Friday, January 23, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Where can I find a summary of strange phenomena shown on this site?

A. See this post for such a summary, with many links to posts.

Q. Who took the photos shown on this site?

A. The photos were all taken by me, Mark Mahin. This site only shows photos that I took myself. If I ever wish to show a photo that someone else took, I will always use a hyperlink that goes to some other site. So if you see a photo and see as the URL at the top of your page, it is a photo I took.

Q. How often does this site post?

A. I have publishing an average of 4 photos a day for about two years.

Q. Were any of the photos on this site faked? Were any of them produced through any type of special artistic technique or digital manipulation designed to add details that were not in the original photographs?

A. The answer to all of these questions is: absolutely not. The photos are all authentic, and none of them involve any type of trickery, deception, selective pixel modification, special artistry, or editing of particular portions of the photo. Most of the photos on this site were simply cropped from the original photographs, without any type of other processing. Cropping is just the technique where you “cut out” a smaller part from a larger photo. The only type of other processing done on any of the photos on this site (which was done on only a minority of the photos) was the use (through the IrfanView program) of an "Auto adjust colors" menu command (which affects all pixels in the photo in the same way), and a "Gamma correction" reduction (which also affects all pixels in the photo in the same way).  Both of these are merely minor color/tone adjustments.  I have never used sharpening on any of the photos, nor any other technique that might add details you could not see in the original.

Q. Were any type of mechanical techniques or reflection techniques or stencil techniques or superimposition techniques or morphing techniques or image combination techniques used to produce any of the photos shown on this site? Was any technique at all like airbrushing or drawing or double exposure (whether digital or not) used to make any of these photos? Was any type of unusual digital processing or unusual photographic settings used to make any of these photos? Were any parts of these photos selectively changed? Did you use any technique whatsoever to add pixels or picture elements to any of these photos? Was there any unusual lighting for any of the photos?

A. The answer to all of these questions is: absolutely nothing like any such techniques were used for any of these photos. What you see on all of these photos is what I saw on the photos when I looked at them just after they were taken.

Q. Were any of these photos "Photoshopped"?

A. Used as a verb, "photoshopped" means to apply special processing to a photo, selectively modifying particular parts of the photo. Nothing like that has been done to any of these photos, so the answer is: no, none of these photos have been "photoshopped," and I have never owned or used any version of Photoshop. 

Q. Did you ever load or save any of these photos into any software such as Photoshop or GIMP that has any type of tools for advanced editing of particular non-rectangular parts of a photo?

A. No. Except when labeled as a photo loaded directly from the camera, each and every one of these photos was loaded and saved using only the IrfanView shareware program. That program is a great-little "bare bones" image editor, but only has basic graphic abilities (compared to Photoshop), and only has the most minimal tools for drawing or painting on an image. With my version of IrfanView, you can't even use the mouse to select a circular or irregular-shaped portion of a photo to edit (although it lets you do some basic things on rectangular portions of photos). I save the photos using IrfanView mainly because that allows me to crop the photos (reduce their size). But some of the posts have the "Photo uploaded directly from camera" label, and those posts include a photo directly loaded from the camera without being saved in any other program. I may note that in cases when the listed photo date differs from the file date of a photo, it is because the image was cropped and saved in the simple IrfanView photo editor one or more days after the photo was taken.

Q. Did you ever use for any of these photos any technique involving deliberately raising dust, mist or water vapor or spraying water?

A. Absolutely not, with the exception of about 3 posts that are exclusively on the topic of whether such techniques can actually produce orbs in photos.

Q. In the titles or text of some of the blog posts, you sometimes refer to orb faces. By using such a term do you mean to claim that you have photographed something with a real face?

