Articles > By PFI
ORBS – REAL, DUST OR BOTH?
By Alison Oborn
Due to the continuing controversy on orbs and with our own doubts on their legitimacy, it was decided that we should try to experiment with all the cameras that we use out in the field, under field conditions. At the very least we would have a catalogue of comparison photos for each individual camera on how they interpret this dust and other environmental factors. What we found was that we could recreate most 'orbs' presented today.
Although we believe most orbs are debris in the environment and lens aberrations, we still have a personal curiosity about a couple due to one particular photo and a one video clip that we have. The video appears to show an anomaly moving behind things at a distance, although it should be noted that this could still be assumed a trick of the lens. The photograph talked about, was when the team witnessed what appeared to be a full 'apparition' running through the headstones of a local cemetery. Upon taking a photo, the camera seemed to catch it as a solid fuzzy orb that was the same colour as the 'apparition'. It is of course, just as likely that it could well have been coincidental and it was just stray dust and at this stage there is no way to prove otherwise. Without a doubt, nearly all photos of orbs can be put down to environmental factors. In fact this is such a widely known problem in the industry that the big companies are apparently now working on ways to try and eliminate it. Once this is achieved, it will be interesting to see just how many 'orbs' are captured then.
'Running Man' Orb
At the end of the day, I don't believe that it will be simple photography that brings the crucial evidence of the paranormal to the fore. As you can see from the report below, we can get some strange and wonderful effects with the most natural of substances. When any photograph is backed up with other data, this is when it possibly becomes stronger.
So P.F.I.'s stance on this would be that unless the 'orb' has been proved to be doing something highly unusual or is definitely proven to be behind something at distance, plus backed up with other data, we have to put it aside as just dust or debris, which most commonly it is.
I would encourage other groups to do this experiment as it really does give you a reference to each camera used so you have a comparison to work with. As you will see, each camera can interpret in a different way.
The following is only a handful of photos from the large amount we took.
Our thanks go to Megan for her work in setting up and conducting this experiment, and for the work she put into writing up the following reports on it.
Orb Still Photography Experiment
By Megan Pannell
Date: 17th June 2008
Location: Private residence
Team Members: Amy, Anna, Megan, Patrick
Report Prepared By: Megan
Objectives: To recreate the Orb phenomenon experienced in the field, in a controlled environment, using known substances. To assess each team member's camera in relation to how they interpret various known substances.
Overview: We tested each team member's camera with various known substances.
Firstly we did a control photograph where no foreign substance was deliberately introduced into the environment. We then tested each of the cameras with the following substances: general household dust, human hair, cat hair, blue glitter, red glitter, and finally silver glitter in motion. Each substance was spread into the air directly in front of the camera from approximately 10cm distance from the camera lens up to approximately 40cm from the lens.
We used an array of various brand and price range compact digital cameras, as well as a professional SLR camera with a flash mounted onto the hot shoe, to obtain a good cross section of results.
We finally tested each camera to ascertain the sensitivity to infra red light using a television remote control.
Using Household Dust
We determined that we were able to recreate the majority of orbs captured in the field in both size, intensity and texture. We were able to recreate orbs featuring an outer ring, using dust in several instances. We captured dust orbs of various size, brightness, and transparency. Orbs displaying a slight degree of apparent movement were also achieved.
Using Human Hair
Using human hair we were able to recreate orbs appearing to have a long tail, giving the mistaken appearance of an orb in motion. Another variation we observed was a pattern resembling a series of orbs lined up in a row. We also achieved results similar to photographic anomalies commonly referred to as "vortexes" and "rods".
Using Cat Hair
The main effect we noticed with cat hair was similar to anomalies referred to as "rods". We also discovered some unusual random shapes formed by the hair suspended in mid air.
Using Blue & Red Glitter
The main objective in using the coloured glitter was to analyze the effect on the orbs caused by using a coloured source material. We observed that the majority of the orbs achieved corresponded to the colour of the source material used. The intensity of the colour exhibited did vary to a degree with some orbs actually appearing as white orbs.
Using Silver Glitter In Motion
We used a household fan to emulate the effect of the elements when in the field. While we were able to observe the effect of slight movement using this method, we were not able to obtain the effect of major movement as noticed when using human hair.
Close Up of the Different Orbs Achieved
While it is not possible to conclude that all orb anomalies photographed can be attributed to foreign particles suspended in the air directly in front of the camera lens, we have in our opinion proven that a large percentage can be. This unfortunately forces us to logically dismiss most photographic anomalies as proof of the paranormal, as a similar effect can be achieved using natural methods.
We will discuss the various tendencies of the individual cameras used in this experiment and our theories on why the digital camera revolution has resulted in a massive increase in photographic anomalies captured, in future papers.
Personal Note from Alison to think about:
As any photographer and camera company can easily prove that orbs are caused by environmental and lens factors, the onus is then put on those researchers who believe otherwise, to prove their claim of it being paranormal in nature. This is of course near impossible to do, so it is my personal belief that this should always be kept in mind before presenting photographs of orbs as true evidence of the paranormal.