It has already been discussed on this site that there were 2 problems with the summit photo that he has produced as evidence of making the summit. The reason that this has been written is to go more in depth on the reasoning behind these problems especially the line down the left hand side and what that may mean.
Problem 1: EXIF missing
The first thing about the photo that was noticed was that there was no EXIF information. Two programs were used to find out this information: Photoshop CS5 and JPEGsnoop. JPEGsnoop is a free program that anyone can download and test this out on the summit picture.
Every digital camera will leave EXIF information about the photo. This includes: date taken, model of camera, aperture, etc.
When using Photoshop the EXIF information is lost when a file is saved for the web. Otherwise it retains the EXIF information if saves normally. Thus the photo may have been saved for the web.
Not having EXIF information in the photo meant it was impossible tell if it were authentic because the date taken, camera, shutter speed, maybe GPS were absent. It did not mean though that it was a fake, it just raised some suspicion.
What was in the EXIF of the file, though, was that it had been saved in Photoshop 7.0. It was saved on the 13th of August, the day that Stangl made it back to K2 base camp and then headed out to Skardu.
This lack of EXIF information in the photo led to an investigation as to whether the photo had been altered in Photoshop to see if there was any reason it might be missing.
Problem 2: The line down the left hand side of the photo and the lighter pixels on the other side of it
What was trying to be found was something to indicate that Photoshop tools had been used to change the photo. Was there anything obvious in the photo? Anything that looked like Photoshop may have been used was examined. The photo was enlarged to the pixel level to see if there were any cloning, extra layers, or other hints that Photoshop was used where it should not have been.
The problem was found down the left hand side of the photo. A darker line went up from the bottom left hand corner to near the top of the left hand side of the photo. Also there were some lighter pixels to the other side of the line on the edge of the photo.
The following screenshots show the darker line and a lighter one right on the edge of the left hand of the photo. The photo has been magnified a lot to show this.
Line at the level of the mountains near the bottom of the picture
The following photo will show what was found near the bottom of the summit photo. This is where the mountains are including Chogolisa.
As can been seen there is a darker blue color line running from the bottom of the picture. Also next to it are lighter colored pixels. This also runs up much of the left hand side of the photo. There is quite a contrast in brightness between the pixels on the side of the photo and those on the other side of the line.
Line at the level of the clouds
Further up in the clouds there is still the darker line and the lighter pixels on the side of the photo.
Line at the level of the blue sky
Next the sky has the same properties. But the lighter pixels have become darker than they were at the bottom of the photo.
Higher up in the sky, the properties are still there but the pixels on the side of the photo have become darker. There is less contrast between them than at the bottom of the photo.
No lines hear top of the photo
Eventually the line ends before the top of the photo. There is no discernible difference between the pixels on the side of the photo here and those elsewhere nearby.
There was vignetting at the top of the photo, but even with that effect removed the line was not present in this area.
There maybe a few possible explanations for the line and contrast that is seen up the left hand side of the photo. These maybe as follows:
- There was a hardware problem with the camera. The extreme height and lack of air pressure resulted in some sort of hardware failure. It could have been the electronic shutter mechanism or a problem with the lens. Against it being the electronic shutter, the kind of problems seen on a side of a photo would be seen with a dslr camera with a mechanical shutter not properly working. Also it would have been uniform up the side of the photo.
- Camera had a problem converting the photo to a jpeg. A compact camera once a picture has been taken converts it into a jpeg. It may have incorrectly done that. Against that is that none of the pictures on Stangl’s website display this problem with any of the cameras used.
- The photo has been edited with Photoshop to make it look like he stood on the summit of K2. The reason that there is no EXIF information is that it would have revealed the truth about the photo. Layers or cloning has been used in Photoshop to produce a photo that looks like that he was on the summit of K2.
Likely explanation: Photoshop used
The most likely explanation for the line down the side of the photo, in this sites opinion, is that Photoshop was used to edit the picture and make it look like Christian Stangl was on the summit of K2.
A flaw was found on this photo with no reasonable explanation as to why it is there. People, who use Photoshop and change their photos significantly, can leave a trace that they have made changes. In this photo the line down the left hand side could definitely be the result of manipulation of the photo.
A layer could have been created from another photo and that could have been placed on top of the background.
Or the clone tool could have been used. The mountains in the background could have been simply cloned onto the picture and whatever was there initially has been hidden by this cloning.
The reason that the line is still there is that it is such a small area and unless one really zooms in then it can’t be seen. The person who edited the photo just did not look hard enough on the left hand side of the photo.
What the lighter pixels down the side of the photo might be
Because there are so few lighter pixels next to the darker line, it is hard to say what it is or what it might be with any certainty.
If cloning of the mountains etc on the left hand side of the photo occurred then what are the pixels that are of a lighter color next to the darker line?
A possible explanation is that these pixels are the original background of the photo. There are not enough pixels to say that for sure, but there is chance that they are the original background to the picture. It is purely speculation but the Info panel in Photoshop does offer the ability to see the color and brightness of those pixels and make a guess.
In Photoshop the Info panel will tell the red, green and blue value for each pixel which is part of the photo. The higher the value for each then the brighter and more dominant it is. The highest value is 255, and the lowest 0. If all have the value of 0 then the pixel is black. If all have the value of 255 then the color will be the brightest white.
What is suggested by these readings is that because they have a higher value at the bottom of the photo, this could have been originally a snow background. The reason the values would have been high is that the sun was showing on them. Comparing the values of red, green and blue on other parts of the photo where there is snow including the glasses, the values here at the bottom are higher, but there is a similar higher value for blue. It may indicate brighter snow.
Higher up the photo, the brightness does decrease for the pixels, but there is there is still a higher value for the blue color. This indicates a bluish background. It would not be unreasonable to claim that those pixels could be the color of the sky, but lighter than that in the main part of the photo.
Now all of this is speculation about those lighter pixels as there is little detail. It’s just that by using different tools one can discover more about a photo. These thoughts were just put in to further speculation about that area.
It would be more likely that the photo has been edited by Photoshop than the speculation on what a few pixels up the left hand side of the photo are.
Other explanations may be valid for what the lines are. However, what remains is an unsolved line and area to the left of the photo.
Original photo on Christian Stangl’s website