By Hannah Stevens @Hannahshewans
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At 10,582 square kilometres, the Bolivian salt flats - otherwise known as Salar de Uyuni - are the largest on the planet and contain between 50 and 70% of the world’s lithium reserves.
After exploring Chile and Argentina, photographer Joel Santos decided to travel to Bolivia in January 2017 to check the salt flats off his bucket list.
Driving from Argentina, Joel climbed from 1600m altitude to 4900m, which did not allow his body to properly acclimatise, resulting in a brutal three day headache and no sleep.
He said: “By the time we got to the salt flats we had already ruined ourselves physically and our biggest dream was just to have a nice sleep and recover from the treacherous journey we had on the previous days.
“Nevertheless, as we were on our way to the local hostel we realised that a storm was still chasing us.
“I wanted to make my photos different from the thousands of other images I’d seen before, so having a big storm approaching on the horizon would be the perfect ingredient to create some unique imagery. So, despite being extremely tired, we all agreed we would go the salt flats immediately.
“On the way we realised that most people were actually doing the opposite, intelligently trying to get away from the storm, but not us.”
With an electrical storm rolling in, Joel and his two travelling companions were the only souls left on the vast flats and captured the eerie flats without a person in sight.
The Portuguese photographer said: “The lightning, getting closer by the minute, began to echo the last rays of light with multiple powerful discharges.
“The light was unreal and the feeling otherworldly, giving rise to a euphoria you only get when witnessing something so unique.
“We were quickly swallowed up by the storm, with pouring rain and lightning falling only a few hundred metres from our 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 and fire to mankind in Greek mythology.”