July 1, 2015 8:02 pm

Capturing the Mexican Ring of Fire with Lumia 640 XL

By / National Geographic photographer

I am Stephen Alvarez. National Geographic photographer and Microsoft Devices Ambassador. For the past two years I’ve been photographing the Seven Natural Wonders of the World with Lumia smartphones.

This spring I traveled to Mexico to photograph the Paricutin volcano and the Mexican Ring of Fire.

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In 1943 on the central plain of Mexico an extraordinary thing happened in Don Pulido’s corn field. Instead of corn a volcano sprouted. It began with rumbling and earthquakes, then plumes of ash and lava. In the course of a week the volcano had grown to 5 stories tall and consumed the field. By the time the eruption ended nine years later the volcano was 336 meters. The molten rock from the ensuing lava flows consumed the nearby town leaving nothing but the church tower standing above the scene of primordial devastation.

It was an incredible event and the cinder cone and church steeple still bear witness to the awesome destruction.

The subterranean forces that formed Paricutin have shaped the character of Central Mexico. The Ring of Fire’s official name is the Central Mexican Volcanic Belt. The belt contains over 1,500 volcanos from cinder cones like Paricutin to the huge snow-capped peaks that ring Mexico City. The volcanoes constantly rework the landscape. They provide fertile soil, the background for a rich, lively culture and also the threat of destruction.

Starting in Mexico City we explored the massive mountains that ring North America’s largest metropolis. The culmination was climbing the 5,230 meter Itzaccihuatl to get is great views of Popocatépetl and Mexico City. The perpetual snow caps on those two mountains were a surprise. So was Popo’s constant belching eruptions that send ash and steam skyward and release an awe inspiring rumble across the landscape.

Popocatépetl, one of Mexico's most active volcanoes, still produces powerful explosions. The steaming giant is seen here from the ridge of Iztaccihuatl, a neighboring volcano linked by a high mountain pass. Shot with Lumia 640 XL.

Popocatépetl, one of Mexico’s most active volcanoes, still produces powerful explosions. The steaming giant is seen here from the ridge of Iztaccihuatl, a neighboring volcano linked by a high mountain pass. Shot with Lumia 640 XL.

A blanket of fog rolls off a ridge, revealing a glimpse of massive Iztaccihuatl volcano, Mexico. Shot with Lumia 640 XL

A blanket of fog rolls off a ridge, revealing a glimpse of massive Iztaccihuatl volcano, Mexico. Shot with Lumia 640 XL

Hot air balloons glide over Teotihuacan, Mexico, one of the largest pre-Hispanic cities in the Americas, established 20 centuries ago. Shot with Lumia 640 XL.

Hot air balloons glide over Teotihuacan, Mexico, one of the largest pre-Hispanic cities in the Americas, established 20 centuries ago. Shot with Lumia 640 XL.

Last light on the rim of Paricutin volcano, Mexico, where fumaroles vent clouds of steam into the sunset. Shot with Lumia 640 XL.

Last light on the rim of Paricutin volcano, Mexico, where fumaroles vent clouds of steam into the sunset. Shot with Lumia 640 XL.

Salvador Perucho fires rockets in front of the remains of San Juan Parangaricutiro church. The oversized fireworks punctuate fiestas, funerals, and even church services throughout rural Mexico. Shot with Lumia 640 XL.

Salvador Perucho fires rockets in front of the remains of San Juan Parangaricutiro church. The oversized fireworks punctuate fiestas, funerals, and even church services throughout rural Mexico. Shot with Lumia 640 XL.

Throughout this assignment I shot with the Lumia 640 XL. The cold in the high mountains and the dust in Paricutin didn’t faze it. And the image quality! I am amazed at the clarity and detail produced by this midrange phone.

See more images from Mexico and read Stephen’s travel journal here.

And follow the Lumia x Nat Geo adventure on Instagram!