the beach. Stereotypical, yes, but given that my knowledge of perfect scenic locations on the island is still severely limited (cut me some slack; I’ve been busy with school for the past four months), it’s all I could think of. My roommate had a slightly different idea. She wanted to take me out to Manoa Valley, not too far from campus, and let me capture her dancing hula against a backdrop that she described as being “like Jurassic Park” (which makes sense considering how Jurassic Park was filmed, in part, here on O’ahu). Well, long story short, that never happened. We never made it fully into the valley due to the heavy rains we got on Sunday. It also didn’t help that we missed the first bus we needed because we stopped at the university’s Japanese garden. But it was at that very garden that the following images were born.

Hula 1

“This looks so surreal!”

The reactions my friends from home had to these images were hilarious. But truthfully, I have to agree with them. Back in Berea, there are these two little gardens behind one of the academic buildings that are fondly known as the Zen Gardens. They’ve been featured as the backdrop for many of my sessions. The Zen Gardens were one of my favorite places to visit. They were quiet and serene, just like the garden here. The biggest difference, though, is that the one here in Honolulu is HUGE. The stream itself rushes from upper campus to lower campus (by my apartment complex). That’s a long way. The garden has a separate pond with gigantic koi swimming about. Add two miniature waterfalls and presto! You have one of the most beautiful places to just sit and think. Or to take pictures.

My roommate is wearing a modern hula dress. I feel like it matches the atmosphere of the garden perfectly. I just feel so calm looking at these photos. Not going to lie, I’m kind of jealous that I’m not in the images. Heehee.

Hula 2

“This does not even look like a real place!”

Of course, despite the near perfect overcast conditions, I had trouble making this work. I’m glad I brought my tripod along with me, otherwise, I never would have been able to pull this off. As I found on Sunday, my lack of practice has left me shaky with a camera. No matter how hard I tried, I could not for the life of me take a steady, sharp image by myself. It’s like my muscles have weakened or something because I haven’t been supporting the weight of a camera on a regular basis. I’m hoping to shatter that problem within the next few weeks. I personally prefer the feeling of holding a camera and reserve my tripod for moments when it is absolutely mandatory (like when taking self-portraits or photographing light or something).

But at the same time, whether or not I was physically holding my camera, the above image turned out really well. It’s my favorite. There’s a level of innocence in both of these images. Hula, and everything it entails, embodies innocence and beauty.

Hula 3

I’m throwing this third one in for free. My roommate seems to be rather fond of it. This was the point when she began dancing. The movements of hula are so graceful and fluid yet strong and powerful. I’m telling you, it’s something you need to see for yourself. It’s breathtaking. So my roommate called this her birthday present. But maybe I was actually the one to receive a gift. Aside from being able to get in a little practice, I also got to witness something visually stunning against such beautiful scenery.

And that’s a gift way better than any ordinary birthday present.


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