This picture was taken by Lee, our Canberra Liaison on a recent visit to Old Geelong Gaol with the team. Unfortunately this was taken early in the evening whilst equipment was being set up and so the DVR cameras were not covering the area at the time.
The inset has been colour corrected to ensure full tonal range was available to enhance details in the enlargement.
Mmmm strange one, when you look at the main pic (not the inset) you see a bit of 'bleeding/distortion' going upwards from the figure, at first I thought it may have been caused by movement of the camera as the pic was being taken, but when you look at other areas of the same pic it seems to be in focus and not distorted.....could it have been one of us at all?....not sure what to make of it.
I believe the figure is the result of an effect known as "flash ghosting" or "dragging the shutter". Here the flash fires but the shutter remains open for awhile, this usually occurs when the camera attempts to automatically create an acceptable image in low light conditions.
The flash time is typically 1/1000th of a second. This has successfully lit the foreground area and only partly impacted on the background. The shutter however has remained opened for a period of time, continuing the exposure using the ambient light. The light trails at the top of the image reveal the camera has moved when the flash wasn't illuminated and the shutter was still open. Any motion encountered during this time (eg. someone entering the area) is effectively "ghosted" hence the term "flash ghosting".
The location of the figure is actually at "the circle" where people were coming and going during set up. It looks as if someone has entered the area ... unfortunately the DVR wasn't set up at that time, otherwise it would confirm that someone entered the area at the time the photo was taken. But Occam's Razor (also called Ockham's Razor) would suggest that this would be the likely cause.
could the effect be re-created with the theory that Darren has posted about flash ghosting?
Definitely, without doubt! Keep in mind that "flash ghosting", or "dragging the shutter" as it sometimes termed, is not a theory but a photographic technique which is used deliberately by some photographers for effect, but also can occur accidentally especially with digital cameras in low light.
Below is an exaggerated example of flash ghosting. Here the young GRI Team member has entered the scene after the initial flash, but before the shutter had closed.
Some may typically suggest a "double exposure" but there has only been a single exposure to create the image. The difference being there was time (1/1000th of a second) with flash and considerably longer time without, while the shutter was open.
Another example appears in the thread on the Annapolis Dock image. This also has further explanation on how flash ghosting occurs, also note that the Old Geelong picture was an even longer exposure.
A newspaper photographer also accompanied us in the Gaol one evening and used a time exposure to create a similar effect for the story they ran on our visit.
Haunted: Australia (Sy-Fy Channel Foxtel) went to Old Geelong Gaol and i recently saw this episode, The outline of an apparition was taken which look exactly like this picture and it too was captured standing in same spot...Just taken from the other side. Coincidence? ;-)