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An AP photographer snags an unexpected image of the head of the Catholic Church

Pope Francis tries to catch his cap as wind blew it away while arriving for his weekly general audience in the St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis tries to catch his cap as wind blew it away while arriving for his weekly general audience in the St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

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Having covered the Vatican for 27 years – that’s three popes – Andrew Medichini has mastered photographing papal pomp.

To capture this photo, Medichini knew exactly how to position himself for a candid shot of Pope Francis.

Here is what he said about making this extraordinary photo.

Why this photo

After several years following popes in and out of the Vatican, you get to know where to be and how to anticipate the right frame according to the news or the conditions of the day - windy, sunny, rainy, etc.

The day I took this photo was rather quiet, no big names meeting the pope, no particular weather conditions. So, I decided to go to the spot where he enters St. Peter’s Square in the car and gets relatively close to me - and where there is always some wind channelled from the arch he drives through.

I was lucky, his cap flew and, just at the right moment, he tried to catch it.

How I made this photo

The photo was taken from the first of the steps that lead to the churchyard at the entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica, where I have a clearer view over the heads of the pope’s security guards with a 600mm lens from a distance around 40-50 meters. It was then cropped in Photoshop, as the picture was still quite wide with distracting elements in it. The camera was set to one of its highest frames-per-second speeds.

From experience, I know that if something happens it will likely be in a fraction of a second. That’s what happened in this case, where I only got two shots and one was good.

Why this photo works

I believe it works because it shows an intimate and normal gesture by one of the most known people in the world. It’s so different from the formal meeting photos or the more ritual moments of ceremonies.

For that split second, he’s like any person trying to catch their hat as it’s blown away by wind.

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For more AP photography, click here.