Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Over-thinking Glenn Campbell's Area 51 photograph - real - hoax - a rock?

Researcher/activist Glenn Campbell recently caused a ruckus by posting what he claimed were photos of some type of flying object taken on a recent hike up Tikaboo Peak that overlooks the worst kept secret- secret base in the world, the Groom Lake Test Flight Center also known as Area 51.

You can view the photo by visiting his website (see the link at the top right under "Cool New Links".

Also make sure you also visit the discussion forum at dreamlandresort.com and see the feeding feeding frenzy it sparked.

Opinions on what the photo showed varied from it being a UAV to a rock thrown up by one of the witnesses.

Some of the posters voiced envy, healthy skepticism and downright righteous-anger for and against Glenn Campbell - with some wanting to know what he was trying to pull - with others going to his defense - saying the forum was being unfair to him.

But it was interesting for me to note that no one did a logical and methodical analysis of the photo - so - not wanting to be left out of the fray - I have decided to step up.

Because the photo of the image belongs to Glenn, I will not post it here.

I'll preface my photo-forensics foray by stating over the last decade or so I have been training myself and experimenting in image analysis techniques which I have been called to use on many occasions (by various publications) to debunk UFO photographs, 9-11 (images) conspiracy theories and the like.

That said, with the advent of cheap and easy to use digital image editing software, its easier than ever to fake photographs showing anything one wants to show - be it an anonymous man captured standing on the top of the World Trade Center just seconds before a frame-frozen hijacked airliner flies through the building to the amateurish Photoshopping of an extra missile (because one failed to launch) into a photo released by the Iranian government to strike fear into the West and especially Israel. I was amazed when even seasoned photo editors at major newspapers missed that one.

As a result everyone is aware that long gone has been the assumption that photos don't lie - but it is safe to assume that people still do - especially those with a little Photoshop knowledge.

When I learned about the Campbell photo, and read the posts on Dreamland Resort - I decided what was needed was some intelligent analysis.

I downloaded the images off of Glenn's site and went to work. My first clue that the image was probably unaltered was that Glenn had made the raw image available , which includes the EXIF data (something most photo-fakers delete) because it reveals a huge amount of information about the image.

EXIF stands for: Exchangeable Image File Format and is now standard on most pro-sumer and high-end digital cameras.

It suffices to say it is a small data file attached to the image detailing the technical specifics of the image in question, such as camera type, date and time the image was taken, exposure mode, and sometimes (in higher end-GPS linked cameras) even the latitude and longitude where the photo was snapped.

The EXIF data can also reveal if the image was futzed with in Photoshop (or any other image editing program) when it was altered, including any changes in resolution, contrast, file formats etc.

Now you can see why the EXIF data is missing from most faked photographs. Without EXIF data to examine ,I will not sign off as a photo being authentic.

After looking at the EXIF data and the image itself, i posted this on Dreamland Resort:

Here's the EXIF data I pulled from Glenn's photo. it yields some interesting information:

File name: sighting-detail.jpg
File size: 24264 bytes (400x266, 1.8bpp, 13x)
EXIF Summary: 1/500s f/14.0 ISO400 18mm

Camera-Specific Properties:

Equipment Make: Canon
Camera Model: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Lens Size: 18.00 - 55.00 mm
Firmware Version: Firmware 1.1.1
Owner Name: unknown
Serial Number: 2021132493

Image-Specific Properties:

Image Orientation: Top, Left-Hand
Horizontal Resolution: 72 dpi
Vertical Resolution: 72 dpi
Image Created: 2008:10:13 11:25:02
Exposure Time: 1/500 sec
F-Number: f/14.0
Exposure Program: Normal Program
ISO Speed Rating: 400
Lens Aperture: f/14.0
Exposure Bias: 0 EV
Flash: No Flash, Compulsory
Focal Length: 18.00 mm
Color Space Information: sRGB
Image Width: 400
Image Height: 266
Rendering: Normal
Exposure Mode: Auto
Scene Capture Type: Standard
Exposure Mode: Program
Focus Type: Auto
Metering Mode: Evaluative
Sharpness: Unknown
Saturation: Normal
Contrast: Normal
Shooting Mode: Manual
Image Size: Large
Focus Mode: One-Shot
Drive Mode: Continuous
Flash Mode: Off
Compression Setting: Fine
Macro Mode: Normal
Subject Distance: 81.910 m
White Balance: Auto
Exposure Compensation: 3
Sensor ISO Speed: 224
Camera Actuations: -778895360
Color Matrix: 129

Other Properties:

