With a bit of help from some HDR software (NIK HDR Efex Pro), here’s a scene of building storm clouds behind the Temple of the Seven Dolls at the ancient Maya ruins of Dzibilchaltún:
As I mentioned in a previous post, you can’t climb the steps of this structure any more. Still, there’s plenty of cleared and accessible space available around it — so it’s not too tough to make a good photo of it. Here, one of the structures called “Adjoining Rooms” blocks your view of the fencing around the Temple’s base.
I made this photo from just west of Structure 12 (which is also now fenced off). On spring and autumn equinoxes, the Sun rises in the temple’s door, directly in line with the stela that frames the left side of this image. As you might imagine, that means those dates are quite crowded ones at this (normally sparsely visited) site.
The star attraction at the ancient Maya ruins of Dzibilchaltún, Yucatán, Mexico:
The Temple of the Seven Dolls was named for some small clay figurines found in an offering under its floor. Sadly, a fence now keeps visitors from climbing its steps, much less looking inside the structure (likely due to vandalism seen at other well-visited sites).
The Temple of the Cormorants is the site’s tallest structure, but sadly you can’t climb it. Â Still, plenty to see from ground level. Â This structure contains three burial chambers, one stacked atop the next in its core. Â In the bottom one, archaeologists found the tomb of a member of the city’s elite, with a wealth of grave goods — including a polychrome vessel decorated with cormorants (giving the structure its modern name).
This shot’s taken from the northwest of the building — even from here you can see some of the structure’s many layers of construction, and you can just make out the stucco carvings under the sheltering roofs along the steps on its side.
Seen in the ancient Maya ruins of Cobá, Quintana Roo, Mexico:
The more I read about Maya sites, the more complex I find the ball courts to be — or at least, the myriad forms they often take. If you’re curious, this ball court was built in an older, somewhat classic form — the side walls are mostly sloped, and the ends of the court are open. To take in this scene, though, you’re standing with a modern structure to your back — a covering for some pieces of sculpture. This calls for a wide lens, and a stitched multi-image panorama on top of it.
In Palenque‘s Cross Group ruins, the Temple of the Sun is definitely the “cover girl” of the group’s three structures. This is a bit ironic since it’s the shortest of the three temples, as it was dedicated to the most minor of Palenque’s triad of patron deities. But for one reason or another, it has weathered the intervening years more gracefully than have its siblings. So, its relatively good condition makes it the most photogenic member of the group.
This image was made from the steps of the tallest group member, the Temple of the Cross.
A compact string of five ruins, the North group sits at the north side of the cleared part of Palenque. You can walk around all of the group’s structures, but you can’t really get a good frontal shot of the five together due to a few pesky trees. I took this photo from the front steps of the Temple of the Count, probably the best vantage point if you want to photograph them together.
Probably one of the most-photographed sights at the ancient Maya ruins of Palenque, it’s the Palace’s tower:
On the days we visited Palenque, we had to deal with pretty persistent clouds — not a huge deal, if you have a few ways to handle them. Â In this case, I used NIK HDR Efex Pro 2 to avoid losing the shadowed parts of the tower and get a little drama in the otherwise-featureless clouds. Â It’s on the edge of looking “over-cooked,” but I think it works for this image.
The funny thing in retrospect is that in order to get this shot, I had to stand on what once were the Palace’s toilets. Â Good thing they haven’t been used for a thousand years.
If you’re planning on travel to Palenque in the near future, I’m doing final edits to myÂ “Photographer’s Guide” eBook forÂ the ruins at Palenque. Â Should hit the (metaphorical) streets by Wednesday. Â Stay tuned…
Structure III isn’t the largest building at Calakmul, and it was likely never the fanciest, but it’s by far the most interesting one there:
It was typical in the Maya Classic era to periodically rebuild structures — tearing down old superstructures, covering their platforms with another layer of masonry, building anew on top of them. In some cases, this happened every 20 or 50 years for centuries — that’s why a number of them took on elephantine proportions.
Structure III was different, though. It seems to have been inhabited for the duration of Calakmul’s existence (about 1,500 years), but was never buried and rebuilt. Fairly early in its history, a very well-appointed tomb was built into one of its rear rooms — other than that, it appears that nothing was done to alter its original architecture.
For 1,500 years.
The inhabitants did such a good job of maintenance that when Calakmul was rediscovered 1,000 years after it was abandoned, this was the only structure at the site that wasn’t just a rubble mound. It’s thought that the tomb held one of the original kings of the site, and that Structure III was a palace inhabited by his descendants.