Chichen Itza was a settlement of the Mayan people that was a major city between the 8th and 12th centuries B.C.E. Reports conflict on if the city was still inhabited by the time the Spanish arrived in the region. Due to the level of contempt the Spanish held for the natives of the area, they deliberately avoided recording details of their culture. The most famous building (called “El Castillo” in Spanish) was at first thought to be a fortress occupying a similar role to a castle by the Spanish conquistadors who were the first Europeans to see it. However, it would later become obvious it was a temple used as a centerpiece for a large number of religious ceremonies.
From a photography standpoint, this photo achieves one of my favorite effects when shooting architecture photos (it also works for certain landscape shots). At the time I took this photo, there was a storm rolling in and so I had dark clouds in the background of the shot. However, at the same time, the sun was at my back and was still bright through the clouds at that spot, so it gave me good lighting on the building. The resulting effect is strong enough lighting on the building to capture the nuances to the stone while the dark skies behind it form a strong contrast. This contrast serves to avoid washing out the photo due to the sky being too bright and focuses attention on the main subject. I have seen photos that have successfully achieved that effect with an even greater contrast (including one my father took while I was too busy being dumbstruck by the beauty of the scene to remember my camera). This photo, though, shows the best example of my photos capturing the effect.