Friday, 8 June 2018

The Photographic Problem


Take a look at the photo montage above. Do you believe all the pictures are of the Loch Ness Monster? If so, you are likely what they call a gullible believer. If you think none of them are of the Loch Ness Monster, you are likely a die hard sceptic, whether you say you are a believer or not. I say that because over 85 years and a swathe of good sightings, some of these will be converted into photographs or films. There will be a minimum greater than zero, if you say there are zero pictures, you are effectively saying there is no Loch Ness Monster (this is in distinction to the argument that there should be more pictures which I discuss elsewhere).

How do many people today sit with this logical tension? The answer is due to the assault on these pictures by a band of die hard sceptics dedicated to the task of debunking the Loch Ness Monster. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, most photographs purporting to be of the creature were passed through in a largely uncritical manner by Loch Ness researchers of the time. Or at the very least, they kept quiet about the ones they had reservations about.

Fast forward to the 80s and 90s and we see a form of historical revisionism as those who once believed but no longer believed, attempted to align these photographs and films with their new worldview. Theories were formulated to explain away such pictures in terms of boat wakes, birds, dogs or just plain fakery. Since this was a process which lacked a negative feedback loop, it grew into the bloated form of lazy scepticism we see today.

As we progress in the new millennium it is time for a new form of revisionism which is sceptical of the sceptics and the tools and techniques they employ. This blog has attempted that over the last eight years and one would like to think others are involved too. But what is the problem I allude to? I shall explain in general terms and then apply it to one specific photograph that has recently gained attention.

I titled this article after a chapter of the same name in Ted Holiday's 1968 book, "The Great Orm of Loch Ness". His problem concerned the difficulty of obtaining good photographs at the loch. This article is concerned with the ease of obtaining bad explanations of photographs. Let us start with the example of the Surgeon's Photograph. Prior to the expose by Alastair Boyd and David Martin, several sceptical explanations were offered to explain what had been photographed. We had an otter's tail, a water bird, the branch of a tree and a fake model.




Logically, of those four theories, at best three are wrong, at worst they are all wrong. It wasn't until the Boyd-Martin expose that we got to see who was swimming naked when the tide went out and it was the model theory that won. The other people, despite their detailed and convincing arguments were simply wrong. No doubt they had their followers, but it didn't matter how convincing they came across or the evidence they produced - they were as wrong as wrong can be.

Sadly that is the ongoing state of affairs with Nessie photographs. People make arguments which sound convincing, but may not actually add up to a hill of beans because no one can prove that is what actually happened. When people go around promoting their pet theory as if they had been there when it was being perpetrated, they should remember Burton's otter tail and Mackal's water bird.

Although hoaxes are normally undesirable events which tarnish the reputation of Loch Ness investigation, they do serve a useful purpose in testing the robustness of sceptical theorising. As we just saw with the Surgeon's Photo, if Boyd and Martin had not published, all four theories would have been considered as viable and plausible to this day.

Another chance to see who was swimming butt naked came with the George Edwards photograph of 2012 which was exposed as a fake fibreglass prop by Steve Feltham. Prior to this revelation, another local researcher, but die hard sceptic, had published his own mathematical analysis and concluded the object was 23 inches across above the water.

Without Steve Feltham, people would have concluded this other researcher had with the application of science, crafted an unassailable theory. How wrong they were as the actual exposed part in the water turned out to be 46 inches long. The mathematical wizardry was not 10% out or even 20% out, but 100% out. How many other sceptical theories are sitting pretty claiming they have solved this and that monster picture, but actually are as useful as a chocolate teapot?


THE FALSIFIABILITY PROBLEM

I will revisit this principle as we apply these thoughts to a recent sceptical analysis of a Nessie photograph from 2006, but I move onto another problem with scepticism and that is the problem of unfalsifiability. To put it in a nutshell, no matter what picture you put before sceptics, they will always find an explanation for it. This is a violation of the scientific principle of unfalsifiability which requires that any theory must require a test or experiment to disprove its viability.

To put it another way, if one asked a sceptic what kind of photograph would prove immune to any of their explanations, you may not get an answer. Even a close up picture of the monster, nostrils and all, may just elicit the response, "good CGI picture". I would go further and say that if a genuine picture of a large unknown creature was taken, we would get a raft of theories explaining why this is anything other than what is shows!

I ask you what use such a theory is if it always produces a sceptical result? It is of no use and is just a shell game. Now we know that photographs of misidentified objects and downright hoaxes exist and some kind of scrutiny needs to be applied to them. However, the problem is not so much the theory but the warped version of it applied in an unscientific and biased manner by certain people.

The final point I would make in this regard is how, once formulated, such explanations are handled in the context of Occam's Razor which states that the theory with the least assumptions should be accepted. Here some pseudo-intellectual pressure is applied when it is argued that since a sceptical theory requires less assumptions than a monster theory for a given picture then it should be given priority.

