Yes... There Really Is a Shangri La!

Yes, Dorothy.... Shangri La really does exist! Follow the yellow brick road to Honolulu, Hawaii.

Doris Duke, was an extraordinary woman... adventurous, fiercely independent, and one of the world's wealthiest women of the times.   She was the only child of the tobacco mogul, James Buchanan Duke who also founded the Duke Energy Company.  He died when Doris was 12 and she inherited approximately $80 million, an immense sum in the early 1900's.

Doris was born in 1912 and she was a radically free spirit, especially for the times.  A girl after my own heart since she was a dedicated conservationist, passionate about the preservation of wildlife, and a philanthropist.... with a passion for travel! Her first journey was in 1923 when she and her mother went to England and France. That trip ignited her love of travel and immersion in new cultures.

She was 22 when she married James Cromwell (a British political figure) and the two set off for a 10 month tour of Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, India, Indonesia, China and Japan. She was completely overwhelmed by the beauty of the  Taj Mahal, its Islamic architecture and art work.

Her immediate reaction was to commission a prominent Delhi architect to design what would eventually become the "Mughal" bedroom suite in her Shangri La. The seed had been planted and it continued to grow stronger.


The last stop over on the honeymoon was Hawaii and the plans for a 2 to 3 week visit were quickly changed to 4 months. Hawaii seduced Doris and she decided this was the place to build a home.

The entire 60 year story of Doris Duke and her Shangri La is worth reading in much more depth! And Doris Duke was an intriguing woman that there were several excellent books written about her. Try one of these for a great read...

  • Doris Duke's Shangri-La: A House in Paradise: Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art
  • Too Rich: The Family Secrets of Doris Duke
  • The Richest Girl In The World - The Extravagant Life And Fast Times Of Doris Duke
  • Trust No One : The Glamorous Life and Bizarre Death of Doris Duke

Photo Editing - Express Yourself

Make your photography a reflection of who you are. Be what you want to be. If you're a realist, why not let your creativity loose and try photo editing beyond just the basic tweaks?

Now, most of my photographs are impressionistic.  'Painting' my photos means they reflect what I feel and see in my imagination.  It makes my images unique and I enjoy the process.

The software I use is Lightroom, Photoshop, Topaz Impression and ON1.

Don't be afraid to use an editing program. You computer comes with one and if you grow beyond it, there are so many to choose from.  Go through the lessons that come with your photo editor or search on YouTube.  The point is to enjoy the process while you learn.


Here are 3 different styles of edits...  the first is a closer shot of the lanai.  The 2nd and 3rd are exactly the same photo but they're each edited for a different look.


After many hours of playing in ON1 and Photoshop, I've found the general looks that I really like. I have my favourite presets and I've made several "actions" in Photoshop.  With actions, the results are predictable and now it's easy to go through and adjust the layer settings for a particular photo.  Still, it's fun to try new presets that you can buy (or sometimes score a freebee).


I went for the aged look in many of the photos on this page after looking at the aged photos in the museum and online from Doris Duke's collections.  There's a paperback book that the museum sells and if you go on this tour, I suggest you purchase it. The story and photos about her and the building of Shangri La are fascinating. 


Photo editing is a very personal process. There are times I've spent a few hours on an image and scrapped it!  I don't delete it.  Often, I'll feel totally different about it after a few days.  You can get burned out working too long on an image and your senses exhaust!  If you feel frustrated, save your work... make sure you save it as a PSD with all the layers... then come back to it in a few days. It might only need a minor change to make you love it! But.....

If you still don't like it and you don't have enough space on your drive, then consider  deleting it.  If you do have space, keep it because who knows how you'll feel about it several months down the road?

Adding Drama to Shangri La
... Aging a dramatic landscape image

Trust me, these images look very different from the images right out of the camera!  They look old and distressed... a look I wanted to achieve. ON1 has some presets that give you these looks with just the touch of button.  It applies the preset and then you go through each layer and adjust it to come out with the look that suits your image.


Take photos of your landscapes in both vertical and horizontal views.  When you get them up on your monitor, you might like one view much more than the other. Because of the tall, slender trees, I prefer the vertical shot below.

Photo Editing With an Artistic Filter
... how to paint and keep your hands clean


Be crafty... turn your photos into water colours,  canvas or posters.  There are lots more choices!  Photoshop gives you a wide berth in creating your own vision of what you want your photo to look like  What the heck, just play with your art for a few hours and have fun.

Click on "Filters" in your menu bar... right near the top of the drop-down menu is Filter Gallery. Click on that and a new menu will open.... intrigued and want more help with these artsy filters?  I've got some help for you.

Wrapping It Up

We've made a complete round of the house and gardens now. Back to the front yard... the tour bus is leaving soon. 

Banyan trees are a photographer's good friend. They're from the Ficus family and they remind me of something out of a fantasy movie. The thick branches have graceful support roots, like cables, reaching down into the ground. Looks a bit "other worldly".  They're very common around Honolulu. 

Great for landscape photos but close ups are interesting, too. Fruit eating birds and various bugs hang out in this weird and wonderful tree so there are always some good macro opportunities.


A head's up... if Doris Duke's Shangri La is on your short list of places to visit in Honolulu:  You buy your tickets at the Honolulu Museum of Art and they will transport the tour group by bus to the site, then return to the museum.  You can't go directly to Shangri La to purchase tickets.

All the information is on the websites.

No photography is allowed within the house and courtyards. But if you're a journalist or professional photographer, call them well beforehand and arrange to attend one of their journalist meetings.



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