Hi, I'm Allan (Al) Schmidt. I'm 52 living in Colorado. I've been married for 27 years. I Retired form the Air Force in 2001 and have been working for the Government in Boulder ever since. I have many hobbies, mostly outdoor, hiking, camping hunting, fishing etc. The main thing that ties them all together is Photography. I've been into the paranormal basically all my life, as my late father was into basically everything paranormal, although he didn't really refer to it as paranormal. Bigfoot, Nessi, UFO's, Little People. He had books on all subjects which I read with a passion. I have been investigating for over 10 years now regularly, and have been all over the country doing so. Locally, have investigated many locations, both with others teams and as I like to do most of the time, by myself or with my wife. I'm very logical in my undertakings, and very skeptical by nature. If I have exhausted all resources and ideas as to how to debunk something, only then will I call it interesting and possibly paranormal. I have not really had any wow moments to speak of, but have had some interesting things happen, enough so to make me more curious.
The current craze in paranormal photography and video is Full Spectrum. But, what exactly is it, and why is the theory that it will work in the field to capture spirits in action.
What is Full Spectrum? It is basically the ability to capture visible and near infrared light, commonly referred to as the VNIR. Modified digital cameras can detect some UV, all of the visible and much of the near infrared spectrum, as most digital imaging sensors are sensitive from about 350 nm to 1000 nm. An off-the-shelf digital camera contains an infrared hot mirror filter that blocks most of the infrared and a bit of the ultraviolet that would otherwise be detected by the sensor, narrowing the accepted range from about 400 nm to 700 nm. Replacing a hot mirror or infrared blocking filter with an infrared pass or a wide spectrally transmitting filter allows the camera to detect the wider spectrum light at greater sensitivity. Without the hot-mirror, the red, green and blue (or cyan, yellow and magenta) elements of the color filter array placed over the sensor elements pass varying amounts of ultraviolet and infrared which may be recorded in any of the red, green or blue channels depending on the particular sensor in use and on the dyes used in the Bayer filter. A converted full-spectrum camera can be used for UV or IR with the appropriate filters.
Use within the paranormal world usually means converting a digital camera to Full Spectrum, A converted digital camera usually requires that the infrared hot mirror be removed and replaced by a wideband, spectrally flat glass of the same optical path length. Typical glass types used include Schott WG-280 and BK-7, which transmit as much as 90% from around 300 nm to past 1000 nm. Removing the hot mirror is tedious and may require special tools and clean rooms.
There are issues with this type of photography, one being with Full-spectrum photography in either film or digital photography is the chromatic aberration, produced by the wideband information. That is, different spectra, including the ultraviolet and infrared, will focus at different focal points, yielding blurry images and color edge effects, depending on the focal length used. There are specialized lenses such as the Nikon 105mm f4.5 UV-Nikkor which are designed to eliminate this chromatic aberration.
Although Full Spectrum Photography has been around since the 50’s for geological and Military functions, it hos only recently been used for “Ghost Hunting”. The theory is that perhaps spirits can be detected in this light spectrum, and therefore photographed. Until now, there has not been scientific proof that this is the case, and with as many Full Spectrum Cameras, both still and video now being used, one would think that if this technology worked in the field, we would have a plethora of evidence to back the theory up.
Perhaps there still is a wavelength that spirits can be detected in that we simply have as yet been unable to determine, so we must keep trying different techniques and theories to try and find that holy grail.
NPS Article – UFO’s
Info Gathered from Al Schmidt and an article by Billy Booth
I grew up in a small town on the Mississippi coast called Gautier. In the early 70’s, there were many UFO sightings up and down the Gulf coast. My best friend had a house on the local bayou, but it had great access to the Gulf and a great view out over it. I spent many a night looking out there…hoping to see a UFO of my own. Only once did I see a light flying fairly low above the horizon, flying faster than any plane I had ever seen. Was it a UFO???
One of the most celebrated and publicized encounters was of 2 local men in the next town over, Pascagoula (Where I Graduated High School) and there close encounter. I had fished from that very same spot on many occasions, but never at night. Their story follows:
Prelude: On the night of October 10, 1973, there was a UFO sighting by fifteen different witnesses who saw a strange, unknown object fly over a housing project in St. Tammany Parish, New Orleans, Louisiana. Two of the witnesses were policeman. This sighting would only be the beginning of what was to occur the next night on the nearby Pascagoula River. Two fishermen, nineteen-year-old Calvin Parker, and forty-two-year-old Charles Hickson were about to have an experience that would forever change their lives.
Parker and Hickson were good friends, and often fished together. They were both living in the town of Gautier, Mississippi. On one particular night, they were fishing the waters of the Pascagoula River, when they heard a strange sound… a type of buzzing. The two men immediately turned to see what the source of the strange noise was.