Resolution Unit: i
Chrominance Comp Positioning: Co-Sited
Exif IFD Pointer: 193
Compression Scheme: JPEG Compression (Thumbnail)
Horizontal Resolution: 72 dpi
Vertical Resolution: 72 dpi
Resolution Unit: i
Offset to JPEG SOI: 5776
Bytes of JPEG Data: 1666
Chrominance Comp Positioning: Co-Sited
Exif Version: 2.21
Image Generated: 2008:10:06 11:56:52
Image Digitized: 2008:10:06 11:56:52
Meaning of Each Comp: Unknown
Shutter Speed: 1/500 sec
Metering Mode: Pattern
Focal Plane Horiz Resolution: 4433 dpi
Focal Plane Vert Resolution: 4453 dpi
Focal Plane Res Unit: i
White Balance: Auto
Base Zoom Resolution: 0
Zoomed Resolution: 0
ISO Speed Rating: Unknown
Digital Zoom: None
Self-Timer Length: 0 sec
Canon Tag1 Length: 92
Flash Bias: 0.00 EV
Sequence Number: 0
Canon Tag4 Length: 68
Actuation Counter: 0
Actuation Multiplier: 53651
Canon Tag93 Length: 34
Color Temperature: 5200 K
Canon TagA0 Length: 28

It is interesting to note that Glenn is shooting at a very low DPI (72) which makes this image difficult to enhance or do much forensic evaluation on.

Plus- notice the focus distance to the object is 81 meters (approximately 240 feet) and not infinity - indicating the object is not very large or flying very high. The blurred movement also indicates that the object was either moving very fast or relatively-fast in relation to the camera.

if it is a real craft - and not a hoax- its small - like a mini UAV - maybe used for recon at our favorite non-existent air base.

My guess Glenn is sitting back chuckling to himself about every one's (including my) speculations.

Just not enough data here.

-Steve Douglass


Since then - I have decided to expand on my post after doing a more thorough examination of the photo, applying a few image algorithms (and other important sounding words) I also decided to examine the provenance of the photographer as well.

I love a challenge and chance to hone my skills - even if it was expending a lot of time and energy on something that might turn out to be just a rock - but I wasn't doing anything important tonight anyway.

Although this is a long post - consider this a crash course on spotting photo fakery.

But first a word about EXIF.

Although the EXIF data from the raw image did not indicate it had been manipulated, through my experience in image analysis I have also found it is possible to edit the EXIF data as well, but that too leaves tale-tale signs that can be also be ferreted out.

First thing I did was to re-sample the image at a higher DPI using Genuine Fractals. This makes it easier to examine the pixel structure and look for any thing out of the ordinary.

Enhancing the contrast range between the highlights, mid-tones and shadows did reveal an interesting anomaly, some blurred streaked, pixels emanating from the flying object up toward the top of the frame. if you have Photoshop. play with the contrast controls on a magnified version of the image and you will see what I see.

The streaking indicates to me that the object was most likely falling straight down, much like a rock would when tossed up in the air.

Even though the EXIF data indicated the shutter speed used was 1/500 sec, it was not enough to freeze the relative motion of the object, which by all indications appears to be down.

However, there is another possible explanation for the streak. It could have been caused by heavy pressure by the photographer on the shutter button, causing the camera to move down slightly during the exposure - a natural photographic occurrence - which i have done myself when photographing lightning . sound logical right?

But then i got to thinking - putting myself on that peak and watching the object fly by and thought - if I was taking that photo I would be following the object in the viewfinder and panning with it which would negate the downward pressure from my shutter finger.

I took out my camera and reenacted the scenario (albeit on the balcony of my apartment) and could not recreate the downward streak.

But wait - maybe he had the camera on a tripod - I thought - that would account for the streak right? If the camera was locked down, on a tripod on unstable ground and there was enough pressure from the photographer's finger it might do that right?

But if that was the case, it could mean the image was staged, and Glenn was expecting the object to fly into the frame, or someone threw a rock up into the air and he was standing at the ready to snap it before it hit the ground.

To make a long post even longer ( and at the risk of over-thinking this entire non-story story and possibly doing exactly what Glenn wants us to do - pontificate about a rock ) I couldn't help but ask myself, what is wrong with this picture?

And I'm not referring to the weird shadow or the streak, or the fact the man looks like he just chunked something into the air.

I'm puzzled by Glenn's account of the sighting.

Although Glenn has amended his initial report with more details, some things don't sit right, like the vagueness of his description - as if he's afraid to say what it is. Like he has heavily weighed and qualified his description.

Glenn writes: "I cannot say what the triangular object is, but I guarantee that the photo itself is authentic and unretouched."
You can click on the image above to see it in maximum detail. -snip -

"Other than cropping the above image, I DID NOT ALTER IT IN ANY WAY. The witnesses to the sighting were myself and the two people shown above: a visitor from Utah, Kevin, and his 8-year-old son, John Charles.

Alien craft? Advanced military test vehicle? You decide." - as if he is daring the pundits too say what it is and then prove them wrong by revealing its true nature.

