Sunday, 4 August 2013

More on the Jennifer Bruce Photograph

I would now like to revisit this famous monster photograph in the light of feedback. Not surprisingly, I got a spectrum of responses to my original article ranging from agreement to disagreement. It surprised me that some still insisted it was a seagull (or any bird for that matter) despite the logical arguments I put up against this idea.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I doubt anyone could argue that my analysis on the bird question is an indefensible position. I suspect there may be a degree of resistance to a non-bird argument perhaps because some may see that as an implicit admission that the object in the picture is therefore a "Loch Ness Monster".

That is not a logical consequence. What I am saying is that it is not a bird, so another explanation should be sought. That does not compel one to select "monster", although that is a valid position to take (as I do). A choice of "inconclusive" is also quite acceptable. So it is not a choice between "gulls and gullibility" as one researcher once put it, but rather taking it to the next stage.

In defending the weakened gull argument, one comment suggested the bird may be banking to distort the shape. This I cannot agree with as banking would tend to foreshorten the length of the wing compared to the body. The problem we have with this alleged bird is that the wing length is way out of proportion to the length of the body.

The only way I could see such wing "stretching" taking place is via a mirage or heat haze. However, I see no possibility of such an idea in this picture. Feel free to attempt such a defence and I will reply.

However, one comment I will "focus" on for the rest of this article and that is the blurriness of the object.  Look at the object and you may notice it looks a bit fuzzy. This is offered as proof that it is a bird in flight from left to right. Now apart from the reasons given why this is not a bird, let us look closer at why the image could have this degree of fuziness.

There are several possible reasons for this. The first is that the overall image is slightly out of focus. The second is that there is some form of motion relative to the scene and the observer. This could either mean the camera is moving slightly during exposure or the object is moving relative to the observer. There may be other causes but we concentrate on these two.

So which of these could account for the slight fuzziness? To help answer this question, I employed an image processing software package called "FocusMagic" which has received good reviews for improving images with focus issues due to defocus or motion blur.



The parameters required to execute an image clean up are somewhat heuristic as we don't know the conditions under which the photograph was taken. So the first trial was to employ the package's focus filter which attempts to restore the image due to out of focus issues. I employed a blur width of 2 and an amount of 100% which gave the result below.



The result was actually quite impressive and certainly sharpened up the image. In fact, the main thing I noted after processing was that the entire picture suffered from a degree of defocusing. Note how the buoys to the right and the foreground foliage have also sharpened up as well as the distant trees on the contours of the hills.

This would suggest the fuzziness is due to a general problem with the image rather than the object of our main interest. However, if we assume a bird flying from left to right, then we can proceed to apply the package's motion blur compensation filter. After some playing around with parameter values, I plumped for a blur width of 4 and a direction of zero degrees (left to right). The result is below.



Again, there is an improvement not only in the Nessie object but for the picture overall which again is consistent with the motion being relative to the whole scene rather than just our object. Indeed, if it was only the object that was moving, applying a motion blur filter to the whole image would not be helpful as everything else is relatively stationary. In both filters, the circular ripple I suggested is moving out from the object is also that bit clearer.

However, it is to be noted that the refocus filter produced a better result than the motion blur filter, which again is consistent with the fuzziness problem being camera related rather than scene related. I would also again point out that the "bird" in all images has not resolved itself into a more bird-like image. It is still deformed and inconsistent with bird morphology.

If the object is zoomed in and isolated from the general scene, various motion blur filters were then applied for various angles (below and click to enlarge). As it turned out, none really produced as good a result as the refocus filter.




What does all this prove? It suggests to me that any blurriness on the photograph is a whole image issue rather than one related to the object. That does not mean there cannot be independent movement in the object, but that could be applied to both a monster or bird scenario. Indeed, motion blur is something that is seen on at least one other Nessie photograph - the Hugh Gray picture from 1933.

If this was a Loch Ness Monster and it was briefly in view, then one would expect some motion as it rises and falls back into the depths. What the progress of that motion could be is entirely a matter of conjecture. It could rise and fall vertically or it could be a 45 degrees descent which would have a large component of horizontal motion. The sinusoidal nature of the neck could also contribute additional motion on top of rising/submerging to produce a complex array of motion vectors.

My own conclusion is that we are not seeing individual object motion blur consistent with a left to right movement but rather consistent with camera shake or a slightly out of focus image. That there may yet be some motion inherent in the object is conceded but that is an argument that cannot be hijacked by either side concerning this mystery object photographed by Jennifer Bruce those thirty years ago.

POSTSCRIPT

A comment from a reader below suggested a seagull in the original post bore a resemblance to the Bruce "bird":

"You'll see a small silhouetted gull on the upper right of the photo, below and right of the big gull at the top. That figure almost exactly matches the figure in the 'nessie' photo."

