Scene in infra-red (vegetation)
Things look different in IR
Some video cameras are sensitive to infra-red (though note that digital still-cameras are not - see right). They are often used on vigils to 'see' in the dark (though this is a questionable practice).
People often report seeing 'anomalous' images in infra-red (IR) videos. However, many of these are not anomalous at all. It is just that the world looks different in infra-red (see photo above). Some things look brighter, others darker, some even become translucent in IR. For instance, the sky looks darker and vegetation brighter than we are used to in visible light. The same goes for many familiar objects indoors.
If you use such an IR-sensitive video camera, you should see what results it produces in a non-haunted location before trying it on vigils. Unless you know what the everyday world looks like in infra-red, how can you tell what is 'anomalous' or even paranormal?
Taking paranormal photos
From an analysis of supposedly paranormal photos, that appear to show something weird, it is clear there are ways to avoid spurious anomalous effects. Here are a few tips (mostly for digital cameras):
- always keep your camera strap out of the way of the lens
- avoid using flash whenever possible (use the 'P' mode instead of 'Auto')
- hold your camera very still when taking photos
- breathe in (not out) as you press the shutter button on cold nights
- use high resolution - the full number of megapixels available
Another thing well worth doing is reviewing photos as soon as you have taken them, using the LCD display on your camera. Recent camera models allow you to magnify these images to examine any anomalies in detail. If you see anything strange, take the same photo again and repeat it several times from different angles. It will all help in identifying any anomalies when the photo is examined in detail later.
If you notice anything odd about your photo, make sure you keep the original, uncompressed, unedited file. If you compress the photo too much it will be difficult to analyse later.
Finally, do use common sense. Is this a paranormal photo? Does this bird really (spookily) have two shadows or is there just another bird flying higher above it and out of the shot? Is it really a paranormal photo or just a paranormal interpretation of a perfectly normal photo? The anomalous element in paranormal photos is often just a matter of personal interpretation.
What about orbs?
Lots of stuff on orbs here.
Infra-red digital myth
It is sometimes said that digital still cameras are particularly good at taking paranormal photos because they are extra sensitive to infra-red (IR), compared to film cameras. This isn't true!
Infra-red is an invisible (to humans) part of the electromagnetic spectrum with a longer wavelength than red light. While it is true that charge-coupled devices (CCDs), the chips in digital cameras that record pictures, are sensitive to infra-red as well as visible light, the IR is deliberately blocked by camera manufacturers. This is done using an internal filter permanently fitted inside cameras (the IIRCF - internal IR cut filter). The world looks noticeably different in infra-red and if IR wasn't filtered out, it would result in photos not looking much like the visible light picture.
As a result, digital cameras are, in general, much more sensitive to ordinary light than infra-red (typcally 1000x more sensitive!). The degree to which infra-red is blocked varies a lot from camera model to model (depending on the efficiency of the infra-red filter). Generally speaking, more recent digital cameras block out more of the infra-red than earlier models. You can find a comparison of models here as well as other useful information.
It has also been suggested that digital cameras' sensitivity to ultraviolet (UV) makes them more susceptible to showing orbs. However, all the orb pictures in these articles were taken with cameras fitted with a filter that removes UV! In fact, even the glass in camera lenses blocks most UV. It takes special equipment to photo UV.
© Maurice Townsend 2008