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The Solway Spaceman
April 9, 2013 11:36 AM   Subscribe

On 24th May 1964, Jim Templeton, a fireman from Carlisle in the North of England, took his young daughter out to the marches overlooking the Solway Firth to take some photographs.

Known as the Cumberland / Solway Firth Spaceman, ufologist Dave Armitage lays out possible explanations for his appearance in the photo. Was it a transdimensional photo of one of “two large white clad figures” wandering around the [Bluestreak Rocket testing] site in Australia that same day?

Templeton was truly baffled, and did not recall the presence of anyone else in the field that day, except for "two old ladies...four or five hundred yards away." He described the experience, and resulting investigation with the BBC's Secrets of the Paranormal (YouTube)

Kodak tested the film and detected no errors or faulty processing, however there is some speculation that Templeton was playing a practical joke: For example he told us that he had created a faked five pound note for amusement only weeks before the photograph was taken, to demonstrate his photographic skills. Templeton took the film for processing locally where, he said “everybody in the developing department knew me.”

Solway, in Cumbria has had no shortage of UFO sightings, and this particular photograph has inspired much curiousity, study, and electro-funk stylings of the German band Cumbrian Spacewoman, and their 1980 album Liquid Space.

tunes:
Liquid Space
Space Junk Food
New Planet
posted by obscurator (101 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Templeton's subsequent one-upping the story does not aid his credibility, and all of the supposed otherworldly quality of the photo depends entirely on the credibility of his claim that no one else was there. Without that, it's just somebody standing in the background wearing a hooded sweatshirt.
posted by anazgnos at 11:45 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Interdimensional beekeeper.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:45 AM on April 9, 2013 [19 favorites]


Funny how, even though everyone and their dog has a cameraphone now, we aren't swamped with photographic evidence of UFOs.
posted by mullingitover at 11:46 AM on April 9, 2013 [32 favorites]


Saw this on reddit yesterday and don't really see how it's worth any discussion. The elbow is the obvious giveaway that it's someone's back and not a visor clad spaceman. End of story!
posted by twjordan at 11:48 AM on April 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Interdimensional beekeeper.

Which explains where all the bees are going. The ones that don't die making the jump, that is.
posted by pracowity at 11:49 AM on April 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Funny how, even though everyone and their dog has a cameraphone now, we aren't swamped with photographic evidence of UFOs.

Speaking as a parent of a toddler, using a camera phone to snap a quick picture of a brief bit of cuteness is surprisingly hard. For something similar, next time you are out and about, try to take a picture of a car with one working headlight in motion.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:49 AM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Didn't you guys read the post? He "did not recall the presence of anyone else in the field that day."

That right there is proof that this can only be a time traveling alien.

Perhaps he was looking for the Dover Demon.
posted by bondcliff at 11:51 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


The elbow is the obvious giveaway that it's someone's back and not a visor clad spaceman.

Once you see that, you can't see the picture as a spaceman anymore.

I used to read UFO (and UFO skeptic) books from the library as a teenager. The camera phone has shown who was right...
posted by blahblahblah at 11:51 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I used to love reading about stuff like this when I was a kid growing up in the late 1970's. One of my earliest memories of going to the library is heading straight for the UFO / Paranormal / Monsters section of the library on a summer day, while my mom was across the street grocery shopping.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:51 AM on April 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


At the bottom of the page in the second link -- I've taken a screenshot, see the lower right corner -- you can see that there's a giant golden statue on that spot, which apart from the color looks very similar. it probably was just painted white in those days.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:52 AM on April 9, 2013 [53 favorites]


But but aliens could have backwards elbows!! </silly>

Here is a key comment from the Reddit thread twjordan mentioned. Note also the reply by Photojacker.
posted by tykky at 11:54 AM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


It is more than a little suspicious to me that most of these alien hoaxes (especially this one) show an 'alien' in the guise of how 'of the day' science fiction portrayed them. How terribly convenient. Clearly Sci Fi is INCREDIBLY ACCURATE and the alien's development matches that of our own imagination. Right?

I mean, if an Alien travelled to Earth, would they be wearing a cheap-ass bee keeper looking costume? And not realise the apparatus pointed towards them was a camera?

No. He (or she) would be in a fancy looking thing that didn't look like a cheap special effects department apprentice knocked it up out of left over shit they found in the skip in the car park.
posted by Brockles at 12:00 PM on April 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


The case was reported to the police and taken up by Kodak, the film manufacturers, who offered free film for life to anyone who could solve the mystery when their experts failed.

Why would Kodak give a shit about this? And more importantly, why would they give someone free film for life for this? UNLESS, Kodak knew that the digital revolution was coming around and will kill off film. We're through the lookingglass, sheeple!
posted by NoMich at 12:01 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I used to read UFO (and UFO skeptic) books from the library as a teenager.

Same here. Also ghosts. At first I was like, if there are so many legit pictures of these things, how come nobody pays attention to this stuff? Eventually I realized the error in my premise.
posted by DU at 12:02 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why didn't they explore the possibility that it was a ghost escaping from the girl's head captured on film?
posted by bleep at 12:03 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The girl's dress is covered in eyes.
posted by gwint at 12:04 PM on April 9, 2013


I mean, if an Alien travelled to Earth, would they be wearing a cheap-ass bee keeper looking costume? And not realise the apparatus pointed towards them was a camera?

