THE ORB DILEMMA (PART 2)  Why do some orbs appear to display color?        Here we need to talk about light. Nothing more, nothing less. When white light (or any light of only one color) travels through any transparent object that does not have matching sides or edges, the light is broken down into its many basic components (i.e., colors). This is how rainbows are formed - drops of water act like a giant prism, breaking up light into individual colors of the spectrum. In the case of colored orbs, the transparent object  (dust) accomplishes the same thing. Additionally, something called moire (more-ay) patterns - wherein a grid is overlaid against another can result in an object being portrayed as a single color. Digital cameras with higher megapixels show more detail, and this higher resolution can produce this effect.  This goes a long way into explaining why you capture so many colored orbs.        Incorrect white balance, or the temperature of certain colors in a digital photograph, can also lead to color manipulation. Here is an excellent explanation of white balance and how it can adversely affect digital photography.        This is a more common example of a transparent object breaking light down into its essential components: a soap bubble.          In professional photographic terminology, the colors associated with orb photographs fall into the larger category of "artifacts," which - in the case of cameras - are errors in the perception or representation of visual information caused by the equipment being used. In the case of digital photography, this is pixelization. Another term to be aware of is "purple fringing", or the appearance of what seems to be a purple-colored haze around the outside edge of the orb. An image taken against a sharply contrasting background (i.e., dark to bright) will at times result in this something like this:        Many people have a strong belief that various orb colors are based on "moods" or "auras" that surround the spirit. This is a strong indicator of their own individual belief system, which - while very important and a vital aspect of anyone's being - may not take any of these mitigating factors into consideration. Why is there such a focus on orbs these days? Is this a new phenomenon?          Hardly. In fact, up until a few years ago, orbs were predominantly the sole property of UFO enthusiasts who were certain these balls of light somehow signaled the presence of extraterrestrial biological entities who had come to visit our planet. Orbs were theorized to be anything from miniature spacecraft belonging to a diminutive race of aliens to spy probes sent by curious inhabitants of a distant galaxy.        What really started the orb craze among paranormal devotees was the advent of the digital camera. When they first appeared on the market almost 20 years ago, they were a less- expensive alternative to existing film cameras. There was no film to purchase or administer to, and they provided pictures without the delay associated with the developing process. For paranormal enthusiasts this was a boon in terms of cost and time.        The problem for a number of years was these older digital cameras had pixelization issues, wherein the camera would in essence fill in gaps in the photos, thereby creating what appeared to be spots or orbs in the photo. Also, the closer proximity of the built-in flash to the lens decreased the angle of light reflection to the lens, resulting in an increased reflection of light off solid particles, creating "backscatter" - which, in photographic terms, is what orbs are. The big issue in terms of this whole mess is that digital cameras display a penchant for losing detail in under and over-exposed areas. Here is a very good example of the difference between shooting an allegedly haunted location with digital (left) and 35mm (right) cameras submitted by the Australian Ghost Hunters Society.          Newer models of digital cameras with higher resolution (6 megapixels or greater) have eliminated much, but not all, of this, and modern advances in digital photography now provide sharper, clearer pictures than ever before. In fact, today's advanced digital technology provides a vast array of advantages to its user: Re-doing a photo immediately if you don't like the result and eliminating photos you choose not to keep are just two small examples of the advantages available.        One of long-standing advantages of film is that the negatives can always be referenced in terms of legitimizing the photo. This wasn't always the case with digitals. In fact, with the arrival of graphics editing programs like Photoshop it became easy to manipulate any digital photo to the degree that forgery would be almost imperceptible except to those with a solid background in forensic photography. This changed with the development of Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) data. This data is attached to each digital photo and can be read in editing software. It essentially acts like a negative for digital photos inasmuch as it records exposure information (f-stop, shutter speed, whether a flash was used) as well as if the photo was somehow altered by another program (like Photoshop). This, for all intents and purposes, is the digital negative and is vital for analysis.        