The problem here is that since it will be argued that a large creature in Loch Ness is a big assumption, then people will be led to always accept a sceptical theory over a monster one, even if they sound flawed. The flaws are papered over by invoking the "big assumption". The truth is that if a theory with less assumptions is flawed, then it is just as wrong.


DEGREES OF PROOF

Now I am not saying you cannot prove a photograph to be a hoax. This has been done in various ways. The first line of proof is participant confession. We had this with the Surgeon's Photo and Christian Spurling. I would prefer a corroborating confession and we got that with the 1975 newspaper article citing Ian Wetherell's confession and his part in it. Such confessions are few and far between in the Nessie world.

The second is physically direct evidence of fraud. There is no better example of this than Frank Searle's infamous 1976 "Brontosaurus" picture where it was obvious to even the most gullible believer that Frank had superimposed a silhouette from a contemporary postcard onto the waters of the loch.



That is the closest one gets to empirical facts, but after that the "facts" weaken and become more indirect and circumstantial. In other words, they become deductional rather than empirical. At that level of proof, we have Anthony Shiels' infamous 1977 Nessie picture. Unlike Frank Searle, we have no model and no confession that he faked this photo. However, we have a taped confession of Shiels discussing how to fake sea serpent photographs and a confession that he faked a multi humped object in, ironically, Loch Shiel (below).




That is indirect evidence rather than direct evidence, but the waters begin to get murkier after this. One favoured mode of what is called indirect evidence is inconsistency of eyewitness testimony. This is a very contentious area of analysis which attempts to find contradiction in a testimony such as a time or a place. For example, the witness may say he was in such a place when the photo suggests he was elsewhere. They may say the event happened at such a time when the photo suggests the sun was in the wrong place for such a time.

Sceptical interpretations will seize on these apparent discrepancies and say "It looks like they lied about this, so how can we trust them on the actual photograph?".  But it has been demonstrated that such an approach can often be ambiguous and easily challenged.

When a photograph of a curious fin like object in Loch Ness was published back in 2016, the aforementioned researcher who erred with the Edwards hump declared he did not think it was taken at Loch Ness (due to the lack of background hills) and was likely a dolphin. When Steve Feltham produced the uncropped picture, the insinuation that the photographer was lying was retracted and the dolphin transformed into an osprey. But what if there had been no background hills, the sceptic's almost dogmatic pronouncement would have seemed important.

Likewise, the same researcher took the Lachlan Stuart photograph to task because he claimed the sun was visible above Urquhart Bay which would have been impossible if Stuart had taken the picture when he claimed. However, comparison shots done by myself showed that the bright patches were easily reproduced by clouds above Urquhart Bay reflecting light from the sun when it is on the opposite side of the loch. Again, a dogmatic decree becomes an easily challenged opinion.

The examples could go on as the analysis dilutes to the point where empirical fact goes from deduction and onto pure speculation. Example of speculation include objections that the testimony of the photographer does not sound right. By that one may produce objections such as "why did he do that instead of this" or "why did he not do that instead of this". Such low levels of analysis do not need empirical or deduced facts and are especially useful to debunkers when the person is no longer around to answer and silence is taken to mean guilt.

These are the levels of analysis and they are quite legitimate to use so long as one recognises their relative strengths, the problem arises when there is no one to cross examine them when the researcher is preaching to the converted.


THE REPRODUCIBILITY PROBLEM

Perhaps one of the biggest issues regarding investigation of cryptid images are reproductions. By that I mean experiments where investigators attempt to reproduce an original image using what they think were the original hoaxing ingredients. This has been attempted at various times over the decades with various famous pictures of the Loch Ness Monster.

Some examples will suffice. A few years back an attempt was made to reproduce the 1951 Lachlan Stuart photograph with its famous three humps and head. Since a Richard Frere had claimed that Stuart had confessed to him that hay bales and tarpaulin were used, these constituted the main ingredients for this particular experiment. It is important where possible, to use items which were readily available at the time with no modern contrivances involved.

The results were arguable for reasons I laid out in my response to that staging. The bales did not look like the triangular peaked humps of the original and there was no third hump reproduced raising questions as to whether a third bale would have sunk, bringing the whole experiment into question.

The Tim Dinsdale film has also had the reproduction rule run over it with distant boats being filmed with an original Bolex cine camera and film back in the 1990s. Maurice Burton attempted to reproduce the Peter O'Connor picture with inflated bags and sticks. The Surgeon's Photo has been the focus of floating necks on styrofoam and other materials. And to bring things right up to date, the recent debate over the anonymous 2006 picture is discussed below.

Problems may arise as to what constitutes original hoax ingredients and a lack of such knowledge may lead to researcher bias selecting the materials that produce the best results without any regard as to whether they had anything to do with the alleged hoax. In the Stuart case, we have an unverified claim by Frere, it's the best they have, so they go with it. Others have less to work with.