They were shocked to see an egg-shaped object with bluish front lighting. The object was only a few feet above the water, and about ten yards from the two frightened fishermen.
While they sat stunned, looking at the weird flying machine, a door opened in the UFO, and to their utter amazement, three beings of unknown origin began to float toward the two. The beings did have legs, but did not use them-they literally floated across the water toward Hickson and Parker. The two fishermen would later attempt to describe what the beings looked like “… about five feet tall, had bullet-shaped heads without necks, slits for mouths, and where their noses or ears would be, they had thin, conical objects sticking out, like carrots from a snowman’s head.”
Hickson sat frozen on the river bank. Suddenly, two of the odd-looking beings grabbed him, while the third being snatched Parker, who immediately fainted from fear. The beings supported Hickson by literally holding up his body. As they did, he felt numbness over his entire body. By some power he could not see, he was floated into the bowels of the waiting object to a brightly-lit room.
The room had no gravity. He floated with a strange eye-like device. This device would go over his entire body as if it was scanning him.
After the eye-like device was finished with Hickson, he was left floating in the room alone. The beings had probably left to examine Parker. Approximately 20 minutes after the ordeal had begun, it was over. Hickson was now floated back out of the craft. Back on the river bank, he could see Parker, who was crying and praying on the ground. Shortly, the strange flying object rose straight into the night sky, and flew away.
After some time to regain their senses and strength, they began to talk about what action they should take. At first they were afraid to report their experience, but they felt obligated to tell someone. What if these beings were taking other people in the area? Fighting fears of public ridicule, they called Kessler Air Force Base in Biloxi. They were instructed to report their incident to the local sheriff’s department.
Not wanting to deal with local law enforcement, they decided instead to go to their local newspaper office. The office was closed, which left the men only one recourse-the sheriff office. As would be expected, the local sheriff thought their story was a hoax or trick. Trying to get to the bottom of their story, the two fishermen were placed in a room wired for sound. It was thought that they would discuss the joke between themselves, and their story would be found out. This was not to be. Soon law enforcement personnel knew that something had certainly frightened Hickson and Parker, and that this was no joke.
It would be no time until details of the alleged abduction began to leak out to the public. First, the account of the incident was published in local newspapers, soon followed by the wire services. In a matter of a couple of days, the Pascagoula, Mississippi, abduction was a big news item over the entire United States. Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) sent University of California professor James Harder to investigate the story. Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who represented the U.S. Air Force also would research the case.
Harder and Hynek did a lot of the investigative work together. The two well-known researchers first interviewed the two fishermen together. Harder tried to do regressive hypnosis on Hickson, but the abductee was so frightened, that the hypnosis was stopped. To get things off on solid ground, both of the witnesses took polygraph tests, and both passed without a problem. Harder and Hynek both believed that the two tormented men were telling the truth.
Esteemed UFO researcher J. Allen Hynek would proclaim that “… there was definitely something here that was not terrestrial.”
Even after thirty-plus years, both Calvin Parker and Charles Hickson still testify to the same story, and have never wavered in their account of what happened that October night on the Pascagoula River.
There have been many articles, magazine reports, and television documentaries done on the case, and the two men have given numerous interviews about their experience. Their account, although bizarre, is one of the best researched and documented alien abduction cases in UFO history.
So many people now are taking photos, and thinking they are seeing something paranormal. Many are close up and are a bit easier to analyze, depending on the type of camera used. There are many others that claim to see something, off in the distance, usually outside. This creates a major issues to anyone trying to analyze the photo, especially if the quality of the camera, and the photo itself leads to the need to zoom in on the particular object.
With high quality DSLR’s, output resolution, and the number of megapixels makes zooming in much easier than those of a cell phone or point and shoot camera. Although today’s cell phones are better than ever, the quality of the photos produced from the later do not make it feasible to zoom in to any great detail, because the detail of the original is quite lacking due to the output resolution and megapixels involved. The issues are then made even worse under low light conditions.
On a low quality photo, as we zoom in, the number of pixels per inch becomes the main problem, as the object you may want to get a closer look at becomes only a few pixels in size, thereby losing all definition, and any further analysis becomes impossible.
This is one of the main reasons I do not recommend using cell phone photos to try to determine if someone has captured anything paranormal, the quality of the photo is just not sufficient to make positive ID’s.
And excellent article has been written comparing several different cameras and cell phones that make the point stand out even more. I would suggest this as a fine read to help investigators make determinations as to the age old question about paranormal photography and its usefulness in the field.
One of the biggest issues I am seeing lately in paranormal photography is mistaken identity due to photo’s of reflective surfaces. Windows, water, mirrors, TV’s, cabinets etc can present all sorts of issues when being photographed, and those issues are then being misidentified as something paranormal. I have seen so many photos that are easily explained by actually looking at the photo and identifying all of the reflective surfaces in it, studying the angle of the shot and the lighting, and determining it is only lens flare from the surface.
