Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How to Photograph a Fairy

Lichen fairy

The series of images displayed here represent the first successful attempt to photograph fairies since the 1917 photos of the Cottingley fairies, taken by two young cousins in the English countryside. After intensive investigation, the Cottingley photos were pronounced genuine at the time by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and representatives from the Eastman Kodak Company. However, the young girls who took the photos, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, later admitted that all but one were fraudulent. Until their deaths they argued over which of them had taken the one genuine photo.

Running fairy

The technique shared here is based on extensive field research leading to a key finding (and it is one that puts the Cottingley cousins' claim to that one genuine photo in doubt): the only way to trap a fairy's image is to photograph its shadow.

Fairy alighting on flower tips (movement has slightly blurred the image)

All photos shown here are absolutely genuine and have not been Photoshopped or retouched in any way. Click on any image to see an enlarged version and inspect the photo more closely. To attempt to duplicate the method used, you will need shards of cardboard, a camera, and a fairly secluded location with lush foliage and a fair amount of flowers. You will also need a considerable amount of patience.

Fiddling with the pistil of a flower (harvesting?)

Second fairy involved in the harvesting operation
The method:
• Just before dawn or sunset, when the light will be at a near-horizontal slant, set rectangles of cardboard upright around and among the plants at various locations. Trial and error over time will lead to identification of the best potential spots.
• Aim your camera at one of the cardboard rectangles and establish focus by focusing on the shadows of plants and flowers cast on the cardboard. Wait patiently for shadow images of the fairies to flit into view.
• Prepare to snap a photo at the slightest movement. 

Preening fairy. I am almost certain this fairy was aware of my presence and what I was doing.

Preening fairy once again, seemingly almost posing. I believe this is a younger fairy.

Never attempt to focus a camera directly on a fairy. Cameras, particularly digital cameras, may be irreversibly damaged if you attempt to do so. At the very least, as I've learned to my regret, you will contaminate the atmosphere, creating an area known as a "spoiled fairy spot." In such an event it is highly unlikely any sprites will return to your garden—ever.

Dancing fairy—acting a little looney

Male fairy doing something to some weeds

An unusual sight: two mail fairies playing

As I continue experiments with this technique, I would be most interested in hearing reports of others' experiences attempting to duplicate the method outlined here. Again, patience is an absolute must and success may not take place for months or even years. However, one could spend time in worse ways than lying in wait for fairies.

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