But the problem I allude to is one of psychological manipulation rather than any degree of proof discussed previously. Sceptics love to craft these reproductions, trying to get them to look as much like the original, like some artist copying the Mona Lisa. The trouble is, a very good reproduction of the Mona Lisa does not make the original a fake.

Perhaps some will claim that a decent reproduction of an original is proof that this is how the photograph was done. Actually, all it proves is that they can produce a photograph that has a resemblance to the original. Whether the original picture was created using this technique cannot be proven from such an experiment.

For example, suppose we raise further theories that the Lachlan Stuart photo was faked with three airbags or three rocks (as implied by Ronald Binns). People may discuss the merits of either theory and similar looking photos may be reproduced. However, at least two of these three theories are completely wrong even if convincing reproductions are made! The only way to know which, if any, of the three techniques is true is further evidence as discussed in the previous section, be it a confession from one of the participants or physical evidence found near the scene.

Note I am not saying that I have disproved the meaningful use of such reproductions, only that another level of proof is required to corroborate the use of the image. Beyond that, it is a matter of opinion how to interpret the reproduction.

Ultimately, I am fairly convinced that even if a genuine monster photo was presented to a group of sceptics, they would come up with a theory as to how it was faked and they may even go out and stage a similar looking picture. What does that say about the whole process? I think the operative word is again "unfalsifiable" and in this age of CGI, sceptics have a safety net to fall back on if things get too tough to debunk.


A REPLY TO AN ANALYSIS OF THE 2006 PHOTOGRAPH

Now having said all that as a backdrop to the photograph from 2006 that I recently published, there has been various opinions offered as to the nature of this picture. The one I will focus on here is Steve Feltham's reply which basically states it is a monster shaped piece of bird excrement on a window photographed over a passing boat but not its wake, this giving the impression of a monster on the move.

This opinion was not the first as another person, Aleksandar Lovcanski, had suggested a similar theory some days before, but using a monster cut out stuck on a window. Indeed, this is all rather reminiscent of the 1955 Peter MacNab photograph which debunkers to this day claim is no more than a black cut out over another boat wake passing the castle.

Nessies on windows is nothing new. I took the picture below in 2014 as I took a ride on the Cruise Loch Ness boat out of Fort Augustus. It's a little trick for tourists to snap pictures to kid on people back home. Obviously, no one is fooled by it and neither is it intended so. But can you fool people in  a serious way with this technique?




So Steve has put out an article detailing his investigation which you can find here. In summary, he thinks the photo was taken from the windows of a rented house near the Clansman Hotel based on what he perceives as similar foreground vegetation and some other cues. he also attempted his own monster cut out experiment which I shall address below. Steve is pretty confident he has the solution, but I am not so convinced and will begin with this photograph he took from the rental house.




The first thing I did with this photograph was to overlay the original 2006 picture on top of it, line up the major topological features and see how the two compare. The result is shown below and presents some difficulties. The first thing to note is that the tree which is claimed to be the same as the vegetation in the 2006 picture is not in the expected position in the overlay.




As you can see, the 2018 tree is well to the right of the 2006 vegetation (be it tree or bush). Based on that discrepancy, I do not accept that these are the same objects and therefore we must look elsewhere for the location of the 2006 picture. We are also told that the second item of vegetation seen in the 2006 picture is located just behind a large hedge which now dominates the foreground.

Again, there is little information in the 2018 comparison photo to make that deduction since the object is largely obscured by the hedge and so no compelling conclusion can be drawn. There is also the matter of that hedge. Obviously, no hedge is present in the 2006 picture and so we are asked to assume that it was not there or not high enough back then. Should we make that assumption or should we ask for more proof of this assertion? Be that as it may, the picture does not square up for other reasons.

In fact, comparing trees in pictures is not the easy task it is made out to be. We are led to believe that the twelve year gap between the original and comparison pictures is a matter of no consequence. Look again at the two trees in the overlay. They are practically at the same height, should that be accepted after a time gap of twelve years?

I don't know what the trees are in either photo, they could be birch or hazel, in which case, annual growth rates can be from 1.5 to 3 feet per year. You can do the maths for a 12 year growth period and again conclude it is unlikely these two trees are the same tree. One could also take trimming into account but still come up with an essentially unknowable scenario.

Steve also questions whether any of the nearby parking spots on the road were suitable due to the background tree heights. The first point to make here is that the height of the trees will again be different compared to 12 years ago, be it due to growth or any trimming done. Secondly, we do not know exactly where the car stopped to take the photograph.  That requires further investigation with the proviso that this 12 year gap has to be taken into account.


PAPER NESSIES

That alone could conclude this analysis, but there are some other items to discuss. Steve went further in his analysis by trying to demonstrate how such an image may be produced. He glued a paper cutout of a notional monster onto his car window and snapped pictures as boats passed and were obscured by the cutout. I compare one of his photos below with the 2006 picture (zoomed and flipped).





