Celebrating New Years Eve Reveillon In Rio De Janeiro

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Rio’s NYE fireworks were truly spectacular and many consider them the best in the world for this occasion. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. 2011.

I’m not sure how the idea came up, but when one of my good high school friends Mark and I were talking last Summer about going out of country for New Years, we decided on Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Upon research, we found out it was on everyone’s top 10 or even the very top of the list. Mark and I ended up booking our entire South America trip around Rio and NYE, starting off with Argentina on Christmas Day and ending in Peru after 2012 kicked off (more on those trips including a recap of getting to Machu Picchu later).

Being that we’re guys (and wedding season was in full swing for me all Summer and Fall long), we procrastinated and didn’t book any airfare or hotel for such a big event until the end of October, merely two months away from our date of departure. Even then, the prices for flights seemed reasonable. In hindsight, we should’ve booked our Rio hotel a lot sooner as an average night about 1-2 blocks away from Copacabana Beach for a three-four star hotel was around $400.

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Dozens of cruise ships lined up along the Atlantic Ocean hours before midnight. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. 2011.

Fast forward to our flight from Buenos Aires to Rio two days before ringing in Réveillon 2012. We decided to stay in Rio for five days, going on all-day sight-seeing tours the days before and after December 31st. We wished we had planned a tad bit better though, as we could’ve made time to check out some of the outer cities and even take on more activities. But it was a lot of fun experiencing the Rio culture, especially during the hours leading up to midnight on NYE and even the aftermath.

So on December 31st as the streets of Ave. Atlantica started to close down, thousands and thousands of anxious folks ready to party the night away gathered on Copacabana Beach. Mark and I got ready, made sure our cameras had enough battery juice and memory space, and headed out for the evening. On a related note, turns out my dear client friends Anjali and Anil, whose wedding I photographed in India the year before in 2010, were also in Rio to celebrate their anniversary and the New Year! It was wonderful seeing them again and counting down to 2012 together.

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It was special celebrating New Years with some close friends Anil, Anjali, and Mark. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. 2011.

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In some ways, it was only fitting to add rain to the love and life already present on Copacabana Beach. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. 2011.

Mark and I met up with them at their hotel about a mile west of where we were staying. In between our two hotels was the famous Copacabana Palace hotel and the main stage where the biggest artists, including David Guetta, were going to be performing. So let’s set the scene. It was around 9PM on 12/31/11. Us four were all dressed in white (the tradition for celebrating NYE in Rio) and were ready to head out when all of a sudden…it started raining. Actually, it started pouring. Crap! How are we going to take photos in the rain?

I brought my 5D Mark II and a 35/1.4L lens. Fortunately I brought a mini messenger bag to hold the camera and misc. items (wallet, U.S. Passport, etc.) just in case, and the hotel that Anjali and Anil were staying at loaned us some umbrellas. I wished I had done a bit more research beforehand and checked the weather report, but looking back, it was a ton of fun walking the streets of Rio on NYE…in the rain :).

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The fireworks show turned the dark Atlantic Ocean from night to day. It lasted for a good 20 minutes. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. 2011.

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A group of happy party goers were ready to ring in 2012. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. 2011.

As midnight slowly approached and more and more individuals started packing every inch of Copacabana Beach like fishes in a sardine can, we made our way to a small, vacant spot about a hundred feet from the shore. Some folks even reserved their space a day beforehand by setting up tents and chairs. Everyone from parents with their kids to groups of college kids gathered around each other to count down the New Year. With the hands of time ticking down to 12:00AM, and the feeling of a million people breathing down my neck while the rain hit my face as well as my poor camera, I realized how bittersweet this moment was.

On one hand, I was in a new country and at one of the hottest spots to count down the New Year along with some of my dear friends. On the other hand, the most important person in my life wasn’t there with me. If some of you are wondering where Charlene was in this story, I actually didn’t meet her until a few months before I booked the trip, and by then, Mark and I made a bro code pact that this would be an all-guys trip. My promise to Charlene is we’ll definitely go to Rio together in the future, along with the other South American countries I visited on this trip :).

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Thousands crowded around the big stage on Copacabana Beach, waiting for the performance of David Guetta. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. 2011.

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One of my favorite couples Anjali and Anil celebrated their one-year anniversary in Rio. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. 2011.

But yes…3…2…1…Happy New Year! 2012 was here. Lots of hugs, kisses, and smiles on the faces of the millions of people around us. And what did I do right at midnight? Capture the fireworks that turned the Atlantic Ocean from night to day of course :). It’s only fitting to do what I love most as the New Year began. It truly was an amazing sight to witness. Now I know why many consider Rio THE place to be for NYE. From the spectacular fireworks show to the ambiance of the city, there’s nothing quite like it.

Rain continued to pour down from the illuminated sky while everyone turned to the bright lights of the stage, as David Guetta was about to come on and really get the party going. It was around 2-3AM when we all decided to call it a night. As Mark and I said our goodbyes to Anjali and Anil and made our walk back to our own hotel, the scene before was truly worth documenting. The rain had stopped. Some folks that came from hours away took the jammed-packed buses back to their homes while others continued to drink and dance away in the clubs.

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Ambulances “rushed” through the streets of Rio trying to help the wounded. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. 2011.

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Locals took the bus to be part of the NYE celebration, but the return trip didn’t look pleasant. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. 2011.

A few ambulances made their way through the crowded streets to take care of some injured bodies while hundreds of police officers patrolled each block to ensure things wouldn’t get worse. We finally rolled into our own beds right before dawn struck. The crazy thing was, when we said goodnight to Rio, the streets were filled with an endless amount of trash – cans, bottles, food wraps…you name it. I mentioned to Mark how it was going to take the city a few days to clean up this mess.

A few hours later, as we got up for a late breakfast and made our way to the other side of Rio, we noticed how Copacabana Beach was absolutely spotless, as if last night never happened. I’m not sure what I was more amazed by, how millions of individuals from all parts of the world filled the beaches of Rio within a few hours or how the city went back to “just another day” right afterwards. And here we are, almost a year later.

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The aftermath of Reveillon 2012. However, the city was spotless a mere 8 hours later. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. 2011.

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The famous Copacabana Palace sits right on Ave. Atlantica on the Copacabana side of Rio’s beaches. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. 2011.

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