The Orb

Did international photographer George Hruby, accidentally capture on film, a true “Orb”?  Captured at an old medieval castle at night in Dordogne, France, this is the first time this story and its pictures have been released to the public.


In his own words ….



It wasn’t till about 2003 when I had first heard about “Orbs.”  As it was described to me, “Orbs” are small circular balls of light that cannot be seen with the naked eye.  They can only be seen on film or captured by a camera at night.  They are supposedly souls, or spirits of the deceased.  In the very least, energy that belongs to a spirit.  Of course, I did not believe in such things.

Despite this, I once had a friend invite me to go with him and his wife to a cemetery one night. It was for the purpose of taking pictures and hoping to catch some photographs of orbs floating around.  I, of course thanked him but declined the offer, wishing him well in their venture.

A week later, I saw him, and he was excited to show me several pics taken on his camera at this cemetery.  Believe it or not, there were in fact, numerous “orbs” in his pics.  At least he thought they were.  Circular balls of light.  Although I voiced my amazement that they had captured so many “orbs” on film, I knew what he and his wife (and many others around the world chasing orbs) had in fact captured on film.  They were not “Orbs” at all.  At least not in the context that they thought so.

A very good friend of mine who was a professional photographer and also owned a commercial photo-darkroom, agreed with me on what was in fact seen in these pictures.  All their pics had utilized a ‘flash’ of light from the camera.  And unbeknownst to many, there are many particles floating through the air.  Thus, at night with a flash illuminating the darkness, these particles are lit up.  They reflect light and so we see them on film.  We would not otherwise see them with the naked eye.  Depending on the relationship between the particle and the camera lens, the camera-flash, upon striking the particle, may receive the image back in a circular shape.  This has to do with the camera lens diffusing the light through mirrors as it is received back to the camera.

Today, if you google “Orbs,” Google will give you this definition:


“In photography, backscatter is an optical phenomenon resulting in typically circular artifacts on an image, due to the camera’s flash being reflected from unfocused motes of dust, water droplets, or other particles in the air or water. It is especially common with modern compact and ultra-compact digital cameras.”


When I googled the subject matter “Orbs,” it showed a lot of these same images that are purported to be “orbs.”  They are not.  They are particles in the air that reflect light from the flash.

However, people desperately want to believe in such things and, just as desperately, want to see them for themselves.  So, almost anything becomes an “orb.”

So, with this said, I now share with you a most interesting and true story about capturing a real orb on film.


* * *


In the Summer of 2012, I spent my Summer at an old medieval castle in Dordogne, France.  It is said that Dordogne is the land of over a thousand castles in its region.

This castle was dilapidated and in serious need of restoration.  I stayed in a very small part of it that had been restored.

This particular year, there was a unique stellular event that occurred.  There were two Super Moons that were to occur.  One at the beginning of Summer and the other, at the end.

A Super Moon is when the moon comes within its closest distance to earth and appears huge in the night sky as a full or new moon.

As a photographer, I thought this might make for some great shots of this old and ancient castle against the backdrop of this huge moon.

I chose an area just below the castle and outside its walls to set up my tripod and camera equipment.  Being well experienced in shooting at night, and at slow shutter speeds to capture the existing light, I knew that the slightest movement of the camera could cause a blurred effect.  So, I attached a cable-shutter release to the camera so that I did not touch the camera at all when taking shots.  I also made a point of shooting with absolutely no light.  No flash of any sort was used as I wanted to work with the existing light from the Super Moon only.

Having done this before, I shot a sequence of shots, shooting each frame about 120 seconds apart from each other as the moon rose up in the sky that night.

I had positioned the camera so that the moon was visible in the background of the castle, at a section where a fire in the early 20th century had destroyed the roof portion of that particular section of the structure.

This photoshoot went on Tuesday, May 12th, 2012.  I saw nothing unusual when taking the shots that night.  It was not until the end of that year, upon examining the pictures in the editing room, that I noticed something odd in the various frames.  It was a circular object of light and more interestingly, it showed movement both with and against the direction of wind (ever slight).

The reason I did the shoot without any light was that I did not want to contaminate the photographs with light issues.  For example, if you used a flash or other lighting in this type of photograph, it would like up particles in the air thus distracting from the main subject of focus.  In this case, it was the Super Moon and castle itself as my primary points of interest.

People who believe in “Orbs,” will mistakenly misidentify circular balls of light as orbs, when in fact, they are merely “backscatter” images being reflected by the flash into the lens from debris in the air.  Here is an example of this effect caused by flash.  This photograph was taken this very night from a few test shots before the actual shoot was started.  You can see a portion of the castle in the background.


Example of “Backscatter” taken this very night, utilizing a flash and thus, circular particles of light are seen from dust debris in the air.  Orb enthusiasts often misidentify these circular objects of light as “Orbs.”


The next 6 frames are shot approximately 2-3 minutes apart.  The tripod is never moved.  In between shots, the camera setting is adjusted to shoot at different exposure rates for different effects.  In the latter frames, the lens is slightly zoomed in on the castle and moon, as it rises.


