Jeff Smallwood Photography
Photo Forensics - Finding the Fake in Microsoft Windows
May 8, 2013

There's something missing from this photo which is included in Windows 7. Do you know what it is?

One of the standard Windows 7 sample images

I've yet to upgrade to Windows 8 and probably never will. However,  I've been a Windows user since version 3.1 and with every new release I've been fascinated by the desktop wallpaper photos Microsoft chooses to include in each final version. So the first place I went was to my own computer, which is Windows 7.

Windows 7 comes with several themes which have their own wallpapers and also comes with some sample images. If you have Windows 7, you've probably seen the sample images before because they're usually the only images in your "Pictures" library when you start. If you're on Windows 7 now, try it. Go to Start and click "Pictures" and you'll probably see this folder in the list:

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%.


Original at 100%. Notice something odd on
the left side of the roof in the sky?
On the left down slope of the roof I noticed a tiny artifact of odd color and a patch in the sky that didn't look quite right. Here is the exact spot zoomed in at almost 500%

Original image zoomed to ~500%. Notice the odd patch in the sky?
This is a tell-tale sign the image had been altered. Which, for some reason, I was very surprised at. I was curious. What used to be there and why was it removed?

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:

Viveza 2 maximum structure, cropped to 100%
You can instantly see there used to be something in the sky that has since been wiped out. Maybe something attached to the roof. My first guess was a pole with a flag. Either way, the editing job was rather sloppy I'd say because the editing artifacts weren't that difficult to see in the first place. An average job at best.

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.

Amphitrite Lighthouse
Photo by Madeleine_H
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.....



7:01 PM
Ya know, I always wondered where the lighthouse was. I always thought it was on the west coast due to the architecture of the lighthouse, the craggyness of the coast, the light, etc. So, today I wasted time googling images of lighthouses on the west coast. Thanks for the additional info. You are not alone. Curiousity killed the cat............LOL.......brought her back!

6:38 AM
Loved the post :D

10:50 PM
Made me laugh! I came across your post in my own quest to find this little lighthouse. I had just narrowed it down to Pacific Northwest or Canada...and there you were. Good detective work!

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