@marianotomatis brought my attention to this fascinating photo yesterday (he also posted it on his blog here)…


Can you explain the weird shadow?


  1. It’s a digital camera which captures the image scanning from the top to the bottom, so the bottom of the image is later in time. This must have been taken just as the frisby was being released, which is why the top has the frisby in hand and the bottom has the frisby let go.

    It’s the same effect that makes videos of aeroplane proplellers look bent and weird.
    Eg: http://www.suggymoto.com/2010/amazing-photography/

  2. By looking at the trees on the picture, one can see how the shadow should look like. All the other shadows are to the right.

  3. Looks like a rolling shutter effect. Since digital shutters usually move left to right the camera probably has been turned clockwise a quarter turn.

  4. It might be some digital camera wizardry, but my first thought was:
    – the circle is not the shadow of the frisbee, it’s just a black dot on the ground. It has a slightly different color than the other shadows (although it stands to reason that the frisbee is a tiny bit transparent, which would also explain the color difference)
    – The shadow of the hand, is a shadow of the left hand
    – The actual shadow of the frisbee and throwing hand would fall somewhere inside the shadow of the body.

    1. No, it’s almost certainly a rolling shutter.

      The right (throwing) hand is there, it’s obscured by her body’s shadow. Using that as a gauge, added to the speed of a shutter would be ~1/60sec or faster in bright sun, the frisbee’s shadow is right where we’d expect it to be.

    2. I thought you right but looking closer I go with the shutter speed. The frisbee shadow is slightly green because it is a green frisbee and the center area of the frisbee is thinner and would allow green light thru.

    3. You are right about point 2!
      Point 1: the frisbee seems slightly transparent, thus causing the greener shadow.

  5. The hand in the shadow is her left hand, not the one hiding the Frisbee. There for the shadow that is mistaken for the Frisbee in flight is more than likely a ball or something above and ahead of her left shoulder. The shadow of the actual Frisbee is masked by the shadow of her body

  6. This one is very unlikely to be rolling shutter or any other artifact of digital photography. That’s for two reasons. Firstly the angle of the shadow is such that the thrown frisbee would simply not appear in that position (the hand shadow that can be seen is of the left – the throwing hand shadow is lost in the body), Thee second reason is that the top-to-bottom scanning on a still image is far too fast for the frisbee to have flown any distance from the hand, and if it was, the shape would be distorted.

    Far more likely is that’s the shadow of some other object or not even a shadow at all but something on the ground. Of course, it’s also a very easy effect to fake using image manipulation.

  7. She, I’m sure, is a he.

    As for the shadows I’m currently clueless except for everyone else’s ideas about digital camera’s which sound interesting.

  8. My take. The frisbee shafow is not actually a shadow. It must be something else. A paint or something. Judging by the angle of other shadows, the hand shadow is actually the left arm and the right arm and frisbee shadow is blocked by the body.

  9. The shadow on the ground is from the left hand, not the one holding the frisbee. The right arm shadow is lost within the main shadow.
    As for the oval shape on the floor, could be a dark patch of ground in a coincidental place.

  10. Has to be the shadow of the frisbee as it’s a bit lighter than the main shadow, probably due to the frisbee’s translucence.

  11. That’s not a shadow, it’s a hole in the ground or painted circle. And the sun is to the top right of the photo, the hand with the frisbee is in the shadow of the body – you can see it slightly at the front of the back, left foot. Very cool. 🙂

  12. Her left hand creates the shadow behind the frisbee, and her leg lines up with the shadow of her right hand

  13. My guess is that there is nothing to explain.

    look carefully at the frisbee and the hand, the person is not holding the frisbee!

    The frisbee has just been thrown, and the angle of the camera makes it look like it is still in the hand. The shadow shows that the frisbee has indeed just left the hand.

    1. I think Soren has it.

      Focal plane shutters used to be controllable in both the speed of the curtains moving and the gap between them. Photographers in the 20s & 30s used this effect to get oval wheels on speeding cars. These days, the curtains move at a fixed (very high) speed and only the gap between them is changed.

      If it were the shutter causing this, I would expect the photographer to have a lot of pictures of people with bent forearms & shins, like you see in photofinish pictures (which are effectively exposed through a stationary slit).

