Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Analysis of the Jonathan Bright Picture

Two weeks ago I published the latest photograph of the Loch Ness Monster without much in the way of comment. Jonathan's story and photo have already been published in the latest issue of Fortean Times (No.308) and so now having had a closer look at the picture and the accompanying facts, let us see what else can be found out.

The photograph was taken by Jonathan Bright on the morning of the 2nd November 2011 as his ride on the Jacobite Cruiser boat was heading out towards Urquhart Bay. He was snapping pictures randomly with various cameras. As he was looking out from the stern of the boat, he snapped a series of pictures with his specially adapted infra-red camera but did not notice anything unusual at the time or even later, during his initial review of the pics. But it was a coincidence of the unexpected kind that prompted him to go back and check what he had.

For it was on that same day that George Edwards claimed to have taken his now infamous picture of a hump in Loch Ness. When Edwards' picture became news in August 2012 and thinking he might have taken pictures in that vicinity, Jonathan reviewed his snaps and did indeed find something unusual. However, what Jonathan Bright photographed is not what George Edwards photographed.

Based on what Jonathan has said, the picture was taken as the Jacobite was a few minutes out of the pier beside the Clansman Hotel and a suggested point is circled in the map below. The boat would be generally heading south west towards the vicinity of Urquhart Castle (marked A). The time would have been shortly after 11am when the tour boat departed from the harbour.

So what is in this first ever infra-red photograph of the mystery of Loch Ness? A zoom in of the picture reveals a bit more detail. In fact and in my opinion, it reveals something that looks out of the ordinary. But first, let us try and get some data out of this picture.

Jonathan kindly provided me with the uncropped image, the EXIF data and the model and make of his digital camera. From that an estimate of the object's size and distance can be made from the focal length, crop factor, distance to horizon, height of witness standing at the stern of the boat and relative distance of object to horizon.

That gave an object height of about 0.75 metre and a distance from the observer of about 31.5 metres. If we assume the object is turned at an angle of about 45 degrees to the observer, then the side aspect is estimated to be about 1.3 metres. This was based on the camera being 2.8 metres above the water. But a greater witness height would result in a bigger and more distant object and vice versa. So, for example, a combined witness/boat height of 3.5 metres gives an object height of 0.93m and a distance of 40 metres. If any wants the full trigonometrical calculations, send me an email.

So it is an object of some proportions but not as big as some Nessie sightings. But what are the possible candidates for such an object appearing on the surface of Loch Ness? Based on your comments to the previous posts, I address them here.


Are we simply looking at a natural object such as a log or some man made rubbish? Apart from the shape of the object not suggesting the usual stuff that floats around Loch Ness, several other things dictated against this interpretation.

Firstly, Jonathan was on a boat ploughing through the water. I emailed Marcus Atkinson, who operates one of the large cruise boats at Loch Ness. I asked him what they do when an obstacle lies dead ahead of the boat.

He said they normally steer a course around it unless it is something minuscule such as twigs. So it is unlikely that such an object is going to end up only 31 metres behind the boat.

Secondly, once the object is avoided, the bow wave of the boat is going to be another reason why the object won't be so easily found right behind the boat. The reason being that the outward going bow wave will tend to push objects away from the boat's direction of travel.

Thirdly, even if the boat went over the object due to it being very low in the water, how come it manages to appear nearly a metre high on the other side? In the light of these propositions, I do not regard the debris as a valid theory. (Jacobite Cruises do have a catamaran boat which technically allows debris to pass underneath but it was not commissioned until 2012).


The other explanation offered is that this is merely a wave. This might seem to carry more weight than floating logs. A quote from the Great Loch Ness Monster Debate Facebook page is appropriate here.

In my opinion, as a boat skipper who daily sees the waves made by the larger trip boats near Urquhart Castle, the "Nessie" photo is indistinguishable from the usual interference waves generated when the bow-wave from a south-west bound boat meets the north-east moving wind generated waves on an ordinary day. If someone offers a more logical explanation I will be pleased to learn from it.

