'The World at Night': An Astrophotography Book by Babak Tafreshi

'The World at Night': An Astrophotography Book by Babak Tafreshi

The night sky is photographed more today than ever before, and yet, dark sky areas are shrinking at incredible rates. That's something The World at Night (TWAN) program and Babak Tafreshi are trying to educate others on with this new book and the amazing collection of images within. 

This book is more than just a beautiful look at the night sky. Babak Tafreshi has gathered over 34 photographers from 20 countries to contribute over 200 stunning images of distant galaxies, planets, and once-in-a-lifetime celestial events. I can only imagine the amount of work involved in bringing all these photographers together, but not just that, doing it with a purpose beyond just sharing their work. It is a collaboration with a purpose and a message: to educate others on the loss of our dark skies, to unite us as one people under one sky. Tafreshi carefully curated these images and accompanying commentary into a variety of themes that explore that idea:

  • Symbols of all nations and religions embraced by one sky of endless beauties
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites at night
  • The Universe revealed through constellations, sky motions, atmospheric phenomenon, aurora, and other wonders
  • Images highlighting the beauty of dark skies away from light-polluted urban areas
  • Celestial events, from great comets to spectacular eclipses
  • Astro-tourism destinations, ancient astronomical monuments, and modern observatories

I have been lucky enough to see Tafreshi speak several times, as he lives just a few miles away from me. During his lectures, you hear his passion for astrophotography and the importance of preserving dark skies in general. An award-winning photographer, he has contributed to just about every major source on astrophotography, including regular work with National Geographic. Tafreshi is a photographer, science journalist, and conservationist, and he used that experience in 2007 to found The World at Night (TWAN) program, an elite group of about 40 photographers in 25 countries who present images to reconnect people with the importance and beauty of the night sky and natural nights.

Taking photos of the hidden Earth and the shining sky offers experiences that go beyond any technical or artistic enjoyment of photography. It builds a connecting bridge to the entire universe. 

When I received the book, I was surprised and a little overwhelmed by the size and amount of content within. At 239 pages, you can get lost for hours just looking at the images, but it is the accompanying text that really draws you in. There is something for everyone inside, whether it's the stories and experiences from the photographers involved or the tips and instructions at the back for anyone interested in capturing their own images of the night sky. It provides an opportunity to see the sometimes complicated techniques used to create some of these images. Any photographer interested in astrophotography should definitely pick this book up, but I think all photographers will enjoy the read. 

My favorite section is "Events That Shook the World;" it covers celestial events like eclipses, comets, meteor showers, etc. Some of the images show events that just were not viewable or I missed from where I live. Others feature the same event seen from the perspective of different countries. It is really something to be able to see the same object and how it was seen all over the world. Each chapter really succeeds in achieving TWAN's overall goal. Every time I pick the book up, I can't wait to head out and shoot my own night sky images. 

Tafreshi often shares amazing stories along with his images and videos on his Instagram account about both our atmosphere and celestial bodies. You can also purchase your own copy of this book as well as prints of many of his images from his website

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