When I have this discussion with students, I am rarely talking about the camera seeing things that don't make sense. But there are other things that defy explanation. I often run across the occasional image that doesn't make logical sense to me. With well over a million photos taken in my 20+ years behind a camera I think I have a fairly good understanding of light refraction. I see it all the time when working with night photography. But rarely do I see photos with light anomalies that I can't explain.
In fact I can think of only a handful of photos that challenged my perceptions. Now I am not claiming the camera is capturing ghosts or spirits or UFO's. What I am claiming is that I can't explain the occasional anomaly that I come across.
About a year ago I caught this image in a New Orleans cemetery which I dubbed the "galactic orb".
I have often run across orbs when photographing at night in cemeteries. But they rarely have structure. What made this one different was the concentric circles around the center point that gave it a distinct structure that you don't see in dots and dabs of orb lights.
You can see it here blown up that it has a swirl similar to what you would see in a photo of a galaxy. The nearest light source was the street light you see in the distance (approximately 500 yards away). The thing is with this image that I'd taken several others and and none of them showed the same anomaly. In fact I can safely say I'd never seen a light refraction like this ever.
But photographers see odd things quite often. Since the light was never seen again, I wrote it off as one of those strange unexplained things and moved on. In fact I'd quite forgotten about this image until last night.
I took a group into the French Quarter of New Orleans for a night photo shoot. It was intensely busy. People were bustling around everywhere. So I had no expectations that the camera might see something other than what I was photographing. When we arrived in front of the cathedral at Jackson Square, we were taking some photos aimed at the street lights around the park. I'd taken several images of these four lamps lined up together when I noticed a cool cloud above them and aimed up and took several shots without flash of the cloud.
To my surprise when I got home and looked the images over I saw this.
My first thought was that they were merely reflections of the street lamps. But I thought it looked oddly familiar so I blew up the two lights and enhanced it a bit and to my surprise, was the same galactic orb shapes found in the image taken a year before.
In fact the green one was almost identical. The fact that they seemed to be pointing upwards says that if they are light retractions, they are the oddest I've ever encountered.
But to even more to my surprise was another image taken about ten blocks from the first. In fact there were three images taken identical to each other. I often do this when shooting in a darkened place because the first image is often blurry. So redundant imagery is often the case. These were taken in three different light settings. The first was with a flash. The second without. The third the camera was set to low light. Here is the first photo.