An orb photographed in Halifax Public Gardens

William C. Treurniet, August, 2011

The following photos were taken while wandering through the Halifax Public Gardens around 6:30 PM on Aug 10, 2011. The one on the left shows a relatively large white spot just above the grass in the foreground. The spot was seen on the camera's LED display, and the photo on the right was taken seconds later. The sky was overcast and a gentle drizzle of rain was falling. It was dark enough that the camera's flash was automatically employed.

The original higher resolution photograph can be seen by clicking on the picture.


A white spot, often called an orb, is seen now and then in photos taken with a flash, and is the subject of considerable speculation. Some orbs are undoubtedly caused by the flash being reflected by dust particles (e.g., see here and here). However, others are not as easily explained. For example, here is a case where an orb seems to be projecting light onto its surroundings.

The image in the right panel above was taken as a control picture about 11 sec after the orb was photographed. No orb is seen here even though roughly the same scene is covered. This shows that the light spot persisted for less than 11 sec.

In the slightly enlarged cropped image below, a blurred tail clearly extends below the orb. This might suggest that it had an upward motion. The tail cannot be due to camera movement, since other bright spots in the scene do not show the same effect. However, another explanation is offered here. A rain drop falling immediately in front of the camera can produce an image of an elongated dot when illuminated with a flash. The intensity of the flash decreases exponentially, so the drop reflects less and less light as it falls. So reflection of the camera flash from a raindrop is a possible explanation for the orb in the photograph.


Although the above control photo does not show the bright orb seen in the initial photo, it does appear to show another anomaly. The space adjacent to the tree in the foreground, just beside the earlier position of the orb, appears lighter than in the orb photo. Both photos are enhanced below to accentuate the differences.


The anomaly in the control photo appeared during the 11 sec when the orb disappeared. It is tempting to infer a causal connection between the orb and the more ethereal display that followed. Another ghostly, perhaps similar, effect was photographed by Claire O'Regan on Sept 4, 2010, at 7:23 PM. The flash fired as well when this photo was taken.


The left panel shows the original photo, the middle panel shows this image slightly enhanced, while the right panel shows an ethereal figure cropped from the original photo and enhanced. The figure peering out from behind the tree might be just a chance arrangement of vegetation of varying brightness. Here there are no before or after photos to determine if this is so, but the above photos from Halifax Public Gardens suggest that such ethereal effects can be independent of the background.