Hallelujah: The Floating Mountain, China, 2010

It was my good fortune to photograph the mountain landscape that was the inspiration for James Cameron’s floating peaks of Pandora in his epic film, Avatar. They are located in Wulingyuan National Park, Zhangjaijie, China’s first and one of it’s most popular. In a forest of more than 3,100 quartz sandstone pillars, it was this particular 3,544 foot pillar called Southern Sky Column that was renamed Avatar Hallelujah Mountain after the film became the highest grossing of all time.

I captured this view of what appears to be a forested island floating in a sea of mist, much like it appears in the movie. A strange twist of life imitating art without the help of CGI and 3D.

Location: Wulingyuan National Park, Zhangjaijie, China
Photograph Date: 2010
Medium: Chromogenic Print
Edition: 200
Available Sizes: 100cm & 150cm

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About the Photographer

Michael Yamashita

Mike Yamashita has combined his dual passions of photography and travel for over 25 years as a shooter for National Geographic and, more recently, with his film production company, Saga Pictures.

Specializing in Asia, Yamashita has covered Vietnam and the Mekong River, Marco Polo's journey to China, the Great Wall, and the DMZ between North and South Korea, as well as almost every aspect of Japanese culture from samurai to fish markets.

A story on legendary Ming Dynasty admiral and explorer Zheng He first appeared in the July 2005 issue of National Geographic and was released as a documentary feature film in 2006. The film, The Ghost Fleet, won Best Historical Documentary at the 2006 New York International Film Festival. A book, Zheng He, was published in 2006.

Yamashita's other books include In the Japanese Garden, Mekong: Mother of Waters, and Marco Polo: A Photographer's Journey. Marco Polo is also the subject of his award-winning National Geographic Channel documentary, Marco Polo: The China Mystery Revealed, in which Yamashita retraces the 13th-century Venetian's epic excursion to China.

A frequent lecturer and teacher at workshops around the world, Yamashita has received numerous industry awards, including those from the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) Pictures of the Year, the New York Art Directors Club, and the Asian-American Journalists Association. Major exhibitions of his work have opened throughout Asia, in Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul, Hong Kong, and Singapore, as well as in Rome, Frankfurt, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. His images of Korea's DMZ were featured in an exhibit at the Visa Pour L'Images photojournalism festival at Perpignan, France, in 2005.

When not traveling, Yamashita lives in rural New Jersey, where he maintains a studio and an extensive stock library and is an active volunteer fireman.

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