Lets delve deeper into what is going on, and why, and how to alleviate as much as possible, some of these issues.
As I mentioned above, obvious surfaces to avoid in the shot would be anything made of glass, white or reflective walls, metallic objects, standing water, or other light sources (sun, lights etc). Obviously, with this many items to have to deal with when taking a photo, that leaves very little room to try to alleviate reflections and lens flare, hence, why I never recommend photo’s for anything paranormal. If you insist on it though, shoot these surfaces or light sources at a 45 degree angle, as this can alleviate some of the problems, but certainly not always. Also, a continuous light source as opposed to a flash can help but again, is not recommended. If you have a view finder on your camera, that will also help in seeing issues before you take the shot. This is another reason why cell phones should never be used, as there is no viewfinder to preview any light anomalies, as real time view will normally remove these sorts of anomalies.
Once you have tried to remove all of the above potential issues, we will now take a look at camera settings that can also help. If your camera has the ability to set some things manually, you can set your camera to aperture priority mode [AV] and choose a setting for the aperture. Try to get as much of the item in focus as possible, so an aperture of around f/8 to f/16 will work to get good depth of field. Also set the ISO to 100 – 400 for the best image quality. Once set, the camera will select an appropriate shutter speed for the exposure. This will depend on the power of your light source. But again, since most para shots are in low light, the camera will choose a slow shutter speed to compensate for the low light, which will then create blurring issues. And then, the camera will use the flash, which will mostly defeat the purpose of the manual settings mentioned and again present lens flare and reflection issues.
I hope that with all of the above mentioned issues being said, that those insisting on carrying around a camera on an investigation, and those just looking through random shots, will take a bit more time when reviewing and critiquing their photos, and realize and accept that there are so many things that can cause anomalies in a photo other than something paranormal. It’s never a bad thing to have others take a look at the photo as well, but now hopefully there can be a better understanding of why there will be explanations of reflections and lens flare, rather than…Oooohhh, it’s a ghost.
While out in the desert of Utah recently, I took this photo at my campsite. It’s very spooky, and I know a lot of people would immediately jump to a paranormal conclusion, since the majority of people are under the false assumption that a camera just takes a picture of what they see and there is no way for it to do anything else. What you see is what you get.
This particular picture was taken with a Canon 5D Mark III, at night, under a full moon. How was I lucky enough to catch this Ghostly Apparition? Was this a Haunted Area? Did I get to see it with my own eyes? Well, none of the above. Although this is an extreme example of slow shutter speed, it does show a perfect example of how odd images can be created. I say extreme only because a slow shutter speed for most shots would be 1 second or less. This one, was around 20 seconds.
So what are we seeing here? Let me set it up. As I said, this was at night, under a full moon, so actually plenty of light for this type of shot. The key is the length of time the shutter is open, thus how much light is captured by the sensor. Since there is nothing else moving besides the Ghostly figure (Myself), and the stars of course, everything will be in focus, no blurred objects. Even at 20 seconds, the stars will have moved in the sky slightly, so there will be a small amount of streaking to them.
What is also needed, is a steady tripod and a remote control. The camera is set on bulb, so that the length of time the shutter is open can be controlled, and from a distance. To create the effect is simple. Stand whatever distance you want from the camera, open the shutter, stay in place for 10 seconds, and then move to the second position for the remaining 10ish seconds. Release the shutter and you have your incredible Ghostly image of yourself.
Now, how does this work and why does it appear this way, why am I see through? Since it is at night, with only minimal light from the moon, there would need to be around 20 total seconds in one position for the camera to fully pick up my image as it did with the surroundings in this photo. Since I was only in place for half that time, it was only able to pick up a partial image in each location. It also did not pick up my motion blur while moving to the second location because it was too fast for the sensor to pick up any image at all at that slow shutter speed.
Now, when we talk about a slow shutter speed under normal Paranormal Photography circumstances, Dark Location, Cell Camera or Point and Shoot and either a flash or no flash, we are only normally talking about a shutter speed of 1 second or less. But as opposed to this photo, within that 1 second, it can catch any motion blur that occurs, even with a flash. Since the flash on either a cell or point and shoot is not especially powerful, it will actually flash for as long as it thinks it needs to capture a photo, which in most cases is between ½ – 1 second. Couple the long shutter speed with hand shake, and you get a photo that not only catches motion blur, but also the movement blur of the hand shake. I must say, that in the thousands of “Paranormal” photo’s I have seen, this is the culprit in the vast majority of Ghostly Sightings. Either a photo of a scene with no moving objects, or a real person that was caught while moving, causing them to appear blurry in the beginning of the shot and more translucent at the end.