A. Not necessarily. Whenever I refer to an orb face, I merely mean to say something that looks like a face. To me it's an open question whether any “real” faces exist in my photos – perhaps they do, or perhaps they don't. I think there are basically three possibilities : (1) the possibility that some type of real face is being captured in these photos; (2) the possibility that what we are seeing is merely some fleeting energetic representation of a face; (3) the possibility that what looks like orb faces are neither of these things. By saying that this or that orb has a face, I do not mean to imply a conclusion about which of these three ideas is correct. Similarly, when I say in a blog post that this or that orb is happy or gleeful or something like that, I am merely referring to the way the orb looks, rather than dogmatically asserting that a particular orb has some particular emotion.  Also, when I give a post a particular label, I am not firmly asserting that the post has a photo that shows such a thing; I am merely saying that the photo looks like it includes that particular thing.

 Q. When you post a photo and point out some paranormal-looking feature in the photo, is that the only part of the photo that may be paranormal or anomalous?

A. I do not make any such claim. In fact, in some cases I notice strange things in my photos that I may make no mention of, to limit the time I spend putting up a particular post, or keep the post to a short length that is easily readable. Some of my Grand Central Station photos involve huge numbers of details, and I do not at all claim to have scanned through such photos looking for everything that might be anomalous. It is entirely possible that large numbers of the photos I have posted here have additional paranormal-looking parts that I have not drawn attention to. If you wish to look for such possibilities, you can click on the first photo I put in a post, to get the photo in the full resolution. You can then copy that photo to an image editor allowing you to zoom in and look for other anomalies I have not mentioned.

Q. Are all of the photos on this site flash photos taken indoors?

A. Unless specifically noted otherwise (or unless an outdoor location is clearly shown), any photo you may see on this site is a flash photo taken indoors.

Q. What is your explanation for what could be the cause of the astonishing photos on this site, particularly the photos that seem to show orb faces?

A.  I have no explanation, so to the question "What causes these faces?" my answer is simply: I don't know. All I can do is speculate about different possibilities. I can think of three possible explanations.

The first possibility is that there are some kind of real paranormal entities that are helping to produce what is shown in these photographs. There are all kinds of strange possibilities. They could be unknown spiritual entities, spirits of the dead, beings from some other dimension, angels, extraterrestrials who have evolved into a pure energy state, or various other possibilities. The photographs might in some sense show such entities, or they may show some manifestation of such entities. Rather than being the actual faces of such entities, the faces shown in these photographs may be kind of like sketches produced by such entities. If I am walking on the beach, and see a face in the sand, it does not mean that I am seeing a real face; but it may be a fleeting representation made by some intelligent being.

A second possibility (one that is perhaps leaner and more parsimonious) is that the amazing photos shown on this site are due to some “mind over energy” effect produced by myself, the photographer. The Global Consciousness Project may have provided evidence that humans can influence random number generators without actually trying to do so. It could be that I am unconsciously influencing the flash of energy that takes place during a flash photo, causing it to arrange itself in particular ways, such as something that resembles a face. I may note, however, that I am not aware of any power that I have to do such a thing.

A third possibility is what we might call the “mega-coincidence” hypothesis. This is the idea that perhaps I am merely someone who has had an extraordinary streak of luck in taking these photographs, which has resulted in an unusually high number of orb photos resembling faces. We would not expect such a streak of luck to occur even once in any city, but perhaps you are looking at this web page merely because I've been the luckiest person in the world at taking orb photos that resemble faces. You might judge this hypothesis to be tenable if you don't see all that many orb face photos on this site, or don't see faces that seem to you to very strongly resemble faces. But my guess is that the person who looks at all of the photos in this site will not think this possibility is credible.

Q. Are you the only one producing these photos of orbs?

A. Not at all. Orbs have been noticed in flash photographs taken all over the world since the invention of the digital camera.  Google for "orb gallery" or "orb photos" to find many other web sites showing photos of orbs. See also this blog post on this site listing other sites showing orb photos. The first site listed on that post (this site) has a large collection of photos showing orb faces, so I'm not the only one putting up such photos.

