A while ago I was in Devon staying with friends. The weather was wonderful with long, light evenings – the sun sets noticeably later than in London – and it was this that prompted me to try some late night photography. My friend, Claire, has been photographing orbs with remarkable results for some years now. I had always been only distantly interested in the whole phenomenon and bemused by the amount of writing on the subject; particularly the various spiritual functions attributed to orbs, which many scientists consider to be ‘backscatter’, or particle reflection from digital images made using a flash. To my surprise, I found photographing the night sky fascinating, even though orbs, for me anyway, are related to shamanism only in as much as everything is related, connected and ‘one’. One day soon I shall do a journey and ask my spirits about orbs and post the answers!
We took photographs on three consecutive nights on the land around my friends’ 17thC thatched house, Claire and myself and our two lurchers wandering gently over their meadow, lanes and large 18thC garden.
Although I have a general understanding of the scientific evidence regarding the causes of orbs, dust, other particles in the air etc., actually taking pictures over a period of time gave a distinct sense of there being more occurring than an simply-explained physical occurrence. I don’t mean by this that I felt any personal spiritual connection, I did not, but it struck me that if there is dust in the air one moment, then there is probably dust in the air a few seconds later too, though one photograph will show nothing at all, while the next shows hundreds of pale, semi-transparent discs, or brilliant, ‘moving’ objects. Other semi-scientific theories regarding orbs include it’s similarity to ball-lightening and objects in several of my own pictures do have some resemblance to photographs of this electrical phenomenon, which until recently was considered by scientists to be nothing more than a photographic hoax but which has since been recreated under laboratory conditions,(which of course makes it real folks!). Interestingly one of the first recorded reports of ball-lightening occurred in Widecombe-in-the-Moor in Dartmoor, that same Widecombe for which Tom Cobley set out with the grey mare and all his mates. I also made a point of photographing a few scenes without a flash in order to see if there were any orbs and to my surprise, there were. The whole image was blurry from camera shake, but the orbs were clear; the opposite of using a flash, when the scene is clear but the orbs often appear to be moving.
The two ‘interactive’ sensations that I did experience while clicking away were quite different to each other. The first was when a range of different types of phenomenon appeared in the sky and across the grass. I started to smile because I’d been taking pictures for nearly an hour with limited results. Suddenly there were a lot of things to see. The more I smiled, the more orbs appeared, until I was laughing. Then quite suddenly there were none. The second sensation was actually seeing the orbs through the view-finder prior to pressing the shutter. It occurred to me that staring through a view finder then peering at the LCD screen had imprinted light shapes on my retina, but I realised that where I saw the orbs before pressing the shutter were indeed where they appeared in the final image.
So, after all that, what about orbs? Does photographing them provide any clarity about what they are, what causes them, or what, if any, function they have? The answer is ‘no’.
What was clear however, was that spending time on warm evenings, in a beautiful location, with good company, human and animal, while photographing Nature, was wonderful and also fun. Whatever interesting things turned up on the screen was just a great bonus.
Dr. Zoë Brân
Dr. Zoë Brân has worked with creativity for fifteen years and is the author of eight books, which include travel literature, guides to sexuality, and fiction. Zoë was a Writer in Residence at London’s University of the Arts from 2004-2008 and lectured in both Creative Thinking and Travel Writing at City University in London. As a travel writer and journalist Zoë travelled extensively, focussing on troubled areas of the world such as Burma, Bosnia and most recently, Cuba. She has been a speaker, teacher and presenter at conferences, academic institutions, charitable organisations, companies and businesses and has worked with media on topics as diverse as AIDS – the subject of her doctorate – sexual behaviour, Vietnam and shamanism. She has appeared on BBC TV and national and local radio, including ‘Panorama’ and ‘Woman’s Hour’. Currently director of Shaman UK, Zoë has been involved with Core Shamanism since 1998 and is one of the UK’s leading practitioner/educators. She offers one-to-one shamanic counselling and healing and leads shamanic seminars and workshops on a range of subjects, including: Sex and Gender, Death, Soul Retrieval. Her weblog is among Europe’s foremost resources for contemporary shamanic practice and has a worldwide readership. Zoë lives in London with her lurcher, Arlu.
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