No. He (or she) would be in a fancy looking thing that didn't look like a cheap special effects department apprentice knocked it up out of left over shit they found in the skip in the car park.


ALIEN HIPSTER WEARS BULKY SPACESUIT IRONICALLY!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:05 PM on April 9, 2013 [17 favorites]


Maybe the aliens are in a recession and can't afford fancy looking things.
posted by sweetkid at 12:06 PM on April 9, 2013


I used to read UFO (and UFO skeptic) books from the library as a teenager.

As a kid, my friend proved that UFOs were real by taking me to the library and pointing out the UFO books were in the NON-FICTION section. Case closed.
posted by cccorlew at 12:06 PM on April 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Damnit, I was never told to look at the picture as someone's back with their elbow pointing out. You're absolutely right; once you see it that way it doesn't look like a spaceman any more.

*sigh*

But that picture of the men with the thunderbird stuck up on a wall behind them I saw somewhere? That's still totally for real, right?
posted by Curious Artificer at 12:07 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


FTA: "There was a kind of electric charge in the air, though no storm came. Even nearby cows seemed upset by it."

I'm guessing the cows were thinking, "Seriously dude, do NOT bring me into this."
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 12:09 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


As a kid, my friend proved that UFOs were real by taking me to the library and pointing out the UFO books were in the NON-FICTION section. Case closed.

As a kid, I proved that UFOs were real by pointing out that "UFO" stands for "Unidentified Flying Object", and that, no matter what they may actually be, there is no question that people have seen flying objects they couldn't identify.

I also proved that as a kid, I was a world-class pedant.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:10 PM on April 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


But it must be.. because there's a photo.
posted by cccorlew at 12:10 PM on April 9, 2013


So, we're sure this isn't an avian photobomb?
posted by obscurator at 12:10 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]



Damnit, I was never told to look at the picture as someone's back with their elbow pointing out. You're absolutely right; once you see it that way it doesn't look like a spaceman any more
.

Couldn't the spaceman just be standing backwards?
posted by sweetkid at 12:10 PM on April 9, 2013


the stig!
posted by b1tr0t at 12:11 PM on April 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


Funny how, even though everyone and their dog has a cameraphone now, we aren't swamped with photographic evidence of UFOs.

*blinks*

Hey, you're right. I'm kind of embarrassed I hadn't thought to think about that until just now.

(Not that I thought there would have been to begin with, but it's an especially good argument against I hadn't thought of.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:13 PM on April 9, 2013


Alternative analysis
posted by anazgnos at 12:14 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes, the spaceman is just standing backwards. And wearing a dress.
posted by team lowkey at 12:14 PM on April 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


Don't be silly, UFO activity was at its highest point in the 1960s and 1970s because at that point it was still possible we might arrest our slide into ecological collapse. That's no longer true so they've given up visiting because it's too depressing and they don't want to get attached.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:17 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, what a bunch of sexists. Just because it's a woman in a dress doesn't mean she didn't come from outer space.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:17 PM on April 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Why would Kodak give a shit about this?

My guess is that this was during a time period where there was great public interest (and governmental interest) in the UFO phenomenon.

I've seen this photo many times before. It's obviously not a spaceman because fire suits don't protect you from space. Only fire. I'm not sure how anyone could find such a silly image of a "spaceman" authentic.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:18 PM on April 9, 2013


: "Speaking as a parent of a toddler, using a camera phone to snap a quick picture of a brief bit of cuteness is surprisingly hard. For something similar, next time you are out and about, try to take a picture of a car with one working headlight in motion."

You mean with the dashcam I use from the moment I leave the driveway until I park again? No problem.

I don't actually have a dashcam, but legions of drivers around the world do, which is my point.
posted by mullingitover at 12:20 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I miss the Barnums of yesteryear. Neurobollocks is just so TEPID compared to aliens and yetis.
posted by Currer Belfry at 12:21 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a kid, I proved that UFOs were real by pointing out that "UFO" stands for "Unidentified Flying Object", and that, no matter what they may actually be, there is no question that people have seen flying objects they couldn't identify.

I don't know if you're just joking, but this was literally me.
posted by ODiV at 12:21 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't remember this being in my copy Reader's Digest's UFOs: The Continuing Enigma, so it's almost certainly not real.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:22 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Funny how, even though everyone and their dog has a cameraphone now, we aren't swamped with photographic evidence of UFOs.

Pat Robertson: "simple, humble" foreigners get miracles because they aren't corrupted by education and science
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:24 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know if you're just joking, but this was literally me.

Not joking.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:25 PM on April 9, 2013


Jim, Jim - you publicized a picture of your wife scratching her ass?
posted by Eyebeams at 12:26 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love the fact that the Grand Galactic Inquisitor in the Venture Bros. closely resembles a spaceman in one of the UFO books I read as a kid in the '70s - it was an actual "sighting" and phenomenon that turned out to be a barn owl in a tree or something. But the Venture Bros. illustration is exactly like the illustration in the book I read.

Can't remember the name of the actual incident/sighting, though.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:28 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Jim, Jim - you publicized a picture of your wife scratching her ass?

