Who is Sergio Laoiza, the UFO photographer behind 50-year-old 'best pic ever'?

Bruno Cooke May 9, 2022
Who is Sergio Laoiza, the UFO photographer behind 50-year-old 'best pic ever'?


The man who took what has been described as the “best photograph ever taken of a UFO”, Sergio Laoiza, did so by chance. 

Costa Rican citizen Esteban Carranza recently shared a “drum scan” copy of the photograph taken by Laoiza with UAPMedia UK, a British organisation whose aim is to “bring a serious resource to the British media outlets on the discussion of UFOs”.

The updated, never-before-seen, high-resolution version of the image has since been circulating (if you’ll pardon the pun) on social media. Note: the pictures immediately above and below are illustrations, not photographs.

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Who is Sergio Laoiza, the man who took the ‘best photograph ever taken of a UFO’?

On 4 September 1971, a twin-engine Aero Commander F680 aeroplane carrying three mapping technicians flew over Costa Rica taking photos of the water and rainforest below.

They did so at 20-second intervals. Others would later take their photos and use them to make maps. The team flew at 10,000ft with a special, 100lb camera fit for the purpose.

One of the individuals on that plane was Sergio Laoiza. He was the technician in charge of the camera at the moment the fateful photograph was snapped. 

When did they realise they’d taken such an important photograph?

Along with the other two technicians flying with him – and the pilot, too – Laoiza had received aerial photography training from the US Army Map Service.

They had no intention to capture the “flying saucer” image that has since made them so famous. Below is a photo of a camera similar to the one Laoiza may have used.

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Photo by Paul Matthews/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

But it was only much later, after filing the high resolution black and white negatives away, that they noticed the “anomalous object” in one of the frames.

“Real or not,” wrote The Costa Rica News in May 2021, “the photograph put Costa Rica at the epicentre of the discussion of extraterrestrial life.”

Esteban Carranza acquired a ‘contact’ copy of the original negative from his late uncle

UAPMedia UK got its “drum scan” copy of the photograph from a man called Esteban Carranza, a Costa Rican citizen who tweets under the handle @UAP_CR.

His copy is over 40 years old. By the time the original, which resides in the National Archives of Costa Rica, had become famous in the 1980s, it “already had a lot of scratches from its manipulation” – UAPMedia UK writes.

Carranza, therefore, estimates that his contact copy might be from “around 1975”. He acquired it from his uncle, who died last year. His uncle in turn acquired it from the National Geographic Institute.

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Grace | Original Trailer | BritBox

Grace | Original Trailer | BritBox

Sergio Laoiza was ‘pretty excited’ when Carranza showed him the UFO negative

Esteban Carranza recently visited Sergio Laoiza. He was the technician who took what is now one of the most famous photos among UFO enthusiasts.

“When Esteban Carranza showed Loaiza the negative,” UAPMedia UK writes, “he was pretty excited!”

He sent the negative to a photo laboratory last year. The lab used a Tango Drum Scanner to produce a 1.7GB high-quality digital scan of it. The resulting image has since gone viral.

The “flying saucer” was “hovering” over Lake Cote. Analyses have since estimated the size of the object to be between 120 and 200ft.

“I made this high res scan last year,” Carranza wrote on Twitter on Friday (6 May 2022). “Met with people on the National Geographic Institute and tracked the technician in charge of the camera back in 1971” – that’s Sergio Laoiza.

“But there’s no reason for the image to sit on my desktop. Disclosure is a team effort and everyone should have this image.”

View the image via the UAPMedia UK website here.

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Bruno Cooke has been a freelance journalist since 2019, primarily with GRV Media. He was an early contributor to The Focus, and has written for HITC, Groundviews and the Sheffield University newspaper – he earned his MA in Global Journalism there in 2021. He’s the Spoken Word Poetry Editor for The Friday Poem, and self-published his debut novel Reveries in 2019, which his mum called both a “fine read” and “excellent Christmas present”. Bruno has lived in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and likes, among other things: bicycle touring, black and white Japanese films, pub quizzes, fermentation and baklava. In 2023, Bruno will set off with his partner on a round-the-world cycle.