Conclusion and Recommendation: A cell phone and point and shoot were never meant to take low light or total darkness pictures. Why people continue to use them while investigating is a mystery to me. They are not, I repeat not going to take a perfect picture, they will take, blurry, grainy, and shaky pictures, every time. Even if a tripod is used, the shutter speed will still be slow enough to blur moving objects, even with a flash. I whole heartedly would never recommend taking photo’s during an investigation; it will only lead to misidentification of normal surrounding and false conclusions. If you must take photos please, never submit them as evidence, and always have them reviewed by multiple individuals. Could a photo catch a ghost, sure, anything is possible. Probable? Maybe 1 in a billion chance.
Although I am not an advocate of taking any still pictures while investigating, using a cell phone makes it significantly worse for many reasons. Sure, they are convenient, but that’s about as far as I could go with anything positive to say about using them.
I hear people say that their Cell Phone takes great pictures, and while that may be true on a nice sunny day; they have many limitations as to their functionality in low light/no light situations. Yes, they have a flash, but the flash has limited range, and also the camera then has to compensate for the flash usage. Taking a picture of your friends in a bar is fine, but to try and use it to capture anything paranormal is out of the question. Let’s take a look at why I say this, in regards to the inner working of a cell camera.
The majority of the time, you simply are going to use your flash and a longer shutter speed in low light. Then trying to stabilize the cell phone against some immovable object. With real cameras, even using an eye level viewfinder and supporting the lens correctly offers you some additional support, and aside from DSLR mirror shake potential, a large camera has more mass, so it’ll make fewer tiny moves in response to body shakes. You really want to lock that cell phone down, but how many people actually do that while investigating. I see it all the time, people walking around, snapping away. And then sometimes while moving, which creates even more motion blur.
Another issue is getting blur from moving subjects. Not much you can do about that in most cases though but that also tends to lead to mis-identification of something being “Paranormal”. If you’re shooting a moving object, you can match its motion and shoot while moving, which can work great, but of course you risk vertical shake following a horizontally moving object, and this issue is exacerbated in low light. It will also blur the surrounding, again leading to mis-interpretation. The best was to eliminate some of these is to go to a faster shutter speed, but that would mean setting this manually and on a cellphone, the only other degree of freedom is image gain, and that’s also a problem on phones.
When you see noise in an image, grain or static, that’s actually sensor noise. Your phone, like all digital cameras, has a photo sensor composed of small pixels, one or more analog to digital converters, and one more thing, a programmable gain amplifier. That amp sits between your pixels and ADC, with the job of boosting the signal from each pixel when it’s too low. The strength of a pixel’s signal is based on how many photons are hitting it… more light or a larger pixel gets you a stronger signal. The iPhone 5s has 1.5um pixels, better than the 1.0um pixels of older iPhones, but still tiny. So the signal gets weak, it gets boosted, but eventually, the random noise in any electronic system gets to be close in level to the pixel signal, and so, when you boost that pixel, you get visible effect from the noise.
Which brings me back to the old adage, add more light. You could lower sensitivity and increase exposure time for a cleaner image, but more blur potential. Add room lights; use a flash, that’s about it. This is just how photography works, and the problems only increase with the limitations of the camera being used.
Let’s look at some samples of photo’s using different cameras. Same light, same location. They are all handheld as well (No Tripod) and all on Auto setting, since that is what makes a huge difference in photo quality. They are in my basement with very low light from ceiling lights.
First two pictures are with my cell phone, an HTC, first no flash, second with flash.
The next 2 Photo’s are with a Point and Shoot Digital, a Casio EX-S200 and again no flash, w/flash
Next 2 pictures are with a Canon 5D Mark III full frame DSLR, no flash, with flash
As you can see, there is a huge difference between the camera’s and the quality of the shots. The cell phone picture with flash, is not something I would even use as evidence (And Agin I would stress, I would never shoot still photo’s during an investigation, nor ever think of using them as evidence), as the lighting is not up to par with trying to define much of anything. The point and shoot with flash is much better, but still not of high quality and still has a bit of blur due to a slower shutter speed. In comparison, the Full Frame camera with flash is clean and crisp. Even without the flash, it’s not a bad picture, but still dark and again, a bit blurry being hand held with a slower shutter speed.
With all of this being said, looking at the cell phone photo compared to the other two with flash, shows that a cell phone cannot even compare. And why is that? It’s all about the sensor size. The cell phone, despite claimed MegaPixial Size, cannot draw in enough light, even with a flash to get a clean crisp image due to the size of the sensor and the low quality flash.
My bottom line, don’t use a cell phone while investigating and more importantly, when reviewing your cell phone pictures, be aware of its short comings in image quality, especially in low light situations. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have captured an “Entity” when in fact what you have captured is a low quality photo that is not a well-defined image.