This is one of the few Internet comments that prompts me to type:

LOL
posted by KokuRyu at 12:29 PM on April 9, 2013


Are we sure it wasn't really early viral marketing for The Moog Cookbook?
posted by kimota at 12:31 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I used to love reading about stuff like this when I was a kid growing up in the late 1970's. One of my earliest memories of going to the library is heading straight for the UFO / Paranormal / Monsters section of the library on a summer day, while my mom was across the street grocery shopping.

Same for me, KokuRyu. My uncle had a full stock of von Daniken and Edgar Cayce at the cottage an hour and half north of Montreal where we would spend a few weeks in the summer. Great fodder for teenage romantic credulity! (He also had a whole ton of Sasquatch stuff).
posted by Turtles all the way down at 12:32 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's a marvelously creepy story, though, as told in that first link. Great premise for a movie. Has that ever been done?
posted by eugenen at 12:43 PM on April 9, 2013


I think Jerry Bruckheimer is doing something for the History Channel.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:46 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


This whole thing would be easy to do by putting a mannequin on a balsa frame about 20 feet away (judging by the depth of field and amount of blurring). The girl wouldn't know anything because you can have it out of sight in a depression and then covertly pull on a string routed out of sight around some stakes to cause the frame to pivot up out of the ground while she holds reeeally still. It's pointless looking for helmets in stores... he could have done it Etsy style and crafted the whole mannequin out of whatever materials were available. So there's the most obvious explanation... the only question now is whether he had an incentive to pull a balloon boy / crop circle type stunt for some attention.
posted by crapmatic at 12:56 PM on April 9, 2013


Man, someone at Kodak could have pulled off an enormous trick by pre-exposing ghosts on to the occasional film roll.

I wonder if you could create a virus that did something similar in say, iPhoto as it reads photos off a memory card.
posted by lucidium at 1:07 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


... ufologist Dave Armitage lays out possible explanations

I read that as 'urologist Dave Armitage.' And, yes, with this photo he was 'taking the piss out of everyone'.
posted by ericb at 1:07 PM on April 9, 2013


I suspect this looks so odd to folks because we're not used to seeing women in hats with veils. But if you took a hat like this (without the feathers), on a woman with a white dress with her back to the camera, you'd pretty much get that shot.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 1:24 PM on April 9, 2013


Jim, Jim - you publicized a picture of your wife scratching her ass?

That's no moon!
posted by yoink at 1:40 PM on April 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I used to love reading about stuff like this when I was a kid growing up in the late 1970's. One of my earliest memories of going to the library is heading straight for the UFO / Paranormal / Monsters section of the library on a summer day, while my mom was across the street grocery shopping.

Same for me, KokuRyu. My uncle had a full stock of von Daniken and Edgar Cayce at the cottage an hour and half north of Montreal where we would spend a few weeks in the summer. Great fodder for teenage romantic credulity! (He also had a whole ton of Sasquatch stuff).


Me three. And as a grade school fan of The Six Million Dollar Man, I recall discovering that this same shelf (the first one in non-fiction, starting at 000 in the Dewey Decimal System) also had several books on bionics. I cannot describe the excitement in seeing that, followed by the crash upon learning that these were engineering textbooks on using biological principles in design and NOT books about people running 60 mph.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:46 PM on April 9, 2013


From the "possible explanations" link: This is 1964 and camera shutter speed technology is not quite picking up crystal still images of soaring birds surely? (I am no camera expert though!).

I have a Honeywell Spotmatic SLR made in the mid-late 60s (I believe that particular model was released in 1964), and it has a 1/1000 sec top shutter speed. I'm pretty sure I've taken crystal still images of soaring birds with it, albeit on modern film stock. I'm not a camera expert either, and I don't believe that's a photobombing bird, but come on, man. Try harder. Sports Illustrated was publishing in 1964. Camera technology had to be at least good enough for that.
posted by hades at 1:51 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have a Honeywell Spotmatic SLR
me too!
posted by obscurator at 1:58 PM on April 9, 2013


I used to love reading about stuff like this when I was a kid growing up in the late 1970's. One of my earliest memories of going to the library is heading straight for the UFO / Paranormal / Monsters section of the library on a summer day, while my mom was across the street grocery shopping.

Same for me, KokuRyu. My uncle had a full stock of von Daniken and Edgar Cayce at the cottage an hour and half north of Montreal where we would spend a few weeks in the summer. Great fodder for teenage romantic credulity! (He also had a whole ton of Sasquatch stuff).

Me three. And as a grade school fan of The Six Million Dollar Man, I recall discovering that this same shelf (the first one in non-fiction, starting at 000 in the Dewey Decimal System) also had several books on bionics. I cannot describe the excitement in seeing that, followed by the crash upon learning that these were engineering textbooks on using biological principles in design and NOT books about people running 60 mph.


Me four. I was totally credulous WRT this stuff. After all, Leonard Nimoy wouldn't lie to me.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:15 PM on April 9, 2013


There is a mystery about that photo, alright--the mystery being that anybody, ever, gave more than a minute's thought to it. It's like some kind of meta-hoax; a hoax designed to show just how credulous the wanna-believes are. It's sub "face on Mars" level, and I thought that had pretty much set the bar for ludicrous "mysteries."
posted by yoink at 2:18 PM on April 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's the pope!
posted by popcassady at 2:28 PM on April 9, 2013


I love the fact that the Grand Galactic Inquisitor in the Venture Bros. closely resembles a spaceman in one of the UFO books I read as a kid in the '70s - it was an actual "sighting" and phenomenon that turned out to be a barn owl in a tree or something. But the Venture Bros. illustration is exactly like the illustration in the book I read.

