Friday, 5 April 2013

What can anomalous photos possibly have in common?

GrassGrassAnomalous photos have one thing in common - they show something that is, at first sight, inexplicable. In many cases that unexplained 'something' is taken, by some people at least, to be an anomalous phenomenon, like a ghost, UFO, out of place animal, alien etc. Given that these photos are of so many different phenomena, you wouldn't expect them to have anything much in common. But, oddly, they do!

I've examined thousands of anomalous photos in detail, by which I mean I've analysed the originals. There are many more weird photos on the web but it is rare that much can be deduced from them. I've noticed something that applies to nearly ALL the photos I've examined personally. Despite being of many different subjects, from a large number of photographers, using many different camera models, nearly all the photos are 'faulty'.

There isn't really a good word for it, so faulty will have to do. By faults, I mean deviations from the photographic 'ideal'. Most people would not see much wrong with these photos but serious photographers will generally spot the 'problems' immediately. These faults include such things as:

  • very low resolution (often leaving the photo pixelated)
  • excessive compression (often leaving the photo pixelated)
  • under- or over-exposure (causing complete loss of detail in the affected areas)
  • out of focus (with blurring causing loss of detail)
  • long exposure (with camera shake causing blurring of objects and loss of detail)
  • reflections (for instance in glass just in front of the camera)
  • image noise (causing loss of detail)

Just about every anomalous photo I have examined has one or more such 'faults'. The most common problem is high compression and it is becoming increasingly common. I think it is because many anomalous photos come from phones these days and are compressed to make them easy to email. These compressed photos often contain spurious details which do not correspond with actual objects visible at the time of the exposure.

For example, in the pair of photos, above, there is a wall with some grass behind. In the photo on the left you can just make out details of the wall and grass, though it is already pixelating (some of the 'detail' is spurious). The photo on the right shows a small section of the photo on the left zoomed. Now you can see the rectangular pixels clearly (depending on your computer screen). However, any shapes formed by those rectangles are not real, just artifacts of the pixelation (such as the moderately obvious apparent horizontal 'line' across the grass about half way down). See here for a dramatic example of how a disturbing skeletal face appeared in a photo when it was zoomed too much, resulting in pixelation! The same thing happens when photos are heavily compressed.

So why are there so few well-exposed photos of anomalous phenomena? One obvious reason is that it is the very photographic faults themselves that cause the apparent anomalies. And in my experience, this is indeed usually the case. When I look at a new anomalous photo, instead of looking for the anomaly, I first search for the photographic fault! And that fault generally explains the anomaly when I find it (see here)!

It would be fantastic to see a really well-exposed photo of an anomaly. It isn't too much to expect with modern automated, high specification cameras, is it?

No comments:

Post a Comment