During my recent trip to Kyoto, I really wanted to see and capture the rising sun at the Bamboo Forest, a spiritual place in itself that seems to sync nature, animals, and human beings effortlessly in harmony. It was my goal to be there at the crack of dawn one morning and create another portfolio shot – capturing the aura, the feeling, the magic of this space with a creative approach.

To experience the most incredible moments of the day in spectacular places around the world, I truly believe you have to make an effort and plan accordingly. And then, the true magic is tangible.

Looking back, It was almost surreal. The forest with its surrounding sounds and these extraordinary lighting conditions. The image created is a moment frozen in time, evoking certain feelings and emotions; the shoot brings everything to life.

The Way to the Light

The wake-up call was at 3:30am and the plan was to set up no later than 5am on location. I had to learn that morning that the way to the light – literally – is not always a smooth one. But what I thought were a couple of hiccups turned out to be a cultural custom of accuracy. We never stop learning, do we?

My friendly cab driver awaited me in the hotel lobby a little after 4am. I was still sticking to my personal schedule and was in high spirit about my early morning adventure. But when I left, the driver seemed very unsure of where to go. He stopped several times. I was getting slightly nervous, knowing how important the right timing – and, hence, the lighting – for my envisioned portfolio image was.

The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists – Japanese Proverb

It was one of those situations that challenged me to just take a deep breath and hope that, in the end, everything would work out as I had planned. I couldn’t really do anything; there was a huge language barrier, I had no knowledge of where I was or what options I possibly had, so I played the waiting game. After the driver talked to the head office, I finally arrived at my desired spot just in time.

I found out later that his actions were apparently completely normal, as he wanted to be very exact with the destination where he was supposed to drop me off.

Path of Enlightenment – guided by the spiritual light that leads to greater knowledge – Kyoto, Japan

A Magical Atmosphere

It was pitch dark. I wandered through the forest, looking for the location I had scouted out before. My headlamp was the only “guiding light” there was. And then, all of a sudden, a magical atmosphere unfolded: I witnessed the sound of the Japanese monks’ early morning prayer.

Peace is not just a desired state of being for people, but also enables the flourishing of nature as well as human-created landscapes – Norris Brock Johnson

Stopping in awe, I felt the spirit rise from the nearby temple, softly bringing this place to life. It was all-encompassing. It was just me. I heard the sound of the rustling bamboo leaves gently rocked by the breeze. Slowly but surely, the forest awoke; the birds began twittering soothingly. It was an aura of such harmony that resolved in a deeply peaceful feeling running through my body.

The Path Towards Illumination  

And then, the bucket shot was created. I get a rush of excitement every time I can photograph and create what I have in mind. This time, I envisioned the “Path of Enlightenment” (which will be available in my World Collection).

Enlightenment must come little by little – otherwise it would overwhelm – Idries Shah

As a movement of the 17th and 18th century, some of the core ideas of the period of Enlightenment are tolerance, individualism, and the coexistence of science and religion. In short: the belief that God – or certain godly spirits – does exist without interfering with the natural forces of our universe. Reason and progress are intertwined and they are the power that allows humankind to make sense of our universe.

Looking at the image, the rays of the sun resemble the touch that is enlightening the spirit, leading the way and inviting those open to expanding their minds to following the illuminated path. It’s the path that leads to knowledge if only we are open to receiving it. It’s with reason that we walk but a pinch of godly, supernatural spirit guides us. We’re on the path towards a brighter future; happiness that we pursue through learning and finding our individual place in this cosmos.  

All too often we fall back into socially constructed patterns not truly reflecting who we really are deep down inside. In the midst of the thick forest of those norms, hard to navigate and see throug, there’s a light we follow. It’s the spirit of enlightenment within reach; let’s receive it and see this world anew. Walk the path. It will be bright and obvious before you. And eventually, we will be the ones radiating this energy of our enlightened spirits.

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The sun was rising higher and its rays were beaming through the bamboo trees. I was making my way back to the hotel as the place began to fill with visitors. It was almost surreal what I experienced in the past couple of hours.

Moments I will forever treasure. They were pure magic. Literally an enlightening experience.

Did I just wake up from a dream?