VATICAN CITY — The election night introduction of Pope Francis to the world on March 13, 2013, took only 12 minutes. These minutes were some of the most important of my photographic career. For months I had obsessed about every detail of covering the election of the new pope.
Beginning in October of 2012 I began having a strong feeling that something big was going to happen to Pope Benedict XVI, although I never imagined he would resign. Throughout the fall and into early 2013 I began planning for what Vatican journalists politely call the “papal transition.”
In planning how to shoot a new pope’s first appearance, my two major concerns were getting the photos out quickly and making sure they were in focus. I had already photographed seven “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) Christmas and Easter blessings from the same balcony where the pope would make his first appearance. I knew how difficult focus can be at a far distance when the subject is not very big in the viewfinder. I had always anticipated shooting the appearance of the new pope in daylight, not at night, which makes things even more difficult.
Thanks to God’s grace the election night photos went well. My new 600mm lens didn’t lock up, as it had the night before, and proved to be exceptionally sharp. In the end, despite all the technical problems and worries, this was a blessed moment and God was in control. The results are in the slideshow above.