A DSLR camera is always a good choice. Much of this naturally depends on what you are able to spend. I never suggest that anyone go broke investigating the paranormal. An affordable digital camera may not have all the bells and whistles you would like, but one with the best quality you can afford should do the trick. It is therefore vitally important that you understand all possible scenarios I've outlined above when using it during investigations. A lower-end camera should not mean you have to compromise your investigation by being fooled by that camera's limitations.        Don't mess around with digital zoom. This is something that can be done on a computer when you upload your pictures. Don't pay extra for this. Your picture resolution is compromised when you use it anyway.        If you're buying a more compact model, get one with at least 6-megapixel resolution. Make sure the photo size is set as high as possible. You want to be certain it's using all those megapixels and not simply the default setting; this will result in much higher quality pictures. Will cameras with a higher number of megapixels eliminate orbs? Probably not, but they may reduce them to some degree. Is there any such thing as a legitimate photo of an orb? Do they even exist, and how can you tell you have caught something genuine?          It is extremely rare that anyone takes a picture of something luminous that could also be seen with the naked eye. Common sense would tell you it's difficult to point and shoot as something appears and disappears in a fraction of a second. Sheer luck would have to play a huge part in that scenario. That being said, people have always witnessed strange globes and streaks of light. Being in the right place at the right time with a camera at hand is another story. I myself have seen weird light anomalies with my own eyes that defied any rational explanation. Are these spirits or ghosts? It's easy for the believer to say so, but proof may often somehow elude us. Eliminating all reasonable causes for these light anomalies, can one say it's paranormal? Certainly.        There is probably a rational explanation for 99 percent of orb photos taken. Frankly, that number may be a little low. If orbs are photographed in allegedly haunted locations, how does one explain capturing them in other, decidedly non-haunted places? Simply saying "Ghosts are all around us" does not begin to address the main issue, which is the simple fact that orbs can be reproduced quickly and simply by anyone caring to do so.        If you see an anomaly with the naked eye that emits its own source of light and in turn illuminates objects around it, you may be on to something. I have seen such a thing in the presence of three others who saw it as well. (Please note the glaring absence of a picture of said object.) There are also many instances of people seeing bouncing balls of light that have indeed been captured on film. These remain an enigma and the best possible evidence of something anomalous. One still has to ask: Is it a naturally-occurring environmental phenomenon or a sign from the spirit world? I think it's fair to say that everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe.        Barring someone coming forth saying they saw an object at the same time it was photographed and providing adequate documentation, I have no choice but to conclude that in all but the rarest of cases, orbs are easily explained away as nothing more than camera artifacts and tricks of light.        With all this being said, how does one use a digital camera to one's advantage during an investigation and ensure good-quality photographs?          First, let's talk about settings. It is probably best to have your camera on the "sport" mode. This will ensure a higher shutter speed, making it easier to get clear pictures of an object in motion. A slow shutter speed can really be a disaster as it most likely will result in any moving object leaving a trail behind it, which will no doubt lead you into a false positive scenario. Sport mode also is an advantage in low light and can compensate for camera shake. A DSLR camera is always a good choice. Much of this naturally depends on what you are able to spend. I never suggest that anyone go broke investigating the paranormal. An affordable digital camera may not have all the bells and whistles you would like, but one with the best quality you can afford should do the trick. It is therefore vitally important that you understand all possible scenarios I've outlined above when using it during investigations. A lower-end camera should not mean you have to compromise your investigation by being fooled by that camera's limitations.        Don't mess around with digital zoom. This is something that can be done on a computer when you upload your pictures. Don't pay extra for this. Your picture resolution is compromised when you use it anyway.        If you're buying a more compact model, get one with at least 6-megapixel resolution. Make sure the photo size is set as high as possible. You want to be certain it's using all those megapixels and not simply the default setting; this will result in much higher quality pictures. Will cameras with a higher number of megapixels eliminate orbs? Probably not, but they may reduce them to some degree.