Looks like the Flatwoods Monster to me. If it isn't, I'd sure like to know what the heck it is, because I like to think I know all the old classic sightings.

Here's something this reminds me of. Sometime in '94 or '95 I was reading the Fortean Times -- you know, like you do -- and I saw a picture of some other alien spotted on the moors. It was of course blurry and indistinct, but it was creepy. Looked like a small faceless creature waving an arm. The spotter (who was of course described as a no-nonsense middle-aged man with a good reputation) said that after he took the picture, the thing turned itself into a silver capsule and disappeared into the sky. Does anyone remember that one, or the backstory on it?
posted by Countess Elena at 2:41 PM on April 9, 2013


Funny how, even though everyone and their dog has a cameraphone now, we aren't swamped with photographic evidence of UFOs.

I've heard this sentiment a lot, but anyone who knows the slightest bit about taking photographs would know this is a terrible argument.

For the sake of argument, let's say there are UFOs and some time this week you'll encounter one. So get your cell phone ready! The whole "FO" part of the name indicates this will be something flying around in the air, possibly slow, possibly fast. A cell phone has a fixed, wide-angle lens, so what looks clearly like a UFO to you in real life will look like a splotch of pixels on your photograph. If you can even get it in frame.

And think about how awful a digital zoomed shot would be. And how about at night! Got a tripod in your bag for that? And do it all--notice, react, pull out camera, take a perfect shot--in about five seconds.

For some real practice, the next time a airplane passes over, get out your cell phone and take a shot. You'll be hard pressed to even find it on the photo you take.

I don't have a dog in this fight, I just hate people jumping on the weak argument bandwagon.
posted by zardoz at 2:43 PM on April 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


: "I've heard this sentiment a lot, but anyone who knows the slightest bit about taking photographs would know this is a terrible argument. "

Is it though? My point is that in the past, there were x number of cameras around and there were y number of UFO photos. Now we live in a world where there are 50*x cameras, so why aren't there 50*y number of UFO photos? It seems like, if anything, there's 0.5*y UFO photos.
posted by mullingitover at 2:49 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know if you're just joking, but this was literally me.

Not joking.


My 12 or 13 year old self definitely made the same remark a few times, at least.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 2:58 PM on April 9, 2013


The whole "FO" part of the name indicates this will be something flying around in the air, possibly slow, possibly fast. A cell phone has a fixed, wide-angle lens, so what looks clearly like a UFO to you in real life will look like a splotch of pixels on your photograph. If you can even get it in frame.

Yeah. Why, you'd have as much chance of catching that as you'd have of catching a meteor streaking across the sky and exploding in mid air in, oh, I don't know, Russia.
posted by yoink at 3:06 PM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I suspect this looks so odd to folks because we're not used to seeing women in hats with veils.

It would be quite strange to wear a hat with a veil out on a walk, though. They were formal wear, for city or evening or church. She may have had on a hat, but a veil seems very unlikely, especially on the back of the head.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:07 PM on April 9, 2013


a veil seems very unlikely, especially on the back of the head.

How else is she to hide the tentacles?
posted by yoink at 3:11 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought that was the reason for the dress, but I guess it depends on the species.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:16 PM on April 9, 2013


asked the most unusual questions as they drove Jim out to the marshes.

Uh huh. Reality check: what kind of "fireman" goes "out to the marshes" with a couple of strangers who "only referred to one another by numbers" and "asked the most unusual questions"?

"Kodak tested the film and detected no errors or faulty processing." And I suppose Mr. Jim also passed his polygraph.
posted by Twang at 4:19 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The suggestion that it's simply his wife in the pic does make a lot of sense, especially with the photo analysis.

I do have a curiosity for the strange and bizarre, but am swayed more by plausible explanations rather than the tired old "unpossible!" arguments.
posted by panboi at 5:02 PM on April 9, 2013


Suckers! It's actually Sasquatch wearing his wife's dress!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:03 PM on April 9, 2013


Wait, now Sasquatch has suckers? I didn't even know (s)he had tentacles!
posted by aubilenon at 5:13 PM on April 9, 2013


They're hidden by the dress.
posted by eruonna at 5:29 PM on April 9, 2013


Yeah. Why, you'd have as much chance of catching that as you'd have of catching a meteor streaking across the sky and exploding in mid air in, oh, I don't know, Russia."

Sure, because a meteor exploding in mid air, creating a massive, miles wide streak of light is the same thing as a single craft of something 1/1000th its size zipping across the sky. Practically identical.

I guess false equivalence is so popular it's jumped the realm of politics to the realm of UFO sightings.
posted by zardoz at 5:46 PM on April 9, 2013


zardoz: Even if you exclude lower quality or wider angle camera-phones, dashboard cameras, security cameras, and so on (which is it really reasonable to do??), there's tens of millions of DSLRs sold every year, with good metering and autofocus, and you don't have to pay for film, so people take a shitload of high quality* pictures with them. And that's just capturing the image. The difference in ease of sharing an image between now and 50 years ago is astonishing. So the question stands: Why don't we see tons of great sharp UFO pictures all the time?

