Live Reports: Wetpixel/Under the Jungle Cenote Workshop

Wetpixel, in conjunction with Mexico’s premier cave and Cenote diving operation, Under the Jungle (UTJ), is hosting their annual Center Photography Workshop. This is the second workshop, with one held in 2021, albeit with the Wetpixel contribution via Zoom. We are running two workshops this year, and we are underway with our first one.

We are based in Puerto Aventuras, a small community, right in the middle of Mexico’s amazing cave country. Day one commenced with UTJ’s owner, filmmaker, and videographer Natalie Gibb presenting a thorough briefing about the do’s and do nots of diving and photographing in this beautiful and challenging environment. We then loaded up and headed out to a cenote called Chikin Ha. This allowed an opportunity to get both photographic and diving settings dialed in. Chikin Ha, in common with many cenotes, offers amazing light effects. Most of them are relatively shallow, which combined with their small openings, and Mexico’s bright sunshine.

After arriving, Natalie and the team gave us a site briefing, followed by cenote photography guru Tom St. George, who offered his wisdom on the best places to shoot in the cenote. We then set off, closely escorted by the UTJ team, who ensured that safe practices were being followed and when possible, doubled as models for the participants.

Many of the participants found the experience of diving in this environment challenging. Precision buoyancy control is critical both in order to preserve the environment and to prevent stirring up silt. The latter directly impacts the ability to capture images.

After two dives in Chikin Ha, we returned to base, and after dinner, cenote photography guru Tom St. George and Adam Hanlon presented a Q & A and primer on the camera settings, lens choices, and strobe positions that offer the best opportunities for capturing stunning images.

Day 2

Early starts are the norm for many Wetpixel trips and this workshop is no different. Our plan today was to build on the previous day’s experience. We headed off to the cavern line in Cenote Ponderosa which has some lovely light rays and a picturesque open cenote area, filled with tropical fish.

After a taco lunch, complete with an imaginative sign for the restrooms, we traveled on to Cenote Tajma Ha, famed for its laser light rays in the “Dome of Lights,” along with picturesque cenotes at Esmerelda and Sugar Bowl.

UTJ has a full complement of staff supporting the team, with Natalie, Tom, and Adam acting as photographic mentors, Arya and Lilia acting as guides and models, and Beto doing lots of hard work providing logistics and support.

For our evening’s entertainment, Tom and Adam covered some key ideas about shooting in ambient light, followed by a review of the participants’ selected images. These reviews are very valuable as they provide personal feedback, and group learning and are a great source of inspiration and ideas. Here are some of the groups’ images from day 2:

Image by Peter Korn, Cenote Ponderosa

Image by Chris Forbes, Cenote Esmerelda

Image by Peter Korn, Cenote Dome of Lights

Image by Nir Friedman, Cenote Dome of Lights

Image by Nir Friedman, Cenote Tajma Ha

Image by Patricia Dusman, Cenote Ponderosa

Days 1& 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7