Orb Photography Phenomenon
orb (ôrb) n.
1. A sphere or spherical object.
2. a. A celestial body, such as the sun or moon.
b. Archaic The earth.
3. One of a series of concentric transparent spheres thought by ancient and medieval astronomers to revolve about the earth and carry the celestial bodies.
4. A globe surmounted by a cross, used as a symbol of monarchial power and justice.
5. An eye or eyeball.
6. Archaic Something of circular form; a circle or an orbit.
7. Archaic A range of endeavor or activity; a province.
An Orb can best be described as a ‘circular anomaly’ captured in flash photography. Orbs have become common place with the use of modern compact digital cameras.
It is widely believed that these Orbs are spirits…or are they?
We are often approached for our opinion on Orb Photographs. We take a logical stance when it comes to these types of photos as more often than not there is a valid logical explanation for what has occurred. We aren’t saying all Orbs are dust or moisture in the air; we just haven’t come across one that can be classed as ‘unexplainable’. With this article we hope to shed light on the Orb phenomenon…pardon the pun.
Orbs are especially common with compact cameras, where the short distance between the lens and the built-in flash decreases the angle of light reflected on the lens, directly illuminating the aspect of the particles facing the lens and increasing the camera's ability to capture the light reflected off normally sub-visible particles. In low light scenarios a flash is required. Capturing an Orb in a photograph can result from retro-reflection of light off a solid particle such as dust or pollen, liquid particles or other foreign material within the depth of field. Orbs appear as either white or semi-transparent circles of light and may also occur with whole or partial colour spectrums, purple fringing or other chromatic aberration. With rain droplets, an image may capture light passing through the droplet creating a small rainbow effect.
If you compare a low cost compact digital camera against high end SLR digital camera you will notice the difference in the quality of the photographs. We’ve been lucky
enough to speak with professional photographers to get their opinion on Orbs. Funny thing with this is, they had never experienced orb like objects in their photos.
What if we compare a compact digital camera to a good old 35mm camera? Digital cameras are sensitive to the UV and IR spectrums of light and this is why digital cameras are more likely to pick up airborne particles over 35mm cameras. Digital cameras also have an extended depth of field, which makes these airborne particles even more
visible over a 35mm camera. There are investigators who have 35mm cameras in their kits. Some believe that the magnetic field in the film helps with attracting ‘spirit’ to be photographed. Something we will experiment with in the future no doubt.
So, if you’re keen to capture ‘true’ Orbs in photographs and want to be taken seriously, you really should invest in a 35mm camera. This way you avoid the major digital camera anomalies described above. A major benefit of the 35mm camera, is the negative roll, you have extra evidence that your photograph has not been photoshopped or the like.
When researching this topic I came across a group called, Para.Science. They thoroughly researched Orbs and digital cameras and their findings showed that a typical 3 megapixel digital camera captures < 10% the total image information within a scene. This would leave the creation of the rest of the image up to the camera’s software.
The software fills in the missing areas by finding comparisons from surrounding pixels. Therefore, a missed pixel can be expanded by the software as it compares and creates the rest of the picture resulting in an Orb.
Further reading on the Orb experiment run by Para.Science can be found here - http://www.parascience.org.uk/articles/orbkill.htm
Phil Walton of ASSAP and Philip Carr of the Ghost Club demonstrated that orbs can be replicated by introducing a fine, invisible cloud of small particles, such as water, dust - even cinnamon powder into the air! Check out - ‘The Orb Movie’
APPI have conducted their own experiments and to date are yet to find the ‘real deal’. So if you come across a photograph that contains an Orb like anomaly, and given the information above, you can be fairly certain that the chances of it being a deceased relative are pretty slim. That’s not to say you’ll never make contact with them. I'll end with this...it has been said that true 'Spirit Orbs' can only be witnessed via the naked eye, now thats one I can personally vouch for and a story for another article.
Nic Hume - APPI - 22 March 2012
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