* I am referring to image quality and not artistic quality.
posted by aubilenon at 6:14 PM on April 9, 2013


So the question stands: Why don't we see tons of great sharp UFO pictures all the time?
Why do we have to assume that the UFOs that people report seeing are ordinary physical objects? Why couldn't the UFO experience be a projection into the human mind by some alien technology designed to provide an interface between the human condition and the alien condition?

If I was a member of a race of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings who have been running experiments on humans all these years, that's what I would do. Detection of these projections by cameras and audio recorders would be a use-case that I would push back on implementing, in favor of getting off work in time for happy hour.

QED.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:45 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


aublienon, I realize the quality has in fact increased--in terms of megapixels and whatnot. I don't think that can compensate for technically superior photos. Which is what UFOs--again, under the assumption they exist--would necessitate in order to get clear evidence.

There's a couple of factors that negates the ubiquity of cameras. As I said before, virtually all cell phones have a wide angle lens, which will make anything in the sky (a UFO, say, the size of an airplane) look super tiny. This is not a trivial point. How to compensate for that? Zoom lens of course, but a good zoom lens is not something people have on their person a lot of the time. And if we're talking video, you'd need a decent tripod or the camera shake will be such that the video will be useless or a photo would be blurred. And all this during the night just makes everything a hundred times more difficult.

I contest the idea that the average person with non professional gear (myself included) have the technical ability to get a good shot. It's not as easy as you're assuming. Here's a test anyone can do: birds have long been considered one of the hardest photography subjects. They're small, they move fast, but you can't get too close or they fly away. So you need a good zoom to shoot birds. If we can put UFOs on at least the difficulty level of shooting birds, I think that could go a long way to explain the skill level needed to get a good shot.

And there's a whole other aspect to validity. Along with the rise in cameras is the ubiquity of photo and video editing. Even on my crappy work laptop I can "make" a UFO photograph. And there are tons of these fakes--photos and videos. The problem for anyone with a great photo is that it will simply be dismissed as faked by Photoshop. So yes, we can share the photos easily, but if they're assumed fake from the get go (as they should be) but never move past that stage, so what?
posted by zardoz at 6:56 PM on April 9, 2013


As anyone who's creeped out credulous visting in-laws with a "Fact or Faked?"* marathon knows, there are a ton of videos and photos out there of weird shit. Hit up Flickr for "UFO" sometime, and enjoy the pixel peeping. It's just we're in a place and time where the public isn't as ready to embrace alternate spirituality as they were - this stuff will come around again, and a new "mysterious lights" iPhone video will make the 6 o'clock local news.

(* As the astute Fortean notes, the best segments of that show are when they find something completely, eerily true - and discover how it is not as it seemed, while still being true. My favorite is when they went to Argentina, and discovered that a playground swing moves all by itself. For real. Just as if there was an invisible kid swinging in it... the swings on either side were dead still. The team of pretty actors investigators proved it wasn't a hoax, but it also wasn't supernatural, and it this made it even more amazing.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:58 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Suckers! It's actually Sasquatch wearing his wife's dress!

Except Sasquatch is female. The film has never been disproven!
posted by Zerowensboring at 8:07 PM on April 9, 2013


I encountered this photograph when I was in 7th grade and read a few UFO books. (This was a few decades ago.) Once as I was about to walk home from my friend's house after dark he said "Watch out for invisible astronauts!". I sprinted home.
posted by neuron at 10:04 PM on April 9, 2013


I don't have a dog in this fight, I just hate people jumping on the weak argument bandwagon.

The actual argument is that everyone and her auntie now has a good camera, not just a cell phone camera. It is no longer just one guy at the picnic with a camera, it is everyone bringing their own camera. The world is infested with guys who think they are great photographers because they have expensive equipment that can take pictures of the moons of Uranus. And no one is afraid to waste shots on silly lights in the sky because it doesn't cost anything to take a pictures anymore. And there are a million outlets for these pictures. They would be everywhere in a minute. And there are probably support societies for people who have seen UFOs, so you wouldn't feel like the only loon in the village. The number of pictures of UFOs (bigfoot, yeti, etc.) we see should be going up, not down.
posted by pracowity at 10:27 PM on April 9, 2013


pracowity, I suggest you look at all of my comments to get what is probably the answer to the question you're asking. In short, taking pics of UFOs is hard. Very likely no one at the picnic you're describing brought a zoom lens and/or tripod.
posted by zardoz at 11:46 PM on April 9, 2013


In short, taking pics of UFOs is hard.

... which is why there were so many more of them when fewer people had cameras with them all the time? I'm not sure I understand your argument here.

How many of the UFO pics taken before the explosion of digital photography were taken with zoom lenses and/or tripods? In what way was it easier to take those photos before?

Come to think of it, what we have now is a lot more photos of "orbs", which is what I'd expect to see from more people having flash cameras in general. And the ubiquity of video cameras gets us an increase in videos of "rods". So, yeah, I think we might actually be seeing the raw number of photos of certain types of UFOs which can be easily explained as camera artifacts going up.