So, be it logs or waves, the skeptics say their bit, mark it "solved" and move on (and let it be known that monsters do not constitute a "logical explanation"). Meanwhile, I had obtained the Fortean Times issue which carried the story of this photograph. Elsewhere in the issue, I came across a quote from Charles Fort which summed up it all up for me.

"When I see that a thing has been explained, I go on investigating."

So let's get on with the investigating. There are some reasons why I do not agree with this wave theory.

The person whom I quoted on waves is Dick Raynor. He has spent decades at the loch taking pictures of phenomena which can fool inexperienced observers of the loch. I looked at his web page on waves and wakes to see what his years of taking pictures has produced. I assume it was representative of his research on this topic. 

To put it bluntly, none of his photos look like the object in Jonathan's picture. But his quote says it is indistinguishable from the "usual interference waves" on the loch. I take the word "usual" to mean these are a common phenomenon, so he must have a better picture on file somewhere which matches Jonathan's picture.

In the meantime, the photos on his site show waves which are too flat, extended and appears together in sequential groups. Neither of these apply to the object in our picture which is more peaked and is on its own. I have scanned the uncropped picture and see no evidence of this being in those classes of wakes and waves. That is how we determine if it is distinguishable from the "usual" waves. The photograph below shows an actual Jacobite cruiser interacting with another boat wake. I see nothing in this picture to suggest the production of a stand out lone metre high wave.

Jonathan also sent me the photographs he took immediately before and after our main picture. The one below was taken seconds before and shows nothing.  However, I overlaid the Nessie picture over it and it just makes the right hand edge of the overlay. So, it is a matter of debate whether our object would have appeared in both pictures since its direction of travel is not clear.

Furthermore, the photo below which was taken after Nessie is too far to the observer's right hand side but is included to show the lack of any proposed interference waves. Readers may note unusual colouring of the pictures. This is because they were taken in infra-red. I have not come to any conclusion as to whether this adds to or takes away from the analysis of the picture.

Jonathan says it is a picture taken with τhe internal IR pass filter of his camera, which allows infrared light from 720 nM (the near infrared range extending from 700nM to 1000 or 1400nM, depending on the dividing system). So this is not in the thermal IR range beloved of Bigfoot Flir camera hunts. Jonathan's own comment on near IR suggests:

"The dark/light colors seem to rather depend on the composition of the surfaces, for example, healthy vegetation/chlorophyll reflects large amount of near-infrared light, thus giving the whitish appearance to the tree leaves and grass, while rocky surfaces reflect little nIR light. But I really don't know how a 'Loch Ness monster' body would behave."

Perhaps this is a clue which suggests the object in the picture is of a more rough texture. 

The other issue I noted was the height of the wave compared to others round about. Consider how waves normally interfere constructively to produce one bigger wave. The compound wave cannot be greater than the combined energies of its parent waves.  This wave looks at least twice as big as the waves around it which suggests another boat or wind source of comparable energy is nearby churning out waves.

There is no indication of such a thing in the picture. Indeed, the Jacobite cruisers are amongst the most powerful boats in the loch and, being November, I think the other cruises have closed out for the season. I am wondering what powerful boat could be around to provide this additional energy? Not that it matters, this "wave" does not look like such a wave. Jonathan also commented on how this "wave" seems to have water running off it as suggested by the white "streaks" you can see around its base.


Could it be an animal known to science such as a seal? I do not consider this a seal as the back would look smoother and more rounded. Could it be a sturgeon? Well, despite the fact that such a sight would be extremely rare, I do not think an Atlantic Sturgeon could arch its back like that or display the contours I think I can see.

Finally, it was perhaps no surprise that it was suggested that Jonathan had faked the photograph via the ubiquitous Photoshop. Now, this gets trotted out now and again and I suspect without much in the way of analysis. But these type of images are becoming more and more prevalent and the Loch Ness researcher needs to be able to conversant with their tell tale signs.

But based on my conversations with Jonathan, he comes across as no faker to me. Moreover, to my less than expert eye, the image looks "in situ" based on contrast and light considerations. It is darker than the waves around it, but that is more an argument against it being a wave than a digital artifact.

