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Good Question: Should you take pictures of the total solar eclipse?

SOLAR ECLIPSE.jpg

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - On August 21, people in the Midlands will experiencing the first total solar eclipse that's visible in this country in almost 40 years.

The last time the phenomenon was seen in the U.S. was 1979.

Columbia is a prime viewing area and an estimated half-million people are expected to flood the Midlands for the history-making event.

Everyone has their own way to record history, and one of the most popular is taking pictures, especially in the social media age.

There's a right way and a wrong way to take pictures of a total solar eclipse. The wrong way will damage your gear, and your eyes.

So, should you even bother? That's a good question.

USC associate professor of visual communication, Denise McGill, has some answers.

"A lot of times I say the camera doesn't really matter, it's the photographer. But, in this case, with something like the eclipse you need some really specialized equipment to take good pictures of the eclipse," McGill said.

Whether you're using a cellphone or a more professional-grade camera, that means getting the right solar filter to block out harmful rays that can damage not only your eye, but your equipment as well.

That's the most basic approach, because solar eclipse photography can be serious business.

"The people that are really doing eclipse photography, they've got the big monster lenses, and they've got a tripod with a tracker that aligns to the North Pole and it ticks off when they synch it with this special computer software," McGill said.

Chances are, most of us don't have the time, money, or expertise to get all that together before August 21.

But, if you absolutely have to do it yourself, there are some things you absolutely need:

- Solar filter to protect your camera

- Super-telephoto lens, for more serious photographers

- Tripod

Even professionals like McGill won't be taking pictures of the actual eclipse. She plans to capture the atmosphere of the event instead.

"I would recommend for most people out there to do the same thing," McGill said. "What I'm trying to do is 50 years from now when people talk about the eclipse, I can show a picture of here's where I was, here are the people I was with and here's how things changed that day."

It's worth noting you should never look at the sun through the lens of a camera without a solar filter. The light is much more concentrated and can seriously damage your eye.

Here are more eclipse tips from NASA and click here for in-depth eclipse photography information.

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