Perhaps we're seeing fewer photos like the "Spaceman" because a lot of the people who have cameras now also have Photoshop (or equivalent), and can adjust the levels to make it obvious that the alien in the background is actually their over-exposed wife standing on a hidden berm and looking away from the camera _before_ they take it to the local paper. And, uh, also there aren't really all that many local papers any more.
posted by hades at 12:19 AM on April 10, 2013


In short, taking pics of UFOs is hard.

But easier now than before, and there were photos of purported UFOs published before, despite all the same encumbrances you describe (lack of tripods, etc.). Now that number is decreasing, not increasing, despite there being more real cameras (not just telephone toys) that are much more capable of getting good pictures of something in the sky. If there are weird things to be seen, the odds of them being photographed are now much greater.
posted by pracowity at 12:21 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree that the mysterious figure is a picture of a woman from behind. I played around with the photo and noticed something interesting: the only color the figure possesses is cyan: remove the cyan from the photo and the figure (and the sky) are black and white.

I read a book by James Randi (Flim-Flam!, I think) a few decades ago that describes how to get a similar effect. You take a negative, or a positive image printed on slide film, and you take your photo through that image. The best way is with a camera and film you have prepared earlier, with the faked image inserted inside your camera and in front of the film, but I think you can even hold the film in front of a stopped-down lens if you're willing to accept a fuzzier result. The result is a double exposure, with the fake image overlaying the real one. If you use a piece of B&W transparency for the double exposure, all the color in the final image will be due to the actual photo.

It's easy to do this trick with B&W film because you can develop and print it at home. In fact you don't even need to print anything: you can get a positive image on a piece of negative film by exposing a blank piece of film through another negative. Then you develop your image, cut out the frame, and either insert it behind the lens (in front of your color film) or learn the trick of holding the image in front of the lens, with the lens stopped down. Either way, you get a fuzzy black-and-white image overlaying your color one.

If the B&W transparency had a darkish background then the resultant color photo might be underexposed, and the printer would have to compensate for that. In this case the sky probably looked washed-out, so the printer added a lot of cyan. As a result, the sky looks blue, but so do the clouds, and so does the mysterious figure - presumably it was originally very light. You can see that the image looks a bit "flat"; this compensation would explain that, and also why the girl's shirt seems to have shiny cyan highlights: when the cyan component was pushed up, the cyan component of the green pattern got exaggerated.

Anyway, I think this explains the image without any need to introduce mysterious birds or spacemen. It also explains why the photo technicians said it wasn't a double exposure: a normal double exposure would give two color images on one negative and be very obvious. This is a single image, but shot through a black and white transparency.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:26 AM on April 10, 2013


In short, taking pics of UFOs is hard. Very likely no one at the picnic you're describing brought a zoom lens and/or tripod.

Of course, it's hard. (Assuming for the purposes of the discussion the existence of UFOs). That's not the point. The point is that there's no reason to believe that UFOs are any harder to take pictures of today than they were in the mid-70s when all sorts of UFO photos were popping up. Sure, cell phone cameras suck. Back in the day, mass-market amateur photographers used to take pictures with literal cardboard boxes, which were then developed by incompetents at a drugstore; it's not like they were each one an Ansel Adams.

And people who were into photography had similar SLR cameras as today, except that today an entry-level sub $500 DSLR camera has a vibration-reducing lens and is capable of ISO 3200+. Oh, and the pictures are free. I take more photos in a day when traveling now than I would take in a 2-week trip on film, because of the costs and hassle.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:28 AM on April 10, 2013


How many of the UFO pics taken before the explosion of digital photography were taken with zoom lenses and/or tripods? In what way was it easier to take those photos before?

Maybe I'm not understanding the volume of photographs then vs now. Were there a lot more in the past? Or is that a bias because that's when a lot of attention was paid to the subject? Remember that back in the 70s and 80s UFOs were given a LOT more exposure in popular media compared with today. Any news report of a UFO on TV is necessarily done tongue-in-cheek, with X-Files music played in the background...it's treated as a joke, 99% of the time.

But just google "UFO 2012" and you'll get plenty of pics...of dubious veracity, I'm sure. But they're there, if you'd care to look. I would argue that there are just as many if not more than 40 years ago, for all the reasons that have been pointed out. But I don't know the numbers of purported evidence pics taken now vs previous decades.
posted by zardoz at 1:28 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


If a forest of phone-waving twits at a concert can't even take decent in-focus footage of a band 10 feet away, I'm not so inclined to accept the "cameras! cameras everywhere!" argument.
posted by panboi at 2:07 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


tykky: But but aliens could have backwards elbows!! </silly>

Here is a key comment from the Reddit thread twjordan mentioned. Note also the reply by Photojacker.
Direct link to a false-color rendition of the photo makes it really, really clear you're looking at an overexposed photobomb by the back of a woman.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:43 AM on April 10, 2013


robocop is bleeding: Funny how, even though everyone and their dog has a cameraphone now, we aren't swamped with photographic evidence of UFOs.

Speaking as a parent of a toddler, using a camera phone to snap a quick picture of a brief bit of cuteness is surprisingly hard. For something similar, next time you are out and about, try to take a picture of a car with one working headlight in motion.
Speaking as someone who understands statistics, your argument still doesn't explain why the frequency of UFO photographs hasn't skyrocketed.

