In 1995, with a borrowed telescope and a couple of cameras, Babak Tafreshi traveled to a remote locale halfway across Iran to record an event that lasted a mere 14 seconds. It was a total solar eclipse—the first of 12 he has photographed in a career that has earned him steady work for National Geographic.
“The phenomenon is quite stunning,” says the photojournalist. “The change of the light and the environment is very dramatic.” It’s not uncommon to see birds hustling back to their nests and mosquitoes springing to life in midday.
Needless to say, you can’t help but be deeply moved by the experience. “It happens to everybody,” Tafreshi admits, “even those scientists who have seen total eclipses plenty of times.”
On August 21, Trafreshi will be here in the U.S. to record the Great American Eclipse, which will be visible across much of the country. By now, he’s accustomed to dealing with the dramatic changes in light and the challenges presented by the oh-so-brief window when the moon completely obscures the sun.
If you’re one of the lucky ones in the total eclipse’s path, here’s what you need to know to photograph the event.