B&W 8x10 landscapes of Mayan ruins in Cancun

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I am going on a 3-day trip to Cancun this Oct. I need to decide if I want to bring my 8x10 Deadorff with me for the Mayan ruins. My main concerns are crowds, light conditions and logistics. Any comments and suggestions are welcom. Thanks in advance. Hugo

-- Hugo Zhang (jinxu_zhang@ml.com), July 05, 2001


I take it you are referring to the famous sites south of Cancun? If so you definitely need to get a photography permit from the Mexican goverment's federal department of Archaeology. Tripods are not permitted by the local curators / gatekeepers without a permit. The story I got was that about fifteen or twenty years ago a crew came in and filmed scenes that ended up being used in a hardcore porn film. To make it easier to explain to the guards what to keep out they were told to ban all cameras that needed tripods. The people in Quintana Roo are mostly Mayan Ruta and they take their heritage seriously and paying a "fee" on the spot was strongly rebuffed, I don't have experience with the pyramids but if you are only going to be there for three days I doubt you'll have enough time to see those ruins as well, at least not to shoot seriously.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (evphoto@heartstone.com), July 05, 2001.

Some years ago I spent a week in the Yucatan Peninsula, based in Merida, mostly touring Mayan ruins. I should know, but don't, whether Cancun is anywhere near there and whether the ruins you are talking about are those that I may have visited from the Merida area. Anyhow, FWIW, photographing the well known sites such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal would be difficult because of the hordes of people that swarm all over those places but not impossible, particularly if you were interested more in architectural details rather than broad vistas. There also are smaller, less well known, ruins (e.g. Sayil, Kabah, and Labna) that would be very feasible to photograph because not too many people visit them. I did some reading on the ruins before I left to find the lesser known ones and then hired a driver/guide because the usual tour buses don't go there. I took hundreds of photographs and was never hassled or questioned by any one. I didn't have a permit and was never asked for one, but I wasn't using an 8x10 camera so I wasn't very conspicuous and perhaps I wasn't in the areas where a permit is needed.

-- Brian Ellis (bellis60@earthlink.net), July 05, 2001.

Yes, I went to Tulum near Cancun a couple years ago and they wouldn't let me take in a tripod. Luckily my cab driver was honest and nice so I left it with him when I was shooting medium format. They said you DO need a special permit to do so. I didn't ask any more than that. You can go during the off season for tourists and get there extra early to help avoid crowds. Or shoot with a long exposure and use the blur of moving figures to enhance the photo. There are a lot of options, but very few will be without people completely. The ruins get busy and stay busy. They get hot too! Bring some water with you!

-- Jason Janik (janikphoto@yahoo.com), July 06, 2001.

I know a photographer that got busted for sneaking in to get a few shots. I'm not sure, but I think it was Tulum. Cost him a lot......They take the tripod ban very seriously.......

George http://georgestocking.com

-- George Stocking (gwrhino@earthlink.net), July 06, 2001.

Tulum definitely has permit restrictions on tripods (as mentioned in the above posts). It is also a very popular "day trip" for those vacationing in Cancun, Cozumel and cruise ships in port. So you get crowds of people at mid-day. The best way to avoid the crowds is to be there right when they open - that was 9:00am when I visited 4 years ago (check with the park). The above holds true for Chichen Itza also. Another possibility is Coba (about 35 miles Norhtwest of Tulum - into the interior). This is a much less developed park - yet just as spectacular, in its own way. Much of the ruins are not fully excavated from the jungle. You walk dirt paths, under the cover of the jungle, from ruin to ruin, usually totally alone. Since it is a national park, I'm sure the same tripod restrictions probably exist, but they are not as strictly enforced. For myself, I would still get a permit for tripod use, but I would expect less hassle at Coba than at Tulum. You shouldn't have a problem with crowds of tourists at Coba (unless things have changed drastically in the last few years). But you might want to rent your own car to get there. Check out the Lonely Planet book "La Ruta Maya" for more logistical details - that's how I found it. Unfortunately, I was only shooting 35mm when I last visited Quintana Roo. Next time I will definitely take my 4x5 - even if it requires arranging permits before-hand. It is an incredible area.

-- Scott Bacon (sbacon@naturalorderphoto.com), July 08, 2001.

I can recomend Coba as well. I went there 2 years ago on my honeymoon. Very beautiful, not many people. Actually we went through a local tour outfit that the resort we were stay at arrainged. I don't know about the tripod permit, i just had a 35mm with me at the time.

-- karl french (karledison@cs.com), July 09, 2001.

I was at the Mayan Ruins in Tulum in January and was prohibited from carrying my tripod with me. I was shooting medium format and was able to come away with some good shots in spite of the hordes of tourists. Alex

-- Alex Weiner (weiner@attglobal.net), July 13, 2001.

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