I superimposed the gull in question as before:



Though these is a foreshortening of the top joint of the wing, the net effect is to foreshorten the whole wing length and as you can see, the overlay is not convincing. To see a real overlay of a gull at Loch Ness, refer to Dick Raynor's picture here. I have overlaid the rightmost gull on our "test gull" and as you can see it is a good fit. Clearly, we have a gull in that particular picture!


 


36 comments:

  1. Can we address the fact that Jennifer Bruce claimed NOT to have seen a "Nessie" until she had the photo developed...?

    This suggests that:

    1. She didn't see "Nessie" because "Nessie" flew momentarily in and then out of view, rendered invisible through a small and (by today's standards) primitive viewfinder.

    or

    2. "Nessie" was in this case a psychic phenomenon, given Campbell's (frustratingly ambiguous) statement that Bruce was "calling" the monster, or willing it to appear.

    If you choose to accept neither 1 nor 2, can you please discuss how neither Bruce nor her traveling companions noticed a large sea serpent rearing sinuously over the waters of the bay in broad daylight?

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    1. First you have to prove the object is a bird flying past. If you can't, your points are pointless.

      The burden of proof is now on you to prove it is a bird.

      I addressed your points in the original article about JB not seeing anything (although the original information does not explicitly state that).

      Campbell's so called psychic comments need some corroboration before proceeding further.

      The explanation is simple, the creature only briefly appeared and submerged again. You expect Nessie to always stay up long enough to be seen? Her colleagues were looking elsewehere at the time. Impossible? No more than a very deformed seagull flying around.




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    2. I'm not arguing that it's a bird -- I'm simply asking what's more likely: that a photographer and her companions would fail to see a small bird darting in and out of view as it swooped past, or a large Water Kelpie surfacing and arching its back before diving again? As your analysis shows, if it's indeed a "Nessie," then it's certainly not small enough to go undetected!

      I think this is less a question of proving a photograph of a sea serpent than it is an exercise in common sense.

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    3. "The Bruces do not claim the picture shows Nessie, but do insist that it is not a hoax."

      Where have we heard THAT before?

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  2. As one person also previously suggesting a blurred flying object (bird), is that considering there is some sunlight creating specular highlights over the surface of the water and the buoy, that a wet skinned object would've create the same but there is none.

    Jon

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    1. I am not so sure about that. The buoys are reflecting because of their high albedo. The comparison picture taken in 1979 shows very light coloured buoys. If the object in the picture is dark, it will reflect considerably less.

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    2. Most black surfaces will be reflective because most have a reflective sheen to them. Having been a commercial photographer I can attest to that. Heck, I'm sitting here in my living room with a black tolex covered guitar amp reflecting the outside ambient daylight off of it so you'd think it was otherwise a very light grey surface.
      Movie makers always wet down streets to make them highly reflective. A wet 'creature' would've certainly made some sort of highlights

      jon

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    3. Well, there may be reflection there but how much are you expecting based on the presumed 3D shape of the object and would it be visible in such a picture?

      The sun is nearly behind the camera so the object should be in a near silhouette.

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    4. "The sun is nearly behind the camera so the object should be in a near silhouette."

      Umm, the castle is due south of Temple Pier. How often is the sun in the north?

      Also, a silhouette is formed where the light is behind the subject, not behind the camera, when I was at school :-)

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    5. Typo - I meant "behind the object". Thanks.

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  3. If the lady taking the photo saw nothing at the time it seems quite a coincidence that the object is fairly central to the picture, certainly on the horizontal plane. And if the object was absent it would be quite a non descript picture. If the height of the object is 5 feet, then from previous sightings one would expect there to be a considerable bulk of animal just below the surface but there does not appear to be much if any disturbance around the object. Indeed it seems to have an almost etheral quality although that could be due to the blurring you mention. I must admit I find the (albeit tainted) Surgeon's photo more convincing than this.

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    1. One could also argue even a seagull covering the same field of view could not be missed (not that the object is a gull ....)

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  4. Humans field of vision is very narrowly focused at any time although you are not necessarily conscious of it. It is well known physiological and psychological fact.

    I can guarantee you, as someone who has spent many years looking through viewfinders, that you do not take in the entire view but that your eye will jump around focus only on small sections at a time. A bird flitting across the scene could very easily go unnoticed.

    I do so want there to be a loch ness 'monster', but unfortunately all we have (except for perhaps the dinsdale film) are grainy, out of focus unidentified blobs and hoaxes.

    Jon

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    1. Jon:

      The fact that you "do so want there to be a Loch Ness Monster" may account for your suggestions as to why the pphotographer inexplicably didn't see "Nessie." Just a thought.

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    2. Hi ekm.

      Maybe it's because I just woke up but I'm not following you, lol. My bad. Please elaborate.