Now no one in principle is saying that you cannot produce a Nessie like object superimposed over a boat wake. Indeed, that accusation has been around since sceptics turned their attention to the MacNab photograph. However, that principle has two requisite components - reproducibility and repeatability.

In terms of reproducibility, the question is asked whether the reproduced image has the same "look and feel" of the original. Looking at the two pictures above, the answer is clearly "No" as the reproduction is of an inferior quality and is obviously a fake. The retort may come that it was not the intention to fully reproduce the original, to which one can legitimately ask how much quality needs to be lost before the reproduction experiment is rejected? I suspect the answer to that depends on one's own bias.

In terms of repeatability, this is a requirement that the original tools are used to reproduce the original image. This is something that is often overlooked in modern analysis as corners are cut to produce an image with psychological impact. The issue here is that the initial reaction to the 2006 photo was that the blurred nature of the object suggested it was out of focus due to its proximity to the camera.

The reproduction here actually shows the overlaid object is not much less blurred that its surroundings. The point being that a digital camera from around 2006 may be a better candidate to resolve the issue of whether the blurring is due to motion or focus as well as inform on any other differences between itself and a modern camera.

In this case, the theory is that the opportunistic tourist was lucky enough to have a piece of monster shaped bird excrement on his window. The one thing I would point out here is to look again at the overlay picture (below) and you will see that a cruiser boat is passing very close to where the 2006 object is. Note how the object is not big enough to cover the boat and so one wonders what kind of boat it would have to cover and still produce a noticeable wake?




So a substitute method was used in the reproduction and thus we have no idea if the originally proposed method is actually viable. Is the original proposed scenario something you find on demand? I agree it is not and so we must logically take the position that the conclusion is "inconclusive" on whether the originally proposed method would work.

I hope to do some further onsite and offsite investigations on this photo in due time, so watch this space.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com







66 comments:

  1. "Even a close up picture of the monster, nostrils and all, may just elicit the response, "good CGI picture". I would go further and say that if a genuine picture of a large unknown creature was taken, we would get a raft of theories explaining why this is anything other than what is shows!"

    As far as I'm concerned there a 5 photos that are able to give us any identifiable detail of the kind you're discussing. 1. The Surgeon's photos [accepted fake] 2. Shiels' photos [accepted fake] 3. O'Connor's photo(s) [disputed] 4. The flipper photo [disputed] 5. The head and neck photo [disputed]. Everything else is an outline, blob, or blurred and offers little indisputable data. So we only really have 3 possibly credible images of the type you mention. Regardless, the underwater photos almost got the creature accepted by science whilst the Surgeon's photo gave the monster credibility in the public arena at least for around 50 years. And these images were in dispute right from day one yet they achieved much. I would say that in general good clear photos have the potential to absolutely solve the mystery. The onus is on us and the public to aquire more.

    But what you say is almost certainly true - even a clear photo of the creature out the water would not settle the case scientifically. Without a dead creature nothing will change. Yet paradoxically absolutely no-one really wants that.

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  2. I accept your take on the 2006 picture by the way. It's a superb image. My only issue there is that without someone willing to publically defend such a superb image I cannot even begin to consider it myself.

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  3. I think you have hit the nail on the head, Roland, with your observation that in these days of Photoshop and even home CGI software, there will literally be no photograph which will satisfy the diehard skeptics. Any photo (or, let's face it, video) which is the least bit ambiguous will be dismissed as pariedolia or misidentification, and any such evidence "too good to be true" as a deliberate falsification.

    In order to quash these allegations, any such photographic evidence would need to be part of (a) a mass sighting of independent witnesses; (b) a number of photos or video images of the same sighting shot from different points of view; and (c) of such clarity as to disallow any alternative, mundane explanation.

    Given the rarity of sightings nowadays, the odds of any such combination occurring are likely so remote as to be nonexistent. I'm afraid the only thing that would silence the skeptics would be a carcass -- or a tissue sample (Mackal's biopsy harpoon, anyone?).

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    1. You raise an interesting point, I don't recall a set of pictures of one incident taken by seperate and unconnected witnesses. I suspect they do happen, but by the time the media have run the story, anyone coming forward with others pics may be too late.

      The second issue of clarity is held in tension with the above statement as clarity requires proximity and that implies less potential witnesses per "square foot".

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  4. "no one can prove that is what actually happened" says Roland, regarding people's theories about photographs said to be of the Loch Ness Monster. This most certainly applies to Boyd and Martin, who have proved nothing. They have perpetraded a very flimsy theory (at best), one that has at least a half dozen flaws. Their claims do not stand up to even a minor skeptical review...

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    1. I believe they had a confession, not a theory. The information put forth regarding the Surgeon's photo was obtained from one of the alleged perpetrators, and therefore is a reproduction of the facts. Which is enough to have someone convicted in court. Unless you don't believe them, which is up to you.