Q. Why are you showing these photos in a blog rather than the more common approach of just showing a gallery of photos?

A. A blog is ideal for someone wishing to present orb photographs in a systematic way that documents everything so that you have all the information you need to evaluate an orb photo. If I were to simply put a photo of an air orb in a gallery, you would not know anything about whether such a photo was taken indoors, or whether it was taken in dusty conditions, or whether the orb appeared inside water, or whether there were reflective objects nearby, or how large the orb was compared to the full photo size (which are all factors someone might need to consider when evaluating whether the orb is paranormal). By putting each photo in a blog post that lists such factors, people will have all the information they need to evaluate whether the photos are showing something paranormal.

Q. Aren't orbs just dust, as I've heard?

A. Most of the more remarkable orbs that have been photographed cannot be explained as dust, because they are either too big to be dust, too bright to be dust, too fast-moving to be dust, too colorful to be dust, too regularly observed to be dust, too surrounded by clean air to be dust, or too closely resembling faces to be dust.  In the case of numerous photos on this site, several of these "can't be dust" conditions apply at the same time; so, for example, some orbs that are shown on this site were too fast-moving to be dust, too big to be dust, too bright to be dust, too colorful to be dust, and too surrounded by clean air to be dust -- all at the same time.  See this blog post for a refutation of the theory that dust can be used as a general explanation for orbs.

In the case of the air orb photos shown on this site, I have in many cases included dust level readings (taken with an electronic air quality monitor) that show the air was too clean at the time for dust to have been a plausible explanation. The photos in Grand Central Station were taken at a very clean balcony area, directly facing a huge mass of clear air, about 10 meters above pedestrians. Grand Central Station has a very efficient air filtration system that keeps its air very clean. We cannot plausibly imagine that at such a location you would have enough dust for dust to produce frequent orbs, like the many orbs I have photographed at such a place.

The clean spot where most of my Grand Central photos were taken 

Below are additional decisive reasons for rejecting the idea that dust can explain the photos on this site:
(1) This site has 36 photos of orbs that are behind distant obstructions more than 10 meters from the camera (see the posts labeled "air orb too distant to be dust"). Such photos rule out the idea that orbs are all specks of dust a few inches from the camera.
(2) This site has more than 24 posts labeled "inexplicable orb motion." Such posts show moving orbs making sharp right-angle turns or wavy undulating motions or u-turns, spectacular motions that are never made by dust, insects, or birds.
(3) This post presents a statistical analysis showing that a set of more than 100 orb photographs shows a strong "vertical bias" that is completely incompatible with the idea that dust may be the cause of orbs in such photos. This post presents a series of 14 photos in which we also see an extremely strong "vertical bias" that is completely incompatible with the idea that dust may be the cause of orbs in such photos.
(4) The particle size of ordinary atmospheric dust is many times too small to produce orbs in photos.  Ordinary atmospheric dust has a particle size of about 1 micron (1 micrometer) or less. The area right in front of a camera lens has a width of about 15,000 microns (the same as 15 millimeters). This means that a dust particle in ordinary outdoor air can only block about 1/15,000 (one fifteen thousandth) of the width of a photo -- way, way too small a "blockage fraction" to produce an orb in a photo.  For typical indoor air, this "blockage fraction" is about 1/1500 (one fifteen hundredth) -- still way too small to produce an orb in a photo.  See this post for a more detailed discussion of why these "blockage fraction" and  particle size considerations exclude the theory that most orbs are dust.
(5) If the dust in ordinary air were sufficient to produce orbs, then people all the time would complain about orbs appearing in their photos. Instead, 99% of all people do not notice any orbs in their photos.  But people with an interest in paranormal photography tend to see orbs appear very often in their photos (and they tend to see orbs appearing in increasing numbers the more they try to photograph orbs). 
(6) Moving orbs are often photographed by security cameras, as you can see by going to, and searching for "orb+security camera." Such videos cannot be explained through any dust theory.
(7) My dozens of tests photographing a piece of cardboard at arm's length (usually in the middle of photographing many orbs) have never shown one single orb in front of the cardboard, which shows that the orbs I am photographing are not specks of dust near the camera.

