..In this section we'll show you how to do just that, and in no time you'll be on your way to investigating some of your own local haunts!
...- Equipment -
Although brand names may appear in photos, Phantasm Psychic Research does not endorse any particular products! Many consumer web sites and publications can help you chose a brand name.
First things first: It's important that you have a basic idea of what equipment you'll need to start off with. You don't need to spend a fortune, but look at it as if you're buying a computer - get the best you can afford now, so upgrading later won't be that painful. Here we'll cover some of the various types of equipment that our own Phantasm PSI investigators use and present the pro's and con's of each piece.
Cameras are an essential part of paranormal research. Photography has come along way in the last twenty five years and there are many types to choose from............................
Single lens reflex (SLR) Basically an SLR 35 mm camera operates using a lens, shutter and a mirror. By setting the shutter speed (in fractions of a second) the user controls the amount of time that the shutter will stay open. Combined with the lens aperture (which controls how much light comes through), the user controls the exposure of the film. Today all SLR cameras come with automatic settings which are fine for daylight shooting. Most of them are also autofocusing too, although [older] manual focus cameras are still readily available.
The critical element in the SLR camera is the mirror, which sits inside the camera body behind the lens. At the instant the shutter is pressed (or opened) the forward facing mirror flips up and back to face the film, and the image is actually transferred onto the film.
All SLR cameras come with either a 'hotshoe', a bracket on top of the camera that holds the flash unit, or a bottom-seated screw in adapter to attach the flash with a separate bracket adapter.
There are numerous makes and models of SLR cameras available today, but a general rule is that the camera is only as good as the lens. Much like a car, the body of the camera merely holds the guts - it's the lens that determines how good of a camera it is. Historically, Nikon and Canon have always led the market in superior lenses.
But regardless of the make, select a lenses with a wide aperture setting (those are the numbers on the lens that determine how 'wide open' the lens is, allowing light in). The lower the number (1.8, 2.8, etc.) the better the quality. Lenses can be interchanged, meaning you can remove the wide angle lens and use instead a 50 or 80 mm., etc. Telephoto or long lenses can also be purchased for far away objects, but many of the newer lenses on the market can cover all of these ranges.
There are also settings that need to be adjusted for the speed (or ASA) of the film (see film).
Pros The biggest advantage to an SLR camera is that you will always have a negative to fall back on in the event you lose your original print or want to have it enlarged. Also, if a photo is questionable (i.e., you can't tell if the anomaly is really there or just a printing flaw), you can always check your negatives. Another advantage is being able to manually dictate how your camera functions, i.e. the shutter and lens exposure. You may want to take vacation pictures or family pictures and desire to control your exposure settings to allow for special effects.
Cons Using them in the dark! Unless you really know your way around a camera, this is going to hinder you. To load it, the back must be opened and the film manually threaded into the spools. If the film doesn't catch correctly (and being off by a hair can do this) the film will not actually go through the camera and won't be exposed.
Before you commit to an SLR, imagine yourself juggling a flashlight to see the shutter speed and aperture settings in the dark. If the shutter speed is not correct, the flash won't 'synch' correctly, leaving you with a half-exposed frame. Likewise, if the aperture is not correct, you'll wind up with an under exposed or over exposed frame that can't be printed.
An SLR kit can be bulky and you will probably need a camera bag to carry your assortment of lenses and the flash.
For the above reasons, if you are completely new to photography, you may not want to start off with an SLR.
The camera also automatically acquires the film speed (ASA) and sets it.
Pros The perfect camera for the beginner - just load it and go. You won't have to fumble around in the dark with shutter and aperture settings, and loading film is easily accomplished even in low light. Rather than threading the film and looking for the pins it needs to line up with, just shut the back of the camera and the film advances itself.
Most come with built in telephoto lenses, meaning you can shoot close up and long distance. With the push of a button you can go from a 35 mm lens to a 100 mm lens. You also have negatives to fall back on.
Another advantage is the weight. Some SLR cameras, especially the older ones, can be quite cumbersome. Point-and-shoots are small and lightweight and can even be carried in a shirt pocket.
Cons What you gain in ease of use is offset by the lack of control of the settings. For example, you cannot override the cameras settings and chose to overexpose a frame to shoot, for instance, a sunset. Also, you are at the mercy of a lens that is a permanent part of the camera, not interchangeable as with an SLR.
The Digital Camera Once considered a luxury, digital cameras have now established themselves as the most widely used type of camera. Prices have come down considerably since they were first introduced, and in some instances are even cheaper than SLRs. Like point-and-shoots, most digital cameras are completely automatic, and some of the higher priced ones even have settings you can manually control and interchangeable lenses, like an SLR - the best of both worlds. Compatibility with almost any PC makes uploading images quick work.
Pros Lightweight and easy to use; plus eliminates the need for an image scanner to put pictures up on the web and into e-mail. Saving photos and negatives are also obsolete as they can be stored on your PC or on disks.
You can see results right away and delete unsuccessful shots, eliminating the time consuming (and costly) task of having your film processed and printed.
