This image has been around for years and keeps getting repeated in collections of "unexplained" photos. But what is it?
It shows a group of five people standing on a snow-covered road. It's snowing. There are various white cross-shaped lights visible that look like this:
There's a variety of versions of this photo, including this one of it being displayed in a picture frame:
And someone holding the image:
What looks like a photo of a photo:
And some lower resolution images that seem designed to look more "authentic"
There are various different stories behind this image, example:
The scattering of lights in a photo looks quite like "orbs" - a photographic effect where the flash of the camera reflects off nearby dust motes or snowflakes and being out of focus they appear as orbs, like this:
Η ιστορία έχει ως εξής: Οι άνθρωποι της φωτογραφίας είχαν πάει στο Άγιον Όρος. Σκέφτηκαν να περιπλανηθούν λίγο στα μέρη του Όρους και κάποια στιγμή κατάλαβαν πως χάθηκαν. Όμως δεν ανησύχησαν. Στο δρόμο τους βρήκαν κάποιο Μοναχό (κανονικό, μη νομίζετε διάφορα), οπότε του ζήτησαν να τους βγάλει μια φωτογραφία. Και ιδού το αποτέλεσμα…
The story is as follows: The people of the photo had gone to Mount Athos. They thought they would wander a bit in the mountains and sometime they knew they were lost. But they did not worry. On their way they found a Monk (normal, do not think different), so they asked him to take a picture of them. And this is the result ...
But orbs are usually circular. How could these all end up shaped like little angels? One way is if there's something in front of the lens blocking light in that particular shape. For example, I just cut this shape in some paper and held it in front of the camera lens:
Pointing it at a Christmas tree (with it the other way up, the image comes out inverted)
What about snow? To simulate some snowflakes I hung a couple of pieces of paper from some fishing line and dangled them in front of my camera.
With no flash it looked like this, just two indistinct white blues in the center of the image:
Turn the flash on, and they stand out more:
Hold the piece of paper in front, and they stand out really well.
The similarities with the "snow angel" photo are quite apparent. You have the same shape in the same orientation. It's white, with various brightnesses and sizes. It's also snowing. It seems very likely that we are just seeing "bokeh" (out of focus highlights) that are shaped like this because something is blocking the lens.
Is it deliberate? Well, it's possible that something could accidentally do this, it's also possible that someone could have an "angel bokeh" cover on, and forgot about it. It's also possible they tried to get the effect deliberately. That's not that important - the point here is that the effect is relatively easy to duplicate, and so we don't need to seek out supernatural explanations