chapter overview
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Most of the evidence given in support of a conspiracy are photographs taken (or allegedly taken) on the lunar surface. Conspiracists point to details of the photographs which do not meet their expectations. This, they say, proves that the photographs were falsified.

I don't agree with that line of reasoning. First, why should I believe that the conspiracist's expectation is reasonable or correct? Almost all of them are just asserted as if they were self-evident fact, with no argument or computation to support them. And a lot of them are based on an incomplete understanding of illumination, perspective, geometry, and photography. If the expectation is wrong, then violating the expectation isn't a big deal.

Second, the conspiracist argument presumes that only two possibilities exist: either NASA's story (as the conspiracist recounts it) must be perfectly consistent down to the smallest detail, or else there was a massive conspiracy and coverup including a falsification of the evidence. In logic this is called a false dichotomy. For most of the observed "anomalies" there are many possibilities, and showing cause to disbelieve one alternative doesn't automatically prove that some other alternative must be true.

Even if non-conspiracists can't satisfactorily explain some given anomaly, why should we all jump to the conclusion that some massive hoax had to produce it? Doing that requires us to believe in a lot of conjecture for which there is no direct proof. This is hardly parsimonious.

A lot of people just assume they have expert photo interpretation skills. And the serious professional conspiracists rely on this. Some conspiracists who have photographic expertise provide only enough background information to make their own theories sound plausible, not enough to give the reader a balanced view of the problem.


The world seen by the still camera is not the world we see with our eyes. The camera freezes an instant in time and lets us examine it in much greater detail than would otherwise be possible. In our visual world we see a continuous sequence of events, many of them so brief they escape our normal attention. A passing shadow, a glint of light -- these things do not bother us even if we should happen to notice them. Our brain is used to dealing with transitory events, but not when they're captured and our brain is allowed to focus on them.

A photograph is a two-dimensional projection of a three-dimensional scene upon the plane of the photographic film. This defeats some of our brain's methods of depth perception. Techniques of photography such as lighting and focal length can make the photograph suggest a different three-dimensional arrangement than what was there at the time.

Studio photographers retouch almost every photograph they take. They make a photograph look like what the viewer expects, not what the camera actually captures. It's rare to retouch photographs taken for historical documentation (such as the NASA lunar landing photos). My point is not to expect the NASA photographs to be retouched, but that photographs almost always have something in them that causes the viewer to scrunch up his face and wonder, "What's that?"

As long as we're talking about retouching NASA photographs, it's wise to mention that you'll probably run across some. Historians want the unaltered photos, but public relations people have the same goals as studio photographers: they want the images to look good. And so they airbrush out the lens flares and odd shadows. They crop the images and rotate them to orient the interesting features according to the viewer's expectations. It shouldn't bother anyone that altered photos exist and are available from NASA, so long as the unaltered photos are also available.

Here's what this chapter covers.

A primer for those unfamiliar with the basic principles of photographic exposure.
Lens Field-of-View
A mathematical model for the Zeiss Biogon 60mm lens.
Did the astronauts always take perfect photographs, or did they take the sorts of pictures you'd expect from amateurs?
Lens Flare
Describes optical phenomena such as lens flare and notes their appearance in Apollo photographs.
Answers the many questions about the small crosshairs that appear in each Apollo photo.
15° shadows, 30° shadows, and 45° shadows
Sample photos that show you can't always tell the true direction of a shadow by inspection of a photograph.
Photo Analysis
A photo-by-photo discussion of the anomalies that conspiracists have identified in NASA photographs.

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