The Trouble with “Orbs”

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Look, a haunted house:

Ghosts?

It has to haunted, after all, see all those “orbs.”  They’re “spirits.”

Uh, no, they’re not.

Two of the worst things to invade the paranormal field are compact digital cameras and self-styled “investigators” who have no clue about how the equipment they’re using operates.  The combination of these two factors has given rise (perhaps “plague” would be a better word) to the so-called “orb” photos littering the internet.

Want me to immediately dismiss you and/or your group as non-credible?  Just plaster your website with “orb” photos which are obvious non-paranormal photographic artifacts.

Why did a plethora of “paranormal” “orb” photos only appear after the development of compact digital cameras?  Why did literally decades of 35mm photography not produce the same amount of “orbs” as compact digital cameras have produced in only a few years (frankly, despite all my pre-digital era reference books, none, zero, nada contain photos of “orbs” claiming they are of paranormal origin)?  Compact digital cameras must be “magic ghost catchers!”  Perhaps, but I think a far more likely explanation is users not understanding how their camera works.

Numerous knowledgeable people have explained the “orb” phenomena in great detail, so I’m not going to spend much time on an in-depth explanation.  The Orb Zone (http://www.theorbzone.com/index.htm) is one such site which provides a very in-depth and detailed explanation of “orbs.”  The bottom line is very simple, your “orbs” are merely reflections of the flash off bits of dust, pollen, or even insects which, unlike ghosts, do proliferate nearly every single spot on earth at all times.

Don’t think there’s that much dust around?  Have you ever seen a sunbeam shinning through a window in a clean home?  I guarantee even in the cleanest home, you will see a shaft of dust illuminated by the sunbeam – and that’s inside, in a “clean” environment.

Now, most “paranormal” photographs are not taken during the day in a clean home.  Instead, they are often taken in old, or otherwise not the cleanest, buildings or outdoors, which is filled with dust and pollen even if you don’t see it (don’t believe that – just ask someone who suffers from allergies).  All these places are filled with tiny particles just waiting for your flash to illuminate them.

In a “normal” situation (i.e. the one in which the camera was designed to operate), there is generally some natural lighting so the flash doesn’t fire at full power.  However, when “investigators” are “ghost hunting,” they’re taking the photographs in near total darkness and the flash fires at full power – which produces a significant illumination source for dust, pollen, insects, and bits of “stuff” which might be floating around.

Backyard with Compact Digital

If you want to capture some “orbs” all you need to do is go out in your own backyard on any given night.  Take a few photos with a compact digital camera and you’re almost sure to end up with “orbs” in the photo.  Try the same experiment with a digital SLR (especially one with an external flash attached) and it becomes very unlikely you will see any “orbs” in your photos.  This just builds more proof to the explanation on the Orb Zone (see above) that compact digital cameras produce “orbs” due to the close proximity of the flash to the lens as well as the extremely short focal length (the distance from the lens to the light collection plane – the light sensor in digital cameras and the film in non-digital cameras) in compact digital cameras.  The digital SLR moved the flash away from the lens (and moves it even further when using an external flash) and it has a significantly longer focal length.

Backyard w/Digital SLR

Does this discussion mean absolutely no photographs exist of “orbs” which might be of paranormal origin?  Absolutely not.  As in my post below, out of hundreds of photographs, you will run across one which doesn’t present an obvious explanation.  So I do leave the door open to the possibility of paranormal activity manifesting in a photograph as an “orb.”  However, if your photograph is a transparent “bulls eye” pattern, I’m sorry to tell you it’s not a ghost!

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

The Dreaded “Orb”
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One Response to “The Trouble with “Orbs””

  1. Good article. The more we reiterate the orb falacy, the sooner people will no longer consider it a praranormal activity.

    ~W~

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