      Also, if you look at the second grouping of gulls that Roland posted in the original article (link to picture: http://www.cepolina.com/photo/nature/animals/birds/seagull/flock-gulls/4/seagulls-flight-freedom.jpg)

      You'll see a small silhouetted gull on the upper right of the photo, below and right of the big gull at the top. That figure almost exactly matches the figure in the 'nessie' photo.

      Just because you have many gull photo's that don't match the 'nessie' one, you can't therefore claim its impossible. The real possible angles that can result, combined with motion blur, is very high.... hence 'nessie'. Plus you may have the illusion of some bit of wave shadow or highlight combining with the blurred bird to make your brain want to see more than whats there.

      Realize too, (especially if the camera was a slr) that the mirror flipping up at moment of exposure is plenty of time for a bird to be captured and go totally unnoticed

      Jon

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    3. Jon, your observation has been added as a postscript to the article.

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    4. Thanks GB, noted.

      Again, at the risk of repeating myself, because none of your handful of gull pics do not exactly match the 'nessie' image is no proof in that the image taken by Jennifer Bruce would be a totally unique one of a kind 'blurred gull' image. Of course there'd be none that'll fit perfectly, but there is enough of a resemblance to a bird in flight that having to say it must be nessie is a big stretch.

      As far as eyewitnesses go, I'm totally open to the possibility that some people saw something that was undeniable. There's Alistair Boyd famously for one, who says he witnessed a huge hump rolling over in the water.

      I tend to believe him and others. Problem is these sincere witnesses get lumped together with the mis-identifications and perhaps the tall tales told by some to keep the tourist trade alive. However, regardless of nessie rising up two feet in front of ones face, without some bit of proof it can be viewed as nothing but another anecdote

      Jon

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  5. Jon:

    Sounds like we're making the same argument.

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    1. Got ya.

      I've gone from a youngster believing 100% to my 50's disbelieving 90% but leaving 10% still open to the possibility. ;)

      Jon

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  6. Not argueing either way here but when I am out taking panoramas or scene shots with my camera, I rarely look at everything in the shot. I tend to be checking how it's framed - lighting - etc. I could easily have taken this shot and not noticed this - nessie or bird or not.

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  7. To me GB there's too much 'living' detail about its 'neck' ie its seemingly living active sinuosity in relation to its environment almost as if its disporting itself in that position due to the movement of the air the action of the water and even as if to avert its gaze from being slightly dazzled by the light.

    There's also shading and toning there hinting at some sort of muscularity as if it's having to flex different parts of itself to hold that pose.

    In other words it's not a solid static model or if it is it's been sculpted by Rodin or someone with real high level flair.

    But that also allows for another possibility it now occurs to me of say some sort of large model ship with a real fabric sail that's producing all of the effects outlined above but by the sail billowing at such an angle the illusion's been created for one brief moment of a sinewy sinuous neck writhing.

    My money's on something living though.

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  8. Is there more than one buoy out from shore? In your first article I was inclined to believe that something odd was photographed out in the water beyond the buoy.

    The first picture cleaned with Focus Magic immediately looked like a gull about ¾ between the photographer and the buoy when I opened it up. I’m wondering if there is another buoy beyond the one to the right of the object that the once formed the “head” of the creature in the original photo. I got curious enough to use Google maps and it looks like maybe that “head” is could be a buoy in fact it looks like there is a third buoy at the very left edge of the photo. The satellite pictures show multiple that could form a string like that; however, you have would have to know where the photographer was to match things up. The “head” also seems to have a different density than the “neck” or “gull” which seems to have blur.

    Very interesting, thanks for the Focus Magic link too.

    Lyall

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    1. You're right. Looking at GB's enlargement above of 'nessie' with a gull superimposed, the blob that appears to be the head seems to be a separate object. Instead of another buoy though, I'm thinking just a dark patch of rippled water that you can also see all over the place. Its a bird, gull or otherwise, that happened to be captured at a spot where either buoy or dark water patch gives the overall shape the appearance of a head.

      Jon

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    2. I can see a break of some description in the image but the continuity and form of the whole image suggests to me it is a defect in the image processing rather than two seperate objects are in view.