Moreover, Jonathan is not a tourist seeking five minutes of fame. He is involved in various public events in Greece as a researcher and it would be plain stupid to put all this on the line for a fake photo. Indeed, why not make it a better photo and add a sequence if one was intent on fooling people?

Others may wish to comment, but please state your reasons rather than just state your opinion!


So what could it be? How about I go out on a limb and suggest it is the Loch Ness Monster? Considering the estimated dimensions, this looks more like the head and neck of the creature than its main body. Jonathan has suggested he can see the head looking back at him but I have reservations about that interpretation. In fact, to me the object looks somewhat similar to the photo taken by Sidney Wilson back in 2007 (below). However, I think Jonathan's is a better picture and again we have to be wary of the effects of pareidolia. Indeed, the Wilson image looks like a polar bear's head to me!

I do agree with Jonathan that the picture could be interpreted as a head with two white horn-like projections being visible. It could even be argued that two eyes can be made out and a muzzle of some description. What can be seen is to some extent dictated by the viewer.

But in my opinion, the proposed head is too large to fit what we know about the head and neck of the Monster from the witness database. By and large, the classic head is lacking in features and sometimes is no more than a continuation of the neck. I say that without going into detail about what this "head" may actually be. Moreover, the proposed head gives the impression of looking back in the direction it appears to be travelling in which looks quite un-animal like behaviour to me.

The other question to ask is how big the entire creature is for a head in this size range? Now when I say the head is too big, I mean in terms of internal proportions rather than absolute size. If we assume a 0.6m (1ft11in) head height from the picture, I would estimate the entire size based on a rough and ready plesiosaur body shape to be 12:1 overall giving us a 23 footer (a respectable size for a Loch Ness Monster).

Jonathan is a member of the sizeable community of paranormal researchers and is open to such an interpretation for Nessie, so that does offer a wider latitude in interpreting the picture.  However, there are some recorded sightings which claim to see larger heads and I would neither wish to be dogmatic or claim the final word on that matter. In fact, the head and neck reported by J.M. Ballantyne in 1965 is a good example in that regard (sketch below).

On the subject of backs, there was one back sighting that immediately came to mind when I saw this picture and that was the Commander Meiklem report from August 1933. He saw a ridged back in the relatively shallow waters of Inchnacardoch Bay. I say that because there is the appearance of something ridge-like running along the top of the object.

But Meiklem's object was at least the size of a "cart-horse", this is a lot smaller. Back ridges are occasionally reported by witnesses but they are not a universal feature of Nessie morphology which leads me to speculate whether it is a feature that is specific to age, gender or season.

Or could it be the back of a juvenile Nessie? If we know little about the Loch Ness Monster, then we know even less about alleged little Nessies. Do they even exist? One presumes so biologically but next to nothing can be said about them from the witness record. I addressed this subject in a previous article.

But if I suggest that this is the rear view of the head and neck then could the proposed ridge be more akin to the mane of the legendary water horse? Again, we have reports of mane like structures being reported by witnesses. And again, they are not a universal feature of the witness record and so I presume they are also gender, age or season specific. The problem is similar to the old tale of the blind men and the elephant. What exactly are we looking at? Neck, back or perhaps even tail?

One aspect of reported manes is that they tend to "flop" down over the neck while this apparent mane looks more erect. Can these mane like structure be raised in the manner of a courtship or territorial display? Yes, I know, speculation.

It is this mane or ridge like structure that distinguishes the object from any proposed wave, log or other object but the picture highlights an ongoing issue. This was taken at a mere range of about 100 feet but still there is no unambiguous data to extract. By unambiguous, I mean acceptable even to sceptics (but perhaps I use that term too optimistically).

Admittedly, the object's relatively small size is a hindrance, but how close does one have to get to this creature to get the picture that gets the whole world talking? If it had been a classic ten foot hump then we would get closer to that scenario.

In conclusion, I think this is a picture of the Loch Ness Monster. I think it tells Nessie researchers a bit more about the creature's morphology but does not provide the slam dunk evidence.

To rephrase some words mentioned above, if someone offers a more logical explanation I will be pleased to learn from it.