In fact, since IRDC if the UFO is cute or not, your argument is really kind of irrelevant.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:45 AM on April 10, 2013


If a forest of phone-waving twits at a concert can't even take decent in-focus footage of a band 10 feet away, I'm not so inclined to accept the "cameras! cameras everywhere!" argument.

Well it's true that lots of those photos don't come out for crap, but it's also true that we get some amazingly clear concert photos (which is pretty adverse lighting conditions) taken by amateur photographers.

So I expect that we'd also see some really clear flying saucer images. But I think probably the reality is that as image quality improves, the flying objects tend to get more identifiable, and so it's really clear that it's a cloud or frisbee or whatever, instead of a blob that is hard to figure out what it is and doesn't it kind of look like a spaceship?
posted by aubilenon at 5:32 AM on April 10, 2013


In fact, since IRDC if the UFO is cute or not, your argument is really kind of irrelevant.

It totally matters whether or not the alien is cute. Have you seen a Reptilian lately? Ungh. Give me a nice Pleiadian any day. Hell even a better than average Sirian would be snap worthy. So if we're being visited by more Reptilians or Insectoids, of course there will be fewer photos of them.

I think zardoz has better covered the whole 'it's not just about more cameras' thing than I could. The only thing I could think to add would be that we're a lot more inured to Stuff In The Sky now than we were 40 years ago. We take a look at some random blip in the background of a vacation snap and say, that's probably a plane or something, while perhaps previously we would flip out and call the local press about the UFO we saw on holiday.

Look, I too am one of those people who spent a lot of time growing up in the Dewey 000's at the library. I still like reading/listening to High Weirdness (Fortean?) content today. It's entertaining. Do I actually believe in all that stuff? Sitting in my office on a sunny day watching people file in to work, no, not really. But late at night on a backroad in Maine? You bet I'm watching the skis.

I mean skies.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:36 AM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Obviously it must have been one of the marchers at the march. I know when I went to some of the Occupy marches there were people dressed weirdly. Mystery solved! I think he and his daughter were lucky they didn't get clobbered by the police.
posted by JJ86 at 5:40 AM on April 10, 2013


Speaking as someone who understands statistics, your argument still doesn't explain why the frequency of UFO photographs hasn't skyrocketed.

It has, it's just not as interesting to people these days for a variety of cultural reasons, not the least of which is an increased skepticism brought about by a ceaseless barrage of internet hoaxes of all varieties.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:07 AM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sure, because a meteor exploding in mid air, creating a massive, miles wide streak of light is the same thing as a single craft of something 1/1000th its size zipping across the sky. Practically identical.

People caught the actual moment of explosion on numerous dashboard cameras without trying. I'm not talking about people photographing the vapor trail after the event, I'm talking about people filming this thing as it happened. That is extremely comparable to a UFO streaking across the sky (except that we have good reason to suppose that the UFO would travel more slowly and provide more opportunity for picture takers).
posted by yoink at 8:29 AM on April 10, 2013


That is extremely comparable to a UFO streaking across the sky...

No, it's not. At all. The light that the meteor threw off was briefly like a second sun and it was huge. Your average purported UFO is the size of what? An airplane? How can you possibly think they are the same thing? The scales are orders of magnitude different.
posted by zardoz at 2:28 PM on April 10, 2013


I think the people arguing that it isn't more likely that we have a UFO picture here are way too focussed on more decent pictures being available. I don't think that is any less wrong, but it seems to be a block for them.

How can you possibly think they are the same thing?

They're not saying they're teh same thing at all. They ARE however saying that they are a fast moving and extremely unusual and rare occurrence. Like a UFO sighting is, not that the two events are identical. Yet hundreds and hundreds of people saw the same thing and recorded it (with a variety of quality of results). But a massive quantity recorded quality images and video.

if a UFO sighting happened now, it is (blindingly obvious just statistically) that the chance of a shot of it being captured (well or otherwise) is astronomically higher (vastly more prevalent cameras on hand) and also with a higher chance of a quality image (greater availability of good quality equipment.

So we may not get many more images of UFO's that allow us to clearly identify the thing, but we should at the very least get many hundreds more blurry, or indistinct images. Yet we don't. Because the kind of lack of understanding that made people think an object was a UFO has been largely educated away and the kind of photographic accident that could otherwise produce them has been reduced.

Also, the people that say birds are hard to capture- really? It's not at all hard to take a picture of a bird that is recognisably a bird. It's harder to take a picture of a bird that is really good, admittedly, but recognisable (which is the minimum bar for UFO images)? Not at all hard if enough people with cameras are there, which is what is likely these days.

The biggest barrier to the bird argument is... video. most cameras take video and while it may be harder to get a still shot of a bird, getting video of is is pretty damned easy. Yet it doesn't exist of UFO sightings.
posted by Brockles at 2:39 PM on April 10, 2013


So on the one had we have the people saying it's definitely "SPACESHIPS!!" and on the other people whose Google is broken (and they can't be bothered looking for the manual) but who are sure there's nothing weird or unexplained out there because: reasons.
posted by panboi at 2:53 PM on April 10, 2013


They're not saying they're teh same thing at all. They ARE however saying that they are a fast moving and extremely unusual and rare occurrence. Like a UFO sighting is, not that the two events are identical.

So...you're conflating the two, pointing out similarities. Other than occurring in the sky, I can only find a lot of differences.

