Sometimes you have an image in your mind, but the chance to take it is one in a million. In times like this, you need to prepare, hope, and shoot, shoot, shoot until you get it.
Brazilian photographer Fernando Braga did this for an entire year and finally got the image of his dreams. He captured the moment when a lightning struck Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue, and his amazing image took the world by storm (pun not intended). We chatted a bit with Fernando about his photos, and he shared some details behind this incredible shot with us.
Fernando named the photo Blessed Lightning (Raio Divino). He first explained the most important thing about this photo to him: its very name.
If you are a Catholic person you can think of this image as God blessing his Son which is represented by Christ the Redeemer. If you just believe in God, you can think of God blessing the most beloved symbol of Brazil.
It can also be seen as Christ the Redeemer protecting its people: the ‘Cariocas’. People born in Rio de Janeiro, like myself, are called ‘Cariocas’.”
Of course, Fernando agrees that lots of different interpretations can be made about this image. Everyone can see a different meaning behind it, and it’s absolutely fantastic. And I was curious to hear how long Fernando tried to get it. I was surprised to hear that it took over a year, and that this image was shot from his home!
“I’ve been trying to capture this moment for over a year, for many days, more than I can count,” Fernando tells DIYP. “Most of the days, I didn´t catch any.” He adds that he still ended up with great photos (which you can see on his Instagram), but not the shot he’d had in mind.
“I started shooting more wide open at 50mm, in landscape orientation. I got some good shots and decided to get braver and started using 70mm, also in landscape orientation, to get the mountain in the frame. Then, a couple of tries before this one, I decided to try shooting at 70mm vertical. I decided to put both the statue and the antennas in the frame because it´s more usual for the lightning to hit the antennas, so there would be a great shot, too.”
To get the successful shot, Fernando took more than 500 long exposure photos. “When I saw the picture, I simply couldn’t believe it,” Fernando tells us. “It was indescribable, like a dream come true!” He was thrilled about finally getting his own photographic Holy Grail, and he used the images from that day to create a timelapse:
Fernando used the Nikon D800 with a NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E lens at 70m. It’s actually his dad’s camera that he borrowed a year ago and never returned. “It became an inseparable friend of my beloved D750. They are like ‘Brothers In Arms,’” Fernando jokingly says.
At some point, Fernando changed the lens to the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G to get a better photo of the lightning that struck the Sumare´s Antennas (also located at the National Tijuca´s Park). For both photos he shared on socials, he was using f/8ISO 100 at 13s. I was also curious about the location, and Fernando told me that it was 4km away from the statue – at home. Some views from the balcony are better than others. :)
“When the statue was struck by the lightning, there was no damage to it, but some of the lights around the monument stopped working,” Fernando says. “It wasn’t immediately obvious, but I could see it when I viewed the photos on the computer.”
“It was essential for the statue not to be highlighted in the photo. In my experience, with that camera, after 8s (using f/8 ISO 100) it would not be possible to recover those highlights. The reason I used 13s was simple: I wasn’t expecting to have to crop that much, so I didn´t worry about it. Although, I should have! But sincerely, even after a year of trying, I just wanted to get a decent image of the lightning. So I decided to spare the camera a little bit, with longer exposure time and less shooting. The strike happened in the middle of the exposure time, say at 5.” Thankfully, I didn’t need to bring the highlights down too much. As a matter of fact, the only thing that I had to do when processing this photo was to reduce its exposure by -0.5 EV.”