      The photo itself was so iconic, but the object itself is clearly very small. As we would say here, a blind man on a galloping horse could see that. I don't need a calculation to tell me that. Unfortunately fraudsters are clearly part of the great spectrum of humanity, and they do send us on quite a few wild goose chases. It's knowing when to give up on those chases that is the key.

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    2. The photographer himself never admitted a hoax, it was Spurling. I find that strange.

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    3. Well Spurling was once a liar, so why not always a liar? I don't trust his testimony overly just because he's a debunker rather than someone who tries to prove a very strange fact. What he said ties in with what I can see with my eyes. And what can be reproduced easily enough, given the right conditions.

      I'm not sure if the photographer wanted nothing more to do with this, and in the event of any 'wrongdoing', it is common for one or more to admit guilt, with others holding off.

      I'd say as well, without knowing all the facts, that the photo itself, allegedly for a living creature, is amazingly sharp for the era. I might be wrong, but I'd expect it to turn out more like Hugh Grey's shot, showing blurry motion.

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    4. Interesting. No credit given to them tracking down all the components to this particular hoax. However, what I feel is the crucial point is that we now know the vertebrae in the necks of plesiosaurs would not allow them to raise their neck as often described. They swam like crocodiles with the head on or below the surface. Does this alone not rule out the 'Surgeon's' photograph?

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    5. Why does nessie have to be a plesiosaur?

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    6. Nessies, if they exist, are most certainly not plesiosaurs.

      As for the "confession"; yes, I know all about it. Made decades after the fact, when anyone else involved (to confirm) was dead. No evidence, no camera, no model, just his word. And no, I do not believe him...

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    7. Tony, I think Boyd stuck his own neck out for the sake of an unmuddied view of the situation, and of course, truth. Not the easiest thing to do when you are a firm believer, so I personally admire that. And, of course, the investigative work.

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    8. The point is, GEZZA, that the Surgeon's picture cannot be a plesiosaur for the reason given. I was not saying that Nessie could not be a plesiosaur - that can be shown for far more conclusive reasons of which the Surgeon's picture is not one.

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    9. I see Tony but what im saying is that just because the photo cant be a plesiosaur it does not mean it cant be some other type of animal.We cant say its a certain hoax just because it prooves its not a plesiosaur.

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    10. Cud ted holidays tullimunstrem hold its neck up like that???...Roy

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    11. Ted's tullimonstrum? I doubt such a creature ever went near the surface, so probably not.

      As for the Surgeon's Photo, indeed there are flaws in the theory, especially the story behind the 2nd picture which no confessor mentions, my approach was purely down to two confessions of a hoax made twenty years apart.

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    12. I agree with Gezza here. Tony is missing the point. Gezza is saying that an animal resembling the object in the Surgeon's Photo need not be a plesiosaur.

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    13. If you rule out the plesiosaur, you have to look for other candidates. Loch Ness was a solid block of ice only fifteen thousand years ago, so whatever lives in there must have come in since then, presuming we can rule out something being frozen and then thawing out.

      Animals with long necks usually have a high metabolic rate - what does that tell us? Also, a creature with a long neck probably needs to be an air breather for sufficient oxygen to be absorbed to maintain its activity.

      So, presuming that snorkels are dismissed, if Nessie has a long neck, it is likely to be a warm-blooded air-breather. For me personally, once I understood the ramifications of that, I was no longer able to believe in a long-necked Nessie. Nothing fits the bill to live at 5degrees in such an unproductive loch.

      Always open to suggestions, of course.

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    14. How do you know a tullimunstrem wudnt go near the surface GB?

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    15. This is wer it gets confusing lol tony says a creature with a long neck needs to be an air breather yet GB says the tullimunstrem ( which had a long neck) wudnt go near the surface!!!! Just shows..none of us really know how some creatures behave loo....Roy

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    16. Yes, it is confusing, ROY, because you need to understand how smaller creatures do not necessarily comply with the biological needs which would apply to large creatures.

      Tullimonstrum almost certainly had no skeleton and a large specimen would be about twelve inches long (inches not metres, or even feet). It also lived in the muds of shallow tropical seas. If its entire physical being doesn't rule it out for Loch Ness then by all means consider it as a candidate. A small animal of that nature might, if its musculature allowed, poke its tiny neck above the surface.

      Personally, owing to its preferred environment, bodily structure, size and the fact that it is extinct, rule it out from my point of view, but I appreciate others might have less demanding criteria.

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    17. Appriciate ur answer tony .but im using the tullimunstrem as a example of us not knowing how many strange looking things have lurked in the past oreven present! There is bound to be more long necked things we havnt found their fossils! Look at the squid ( not for long neck of course) for example..only small but now we now there are giant ones about. And lets not forget turtles have necks and some can absorb oxygen from their bums! And some creatures have evolved other ways of taking in oxygen iw thru their skin!! We simply do not know...point im making is just cus nessie might not be a plesiosaur dont mean other creatures cant look like one..cheers ..Roy

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    18. And wasnt the colecanth extinct??

