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Preston - When the digital camera was first discovered Wednesday by a tree service crew, Chelsea Ennis' first thought was "creepy," after realizing the camera was capable of shooting video.
The camera, attached to homemade rigging with several battery attachments and a swiveling holder, had likely dropped out of one of the trees being limbed by the workers outside her parents' home off Quinebaug Drive.
"We thought the worst at first … that someone had put this in the tree," Ennis said. "You never know what people are trying to look at."
Her sister's boyfriend, a police officer, added a theory about a criminal casing the family's home and tracking their routine in preparation for a future burglary.
The family quickly dropped the voyeur and burglar theories, however, after finding out the camera still contained a memory card with 76 benign images.
It was a mystery begging to be solved. She and her family now can't help wonder who the people in the photos are and where the images were taken.
The series of images start from within a vehicle, as if someone attached it to the dashboard. A person's blurry face is visible in one photo. There are pictures taken at ground level, and the camera later rises, capturing aerial shots of a forest, a farm with a barn and a nearby river.
The time stamp places the photos in January 2012, and the scenery might very well be Connecticut, she said.
Gale Ennis, Chelsea's mother, got a chance to look through the photos Wednesday evening and thinks she has identified a farm off of Route 2 in North Stonington.
Aerial photography is becoming more common as cameras are made lighter and people explore ways to get them aloft, whether by kite, remote-controlled helicopter or balloon.
"It appears it was made to hang off of something," Chelsea Ennis said of the camera. "It's almost like someone put up a balloon. … Maybe it hung from the balloon and somehow broke loose."
Gale Ennis said a man in one photo appears to be holding something attached to a string, lending credence to the kite or remote-control theories. She thinks the apparatus may be too heavy for a balloon.
"What were they trying to do? We would love to find out who owns the camera," Gale Ennis said.
Those questions and how the camera ended up in her yard remain a "neat little mystery."