Interesting Photo of the Day: The Truth Behind Avatar’s Floating Hallelujah Mountains

James Cameron’s Avatar isn’t real, but those awe-inspiring “Hallelujah Mountains” from the film are. While the craggy pillars don’t actually float, that illusion is easily created by the dense fog and mist that often swirls around the canyon beneath the peaks. The pillar pictured below was photographed by Thomas Dawson and has recently enjoyed an official name change from “South Pillar of Heaven” to “Hallelujah Mountain”: 

one of a kind thomas dawson china quartz pillar balancing floating avatar hallelujah Zhangjiajie National Park south pillar heaven

“One of a Kind” by Thomas Dawson (Via 500px. Click to see full size.)

The 3,544-foot Hallelujah Mountain and more than 3,000 similar pillars throughout Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in China’s southern Hunan province are made from crumbly quartz sandstone (some say karst limestone). We have eons of erosion to thank for isolating the peaks in the way that they appear today.

James Cameron actually did base Avatar‘s floating peaks off of the Zhangjiajie pillars. One film designer said that the team was inspired by “many different types of mountains, but mainly the karst limestone formations in China… Guilin, Huangshan, and Zhangjiajie.”

“This is one of my favorite peaks,” said photographer Dawson. “One can only wonder as to how many more years or centuries this amazing formation can stay standing tall in such a delicate balancing act.”

Dawson created this image with his Canon EOS 5D Mark III at 20mm, 1/13 of a second, f/14, and ISO 100.

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One response to “Interesting Photo of the Day: The Truth Behind Avatar’s Floating Hallelujah Mountains”

  1. This just may very well be the most epic place on Earth.

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