Monday, June 28, 2010

UFOs and flying saucers

click photo to enlarge
Last night I saw a UFO (Unidentified Flying Object). It was a glowing, yellowish white shape, roughly spherical against the darkening blue of the late evening sky, with a bright point of light at its base. Was it a helicopter? No, wrong shape and no noise. Was it an aircraft? No, too slow, wrong shape and no noise. A satellite? Too low and more than a bright dot. I reached for a pair of binoculars and the UFO immediately became an IFO (Identified Flying Object). It was a "Chinese" flying lantern, one of those paper hot air balloons with a small candle at its base providing the heat to make it rise, stay aloft and drift on the wind. Which idiot, I wondered, thought it was a good idea to launch one of these after two rainless weeks, when the grass is tinder-dry?

UFO sightings became very common in the post-WW2 world, when the expansion of Communism was much feared, new aircraft designs were rolled out on an almost weekly basis, and the cinema was full of films about aliens, space rockets and the future. It was a time when the sceptical, the mischievous and the imaginative could have fun at the expense of the fearful, the speculative and the gullible. Photographs of flying saucers were mocked up using car wheel hubs, dining crockery, balsa wood and string. These were passed to newspapers with a suitably mysterious written piece about how the photographer had seen the craft land and little green men disembarked to study earth people. The press, happy for a sensational and topical story supported by a plausible picture were only too happy to print such stuff. The revelation that many of these were spoofs did little to stem the flow of such newspaper articles.

A while ago I bought a multi-LED light for use in a cupboard to which I don't want to extend electric lighting. A couple of rechargeable batteries power the twenty three LEDs that fill the space with a very useable glow. I was looking at the light shortly after my "UFO" experience and thought how much better those mocked up 1950s images would have looked if such a thing had been available in those days. So, with that in mind I placed it on my desk, turned off the lights, switched on the LEDs and took this photograph with the LX3 set to macro. I think it's an image that wouldn't disgrace "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"!

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.2
Shutter Speed: 1/125
ISO: 80
Exposure Compensation: -0.66 EV
Image Stabilisation: On