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Weird glowing shape (water on lens)
Weird glowing shape around light source (caused by water droplets on the camera lens)

Weird glowing shape with flash
As above but flash used in photo - the weird shape is much diminished but still visible.

Water droplet

To produce such weird shapes, the water needs to form a droplet on the lens. If it just runs down the lens, you won't see the strange shapes. You might, however, get a faint second image of the light source.


Strange glowing shapes

It is possible to get weird photos with strange glowing shapes, like the one shown here, top left. It shows a bright light source (a small torch - bright circle near centre) in front of a copy of ASSAP News. But there is a strange bright glowing shape all around the circular torch light in the middle. It is not flare and it certainly isn't an orb.

In fact, it is caused by water droplets on the lens of the camera. Though this effect is rare, it can happen if you are taking photos at night outside when it is raining (though this is not recommended as most cameras are not waterproof and rain can damage them).

The effect requires a bright light source, like flare. Also like flare, the light source does not need to be in the photo. The light source does not have to be a light, it could just be something shiny, reflecting a camera flash.

You can get flare at the same time as the 'glowing shape' effect. However, it is usually far smaller and less noticeable than the main strange glowing shape. The colour of the glowing shape is usually the same as the light source.

The strange glowing shapes tends to look a bit like a shiny cobweb, with long curved lines and small curved 'bites' around the edges. The 'glowing shape' often wraps around the light source but it can be completely detached from it (see photo top right).

The glowing shape effect works best in the dark without using the camera flash. If you do use a flash, the glowing effect may be reduced, or even stopped altogether (see photo bottom left). Also, the colour of the glowing shape may be changed.
© Maurice Townsend 2007


Weird shape detached from light source
This weird shape photo was taken above the torch which is not in the frame at all.

The cause

The 'weird glowing shape' effect is caused by total internal reflection. Light from the source bounces around inside the water droplet at all sorts of different angles (this accounts for the 'glow'). Some of it emerges to form a highly distorted image of the light source for the camera sensor.

The 'weird glowing shape' may often be accompanied by tailed orbs. Tailed orbs are, of course, caused by rain drops, so the connection is obvious.

Objects in the background of such photos, if visible, may often be a bit fuzzy. This comes from camera shake due to the longish exposure often needed.