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.
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!