In the last article, we touched briefly on some of the false positives that can come from misuse of the camera and its settings. This article we are going to focus more heavily on the false positives, explaining in fuller detail how they are caused, what to look for, and how to avoid them. By understanding the many causes of misinterpreted photographs, we can hopefully increase the level of research that is being conducted while simultaneously decreasing and hopefully eliminating the false information due to a variety of reasons.
Probably the most common and easily the most debated form of false positive is that of the orb. The orb began to circulate within the community with the growing demand for digital point and shoot cameras, the orb was a spherical anomaly that many people in the paranormal research field associated with spirit phenomena. This is, of course, not entirely true. While at the time, it is understandable that many misinterpreted what they were seeing as unexplainable, it is now understood (by many), that orbs can be explained away by a multitude of means, but always starting with the camera itself and the use of it's flash.
Every orb photograph is primarily caused by the use of your cameras flash. There are some instances, of course, where other factors may cause orb like features to be displayed, such as light refraction or glare. Orbs are captured because of the distance to and from the object and the lens. The closer the object and depending on the size determines the opacity and brightness of the object. In fact, the distance to and from the lens as well as the size of the particle will also determine whether or not a fringe pattern (or nucleus to some) is seen. There are also no instances of orbs behind other objects other than orbs. That is because they are actually small particles in front of the camera, not spiritual or paranormal optical anomalies.
So what are orbs made of?
Dust & Other Natural Particles
If I were to wager on the cause of your orb photo, my first bet would be on dust. Believe it or not, you are surrounded by dust at all times. It is unavoidable. The only true way to be in a dust free environment is to be inside a vacuum, and I am not speaking of your household cleaning appliance. I have heard from many individuals and groups that orbs could not possibly be dust because there was no dust present at the time. This is highly incorrect reasoning, and as we will continue to discuss, you cannot evade dust inside or outside, you can only control how your photos are collected.
Bugs are everywhere. They are a variable that cannot always be discounted. They are also extremely difficult to see in the dark, if you can see them at all. It is not uncommon for flashlights and other sources of illumination to attract these nighttime flying insects to your location. We have listed some samples below of what typical bugs look like when photographed, however, there are many times when the bugs appear spherical in nature as well, depending on how far from the camera the actual object is.
While rain and snow are typically pretty easy to notice, moisture is not always noticeable in the air. What people tend to forget is that the human eye is limited in its visual capabilities, and even more so at night, which is the most typical time when paranormal enthusiasts and researchers are investigating. Technology on the other hand has a few more capabilities to capture what is typically unseen by the naked eye. Moisture condensation is one of them. Like orbs, moisture in the air can be seen as small white globules or in larger patches of fog that is illuminated by the cameras flash. Moisture may also not be visible to the naked eye but reflected back into the camera. Moisture orbs will often looks similar to that of dust particles.
How to Avoid Them
In some instances, it is nearly impossible to avoid capturing an orb. For example, if you are using a point and shoot camera, the likelihood of you capturing these annoying obstructions is due to the actual camera itself and its settings. As we discussed in a previous article about point and shoot cameras, the design of the camera itself is flawed in that it will pick up more particles in nature because of its compact design. The only way to avoid them is to switch over to a DSLR camera with a interchangeable lens and directional flash or turning off the flash on your camera which will only require you to use a tripod due to the low lighting of your night investigations.
If you do happen to switch over to a DSLR, be sure to put a lens filter on your camera and also a lens hood (see right). A lens hood will overlap the actual lens which will eliminate any reflection back from any particles that may happen to pass through its already limited area. Lens hoods are also great to use in more environmental instances where there might be rain, snow, and even larger amounts of dust.
It is important to note that you cannot eliminate dust in your environment, so to avoid capturing the particles, you have to adjust how you use your cameras or what equipment you use. Unless of course, you plan on investigating in a vacuum.
When it comes to bugs and other flying creatures, you must understand that it will be extremely difficult to control your surrounding from such a variable. The best approach for this would be to angle your flash (if possible) upwards and bounce off the ceiling or walls. This can only be done with a DSLR camera. This will help to alleviate the glow that a direct flash would create with a bug. A drawback of doing this would be an introduction of an entirely new variable...shadows. When you angle your lens in any other direction, you risk creating what looks like additional shadows that may create more false positives.
How to Capture and Study Orb Phenomena in a Controlled Fashion
Some of you will remain adamant that not all orbs are explainable. Due to this, we are also writing a small section on how to capture orb phenomena with your camera so that it is not arguable as natural and will provide legitimate data that some orb phenomena is explainable. First, you will need to setup your research in a fashion that is controlled and eliminates almost all the outside variables. Since as we explained previously that we cannot eliminate the variables themselves, only in how they are captured, we must still rely on some of the data on how to avoid them. Using a DSLR camera will always be your best bet in reducing the possibility of capturing natural phenomena. In this case, you will use more than one.
You can still use two point and shoot cameras if you have them. I always recommend using the same make and model when taking photos for research of this nature. This helps to ensure that each setting is exact and the anomaly or lack thereof cannot be pinpointed to a faulty model. Point and shoot cameras will be harder to setup to take a photo at the exact same time, but there are ways in which you can have this setup. You will need a dual camera mount(see left image) that you will mount the two digital cameras onto. This will let you have two cameras facing the same direction only inches apart. You will begin to see why having the same camera is important for this.
Once you have your cameras mounted, you will simply take simultaneous photographs with both cameras and compare the results. With the cameras being the same make and model and exact settings, they should theoretically pick up any phenomena that the other camera is picking up. So if you capture an orb in both photographs in the same location, the chances you are collecting valid phenomena is exponentially greater than if you capture it on one camera alone.
It should be known that there are several teams and organizations that already conduct research of this nature and have thus far, turned up no positive evidence that orb photographs are nothing more than natural phenomena caused by dust, bugs and other particles. Should you conduct your research and collect positive results, we would certainly love to hear about it.
UPDATE: Even the manufacturers are starting to publish what these orbs are and how to avoid them.
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