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How to Photograph a UFO

You're on a family outing. The day is clear and cloudless. Suddenly an unusual silvery disc, traveling at a high rate of speed catches your attention. Adrenaline pumps through you as you realize you are seeing an unearthly object. The speed of your breathing increases. Your blood pressure rises. You raise your shaking hands to shade your eyes from the bright sunshine.

Questions begin to flood into your mind. What is this? How does it move that way? You try to announce your discovery to the world, but you can't speak. Quickly you rummage through your backpack, extract your video camera, point it in the general vicinity of the Unidentified Flying Object and press record.

The small black and white viewfinder of the camera makes it difficult to find the streaking disc in the clear blue sky, especially with the sun pouring into the camera lens.

Hours pass before you get home and connect the camera to a television. Once all the wires are in place you rewind the video and begin playback. The picture is jittery and white from sunflares.

There is one consolation: you aren't alone. I've been on a stakeout under a volcano in Mexico where objects have appeared and I became so fascinated by the turns and angles of their flight that I absolutely forgot I had a camera in my hand. And we aren't alone. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are attempting to take photographs or videos of unknown aerial objects with little success.

For reasons known only to them, UFOs don't seem to want to hang around waiting for us to remember to remove the lens cover, open the color viewing screen, position the shot out of the direct sun or, in general, recover from the initial shock of the sighting. If these unknown objects would stop and pose for our still or video cameras, we could take perfect pictures and maybe learn much more about them. But, until that time, here are a few rules of thumb to follow, especially when using a video camera. They are specific for filming an unknown, but basic to any good daylight photograph.

  1. Try to rationally identify the object. Is it an aircraft? A blimp? A balloon? If you can't determine what it is, take a deep breath and realize there will be ample time later to question the nature of the object.

  2. Make certain the lens cover is removed. If you have a viewing screen, use it inside.

  3. Positioning the camera is important. Never point the camera directly toward the sun as the intensity of the light will prevent a good shot. If at all possible use a tripod or some solid stationary object to steady the shot.

  4. Once you have identified the UFO in the viewfinder or viewing screen, take a deep breath, collect your thoughts and press record.

  5. As you record the object on video, one of the most important things you can do is to verbalize what you are experiencing.

What are you seeing? What does the object look like? Is it a sphere, a disc, a top? What are its flight characteristics? Can you estimate the rate of speed? Does it stop and go? Does it reverse direction in mid-flight? Does it seem to bobble or is its flight smooth? Can you estimate the distance between you and the object? What direction are you facing? What direction is it flying? Are there any other aircraft in the area? Does it pass behind a cloud or a mountain or a manmade object, like an apartment building? Be silent for a moment, is there any sound? If the object is close, how are animals, like birds, reacting? How are you reacting? What are you feeling?

Once the event has ended and the object is long gone, interview yourself while the experience is fresh in your mind.

Taking photographs or videos at night is different. A night scope or starlight lens is very beneficial, but if you don't have access to one, use the above rules and one more: hold your thumb at arms length, positioning it next to the unknown. This allows you estimate the size based on an average thumbnail. Is it half the size, bigger than or just a small little dot in the sky.

There is a more expansive aspect to sighting an unknown if you are a member of a Skywatch group, like Los Vigilantes in Mexico or Skywatch in Phoenix, Arizona. Begin filming by using the guidelines above, then call or have someone place a call to another member that is across town. Have that person locate the object and call another member in a different area of the city. This provides triangulation and an estimation of size. (It is important to note your location, the direction you are facing and the direction the object is traveling.) At the end of the event each person that participated in the sighting/filming should write a brief description of what was experienced for later comparison.

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