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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Outdoor Paranormal Photography

Frank from Delaware Bikes Organization wrote with this question:
We did a night time bicycle ride for skeptics. I took this photo in Nov. 2011, at the X cemetery in.... B. is on the right in the photo. He was examining the monument before walking toward me as I captured the image. Initially, we thought that it was caused by breathing in front of the lens, however, we were unable to recreate anything remotely close...
I never bothered to do anything with it, since it's impossible to prove. However, perhaps there are features of the image you have witnessed before?
Chair, Delaware Bikes
(some names and actual locations have been omitted)
Robin from DPRG replied: Thanks for the inquiry. That is an interesting photo. Outside photography is tricky for so many natural reasons. I wish it was colder, I'd love to go outside and try to recreate the effect myself. I would suggest smoke, BUT that usually twirls around in wispy circlets. It is interesting the way it's all in one fairly tight mass. I wouldn't therefore think fog either - because of the close configuration. 
I love a skeptic. I'm more of the school of hard knocks myself. I like to first like to look for a rational explanation, and if not we might assume something was going on. Having said that, I checked a resource of mine which does show a photo of smoke, as from tobacco. And it was like I described at first, whirly and twisty, and not at all like your mist. The resource goes onto suggest a fog as being the next most logical explanation.
I realize the photo is a few years old, but if you do notice an anomaly in a photo there are a few things you could do at the time of the shooting. First, document the temperature if you can, and also note the changes in temperature during the preceding hours. Fall nights do get chilly, with temperatures dropping abruptly, which would lead to the condensation appearing.
The source also remarks that a good digital camera can capture carbon dioxide which is released by trees and vegetation in swampy areas, even if the area appears dry.
A couple caveats; the author cautions about making too much of "faces" seen in a mist - a tendency called paredolia. If you are also witnessing the fog while you're photographing, make note of its changing density and watch to see if it appears to be following you about.
And do what photographers do, bracket your photos. In other words, take a series of picture. If you notice something strange on one photo, take successive photos of the same scene. Check photos before and photos after. Does the "fog" move or stay the same? Is it in all the photos or only one? Something paranormal will likely appear and disappear quickly, or move about seeming to follow the action. Something natural like a fog will stay longer, dissipating much more slowly.
False Positives
Knowing the weather conditions and or humidity when taking a picture is important.  Notice the "orb" by my son's face as he was working on his snow fort.  This isn't a spirit trying to communicate with him, but a rain drop.  The snow had stopped this particular night, and it had begun to rain.  I was using the flash setting on my camera to take pictures because it had gotten very dark.  Later, on review, I noticed, voila, I
had an orb! What actually happened is the flash reflected off a rain drop resulting in a really cool orb shot.  Snow, rain, dust, pollen and bugs are all capable of creating the orb effect in a photo, especially when used in conjunction with a flash.

These two photos of a strange fog are actually cigarette smoke, with the smoker placed behind the camera. This had none of the wispy, curly features that other texts had suggested would take place with cigarette smoke, but instead produced a most believable odd fog effect.

 This strange effect was caused by a slow shutter speed in a low light situation. I dislike the flat effect of a flash, so I avoid flash as often as I can.  But a slow flash in low light causes ghosting effects in subjects whenever they move.  Notice in the first shot just the hand seems to be fuzzy.  In the second the entire head of the subject appears semi-opaque.  Is it a ghost? No, it's my son who is in perpetual motion.  A strong indicator of this anomaly are lines of light. Notice the line of light on the right side of the second picture. The light lines can also appear jaggedy or look like lightning flashes.  If you take such a picture and don't examine it immediately, and then look at it later you might believe you captured a ghost.  I say this in all honesty, having just watched a recent episode of Ghost Hunters where a photographer did just that.  The picture seemed to show a ghostly form, but also displayed the lightning flashes of light that would indicate camera movement in a low light situation. Photography students are taught to tripod any photos using a 60 shutter speed or less.  But whoever listens to what their photography instructor taught them?