  14. My guess is it is the shadow of the flying disc and the hand that threw it. The colour of the shadow is different because the disc is translucent and the position is different because the concrete pad is exposed differently from the rest of the photo due to being brighter. some cameras process a number of exposures to create a balanced looking image. similar to the rolling shutter effect.

  15. The hand shadow is of her left hand. The hand with the frisby will be to her right, so the shape is something on the ground.

  16. I don’t think the frisbee and her right hand could be hidden in the body shadow because you can see the sun on the frisbee. i do wonder about the different angles of the shadows on her and on the trees. (The “beard” is a rock in the background?)

  17. I’m saying the “frisbee shadow on the ground” is not frisbee’s shadow. Either it’s a shadow of something else (probably another frisbee above the frame of the picture), or it’s a mark on the ground (which seems less likely b/c it would probably be circular, not oval).

    1. He’s stood on some sort of platform that may be used for a game or sport of some sort (maybe a golf driving range?), so it could be a marking, though I agree it would probably be round rather than oval.

  18. I agree with the above. The shadow is the left hand, the marking is on the ground or possibly a fortuitously placed shadow from another frisbee in the air. Either is possible. Cool picture, though.

  19. This photo single handedly serves as a rebuttal and counter-example to a whole family of Apollo-landing-conspiracy arguments.

  20. This is a real photo and no manipulations to the photo has been made.

    This is what is happening:
    1) The hand shadow is actually a shadow of the left hand, not the hand that is throwing the frisbee
    2) The frisbee shadow on the grown is not a shadow but an actual object lying on the ground or somesort of that
    3) The actual shadows of the right hand and freesbie would be where the main shadow of the man will be. You can see that by the tree shadows in the background of how they are tilted and apply it to the shadow of the right arm.

  21. Aleksey, I was just thinking the same thing. The left hand is the actual hand that casts the shadow. The frisbee is giving a shadow but it looks like the right arm doesn’t have a shadow because it it hanging over or beyond the concrete block.

  22. Actually, there’s possibly an easier answer. That is that the frisbee has already been thrown, and it just appears to still be held by the thrower as the “follow through” of the thrower’s hand, and the angle the photograph was taken from happen to be in-line. The shadow of the thrower’s right hand is lost in that of his body, and the frisbee (by now a little distance from the thrower’s right hand) is casting that shadow of an elongated disk. The photo is to indistinct to show a real grip on the frisbee.

    The only thing that slightly worries me is if the angle the Sun is throwing shadows at quite works with this explanation.

    Those who cling to the “rolling shutter” explanation; forget it. The timings are all wrong given the realistic speeds at which frisbee’s are thrown and it’s missing some of the other attributes you might expect. Still camera’s don’t tend to produce artefacts like this, and even a frame-grab from a video recorder would have other tell-tale signs.

  23. the shadow is of her left hand, not her right, which is holding the disc. The disc’s shadow could be obscured by her shadow, and the disc shaped shadow could be of an object that has been thrown up, outside of the picture frame? Or the digital camera problem.

  24. The more I look at the shadow of the hand, the less I’m convinced it’s even the discus thrower’s hand. The fingers are curled on the thrower’s free hand, but they are extended in the shadow. With the sun coming from the front of our thrower, I don’t see the shadow being extended, but if anything, foreshortened.

  25. Assuming the rolling shutter effect, then this is a photograph taken of something that never actually existed. Woah.

  26. This is definitely a posed picture. The person and the photographer aligned themselves over the green spot on the ground to give the illusion of a frisbee shadow. This was definitely intentional. The rolling shutter idea is absurd. If the frisbee was travelling that fast and the shutter was that slow there would be motion blur.

  27. It is not always an easy task to keep good, but encompassing myself with terrific pals plus a suportive family usually causes it to be less difficult. I remind myself constantly that every day is really a reward, and we have been fortunate to wake up every single early morning and get part in it…

  28. Am I the only one who did notice that the person throwing the frisbee is a MALE not a FEMALE! Everyone here is saying “she” “her” “hers”… Gosh, you’re either used to be around really manly women, or I’m blind.

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