Frame #1 – A self-illuminated object is observed on the right, just to the top left of the tall tree


By not using any light or flash source in these pics, illuminated objects became clearly visible.  In frame #1, we can see the moon and even stars, including two that are above the object, slightly to its left at the electrical wires.


Frame #1 – Closeup: The object seen just to the left of the tree top.


Frame #2 – The exposure setting is changed for effect but neither the camera or tripod have been moved. The object is now seen moving to the right of the tree.


Frame #2 – Closeup: A half-arc of light and following lines of light tend to give the appearance that the object is moving in a rightward direction.


Frame #3 – The object is clearly seen to the right of the tree.


Frame #3 – Closeup: The lighting effect around the object tends to indicate continued movement towards the right.


Frame #4 – In between frames 3 and 4, the tripod has been moved and centered on the moon and castle. Notice that now, the self-illuminated object moved to the left of the tall tree on the right.


By Frame #4, I could see in the editing room, the object had moved towards the portion of castle that had the roof missing and, where the moon was rising.  Unlike in the previous frames, the lighting around the self-illuminated object does not appear to show any movement in any direction now but rather, suspended in air exactly where it is at.  The streams of lighting surrounding the center ball of light form complete 360° circles around the core.  This was different from the previous photographs taken.


Frame #4 – Closeup of Object


A study of the object seen in Frame #4 shows the object is illuminated the most intensely at the very core.  It is then surrounded with gold light and its first ring which is wide and intense.  It is then surrounded by two large rings resembling something like the rings around Saturn.


Frame #5 – Despite that neither the camera or tripod have been moved at all, the object is moving lower down into the castle area where the roof is missing.


Frame #5 – Closeup:  Object is seen moving downward into the castle as the moon is rising in the sky


Frame #6 – Final frame in sequence: Suspected ‘orb’ object just to upper-right of moon and castle roof.


Frame #6 – Closeup: The object is observed moving farther downward from frame #5. Although it appears to be moving downward towards rising moon, is actually moving down into castle grounds.


The remarkable thing noted between frames No. 5 and No. 6 is that with the camera nor tripod being touched or moved at all, the moon is seen rising while the object is actually ‘moving’ in a downward direction.

In all, the object is photographed moving right, then left, and then down.  Any particle moving on the wind would be blown in one direction.  This object was moving in several directions.

It was noted that it stayed within proximity of the castle and never leaving it.

Still not aware that this object was in the pictures that I took; several months later, on Saturday, August 4th, I took a several shots of a second Super Moon.  I again shot this spectacle from the same area.

I shot only four pictures.  Two initially, and the other two at least five to ten minutes later.  Each two shots were shot at different exposure settings.  One setting allowing lots of light to be picked up by the camera and the second setting, restricting light.  This was done to produce a different effect with the image itself.

In all four fames now shown, the tripod and camera were never moved, and a cable shutter-release used on each shot.

In all four frames, the light from the moon and a room inside the castle (on right) are consistent throughout all four frames.  However, when the exposure setting is changed in frames No. 1B and 1C, the same object observed months earlier in May, now becomes visible.  When the exposure setting is changed back in frame No. 1D, it disappears.


Frame No. 1A – Super Moon begins its rise above castle. Light from window is seen to right.


Frame No. 1B – The unusual object is suddenly seen at the lower base of the same tree


Frame No. 1B – Closeup: the object or phenomenon as photographed August 4th, 2012.


Frame No. 1C – Approximately 10 minutes later, the object is seen staying in the same general location


Frame 1C – Closeup: A closeup view of the self-illuminated object outside the castle walls.


Frame No. 1D – The object is no longer visible


It was noted that in the August capture of this object, that it did not seem to move as it did so dramatically in the earlier shoot in May.

To this day, I have never been able to professionally explain this object.  I still cannot explain its source of self-illumination or, its movement in May but then in August, remaining in a stationary position.  The August shoot may have also shown that a required exposure setting is needed to allow it to be seen verse other settings.  If not, then it would tend to indicate the object was able to turn itself on and off with illumination, but I will leave that to others who are into this type of subject matter.

As a photographer, I merely wanted to share this story and set of pics so that others might be aware of it.

In closing, I had done several years of historical and archaeological research at this castle which may date back to the 11th or 12th century.  I have recovered ceramic pieces dating back to the 13th century there and, even one piece confirmed to be from Roman times at this location.

In all of my research, I have often theorized that a place of execution at this castle would most probably be below it, between its walls seen in front of my camera, and a water tributary that flows like a small river behind where the camera was situated.

Indeed, during medieval times, crimes committed in the castle’s reign of control, and worthy of execution if done, would be condemned or sentenced by the lord of the castle.  Thus, the execution would be carried out at an appropriate place.  Of four sides to this particular castle, this side photographed is the only side that gives a level ground.  It is also the only side whereupon if the lord wanted to witness the executions carried out, he could conveniently watch it from the castle wall or from one of the windows facing this side.  Those on non-nobility, who were condemned to die, were usually executed outside of the Castle walls.

It is interesting to note that the object seems in both shoots, to be seen in close proximity of the tall tree seen in all of the frames.  The tree lies in my suspicion, of where the castle’s place of execution might lie.


George Hruby