Thursday, 26 June 2014

The mysterious hand in the tree

Giant hand apparentlyHow much do you remember about what was going on when you took any particular photo? When I first saw this photo (right) it was many days since I had taken it. It was different to the other photos just before and after it in the sequence and I struggled to recall what it might be. It appeared to show an arm and hand sticking out from a bush! It is a bit like a scene from a horror movie!

I don't recall taking any such a picture, so I had to work out what was going on mostly from the photo itself. It is easy to see how I might gave missed such a hand at the time of exposure. You simply don't expect to see someone's hand poking out of a bush. But then I noticed other odd stuff. In the top left of the photo there is the arch of a bridge! And well below the hand there is a path with a bench. You can't see it in this version of the photo as I had to crop it to fit. Otherwise, the photo is entirely unaltered.

So the hand, if that's what it is, must be inside a tree rather than a bush. The bridge gives some idea of scale so the hand now looks too large for a human, though not outrageously so. So maybe this is an animal hand or, given its appearance, possibly a claw!

Alpine swift Of course, to solve the mystery, all I had to do was zoom in on the 'claw'. Regular readers will be unsurprised to see that is a bird (right). I DO remember trying to get some shots of this bird in flight but I thought at the time that I'd failed to get it. And because I was following the bird in flight, I wasn't aware of the background at the time, which is why I didn't recognise the shot later. The position of the bird and the pattern of light and shade gave it a claw-like appearance when viewed without zoom. Many anomalous photos have low resolution so that zooming in on mystery objects doesn't help!

This incident illustrates how even the photographer cannot be relied on to remember all the details of how their own shot was taken. Though I admit my memory is worse than most people's, it is entirely possible for anyone to photograph things without even being aware of it. From my own experience, both in taking and examining anomalous photos, this is a quite common cause of unusual shots. When it comes to comparing photos with human memory, the photo is always going to be more reliable, unless it is a badly exposed shot. If a photographer says that there was no one there when a photo clearly shows a human figure, it is more likely to be case of fallible memory than a ghost.

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