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    19. But, ROY, you have taken it around in a circle. Large long necked animals breathed air. Large air breathing animals in a cold environment need a high metabolic rate to survive. Therefore they'd be seen so often there would not be a mystery.

      We could look at a water-breather, but then the gills a small head on a long neck would have would be unlikely to fulfil the body's needs for oxygen.

      Even if you are looking at brand new creatures, they still have to obey the general laws of nature. Turtles still surface to breath. We can't have an invertebrate in here because large ones cannot move between salt and freshwater. The same situation rules out amphibians which cannot tolerate salt water at all.

      All I'm really saying is that to propose a candidate, you have to take all of this into account.

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    20. The large number of eyewitnesses who reported the head and neck as having no discernible eyes or mouth raises the question of whether they weren't actually viewing a head and neck at all, but some other appendage. I think it would be wrong to rule out all options until we finally have a specimen for examination. People have a mental picture of either a plesiosaur or something resembling one, but why? I don't think there have been more than a couple of reports where the eyewitness reported seeing flippers. I concede that Dinsdale's film is very suggestive of flippers due to the clear surging paddle strokes (a boat my backside!), but flippers are generally absent from the reports that I'm aware of. That could be because they're underwater, but I think it pays not to assume anything is there which hasn't been reported several times. I'm afraid to say I have my doubts on the Rines flipper photos, though of course he also captured an amazing image which was certainly suggestive of a head and neck.

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    21. So does a large turtle have different needs to a small turtle?

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    22. Taking it round in a circle?? Dear dear....loch ness isnt saltwater!! And wat about the crab eating frog? Goes in saltwater...what about terrapins living in freezing conditions in local ponds? Animals adapt and can surely suprise us...unlike u tony i dont think i know it all from a fossil !!! ..cheeers Roy

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    23. Is this the same Tony Harmsworth that was taken in by a couple of ducks?

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    24. Hope that didnt sound offensive mr harmsworth..i value ur opinions! I wasnt calling u a know all i just meant in my humble we dont know everything from a fossil..maybe u do so its just a difffrence in opinion! I think animal adaption is greater than we think and if anything did enter loch ness from the sea all them years ago it wasnt a straight jump from salt water to fresh water..fresh water became over time so easier to adapt and we have evidence of this type of adaption as water dilutes! And nobody even knows when anything entered loch ness for sure..the loch is higher up than it used to be so maybe only a few thousand yearrs ago entry into loch ness was possibile! Anyway apolagies if my comment was read in wrong text ..i like both sides of the coin ..sceptic and believer! Anyway enough on animals and how they operate lol this post was bout fotographs!! ...good discussion though....cheers Roy

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    25. Yes, GEZZA, the size of an animal will affect its behaviour and how it interacts with its environment.

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    26. ROY, the crab-eating frog can only tolerate saline water for a short period of time. At Loch Ness, for a large species of amphibian to be the solution it must be capable of living permanently in saltwater (otherwise where did it come from) and then make a permanent transition from saltwater to freshwater to live in Loch Ness. No amphibian can tolerate permanent saltwater and no amphibian can move permanently from a saltwater environment to a freshwater environment Terrapins are reptiles and can only tolerate cold conditions for a short period of time going into the same type of stupor as any other reptile.

      However, your child-like string of questions are quick-fired without bothering to think about what you are asking first. They seem to be aimed at tripping me up without providing serious suggestions. It is like the child who asks 'why?' to every answer it is given. You need to do some critical analysis yourself before asking them, then you'd realise how likely they are to have a bearing on the Nessie issue.

      It seems to me that no matter what reasoning is put to you, you would rather come up with dozens of impossible solutions to the long-neck problem rather than accept the obvious one.

      I was told not to come on this forum and now I see why. However, I have tried my best to provide sensible suggestions.

      These alternative you keep raising are tiny creatures compared with the creature we would like to think inhabits Loch Ness.

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    27. Yes, GEZZA, I am the same Tony Harmsworth who saw and photographed something which I thought was about six feet long. It was suggested almost immediately that it might be ducks, but I didn't think so until I saw a similar group at the surface many years later.

      It is sometimes embarrassing to admit when something turns out to be a mistake, but I have always been honest about my mistakes. Neither do I feel the need to hide behind a pseudonym.

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    28. You are correct Naturewatch Eng, it is possible some other part of an animal could be involved. Not sure what, though.

      However, I do think ruling out options is important. If you discover, for some reason or another that it can't be this type of animal or that type of animal, it makes common sense to rule them out and narrow down the field.

      Look closely at the Rines head and neck. Knowing the cameras were rolling around the bottom part of the time, does it really, REALLY, look like a living creature? Each of us has to answer that for ourselves. Circumstantial evidence tells me it is likely to be a shot of the bottom of the bay and its texture tells me it is like none of the surface images or any other classification of animal. So I think not, but respect your decision to continue to call it 'suggestive'.

