Vacation: Cancun Trip, Chichen Itza

IMG_2848Monday, 13 May brought another early morning and another day of Mayan ruins- this time, Chichen Itza.  As a Latin American culture & history major, it was like visiting the mothership or Disney World for me and I was thrilled to be visiting one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.  After catching a bus with my students from developing countries, we relaxed for the 90 minute trip to the ruins.

Below are some of the students involved in one of my programs and a new friend- “Mr. Iguana!”  The site is large and our time was limited, so unfortunately we did not get to see all of the structures.  I was a bit disappointed and wish that the tour we purchased via Viator had explicitly stated this.

(Clicking on any photo will enlarge it.  For high-resolution and additional photos, click here.)

The day was sweltering, but everyone was in high spirits and very good sports about walking around for so many hours in the full sun.  Below is one of the hundred or so tables set up with Mayan carved figures and goods.  I have to admit, I fell in love with a yellow carved statue of a jaguar and wish that I had not resisted the urge to buy a souvenir!  The bottom photo is of The Tzompantli, or Skull Platform (Plataforma de los Cráneos).

Of course, the highlight was the Temple of Kukulkan, usually referred to as El Castillo (“the castle”).  In photographing El Castillo, I needed to make a judgment call about whether it was more important to fit the entire subject in the frame or if it was acceptable to cut off a portion in order to cut out bystanders.  You’ll see that I felt it was more important to cut out unwanted people from the photos.  Sure, you can always edit them later, but I currently do so via “clone,” which leaves a blurry portion of the photo and if I ever wanted to blow it up, it would look funny.

Below are photos of the Great Ball Court.  The Mayans played a ball game with a ball of solid rubber that was bounced off of their hips (no hands!) through a “hoop” of stone.  I had seen photos of ball courts and even written papers about them, but what was most striking was how large the court was and how high up the hoop was!  Winning must have seemed impossible to all but the most skilled of players and indeed, there’s no consensus as to whether it was the winners or the losers who were decapitated after each game.

The amazing structures were the perfect subject for some HDR experimentation.  You’ll see in the below photos that the same subject can be portrayed in many different moods and lighting effects, depending upon the editing style.


I discovered via the editing of the below photos, that one can often achieve the same effect by lightening the shadows and increasing the midtone contrast.  The first photo (Image 2747) was achieved via the method described and is not an HDR image.  I placed it in the gallery below beside the two HDR images for comparison’s sake.

Although the heavier “HDR effects” don’t always appeal to me, I found the below image compelling, especially when compared to the original image.

Before heading home, we stopped at a cenote– “deep natural pit, or sinkhole, characteristic of Mexico, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath.”  The water was cool and refreshing after a day in the hot sun, but scared me to death, since there were a ton of black catfish on the surface.  It didn’t seem to bother anyone else, but in Central/Western NY I had been stung by too many catfish not to be wary.  I eventually got over my fear by jumping from a 15-20 foot “cliff” into an area without too many scary black catfish!

After sleeping for much of the ride back to Cancun, we were well-rested for dinner at a small restaurant across from our hotel- Calypso.  The venue is small, the food was great, and the owner friendly.  We heard our first mariachi band, which serenaded the people next to us and afterward another venue played one of my favorite Spanish songs- Mariposa Traicionera, by Maná.  Singing along to the words earned us free drinks from the owner, who was impressed that this gringa spoke Spanish!

The conference began the following morning and I was kept quite busy, so I don’t have any other photos until the day before we left.  After packing up my booth, I met Jonathan on the beach and we spent a lazy last day/night in Cancun.

One response to “Vacation: Cancun Trip, Chichen Itza

  1. Pingback: Vacation: Cancun Trip, Museo de la Maya & Lagoon | Kara Smedley Images·

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