Analysis of Christian Stangl’s K2 summit picture

There has been a self portrait photo posted on Christian Stangl’s website as proof that he made the summit of K2. It shows a photo of him taking a photo of himself.

The photo has the characteristics of what looks like a summit and mountains in the background. The sun at 10am in the morning is the angle where one would expect it to be, though it is only reflected in his sunglasses. From the picture the day was clear and the sun visible when it was taken. One can also see the cloud circling around the summit reducing visibility as he said.

There is little detail though to see the surrounding area but this is only one photo. The photo appears to be authentic.

But there are 2 problems with the photo. Firstly, this photo doesn’t have the EXIF data in it. EXIF data is saved whenever a picture is taken with a digital camera. It shows the date taken, settings, camera model etc.

There were 2 programs used to find the EXIF data in this photo. The first was Photoshop CS5. If you go to – file info – it will come up with a range of information about a picture normally. On this picture there was almost no information in the EXIF data. Also JPEGsnoop was used to determine whether this photo had been edited and what information it could tell about the picture. JPEGsnoop said that this picture had been edited in Photoshop 7.0 and many of the important pieces of information about the picture were missing in the EXIF.

What is missing from the EXIF data in the photo is the following:

  • Date and time when the picture was taken are missing
  • The type of camera used is missing
  • Information about the ISO setting, aperture, shutter speed and other settings are missing
  • GPS information is also missing but the camera may not have a GPS

Other photos on his press page from previous expeditions have all or some of the EXIF data in them. There were a variety of cameras that have been used by Stangl on previous trips. He used the following cameras: Nikon D80; Nikon Coolpix L2; Canon digital IXUS 400; Nikon D90 and Canon EOS 400D digital.

There is also a line on the left hand side of the photo a few pixels wide. One has to zoom right in to see it. It goes from the bottom left up near the top of the left hand side. At first it is blank white pixels and further up is a darker line. The color appears to be the same as the background with this color but deeper.

It is difficult to say why it is there. It could be a flaw with the software on the camera converting it to a jpeg. Or some other camera fault when the picture was taken maybe because of the conditions on the summit.

The photo though looks authentic and from the summit. This is a press release photo. But to prove that he made the summit the EXIF information needs to be with the photo. It just means that it has been edited using Photoshop 7.0 and in the process the EXIF has not been saved with the image. It is not unusual to save a photo in Photoshop so it is smaller and can be downloaded off the web more easily than the original.

He did say that he took several photos up at the summit so they may turn up on his site sometime. Also an unedited photo with the EXIF information would be better than what has been provided.

Source: Christian Stangl


A reader has used Google Earth to show that the mountain in the background is Chogolisa. Check out this link and the comment. Thanks for that.


One Response to “Analysis of Christian Stangl’s K2 summit picture”

  1. Dromaludaire Says:

    Nice blog.

    Here’s my own analysis :

    This is a screen capture from the top of the K2 using Google Earth. I just added Christian’s face. The mountain in the background on left is Chogolisa seen from the top of K2.

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