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    29. I hadn't seen your post of 1.52am. Not offended.

      However, there is another factor from your latest post which is important.

      Loch Ness did not begin as saltwater. At the end of the last ice age it was a glacier. It is above sea-level and no post-glacial marine diatoms have been found in the sediment so it was never invaded by the sea. So it has always been fresh and 12,000 years is far too short a time for something to have changed substantially. Whatever is in Loch Ness should also be found in the sea.

      So it would have been a straight jump from the sea to a very low pH cold freshwater lake. Hope that clarification helps. A good book on limnology might be useful to help understand the loch's formation.

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    30. Who said terrapins are not reptiles? Not me lol.....
      ROY

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    31. Tony Harmsworth I've enjoyed your posts. Please continue with this forum, I don't know why anyone would tell you to stay away. Friendly discussion here mostly isn't it?

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    32. "The large number of eyewitnesses who reported the head and neck as having no discernible eyes or mouth raises the question of whether they weren't actually viewing a head and neck at all, but some other appendage."

      I have been thinking that way for a while, some elongated piece of musculature. I think fine tuned details such as eyes and nostrils are pretty hard to discern at typical witness distances and marks on the skin could be misconstrued thusly.

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    33. Tony Harmsworth i think you will find you are wrong that terrapins can only tolerate the cold for short periods of time.

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    34. I did not suggest you said terrapins are not reptiles. I clarified that they are reptiles in my reply in case you or any other reader didn't know. They do also behave differently to many other reptiles including being one of the few which still inhabit the oceans.

      Looking at classifications of animals it is worthwhile taking each and looking at Loch Ness as a habitat.

      Reptile - Loch Ness too cold. Breathes air at the surface.
      Mammal - Loch Ness has insufficient biomass. Breathes air regularly at the surface.
      Invertebrate - Loch Ness freshwater and none known which move from salt to freshwater to get into the loch. Small invertebrates don't count as they can enter on birds' legs and boats, fishing gear etc.
      Amphibian - same as Invertebrates.
      Fish - the low biomass of Loch Ness could cause problems, but not as severe as fish can live many months without feeding.
      Birds - well how about this one: https://www.livescience.com/62816-fish-with-bird-head-explained.html?utm_source=ls-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20180614-ls

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    35. There is a difference between water which is constantly very cold, like Loch Ness, and environments which become very cold seasonally.

      Terrapins do, as I think ROY said, have the ability to 'breathe' other than through the mouth and they do hibernate, spending months submerged in the right environment.

      They are certainly unusual, but living permanently at below 6 Centigrade would seem to be too much for them. I suppose it comes down to what you call a short period, GEZZA.

      As for terrapins being candidates for Nessie, there are many other problems with that, not worth exploring.

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    36. Glasgow Boy, might I just add something to the quote. Add 'but some other appendage or some other object.' I think.

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    37. I agree that the geology of the loch is confusing.I watched a programme on the loch once and Robert Rines and his team claimed they found deposits in the loch that prooved that it was once sea water.

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    38. You are right GEZZA, although also a pseudoscientist, Rines actually did some good work on rare occasions.

      However, the evidence he found was (from memory) 400,000 years ago, so before the last ice age. No saltwater has entered after the last glaciation. Apologies if that age is incorrect. It might have been 4,000,000 years ago, but I'm not going to check as both would be equally as unimportant.

      The work on the sediments laid down since the last ice age, as far as I am aware, unless anything has been done since the nineties, showed no marine diatoms whatsoever.

      Hope that clarifies the issue.

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    39. I think we can all agree that the terrapn issue is amazing as nobody would of thought that they would survive the cold winters prior to be introduced into the lakes and ponds in the Uk. The cold conditions of november until february is not a short period either. Truly amazing.

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    40. Agreed, but crucially, as regards the nature of the subject of this blog, it is not all year round.

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  5. Amazing article. Successfully showing that the sceptics toolkit is generally nothing more than a child's magic kit, designed to distract and flummox. But when scrutinised as you have done so here, all the tricks become weak and transparent. I applaud your article. Once again you debunk the debunkers!

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    1. People are welcome to stage their reproductions, so long as it is understood they do not constitute proof.

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    2. Absolutely correct. The existence of models of elephants does not mean real elephants don't exist. In the majority of cases I think sceptics are simply trying to create mock ups. Sometimes they appear close to the original at first glance, but when looked at more closely they are always lacking. A mock up is nothing more than an attempt to create a photo which resembles the original. It's proof of nothing.

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    3. I don't think it's helpful that a sceptical view is always seen as an attack on the LNM. We need reasonable sceptisism to protect against disinformation. It's professional sceptics that I have a problem with.
      As you say Roland, a good reproduction is not proof of forhery, but it could be a strong mark against authenticity under certain circumstances. I think the Surgeon's photo is one of those circumstances.

