Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Why are ghost photos so often blurry?

Moon UFOThere is a common idea that photos of ghosts, UFOs and other anomalies generally suffer from problems, like being blurry, so that they are never really convincing. Why can't we get a really well exposed clear picture of a ghost? Is it something to do with the phenomena themselves? Or is it because the phenomena are elusive and witnesses are unable to get as good photos a result? The photo here (right), for instance, shows what may be a UFO. The trouble is there are no details so it's hard to say what it is exactly.

There was an episode of the Goodies, a British comedy TV series from the 1970s, where the trio go in search of the Loch Ness Monster. They were offered a monster hunting camera, which only took fuzzy pictures, in their quest! This played on the popular idea around that photos of ghosts, UFOs and the like are blurry and ambiguous. But is it justified? Well, I've closely studied around three and half thousand anomalous photos, so I think I probably have examined a big enough sample to answer that question. And I would say that, unlike so many popular ideas about anomalous phenomena, it appears to be essentially true. A high proportion of anomalous photos really do suffer from problems like being out of focus, under- or over-exposed, low resolution, motion blur and so on. But why?

MoonIt would be nice to imagine that, if only people had great camera equipment when they encountered something weird they could capture really good, unambiguous photos of things like ghosts. But is that realistic? A massive clue here is that, in the vast majority of cases, no anomaly was actually seen at the time the photo was taken. In the photos I've seen the apparent ghosts (or other anomalies) are usually caused by photographic artefacts. And these photographic artefacts appear as a result of a fault in the photo, like focus or exposure problems.

So, it is the very fact that the photos ARE blurry (or suffer some other photographic fault) that is causing artefacts which are interpreted as anomalous phenomena. And this, in my opinion, is why a high proportion of anomalous photos will always appear blurry or badly exposed. It is nothing to do with the quality of the photographic equipment. I've seen anomalous photos taken with very expensive cameras. Any camera can produce a photographic artefact in the right circumstances. And artefacts can resemble anomalous phenomena on occasion.

The second photo here (above) is the same object (taken minutes later) as the one shown above. The first photo shows no detail because the central object, the Moon, is heavily overexposed. The image is so bright that the sky looks blue and there is some lens flare present (the faint transparent disc overlapping the right side of the disc).

While cameras get technically better and better all the time, there will always be photographic artefacts. And these artefacts will always get reported as anomalous phenomena. So, yes, it is true that many anomalous photos are blurry. And there's a good reason for that.

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