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.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Colourful linear anomalies

Water flying rodsMost flying rods have appendages, so those that don't are always worth a closer look. In the photo (right) there are some linear anomalies which certainly resemble flying rods but lack the typical appendages. They are also transparent, like tiny imperfect glass cylinders, which is also not typical of rods. The photo is a minute crop from a larger picture showing hundreds of similar objects. While these strange things are clearly in focus, the background, consisting largely of green vegetation, is not. The shutter speed, at 1/320s, is shorter than the 1/50s typical of flying rod photos. So what are they?

Their transparency is, perhaps, the biggest clue. The objects are water droplets. They appear elongated because of their rapid movement while the camera shutter is open. They are not raindrops, however, but spray from an irrigation sprinkler system. Many of the droplets in this section of the photo are near the apex of their trajectory, which is why some are moving almost horizontally. Raindrops would, obviously, tend to have a more vertical trajectory.

So, while these anomalies are not like typical flying rods, they might be mistaken for them. In a photo (below right) taken at the same place around 90s later, the same 'water rods' have taken on an even more unlikely appearance. They are now brightly coloured!

Water rods colourThis colourful effect is caused by sunlight being refracted and internally reflected within the water droplet (see here for a diagram and fuller explanation). The shutter speed this time was 1/250s which, coupled with the more vertical trajectory, probably explains the greater length (compared to the width) of these 'water rods'.

It's possible to see how this anomaly could be viewed as unexplained if the photographer didn't notice the sprinkler at the time of exposure. Indeed, the spray was not that obvious when these particular photos were taken. Of course, a photo covered in such anomalies may suggest rain or a sprinkler. However, if the water droplets only cover a small part of the frame, they might well appear more mysterious.

I've never seen an anomalous photo showing objects like these. But I have often photographed strange things (with known natural explanations) that I've never seen in anomalous photos before. And, in just about every case, I've subsequently seen anomalous photos that matched those I'd taken earlier! So I won't be surprised to come across anomalous photos like these in future.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Strange pattern on a dragonfly

Dragonfly with apparent faceI have often seen photos of insects with false eyes, and even faces, on them. I say false because the 'faces' were not on the animal's head! I have never been lucky enough to photograph one for myself, until now (pic right). This is a Golden Ringed Dragonfly. Towards the top of the insect there is what looks like a face with bright yellow eyes, a tiny 'nose', and a two yellow 'teeth'. The 'face' has an angry look to it, to me anyway! Indeed, it looks more like an 'angry mask' than any real face.

The 'face' only appears obvious when the insect is in one position, like that in the photo. From other angles you don't really notice it. I took the photo when the dragonfly landed right in front of me. I only noticed the 'face' after I'd taken several shots. This might explain why the 'face' is not mentioned in a casual search of the web, unlike unusual patterns on some other insects.

I'm not sure if this face pattern has any purpose to the animal, like the eyespots you seen in some butterfly species. So it may only appear like a face to humans! Some people may feel there is a significance to that fact but I see it as a coincidence, barring other evidence to the contrary. But coincidences are, of course, a rich source of anomalous reports (see here).

Thursday, 12 June 2014

White alien?

White ghostI wasn't sure exactly what I'd seen, at first, but it certainly caught my attention. I could best describe it as a diminutive white figure with a strangely elongated head behind some tall grass. I didn't get the impression that it was a real human figure (or ghost) of the type I sometimes misperceive. It definitely looked odd!

I took photos of the 'figure' - there is one here (right). The impression of a diminutive figure only lasted for a second or two until I got a better look. I would have had trouble describing the 'figure' from that brief view, apart from saying it was strange!

A careful inspection revealed the 'figure' to be a plant of some sort. I'm not sure what type as I was not able to approach it any more closely. Had I only noticed this object for the first time when I looked at the photo, I'm not sure what I would have made of it. Someone else taking the same photo might have seen it as a white alien or diminutive ghost!

Many photographic anomalies are only noticed when the picture is examined after the event. So I try to do it the other way round. Whenever I have a camera handy, I deliberately look around for anything that might look odd. Then I take its photo, despite knowing exactly what it really is. If others did that I suspect there would be rather fewer anomalous photos reported.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Blurry flying object

BlobHere's a strange photo to contemplate. It shows some sort of blurry object, grey overall but with hints of other colours. Behind it there is a green background with white specks. It might just be a UFO against coloured clouds but the ripples in the background suggest water. The object does not appear to be in contact with the water.

The white specks are clearly behind the blurry object and appear to be floating on the water. It is difficult to decide what this object might be as there is no easy way of judging scale. The photo is heavily cropped. Anomalous photos are sometimes cropped in this way to direct the attention of the viewer solely towards the anomaly.

Blob with duckHere is a larger crop of the same picture. The duck floating on the water gives some clue to the scale of the blurry object, which is clearly not large. In fact, it is known to be a Swallow, flying low and fast over the water. The colours are wrong because they are motion-blurred. The white specs are probably down feathers as there were a lot of young birds around at the time of exposure.

Even when anomalous photos are not cropped, viewers' attention is often directed to the anomaly, either verbally or by a helpful ring drawn ring around it. Either way, it is always important to consider the whole of the photo when analyzing such photos. In fact, there may be things completely outside the frame of the photo that are also important in interpreting it. These might be shown in other photos taken at the same time or they may be visible to someone visiting the site later. It may be counter-intuitive but concentrating solely on the anomaly in a photo can be unhelpful in deciding what it really is.