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    4. It should be pointed out that "believers" do mock ups as well as various configurations of candidate monsters are tried for size over various photos/films. It does cut both ways and of course the sceptics disagree with those approaches.

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  6. I agree Roland because i felt from the start that it would be difficult for the bird dirt to be able to cover the whole of the boat.And lets get it right it wasnt Steve that rumbled George Edwards's hoax it was his friend off the tourist boat in Fort augustus after a friend of his pointed it out to him.Great article again Roland.

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    1. Yes, I think a 2nd visit is required to iron out a few things. I have dug up an old digital camera, just need to pick my spots.

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  7. After studying all the evidence im with Mr Feltham im afraid! Foto is too high for the road and the story is not right..the holiday home matches up with the foto so end of this one for me...i think its a hoax but as said..at least its in loch ness and not in loch tarff like a previous one ..although that one to be fair wasnt a deliberate hoax it was a trick played by two friends on another( who had gone to meet a friend in fort augustus ) because he was a big nesssie believer! This latest one is a deliberate hoax but no harm done in my humble its all part of the mystery! Fair doos though it was a good effort and caused a lot of intrest.. i love new stuff and im hoping more will.come on the latest video taken off the webcam...cheers..Roy

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    1. I think you can have treetops low down and still be on the road and not on the hillside or in a 2nd room floor.

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  8. Surprised at Roland being so dismissive re the prospect of amassing positive photographic proof of creatures in Loch Ness.
    I know this point has been brought up many time before but it is relevant, this is 2018 where every child and adult has at their fingertips a means of recording high quality moving images.
    All it needs is a bit of Spicer luck where a leviathan lumbers out of the south road bracken and gets caught on your dashcam, or a bit of Munro fortune when a sleepy nessie is caught snoozing on the shingle of borlum bay beach by a eagle-eyed lad with a 15 megapixel Samsung.
    As for faking monsters with CGI type trickery, such artistry is beyond the amateur faker, only Hollywood studios can summon up believable monsters on video.
    Apart from a dead specimen, moving or still images are the best evidence and it's no use moaning that previous images are often ridiculed as fakes [ because they usually are ] it's the quest of Nessie hunters and believers to secure images that have an unimpeachable provenance.

    No pressure.

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    1. I understand a normal tourist can't do CGI, but that won't stop sceptics using this excuse. Proof? The Roy Johnson photo of 2001. The guy was a 67 year old printer and yet Dick Raynor had the gall to suggest he did it with CGI - mainly because he was at a loss to explain it any other way.

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    2. Cudnt Roy ( fab name lol) have got sumone else to do it though GB?? I remember this foto and it was about same time as a similar foto if i remember right by a mr gray...or green... didnt dick raynor find a connection between these two??? If so then surely we must smell a rat??.....cheers Roy

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    3. Roy, that was more Dick Raynor eisegesis, Roy Johnson had seen Gray's 2001 picture in a photography magazine and contacted Gray in his capacity as a professional photographer about how he should handle the photos he had just obtained. That's it, nothing more.

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    4. Ok GB...i knew id read they had a connection! I remember Dick also questioning the story due to his photography experiment of the same place plus he questioned the weather conditions! It just seemed odd to me how two people got similar fotos within 12 months and both had a connection..maybe ill read up on it again to freshen up!! ...Roy

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  9. One particular recurring technical problem with photography (one among many here) is that reflective water will cause a camera's exposure meter to misread the situation. This is not common knowledge, and there's no particular way around it unless you have manual control. Any dark object may well be rendered black under these circumstances, therefore lacking detail. Detail is buried, particularly in camera raw files, but only on higher end cameras, and only if the file type is chosen before photography commences. Again, all of this is the preserve of either professionals or knowledgeable amateurs. Unless someone has good equipment, and knows how to use it in a hurry, the odds are very much stacked against the untrained tourist. I don't know if this ties in with the article, but there it is anyway.

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    1. Thanks, another aspect of the photographic problem. Holiday's chapter needs updating for today. Have you read the chapter, Martin?

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    2. I have and it's thoroughly interesting, to me anyhow.

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    3. Martin's points about exposures are, as he points out, rarely considered. Exposure and focus settings the camera makes may not be ideal for what you want to shoot. I like having manual control over exposure/focus/etc, but that does put it all on me if I need a clear shot in an unusual situation - like seeing Nessie...

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  10. Hi Roland, just out of interest, how have you come to your 46 inches for George Edwards fibreglass hump at water level?
    Iam not saying your wrong, you seem to be saying that this calculation was only possible thanks to something I uncovered.

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    1. See here, Steve: http://lochnessmystery.blogspot.com/2013/10/george-edwards-confesses.html

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  11. Of all the photographic problems concerning capturing images of Nessie exposure must be at the bottom of the list, camera shake, blurriness, low shutter speed and most of all, lack of detail due to insufficient lens power.

    Apart from maybe the Gray photo I can't think of a classic photo fatally marred by over or under exposure.

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