a1 March 2014

Welcome to the Underworld


Cenotes is an underground river system which is pretty unique to Mexico. It consists of about 8000 natural sinkholes which are believed to be connected to each other thus making one huge underground river (as far as I know there is no proof for that so far). As cenotes (which are sinkoles) were created as a result of collapsing of lime bedrock you can imagine that water in the cenotes is crystal clear (lime is not very friendly for animals and plants), that's why they are Holy Grail of scuba and cave divers from all over the world.

A cenote can be open (no "roof" about the pit), semi-open - there is roof but with a whole in it and they can be also completely closed (cavern). Bear in mind it's not official classification.

Also some of the cenotes were important for the ancient Mayas for sacrificial offerings. Others were important played important part in their beliefs and mythology, eg. they believed that one of the cenotes didn't have bottom (it probably was some kind of a portal to the underworld). A few years ago Polish diving expedition tried to prove this theory wrong but they didn't make to the bottom. So this legend can still be true.

Daily photo - Welcome to the Underworld

Today daily photo shows panorama of one of the cenotes (no surprise there, eh?) - the biggest one in Mexico which is available for tourists (about 7000 out of 8000 aren't available publicly). It was semi-open one, meaning that there is a "roof" but there is a hole in it. Now this hole made taking this photo a real nightmare. Light entering through it was very bright while the rest of the scene was almost completely black. It goes without saying that dynamic range of this scene was huge. Extreme. I took 11 exposures at 1 EV spacing but in fact I should take even more as with this approach some highlights were still blown out. However, I decided to not restore all the highlights because this way the image looked rather unnatural.

To create this photo I had to manually blend more than 50 photos. It took a while and was a really difficult (and also a good exercise in manual blending ;) ) due to the fact that neither my computer nor Photoshop liked file that big. Occasional crashes and hangs didn't stop me, however, and after about 10 hours of blending and a few more hours of post-processing you can see final image :)

I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do (and I really like it!).

One of the many cenotes in Mexico

Finally some EXIF information:
Technical details:
Camera: Sony NEX-6
Lens: Sony 10-18 f/4
Focal length: 10 mm
Aperture: f/5.6
Exposure time: 5 s ("middle" exposure)
ISO: 200
Number of exposures: 55
E.V. Step: 1.0
Flash used: no
Tripod: yes
Filters: no
Technique: panorama, long-exposure, manual blending, luminosity masks
Software: PTGui, Lightroom 5.0, Photoshop CC, Topaz Clarity, Topaz Adjust

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