Monday, 5 January 2015

Weird 'shiny string' in photo

Odd reflectionThis photo (right) shows a forked branch in the foreground with water in the background. But there is something weird too. In the top left, touching one of the branches, there is a string of bright shiny objects. In fact, the 'shiny string' is partly in front of the branch, showing that it is not something in the water. So what is it?

The 'shiny string' was visible in the camera at the time of exposure. It was not, however, visible to the naked eye. So, it must be a photographic artefact of some kind. It could be lens flare, though it would not be typical if it was. I studied the object carefully at the time and it appeared to be an image of the water behind. It looked like water waves caught in bright sunlight.

Unlike lens flare, it was a clear image of an object elsewhere in the frame. As such, the most likely cause was reflection. As a test, I temporarily removed a UV filter from the front of the camera lens (see here for information on photographic filters). I did this several times and, each time I removed the filter, the 'shiny string' vanished too! So, it appears that the reflection occurred because of the presence of the filter.

I have seen anomalous photos before containing 'objects' that looked like reflections of other things in the frame. Obviously, if you are taking photos through a glass window, reflections are always likely (see 'Light in the sky' for instance). But apparent reflections are much more puzzling when there is no intervening pane of glass. This photo shows that, in the right circumstances, photographic filters can cause reflected images too. It's certainly something to check for when such images are examined. The effect can be startling and, initially at least, not easy to explain.

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