Reading
blue-triangle-element

Articles

PFRE is the original online resource for real estate and interior photographers. Since 2006, it has been a community hub where like-minded professionals from around the world gather to share information with a common goal of improving their work and advancing their business. With thousands of articles, covering hundreds of topics, PFRE offers the most robust collection of educational material in our field. The history of real estate photography has been documented within these pages.
All Articles
blue-triangle-element

Latest

The Render Flames tool in Photoshop is a very powerful and dynamic tool that lets you add fire in just a few steps where there otherwise wasn't one in your photo. In this video, I demonstrate step by step how you can have Photoshop render a fire into a ...

COMMUNITY
blue-triangle-element

Forum

The PFRE Community Forum is an online resource for discussing the art and business of Real Estate and Interior Photography.
Join The Discussion
blue-triangle-element

Latest

View Now
Contest
blue-triangle-element

OVERVIEW

For over a decade, photographers from around the world have participated in PFRE’s monthly photography contests, culminating in the year-end crowning of PFRE’s Photographer of the Year. With a new theme each month and commentary offered by some of the finest real estate & interior photographers anywhere, these contests offer a fun, competitive environment with rich learning opportunities. 

Contest Rules
blue-triangle-element

CURRENT CONTESTS

View / Submit
blue-triangle-element

PAST CONTESTS

View Archive
Conference
blue-triangle-element

Conference

PFRE’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas provides real estate and interior photographers from around the world an opportunity to meet on an annual basis, to learn, share best practices and make connections. Many of the leading names in our field are selected to speak on topics aimed at improving our craft and advancing our business. It’s a comfortable, relaxed environment that is fun, easy to get to, and affordable.
blue-triangle-element

Upcoming

PFRE Conference 2020

Registration not open yet
App Store
blue-triangle-element

Latest News

PFRE Virtual Conference 2020 Announcement: Presenter Line Up Part 1 of 2

We're a few short months away from the PFRE Virtual Conference 2020 an ...

Reader Poll: Which Topics Should Be Covered at the 2020 PFRE Virtual Conference?

Planning is well underway for the 2020 PFRE Virtual Conference and we' ...

PFRE Conference 2020 Announcement

As many of you know, last year we hosted the first-ever PFRE Conferenc ...

Podcast
blue-triangle-element

Podcasts

The PFRE podcast is focused on having meaningful conversations with world-class photographers, business professionals and industry leaders, with the goal to inform and inspire.
All Podcasts

Coming Soon...

Resources
blue-triangle-element

Resources

PFRE prides itself on the depth and breadth of the information and professional development resources it makes available to our community. Our goal is to help real estate and interior photographers be successful while bringing the community together and elevating the industry as a whole.
blue-triangle-element

Directory

Coming Soon...

What Are The Mysterious Lights Over Downtown Seattle At Christmas?

In: 
Published: 24/12/2012
By: larry

You probably noticed that I put my Christmas header photo up on the blog yesterday. This header image has an interesting historical story that goes with it of how PFRE blog readers noticed solved the mystery of what the pattern of 5 lights (one red and 4 green) are in the top center above the two tallest high rise buildings in downtown Seattle. I did a post on this in 2009 and 2010. Long time readers please forgive me for repeating this post I just love this story and I'm sure there are hundreds of readers that haven't heard the story yet!

I shot this near the middle of Lake Union in Dec of 2006 aboard the Shubumi, a motor yacht, co-owned by a good friend and agent our John L Scott, Issaquah office. Every year Fred takes all the agents in the office on a cruise one evening in Dec to follow the Christmas ship to different locations  on Lake Washington singing Christmas carols. A big flotilla of boats follows the Christmas ship around and is a big boating tradition in Seattle. Shooting on a rocking boat in the dark was a challenge. This shot is one of about 20 frames it took me to get this single least fuzzy shot. I shot it hand-held standing as close to the center of the boat as I could get at as fast a shutter speed as I could manage to minimize port to starboard and fore and aft motion.

In 2007 when I first used this header, Seattle architectural photographer Aaron Leitz pointed out that he had a similar shot that he'd taken during the 2005 Christmas season from Gasworks park (about 1/2 mile North of where I took my photo) on a tripod with a telephoto lens. The exact same series of lights with the same spacing and color appear in his shots. The enlargement on the top the right shows the lights above the Columbia Tower that I took during Christmas 2006 and the one on the lower right is Aaron's shot from 2005.

At first my son convinced me that the lights were wing lights on slow moving aircraft in the landing pattern for SeaTac.  This seem to make sense but after some research I realized that wing lights would not be both red and green. They would be either always red or always green depending on which direction the aircraft was going. The fact that Aaron's  shot and mine showed the lights with exactly the spacing even though the shutter speeds were so different was a huge puzzle.

Aaron suggested that since neither of us covered up our viewfinder when we took these shots perhaps the lights were reflections coming in the viewfinder. We discussed several theories on why the same light pattern was present in the same Seattle skyline view taken under different circumstances during Christmas a year apart but nothing really jumped out as a compelling explanation.

The post I did in 2010 got several comments that, to me, completely solves the mystery of what these lights are:

  • David Davis pointed out that, "That is what is referred to as a “light echo.” A light echo is a phenomenon observed in astronomy. Analogous to an echo of sound, a light echo is produced when a sudden flash or burst of light is reflected off a source and arrives at the viewer some time after the initial flash. Due to their geometries, light echoes can produce the illusion of superluminal (greater than the speed of light) speeds. One can observe this phenom at night when viewing the flashing lights of radio towers, cell towers, etc. Especially occurring when the moisture in the atmosphere is at or near dew point, light echoes have been the source of many UFO sightings over the years."
  • Mallory gave an example of the same kind of pattern where lights appeared in the sky in one of his photos here" Notice that Mallorys' photo in Kansas City looks very much like the lights in the shots that Aaron and I took.
  • Andrew Hurst gave us another example of a light echo here in a time-lapse video.

So there you have it through the miracle of crowd-sourcing. These lights are undoubtedly light echos from beacon lights on one of the the high-rise buildings in Seattle.

Oh well, I still like the theory that what the lights are is a Rudolph and Santa phenomena since Aaron’s shot suggests that this is very slow moving air traffic. Eight reindeer, one on each side with green lights (the 4 green lights on their harnesses) with one red light in front (Rudolph)... don't confuse me with science!

Merry Christmas and Happy New year to PFRE readers all over the world!

7 comments on “What Are The Mysterious Lights Over Downtown Seattle At Christmas?”

  1. Merry Christmas to all...
    May the holidays be fantastic.

    Larry, thanks for this great site. It is a wonderful asset, and I appreciate all the helpful suggestions, during my recent startup.
    Your help has been priceless.

    Peace,
    Ken

  2. Yep, it's Santa. He is just checking out the flashes, pocket wizards, on the D800 before he delivers it to some lucky photographer. Unfortunately, not me. Guess I have been bad and was crossed off the list!

    Merry Christmas everyone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

magnifiercrossmenucross-circle