Photo Forensics - Finding the Fake in Microsoft Windows
There's something missing from this photo which is included in Windows 7. Do you know what it is?
If you open that folder you'll see a nice photo of a lighthouse.
As a photo enthusiast who loves lighthouses, this shot caught my eye. Where is it? I thought maybe Maine? I wanted to know where so if I was ever near the location I could travel there to check it out myself. I enjoy the challenge of finding out where someone else may have taken a photograph. I've done this numerous times in the past by looking for clues in an image.
The first thing I did was look at the image meta-data. It wasn't geo-tagged and didn't have any keywords. Next I loaded the photo into an editor, zoomed in, and started looking at the details very closely. Sometimes you can find a small sign or portion of a word that might help in a Google search. Without seeing anything obvious the next thing was a Google search looking for photo locations used in Windows 7. After a two tries I found the answer:
It is the Amphitrite Lighthouse located at Amphitrite Point, just south of Ucluelet, British Columbia.
But the story doesn't end there
As I was zooming around the image looking for location details I noticed something. Here is the top of the original lighthouse photo, zoomed in at 100%.
To do a little forensics on the image, all I had to use was Nik Software's Viveza. I loaded the photo into Viveza 2, put a control point on that spot and pushed the structure all the way up. This should instantly accentuate any minor differences in hue and brightness, and it certainly did. Here are the results:
Next step was to look at other images of the same lighthouse to see what might have been in that smudgy spot in the sky. It only took one Flickr search. A moment later the answer was had.
You can see those poles and instruments reaching above the top of the lighthouse. I found photo after photo of this lighthouse and all of them had the same poles. Here are the search results if you want to see for yourself. The only photo without the poles is the one included in Windows 7.
Why does this matter? It doesn't really. Microsoft made no promise that the included sample photos weren't altered in some way. I only went through this process because I was curious to see what the truth was behind the photo. Sometimes curiosity kills the cat, but luckily I didn't have to leave the comfort of my own recliner to get to the bottom of this.
Oh, and if you want to check out the lighthouse in person, here's the location on Google Maps. The surrounding shoreline looks incredible, and it is only a measly 3,117 miles/49 hour drive from my house. Maybe I'll drop by next weekend.....
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