He wrote on Dreamland Resort: "The craft was virtually silent: no jet noise, no hum, no sonic boom. It was traveling roughly in a northwest direction (about the same vector at Highway 375 in the Tikaboo Valley). The trajectory was parabolic. The craft appeared to accelerate at approximately 1G during flight, which would have made it nearly weightless. The occupants, if any, would have experienced almost no gravity until the end of the journey, when they would have been crushed by the accumulated inertia (at least according to Earth physics). No human could be piloting that craft and survive. Who then?"

Think about it - what Glenn described above could also pertain to - yes - a rock thrown by someone, silent, parabolic arc that sudden stop at the end of its flight crushing any occupants (insects?) that may be onboard.

In any event and before passing judgement, I'd like to hear from his other witnesses. I'd like to see the shots he took before and after the photo in question. There must be others- everyone poses for a picture on Tikaboo don't they?

In the end - it caused a stir - sent more traffic to his blog - and put Glenn back on the map after a long absence.

I can't help but think of the late great Paul Newman's last line from The Color of Money - "I'm back!"

Way to go Glenn.

When do you jump out and say "I never did say it wasn't a rock."

-Steve Douglass

UPDATE: It IS a rock.

See the link at the top right.

Glenn "Goober" Campbell can now have the great satisfaction of thumbing his nose at all the experts - including me - but he did so at the expense of his credibility.

Just like a little kid who keeps sticking his tongue out at you - don't you just want to pop him?


Anonymous said...

Let's see, this is the same Glenn Campbell who posted these little masterpieces on his Family Court Chronicles site:



And this is the same Glenn Campbell who recently lost his job as an airline baggage handler??

Yes, it is. The same smug, self-congratulatory know-it-all whose life is a slow motion train wreck. The same Glenn Campbell whose previous UFO/Area 51 businesses----the Area 51 Research Center in Rachel and his UFO bookselling business in Las Vegas----both failed.

And now he's trying to get back into the Area 51/UFO "business" since his other business and career ventures have failed. To do so, he tries a "there's no such thing as bad publicity" stunt. So typical, so typical of Glenn.

Anyone who spends a little time surfing through Glenn's various web sites, wading through all his rantings (has Glenn every had a thought he didn't put into print??), can come to only conclusion: Glenn is a deeply troubled man with a boatload of mental problems. But you have to admit Glenn is a very amusing, interesting guy-----just amusing when he's not trying to be, and interesting in ways he doesn't even suspect.

Anonymous said...

I have real trouble with the idea Glen surprised by the reaction he got. in fact, i think he got exactly what he wanted, more traffic to his website, a little bit of infamy and a chance to once agin put a big flashing light on his head to call attention to himself.

It is interesting that he called this an experiment, to try and pass it off as some kind of sociological study but we all really know hat it was all about - jealousy.

Dreamland is no longer Campbell's domain and this was his chance to stand up on a rock overlooking the base and announce that Glen, the self anointed expert on Area 51, was there first.

And except for a few old misguided fans, no one really cared.

So you peed on your side of the rock and the other dogs didn't acknowledge it, so in turn you dropped a turd. which caused a stink and got you the attention you craved.

But a turd is always a turd, even when it is masked in pseudo-intellectual pscsho-mumbo jumbo diatribe.

Glenn is a narcissist - clearly evident from his rants and raves and the mind-numbing chronicle detailing every minute thought that crosses through his brain.

Hard as it might for him to except not everyone is as interested in Glen as he is, or as he thinks everyone should be.

In an attempt to see if there was really some method to his madness, i scanned his post, photos and read some of his rants, and in hindsight it was a waste of time that I'll never get back. The only thing I can liken it to was a walk through a garbage dump of a life.

Glen tries to pass himself off as some kind of free-thinking enlightened being - sitting up on Tikaboo laughing at the UFO believers and Traingle chasers with every once in awhile sending out his missives proclaiming the world as Glen sees it and as you should see it.

"Religion is for idiots you poor saps! UFOs are bunk! Stealthies are wasting their time!
The government is wasting our money! Aurora never existed!" and yet he is still as fascinated with Area 51 as anyone reading this post.

The bottom line is that Glen's "experiment" pissed some people off, because he forgot one of the basic ideas that people do not like to be conned or made fools of.

When he was called on it he tries and worm out of it by saying it was just a joke, or a sociological experiment.

He then tries to make you think he's deep and goes off on a tangent, comparing Area 51 enthusiasts with religious cultists plus throwing in rant about the evils of religion.

But it is all just a smoke screen, a poor attempt to mask the fact that Glen needs constant attention.

The proof is in the pudding people. Glen's pathetic life is an open book and it is posted on the internet for the world to see.

He doesn't write it down in a journal, because that is what normal people would do - and Glen is all about not being normal.

Thoreau said, The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. "

But not Glen.

Although it is clear he is desperate, he's could never be accused of being quiet.

Quiet doesn't get you on UFO Hunters. Quiet doesn't get you on Larry King. Quiet doesn't get Area 51 tour bookings.

The world is Glen's and we are just taking up precious space in it.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin