A 'Prometheus’ moment: the story behind the photo

The setting was too amazing to be believed: dark blue clouds were reflected on the wet surface of the Salar Uyuni, Bolivia, with jeeps and people walking on the imaginary line where sky merges with the earth. The lightning, getting closer by the minute, began to echo the last rays of light with multiple powerful discharges.

Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with an EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens; the exposure was 13secs at f/2.8, ISO 800. © Joel Santos - www.joelsantos.net

The light was unreal and the feeling was otherworldly, giving rise to a euphoria you only get when witnessing something so unique, observed under such almighty conditions. The bad weather kept its pace with the sunset and, as a clear harbinger of the rain to come, the wind started to whisper strong gusts, eliminating the reflection over the Salar plain and pushing us ‘home’.

We were quickly swallowed up by the storm, with pouring rain and lightning falling only a few hundred metres from the jeep. The flashes were strong enough to tremble the chest and justify the use of sunglasses in the pitch black night, to avoid the sudden glare.

As always, a photograph is the most powerful reminder of a truly singular moment, and this occasion reminded me of the legend of Prometheus, the bringer of light/fire to mankind in Greek mythology.

1) The lantern had just the right amount of power to prevent overexposing his face.
2) In order to ‘draw’ the body, enhancing the figure against the dark background, the Jeep’s lights were turned on (parked 100m away)
3) 13 seconds allowed for the correct exposure, capturing more than one lightning bolt and avoiding the motion blur on the body
4) using a tripod was essential, as well as a specially configured remote release to make successive shots. © Joel Santos - www.joelsantos.net | Sketch by Magali Tarouca