Yet hundreds and hundreds of people saw the same thing and recorded it (with a variety of quality of results). But a massive quantity recorded quality images and video.

Right. Because it was a massive meteorological event that was visible for thousands of people over a huge area of land. With a short but extremely bright light from a miles-wide explosion. Big event, over a big area of land. That's why there's so much footage. That is simply not comparable with a (purported) craft that's--hey let's be generous--the size of an aircraft carrier. Or whatever.

if a UFO sighting happened now, it is (blindingly obvious just statistically) that the chance of a shot of it being captured (well or otherwise) is astronomically higher (vastly more prevalent cameras on hand) and also with a higher chance of a quality image (greater availability of good quality equipment.

You can look at my previous statements for why I disagree with this.

The biggest barrier to the bird argument is... video. most cameras take video and while it may be harder to get a still shot of a bird, getting video of is is pretty damned easy. Yet it doesn't exist of UFO sightings.

Really? Good video of a bird (so you can see details, color, face, etc) is easy with your cell phone? Damn near impossible with my iPhone 4.

FWIW, there are plenty of videos of UFOs. In the last 20 or so years there have been tons of sightings--and videos--coming out of Central and South America, especially Mexico. What the explanation behind the phenomenon is, who knows, but if you think there's less evidence than previous years, that's just your confirmation bias showing.
posted by zardoz at 4:30 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Really? Good video of a bird (so you can see details, color, face, etc) is easy with your cell phone?

You're not even reading, are you. Just arguing blindly. I said recognisably a bird. Not that you could identify it's species, sex and eye shadow while it is flying along. Massive, massive difference in picture quality between what I said and what you suggested I meant.

You seem to be arguing that no-one could take a picture for positive identification that is professional quality. No-one is saying that. I'm saying that if something is viewed by more than a couple of people in this day and age, they are massively more likely to have a camera on them than 40 or 50 years ago.

I would find it very, very surprising if you disagreed with that with any kind of seriousness. There has to be at least one (maybe two) orders of magnitude more cameras being habitually carried compared to 40 years ago. To think that there would be no significant increase in these kinds of shots as a result is bizarre.

That is simply not comparable with a (purported) craft that's--hey let's be generous--the size of an aircraft carrier. Or whatever.

People didn't have time to get ready to take a picture, for the most part. That is the biggest similarity. More people seeing any given event are likely to have a camera than 40 years ago, though, which is pretty hard to dispute.
posted by Brockles at 5:47 PM on April 10, 2013


Ok, maybe the bird comparison is a stretch. My point was that some things are just simply not easy to photograph. Not if you want a photograph that shows as much detail as possible. But to strain it a bit more: if you take your cell phone pic of a bird and it's just a tiny dark outline, and give it to the average person and say "Hey, here's a rare [insert rare bird name here]!" And that person looks at the splotch and says "ok, whatever". So that picture would be pretty pointless as evidence of something.

I contend it would be the same with a UFO. If you take a similarly low-detail pic of a UFO and again turn to someone and say "Proof of UFOs!" They'll just roll their eyes and say "ok, whatever". That's the point I'm trying to make. The wide-angle lens is a non-trivial point.

There has to be at least one (maybe two) orders of magnitude more cameras being habitually carried compared to 40 years ago. To think that there would be no significant increase in these kinds of shots as a result is bizarre.

Is your google broken? This simple search for "ufo mexico" will give you hundreds, thousands of pics and videos. And that's just one country. You and I can go through and dismiss them one by one, as any skeptic should. But if your contention is that photos and videos haven't increased, maybe that's true, but maybe that's just confirmation bias. In Mexico, anyway, there certainly seems to have been an increase.
posted by zardoz at 6:08 PM on April 10, 2013


zardoz posted: Is your google broken? This simple search for "ufo mexico" will give you hundreds, thousands of pics and videos. And that's just one country. You and I can go through and dismiss them one by one, as any skeptic should. But if your contention is that photos and videos haven't increased, maybe that's true, but maybe that's just confirmation bias. In Mexico, anyway, there certainly seems to have been an increase.

I think it is broken now, I am getting all sorts of Japanese characters and stuff. Thx.

In Mexico they are called OVNI, because they have a different language and all. The bottom line is you could call that streak or dot or orb, a UFO, an OVNI, or a ghost depending on your inclination or illness or delusion. 99% are explained for the non-delusional. The other 1% are indeed mysteries but let's not jump to conclusions about which subset they represent. Quite obviously to me they are all manifestations of the FSM. I mean it is obvious.
posted by JJ86 at 5:40 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Slap*Happy: Speaking as someone who understands statistics, your argument still doesn't explain why the frequency of UFO photographs hasn't skyrocketed.

It has, it's just not as interesting to people these days for a variety of cultural reasons, not the least of which is an increased skepticism brought about by a ceaseless barrage of internet hoaxes of all varieties.
Citation?
posted by IAmBroom at 12:12 PM on April 12, 2013


CITATION!
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:48 PM on April 13, 2013


You've successfully cited that reports in 2012 skyrocketed over those in 2010. Unfortunately, that doesn't have anything to do with the question at hand: "Have reports skyrocketed since the advent of cellphone cameras being carried by most people?"

Clue: Cellphones had cameras waaaaay back in 2010. I'm that old.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:46 AM on April 15, 2013


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