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  9. Motivated Adventurer22 August 2013 22:34

    GB, thanks for posting the results of the deblurring. I might need to invest in some of that technology, my shots tend to be a bit blurry, even when on auto. (I prefer manual but I'm still new to cameras bigger than a point and shoot. Also my SLR's auto focus is derping)
    I do see how even if the "head" and the "neck" are separate objects that it would not match any of the supplied bird images. I have not found any bird image that matches it either, honestly I have not looked for one. Also the "neck" does appears to be too thin to be a wing. But, if this is a wing being silhouetted, we may not see the whole width due the whole light refraction/defraction/physics stuff (It's been a few years since high school. As long as you understand what I mean, I am happy).
    However I still am not certain that the object in question is on the water. It seems the object is closer to the camera than the water which would account for the it seeming to be more blurry than the waves surrounding it.
    Could perhaps be a spec on the lens that had not been noticed? I've done that a few times (granted, the object does seem pretty dense, making dirt on the lens less plausible than a light de-refracted string theory bird).
    Also hard to reconcile is the lack of water disturbance near the object. Like I said before, I see the large ripple, but no other disturbance. I might be seeing that ripple because I'm looking to see it and wanting to see it.
    But on the other hand, if this is in fact Nessie, which would be cool, who's to say she can't swan dive without a splash? The object does indeed look streamlined whatever it is.

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    1. The issue for scepticism is Occam's Razor. A bird flying past is a simple explanation and fulfills Occam. But if further examination reveals issues and further sub-explanations have to be layered on top of the original proposal, then at what point do you discard the original theory and go and look for another one?

      I don't think that question has been properly answered by sceptics. They just keep adding on more band-aids!

      As for ripples. Clearly, the disturbance will be proportional to the speed of ascent as well as the surface area of the head-neck pushing the water away. A small head-neck will produce less ripples than a hump and the pole like head-neck sometimes reported even less.

      My own take is that if it was a Nessie, the neck could ascend as a straight erect structure but then "flop" or slightly collapse as it relaxed or prepared to submerge post-exposure.

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    2. Motivated Adventurer28 August 2013 23:09

      The object being Nessie is also a simple explanation. I just saw a few flaws and want to explore other options before completely dismissing them. Especially since I saw those difficulties with the Nessie theory I have mentioned, those being the lack of focus and the apparent lack of water disturbance. I thought of other possibilities and presented them.
      Occam's Razor is a tool, not a rule. Sometimes the harder to explain or accept answer is the truth.

      As for what part, if it is the real deal, of Nessie this depicts I agree with you. I have been following your blog since I read about it on Cryptomundo. It makes more sense the a giant eel in this case.

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  10. Interesting photo. It is worthy of study and more interesting than the obvious boat wake photos of recent and the mcnab old hat.

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  11. It really has to be a bird...sorry. It is much closer than any other object in the frame, and it is moving rather fast - it is a flying bird, after all. Since the lens is focused on the castle yards and yards away (OK meters and meters) of course something as close and fast as this bird will leave a very distorted image. I've seen low light/long aperture shots that produce ghost like images, including a great one where a body appears headless...but if you know the conditions under which the photo was taken, and what the actual point of the photo was, these mysteries solve themselves.

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    1. Sorry hopkama, wrong shape for a bird.

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    2. It has that shape due to distortion - the castle and hills - the subject of the photo - are in focus. Even with a only slightly longer than normal exposure any object inside the focal range and moving quickly through it will not appear "normal". If the bird was moving down while flying I don't see why that image could not be attained. Add in the fact that no one saw anything unusual and there is just not much to support this photo as being of a lake monster.

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    3. I don't agree. If a long exposure time could produce such a dramatic effect in the vertical plane on the alleged wing, we should also see a similar dramatic effect on the gull body (i.e. it would also extend by a similar amount in the vertical plane). No such effect is visible.

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  12. I just saw a photo on facebook which I don't think I can post here, but I should be able to share on the Great Loch Ness Debate page...it is pertinent to this discussion. Meet me over there in a little while...

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  13. The photo and comment is up on the Great Loch Ness Debate Facebook page - try under Posts By Others. My other problem with the Bruce photo being of something in the water is that there really isn't any indication that that thing is in the water. If that rather long neck had just been quickly thrust up there should be much more of a disturbance - moving that much neck out of the water and whipping it around to create that profile should not only something at the surface but there should be water falling off it and probably even flying off in all directions. What would happen if you were to stand up quickly while in a pool and contort your body like that then drop back under water? This object looks dry - not shiny and wet. I've been hoping for a Lake Monster to be found for 40 years, and I don't think this is one.

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  14. Here's another clue for you all - one more attempt to convince you this is a bird, based on something you wrote:

    "If a long exposure time could produce such a dramatic effect in the vertical plane on the alleged wing, we should also see a similar dramatic effect on the gull body (i.e. it would also extend by a similar amount in the vertical plane). No such effect is visible."

    Sorry, but I have to disagree with that. Yes, the wings are attached to the body, which is moving across the frame. But the wings themselves are also moving, so of course the wings would be more distorted than the body they are attached to. Add a small amount of camera movement, probably due to a slightly longer exposure, and you have the image in the Bruce photo.

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    1. Thw moving wings may be more distorted as they move up and down, but that would not extend the apparent length of the wing in the picture. Also why is the so called wing joint not all over the place in the image as a result of the wing movement? It would also move up and down.

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