Q. But aren't there other things that can explain orbs, such as water vapor, pollen, lens flare, blooming, or reflection?

A.See this post for why neither water vapor nor pollen can explain orbs.  The water vapor in ordinary air is only about 1 micron in size, many times too small to produce an orb in a photo. All pollen particles are 100 microns or smaller, meaning that they are too small to produce a decent-sized orb in a photo. There are also mathematical reasons (discussed here) why there is less than 1 chance in 1000 of a pollen particle existing close enough to your camera to produce even a speck-like orb in your photo.  I also have many photos (shown here) that show lots of orbs on days when the local pollen count listed on was very low.

 In the very rare case of heavy fog or heavy mist, you can get natural, colorless orbs in photos. But I am careful to avoid photographing under such conditions (and always state whether or not there was fog or mist when I publish an outdoor photo).

See this post for my experiments showing that reflection cannot explain orbs (I took 120 flash photos in "multiple mirror" conditions trying to maximize reflections, but produced no orbs). 

Blooming and lens flare both have one thing in common: they only occur when you are pointing the camera towards a bright light source or some surface that is brightly reflecting light. None or virtually none of my pictures of orbs in the air were taken under such conditions, so neither explanation can explain such photos.

 Q.  What precautions do you take to make sure you are not photographing natural orbs? 

Since starting this blog I have followed these precautions:
(1)  I never photograph in rainy, snowy, foggy or misty conditions, unless I specifically state that I am doing so in the description of a photo.
(2) I am careful not to photograph while pointing towards a bright light, to avoid lens flare.
(3) I never photograph near any nearby unusual thing that is causing visible dust or smoke to appear. For example, if I see one of those New York City street vendors with a cart that is churning out smoke, I will be careful not to photograph near that.
(4) I never make use any of unusual lighting techniques, and never use anything than an ordinary camera flash (one that isn't particularly bright).  I never shine a flashlight when taking pictures, which can create misleading effects.

 Q. Could lens smudges be the cause of any of the orbs shown on this blog?

A. When a camera smudge causes a photo anomaly, it is always very easy to tell what is going on, because you will see the anomaly occurring again and again in your photos, until the lens is cleaned. I never publish photos of anomalies that occur identically in a series of consecutive photos up until the time that I cleaned my lens. In 99% of all orb photos published on this site, the next photo showed no identical-looking orb in about the same position.

Q. Can I myself take photos like the photos you show on this site? 

You sure can. No special psychic abilities are required, and I don't claim to have any. See this post "How to Get Started in Orb Photography."

Q. What cameras have you used for making these photographs? 

A. All of the photos with a date before December 4, 2014 were photographed with an Olympus FE-100 camera, an inexpensive "point and click" camera I bought about 6 years ago. I do not use the "macro mode" when photographing water drops with such a camera. After December 4, 2014, many of the "air orb" photos have been made using a Sony DSC-W830 camera, with the ISO set to 100 (although in "auto-shoot" mode the camera seems to increase that ISO level). I find that the Sony DSC-W830 camera works very well for photographing orbs in the air, and does a better job of capturing the colors of orbs in the air.  Since March 2015 I sometimes take some pictures with a Nikon Coolpix L28 camera which was modified (by the "Gotcha Ghost" site/service) to be a "full spectrum" type of camera that lets in more infrared radiation.  I have found this camera to be successful at capturing some spectacular very large orbs at night,  which are shown here. All of these cameras have a small built-in flash that isn't particularly bright. Each of these cameras has a flash that isn't particularly bright, much less bright than those cameras that have flash attachments. 

Q. What is the "water face effect"?

 A. The water face effect is a highly anomalous effect I first noticed back in October of 2014, in which photos of water drops appear to show faces within the water drops. The effect is described in detail in this post. See the posts on this blog labeled "water face effect" for many examples.