Another pro is the sheer number of pictures you can take. Some digitals have memory sticks capable of storing hundreds of pictures, not to mention the convenience of being reusable. Stocking up on film is a thing of the past.
Cons No negatives. We list this as a con as well because if a photo's authenticity comes into question, you have no negative to prove that what you photographed is really there and not the product of a doctored picture. (The widespread use of photo imaging programs makes this a possibility that will be considered by skeptics if your photo is questionable).
Because shots are stored on the camera's memory disk or on insertable floppies, the possibility of accidentally erasing a once in a lifetime shot rears its ugly head. Same applies to a computer crash or the disk being damaged - once it's gone, it's gone (although some programs are available for data recovery, but that's beyond the scope of this page).
35 mm film is probably the most poorly understood aspect of film photography, simply because most casual photographers don't really understand the concept of film speed, or the ASA. Although lower and higher speeds are available, most commercial film ranges in speed from 100 to 800 ASA. What these numbers actually reflect is the saturation the film receives when the frame is exposed to light (this principle applies to black and white film also). The lower the speed, the greater the color saturation. Simply put, you'll get more vibrant colors with a lower film speed than with a higher one.
The biggest misconception is that "you can't take night shots with film slower that 400." This is simply not true! Night or indoor pictures can be taken with any film speed. But - the more light the film needs = a low ASA - the harder your camera's flash has to work to provide it. For example, at ASA 100, your maximum flash output may be 20 or 30 feet. But the same flash using a film speed of 400 ASA can easily light up an area up to 40 or 50 feet away. Where you're actually going to feel it is in the camera or flash's batteries, as shooting outdoors at night will quickly exhaust them with a lower ASA because the flash has to work twice as hard.
Indoors however, (such as in an ordinary home) you will have no trouble shooting with a lower ASA, although it's not practical to go below 200. Shooting outdoors at night (for example in a graveyard) will probably yield underexposed pictures that are not satisfactory.
Probably the safest bet is 100 to 200 ASA outdoors in average light; 200 ASA and above for indoors or outdoors at night. And how does your camera know what to do? With all but the oldest cameras (more than 10 years old), the camera automatically records the film speed and sets itself with technology called DX coating. But that's another complicated story, just rest assured - you don't have to worry about it!
Clear as mud? :) Choosing photographic equipment can be a bewildering experience with the unbelievable variety of products out there. The best advice we can offer is to choose photography equipment that is a) easy to use b) affordable c) easily transported and stored. This is a lot of info to absorb, and bear in mind, these are just basic concepts. Buy your camera equipment from a reputable dealer and they will be more than happy to explain these concepts as they pertain to your purchase.
Video cameras are also very useful for capturing any type of paranormal activity both visually and audibly. They are great for conducting interviews as well, when it's imperative that spoken details be a matter of taped record.
The pro's and cons of digital vs. VHS are actually more numerous that those of cameras, but here are some basic points.
VHS camcorders Still widely in use, but now considered antiquated in some circles. Most have the same capabilities of digital, but older ones won't have night shot, and few if any have infrared. As implied by the name they take a standard VHS tape which is easily played back on any standard VCR. Older models though may not have image stabilization like the digital versions (this means you can walk and move about while shooting and your viewers won't get seasick watching the playback, like in the old classic Bigfoot footage).
Pros are pretty much the same as with a digital camcorder. VHS is pretty much universal, meaning you can lend or give your tape to anyone and they can view it on a standard VCR.
Cons Aside from some features that are just not available in the older models, you will have a serious issue making your footage PC compatible. It will probably need to be taken to a video place that specializes in transferring VHS to digital, and this can be quite costly. But for the computer savvy there is software available that can run off a VCR to accomplish this.
Digital camcorders Clearly, the advantage of these are the same as those of digital cameras but with a huge added bonus: most now come with the capability of 'night shot' or low-light photography, as well as infrared technology. As far as data storage, with most models you can chose between high - 8 tapes, which are only a third of the size of a standard VHS tape, making them much easier to store. Or you can purchase a memory stick, like digital still cameras use. And it gets better: most are actually capable of taking still shots as well! They are compatible with most PC's and data can be uploaded for storage or placement on the web.
Pro's Almost too numerous to list! What digital camcorders are capable of now is nothing short of astounding. Most have a screen on the side for viewing what you're shooting so you're not forced to squint into a tiny viewfinder. They are also incredibly lightweight and can be easily stored and transported.
Con's These aren't so much cons, but aspects that need to be considered. First, if you have an older PC you may have serious trouble uploading your footage onto your computer. In some cases you will be forced to purchase what's called a fire wire and a PC card, which have to be installed in your tower (this isn't an issue with most newer computers.) Also, storage needs vs. hard drive space. Generally video is a serious memory hog, although it can be compressed. And, what if you want to give your footage to someone who doesn't own a computer? The video will have to be transferred to VHS which isn't terribly hard, just time-consuming.
Audio recorders are relatively small and inexpensive these days. There are three types to choose from: reel to reel, cassette or digital.
