Monday, July 22, 2013

The Solway Firth Spaceman

What:  A photograph of a young girl, apparently showing a space suited figure, or something similar, in the background.

Basics:  The photograph was taken by Jim Templeton on 23 May, 1964.  Mr. Templeton took the photograph of his daughter at Burgh Marsh, close to Burgh by Sands, Carlisle in Cumbria, near the Solway Coast.  According to some accounts Templeton used a Kodak SLR camera with KodaColor X film; camera settings were quoted as f/16 and 1/100 of a second shutter speed; no information on the lens seems to be available, but a guess of 50 mm would probably be accurate; there is no mention of fill flash.  The photograph was developed by Kodak.

Myth:  When the photographs were returned to Mr. Templeton there appeared to be either a space suited figure, or an alien, standing behind his daughter; Mr. Templeton claimed not to have seen the figure when he took the photograph.  The photograph has been shown extensively by UFO and Alien Encounter believers as proof that the Burgh Marsh area has some "space-time displacement" that allows non-Earth beings to be captured on film, while not being visible to the human eye.

Investigation:  While much has been written about this particular incident, and we congratulate Burgh by Sands on capitalizing on this photograph, we choose to look at it as a skeptic.  As a skeptic the first question I would like to ask is "Why do so many people believe that a standard digital or film camera can capture images invisible to the human eye"?  With that said, let's move on to the photographs:
The Solway Firth Spaceman Photo
Photo with Mother in frame
The second photo is much more interesting to me; due to the direction of the sun, the shadow to the girl's right (your left) cannot be from the father; his shadow would be behind him, and out of frame to the bottom-right.  The shadow could be from a fourth person, their vehicle, or some other unknown object; there is nothing to prove that this is the shadow of something they could not see.

Now, moving on to the photos that I have marked up:
First, let us compare the area marked #1; this shows the collar of the sundress in the photo of the mother, along with her hair hanging forward of her shoulders.  At #2 we have the sleeve of the sun dress.  Also notice the gathered waist of the dress while she is kneeling.  All of these findings exist in the top photo of the "spaceman".  Notice also that the dress is a very light blue, that will wash out to white in the bright light.

Additionally, at "A" we see that the sun is from the girl's right and slightly forward, making her hair on the left side and back of her head very dark; this light and shadow carries through on the "Spaceman".  At "B" we see that the ground is blurry at any distance behind the girl, due to the depth of field (7.23' to 16.2' with given parameters), which places the "Spaceman" figure more than 16 feet behind the girl.

Some have tried to claim that the "Spaceman" is white due to heat, cold, or radiation.  This is not infra-red film; if a person was showing white hot on color film they would be setting fires around them; as to being covered in ice, they would not be standing there like that, and the white would be more uniform.  For those who want to claim the "Spaceman" only shows up due to being radioactive, well, that much glowing would not be limited to the body, but would wash out the entire roll of film!

Conclusion:  This is most likely the mother standing behind the girl after moving around a bit.  She is standing with her back to the camera, and is out of focus due to the depth of field.  She is illuminated by the sun, as seen from the shadowing on her right arm and head.  The dress is gathered at the waist making the outfit seem really tight, while the bright sun has washed out all of the mother to a mostly uniform white, due to the camera settings.

Alternately, if the extra shadow in the kneeling mother photo is another person, then this may be who has wandered behind the girl.  As to Mr. Templeton not seeing the "Spaceman" when he took the shot, I have no doubt; as an amateur photographer I have taken many photos where I was so focused on the subject that I failed to notice other items in the frame until the photos were returned.

I believe this is no more that a shallow depth of field camera setting with a washed out individual in the background!