Holy moly! Camera catches Christ the Redeemer being struck by lightning

Christ the Redeemer struck by lightning
(Image credit: Fernando Braga)

A one-in-a-million photograph of Christ the Redeemer has been captured on camera by a Brazilian photographer – and it is sweeping across the internet like wildfire.

Located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the iconic statue – called Cristo Redentor in the native Portuguese – was struck by lightning at 18:55 local time on February 10, where it was captured on camera (some might say miraculously) by local Brazilian photographer Fernando Braga.

His photograph freezes the moment that a fork of lightning crackles down from the heavens and strikes the head of the statue – the head of Christ – creating what looks like a 'crown of light' by virtue of the aperture blades on the camera lens (by the same process that photographers capture sunburst and starbursts). 

"Unstoppable. Never give up," Braga wrote on Instagram. "Lots and lots of frustrated attempts to catch the lightning falling on Christ. Many rains and days passed. I got close a few times, but I had never managed to get to Cristo. And right there that I love to photograph! I already have a very special photo for me which was the Blessed Moon. Now it's Divine Lightning!"

Raios Divinos, or "Divine / Blessed Lightning", is the name he has given to this incredibly timed photograph. 

"As I love a timelapse and it is difficult in this case… So here's a video of two lightning strikes today at Christ the Redeemer and its neighbor, the Antenas do Sumaré. Shots taken at 6:55 pm and 7:36 pm using Nikon D800 with 70-200mm f/2.8E at 70mm (Cristo) and 50mm f/1.8G (Antennas)."

While no other photographer was able to capture even a single lightning strike, Braga actually captured two versions of the strike on the antennae. He took an initial shot at 19:03, using the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E, which he was unsatisfied with, and then changed lens to the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G and took a second shot half an hour later!

"I just posted one of Raio that fell a little while ago in Christ and together with the post there is one on the antennas," he wrote in a follow-up Instagram post. "When I was looking at the dozens of pictures, it was the first one I saw and I got upset and told myself! Damn, I should have used the 50mm. 

"Then I saw the photo in Cristo and I was satisfied... but I said, it doesn't hurt to put the 50mm and try a little more.... There it is! Now in fullness!"

You can see more of Fernando Braga's stunning photography on his website, as well as a timelapse of the Raios Divinos lightning strike on his YouTube channel.

If you enjoyed this article, you may be interested in reading about the best lenses for landscapes, as well as the best lenses for astrophotography. And, as proven by these photographs, the best low-light cameras don't have to be brand-new ones!

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.