Cassette is without a doubt the most widely used. Tapes are available in 60 or 120 minutes, micro or standard size. Lending tapes out or supplying copies to others needs to be considered before investing in either size (micro or standard size), as most people still use standard. Although some may come with electrical adapters, for the most past you will need an ample supply of fresh batteries (that goes for the digital below, too).
Digital is fast approaching in popularity. They are the same size as the smaller cassette recorders, but capable of recording for much longer, some up to four hours. As with digital cameras, it is now a snap to upload audio recordings onto a PC; usually a simple USB cord will suffice. But - heed the same warning as with digital cameras - if you accidentally erase it, it's gone!
Reel to reel is by far the best way of recording indoors, but is much tougher to work with on the go. Also these particular units usually need AC power, making them pretty much impractical to take into the field. The advantage though is that they can record for up to twelve hours at a time, eliminating the need to baby-sit a conventional recorder and constantly flip tapes.
Other equiptment that can be used in field of paranormal research includes various types of meters that measure atmospheric conditions.
Infrared scopes have the ability to view in absolute darkness without the aid of ambient light. They are handheld, like a video camera, and adapters can even be purchased so they you can record off them. However, these are gradually fading in popularity as most of today's camcorders come with night vision and infrared. Remember - if it does not say infra red it cannot see in absolute darkness. This goes for video cameras and scopes, so read the product's information carefully!Also, great care must be taken to avoid pointing it towards artificial light, which can blow out the sensors.
Electromagnetic field detectors (EMF meters) measure minute fluctuations in the electromagnetic field. Although not fully understood, psychic activity often corresponds with an increase in EMF fields, so this can be a useful tool for detecting a spirit presence long before it makes itself known.
Air ion detectors measure the radioactive ions which can be found in electrically charged or heated surfaces, and also plasma-discharge ions in air and other gases. Also, this detector can be quite useful with sources such as electromagnetic discharge from spirits or low level radioactive residue left behind during or after spiritual type activity.
Thermal Imaging cameras were inspired by military technology and have been available to the general public for a few years now. Although these neat little gadgets are fantastic for visually seeking out hot and cold spots they are quite pricey, ranging anywhere from $4,000 to $12,000. For that reason, this is probably the last tool you'll add to your ghosthunter's kit! These produce the images you sometimes see in documentaries; the red indicative of hot spots and the blue cold, etc. They are small and lightweight, and easily transported and stored.
Motion detectors can serve two purposes. First (and unfortunately, this has to be considered in any investigation), it'll help determine if someone [in the home] is trying to pull of a hoax. Second, because it works on infrared light, it may pick up on spirit activity if something disrupts the beam.
IR CCD Cameras have no need for additional light sources, as the cameras have built in infrared LEDs which turn on only when the camera detects it is dark. The cameras emit infrared light when in night/dark mode. To the human eye this type of light is invisible, however to the camera the light is clearly visible. We don't recommend using the wireless version of these cameras because the electromagnetic interference that often occurs during a haunting can disrupt the communication between the camera and monitor.
This is just a basic list - the more you go out, the more you'll add to it!
.- Out in the field -
Now you're off an running - you have your itinerary, equipment, ghosthunting buddies and you're ready to venture into the world of the supernatural. But after you've taken steps to insure your safety from physical and human threats, it's time to consider the other kinds...
Now it's time to protect yourself psychically. We recommend that the members of your group put themselves into what is called a white light, or if you are a Christian it would be called a Christ light. To do this, try to 'visualize' a positive feeling. Slowly imagine that thought as the color of pure white, focus on it and imagine it surrounding you like a bubble. 'Insert' a mental picture of yourself and your group surrounded by the light, making it brighter and brighter.
With the Christ light you are doing the same thing, but you are asking for protection through your faith in God by visualizing the pure light of Christ surrounding you. In either case - make sure to never forget to do this! Omitting this step may leave you vulnerable to any negative forces or energy that may be residing in this particular place. Bringing Holy Water with you may also be wise (just be sure you know how to use it properly!)
Once you are protected and entering the site, we recommend that you divide into teams of at least two so no one is ever alone. Make sure that everyone has a working flashlight, and two-way radios are a great way to easily stay in touch with the rest of the group.
When you drop off your film to be processed, ask them to print all the pictures. The processing place may thing it's a dud shot, but it could be an anomaly.
Should you wind up in [spiritual] trouble ~
Make the sign of the cross as large as you can in the air between you and the spirit. Sprinkle the Holy Water in its direction, also making the sign of the cross. In a firm and commanding voice, say, "in the name of Jesus Christ, leave this area now!" NEVER, EVER command it in your own name. This is what is called 'religious resistance.'
Before leaving the area do what is called a 'binding.'
Essentially the wording is the same but add, "In the name of Jesus Christ, all spirits, human and inhuman, you are bound to this area. You are not to follow us or harm us in any way. It is Jesus Christ who commands it."
We're not talking about someone getting a little spooked in a graveyard: only use this if you are sure you and your group are in eminent danger.
Once the situation is under control, it goes without saying, that'd be a good time to leave ...
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