UFO photography - the technical issues

Discussion in 'UFOs & Sightings' started by APIGuy, Apr 5, 2019.

  1. APIGuy

    APIGuy Independent Field Investigator

    We are working on some new training material for field investigators and skywatchers. This material will focus on photography ad videography and will be very much of the "how to" sort of thing, rather than much in-depth theory. So, I thought I'd share my notes here and invite comment, as well as encouraging you to share the results of your experiments.

    I am pretty obsessed with the problems of UFO photography and videography, and why we don't have better photographs and videos. I have my suspicions about what the problems are, but I'm not there yet. The encouraging thing is that bang/buck of today's cameras has improved a great deal - the performance you can get for $2000 now is far better than 10 years ago, and a huge leap ahead of 20 years ago, especially when adjusted for inflation.

    I think there are a couple of ways forward.
    1. Lots of experimentation, looking for solutions for capturing rare, fleeting events that can be quite distant. Experiments need to be conducted on all kinds of targets (planes, satellites, birds, drones, laser pointers, etc.) in all kinds of lighting and atmospheric conditions with various equipment and software solutions.
    2. Looking at the work of people who have to solve similar problems - in particular, wildlife and aviation photographers. There are folks who travel all over the western US with equipment so expensive you have to rent it in the hopes of getting a photo of the latest classified aircraft. Sometimes they succeed, but it isn't easy.
    So, feel free to share the results of your experiments, and I'll share mine. Also, any stories of failed UFO photography (I have one from the film era), would be of great interest to me.
    • Awesome Awesome x 1
  2. APIGuy

    APIGuy Independent Field Investigator

    Here's a failed attempt. This event was one of the ones that convinced me to start paying attention to UFOs, if only a little bit at the time.

    It was west central New Jersey - just northwest of Princeton - early evening on 20 August 1995, and I was heading home - driving West on 518 approaching Hollow Road. I saw bright orange orbs apparently just hanging in the sky not far away to my southwest. They looked quite close, and I had no idea what they were. I raced home along Hollow Road, ran into the cottage and got my 35mm Minolta, and waited for the orbs to reappear. They did - several times - sometime just one, other times two or three, and they seemed to be getting gradually more distant and dim, although in the same southerly direction. The attached image show the location and approximate line of sight.

    I shot until the roll was expended. When the waning gibbous moon rose, they stopped appearing. I went back inside, and to my horror, the film was Kodachrome 64 - a wonderful film for well-lit scenes, but hopeless in low light. Another, more egregious sin was that I shot with exposure on auto, as was my habit. I can't remember if I used a tripod or not - but I think I did. Anyway, I got a big nothing.

    Lesson learned - be prepared to go with manual exposure (manual focus was my only option, but infinity is easy), no matter how sophisticated a metering system you have. Of course, not many people shoot Kodachrome anymore.

    I still have that camera, but it's no longer functional. Minolta sold their photography business to Sony. I left New Jersey in 1996.

    Another lesson is, that instead of running home to get a camera, I probably should have chased the orbs. Now I always have my little Olympus Tough with me, as well as a monocular. I'm planning a Micro 4/3rds system, which should be light and small enough for EDC.


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