Q. What technique can I use to try to reproduce this "water face effect"?

 A. A method you can use to try to produce this effect yourself is described in detail in this post.

Q. Are the water drop photos that are shown on this site very typical photos given the overall set of water drop photos that you have taken?

A.  Yes. It is true that the water drop photos on this site are the most dramatic photos within the overall set of water drop photos I have taken, so a certain degree of selection is involved. But I must also note that for each photo I take and put up on this site, there are about ten others that I have taken that look almost the same as the ones that I have put on this site, but which have the details a little less clearly shown. So overall, the water drop photos shown on this site are not rare outliers, but instead very typical examples of the type of water drop photos I have taken.

Q. Can't we explain orbs in water drops just by imagining that they are due to reflections of the camera's flash?

A. One can explain a small amount of the "water face effect" described above by just assuming a reflection of light from a camera's flash. But most of the more remarkable parts of the "water face effect" cannot be explained simply by imagining a reflection of light -- things such as the fact that the orbs are almost all circular, the fact that they are mostly the same size, the fact that the orbs have different solid colors (some orange, some yellow, some blue, some purple, etc.), the fact that the orbs so often appear to be moving very rapidly around the edges of the water drops (what I call the orb centrifuge effect), and most of all the fact that such a large fraction of the orbs appear to have faces. The smiling faces that appear are not a reflection of my face, because they look nothing like my face (and I'm not smiling when I take the pictures). They are also not a reflection of a nearby photo, because I never have used any photos nearby when I have taken any of these water drop pictures.

Q.  Did any of the photos of water drops or water drips on this site involve water that had any added items or impurities?

A. No. Every single one of the photos of water drops or water drips on this site is either a photo of pure, clean tap water with nothing added or a photo of ordinary rain drops. Moreover, nothing was ever placed nearby to cause a reflection to appear within a water drop or water drip.

Q. Why shouldn't we just conclude that the pictures on this site were faked?

A. Because this site has so many photos involving multiple paranormal details in incredibly detailed scenes (such as the many photos at Grand Central Station), and because so many of this site's photos involve faces in water drops (involving very complex "hard-to-fake" combinations of light, shadow, reflection, water, movement, and faces), it would have been incredibly difficult for even a well-funded large team of highly talented artists to have faked all the paranormal-looking photos on this site.  Long past my prime years,  I am a man of slight artistic skills who has never even used Photoshop, not the kind of young graphics whiz who might be able to fake some of these photos.  I have never faked anything, ever.

While it is true that there exists quite sophisticated technology for faking photos, there is also quite sophisticated technology for detecting photo fakes. For example, there is a free site called that will  help you find fraud or photoshopping in any photo you submit (and you can get the results instantly online).  If you try to submit this site's photos to such analysis, the photos will stand up very well.  It would make no sense for anyone to put up so many photos on a site like this if the photos were fake, because people would be able to detect the fraud using advanced tools such as the site I just mentioned. I may also add that I have not profited from photos on this site, so why would I go to all the trouble of faking things?  (I do have a book of paranormal photos for sale on, but so far my proceeds from that $2 book are much less than my related photography expenses.)

Q. Do you know anything about the meaning of orb colors (or explanations for these colors)?

Some people speak as if they know that particular orb colors mean particular things. I claim no such knowledge, but I do repeatedly photograph orbs in a variety of vivid colors. There is no good natural explanation for why orbs should so frequently be photographed with such strong colors, as I argue in in this post. 

Q. How can I use pictures from this site on my web site?

A. The photos and text on this site  are copyrighted, and all rights are reserved.  But the "fair use" clause of the US copyright laws allow you to do something such as have a web site article or blog post that uses one or two photos from this site, as long as it is part of a larger commentary or criticism. For any larger use, you must email me at to request permission. The general procedure would be to list the URL of a particular blog post, and ask whether you can use the photos from that post, for some particular purpose that you describe (such as for inclusion in a particular web site article or a particular blog post). You need not ask permission if you are showing only one photo from this site, and are also including a link to a post on this site that the photo was taken from.

No comments:

Post a Comment