Category: Landscapes

Oct 2013
Fairy Pools
As this photo circulated online, identified as "The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland," it attracted comments such as "oh my this is beyond beautiful." There are waterfalls on the Isle of Skye known as the Fairy Pools, but that's not what this photo shows. It shows the Shotover River in New Zealand, where the vegetation is a normal shade of green. The vivid purple color is a digital effect, achieved by means of a color filter.
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Published in 2006. Debunked in 2008.
“Qinghai-Tibet railway opens green passage for wildlife”
This award-winning Chinese photo appeared to show the peaceful co-existence of antelope with a new high-speed train. Unfortunately the photo was a digital composite.
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August 1942
The Nazi Air Marker Hoax
The U.S. Army press office released pictures supposedly showing "secret markers" placed by fifth-columnists in rural areas of the east coast to guide Nazi bombers toward military targets. But it turned out the "markers" had been investigated by the Army, and had been judged to be entirely innocent patterns on the ground. The release of the photos and the claim of their sinister meaning was attributed to "over-zealous army press-agentry."
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May 1936
The Perambulating Skull
Arthur Rothstein took this photo while documenting drought conditions in South Dakota for the Resettlement Administration. But Republican papers noticed that the same skull appeared in other photos by Rothstein and accused him of using it as a "movable prop" to dramatize the drought for political purposes. They mockingly referred to the cow's head as the "perambulating skull."
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ca. 1889
The Silent City
Alaskan prospector Dick Willoughby claimed this was a photo of a "silent city" mirage visible from Muir Glacier in southeastern Alaska. The "silent city" was supposedly the reflection of a real city thousands of miles away in Russia. Willoughby sold thousands of copies of this photo and even took people on guided tours to see the mirage. But the photo was actually a blurry shot of Bristol, England that he had creatively recaptioned. The "silent city" mirage didn't exist.
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April 23, 1855
The Valley of the Shadow of Death
Roger Fenton took this photo while documenting the Crimean War for the British government. This image, considered a masterpiece of war photography, shows a simple, but haunting view of a cannonball-strewn road near Sevastopol. But in 1981 historian Mark Haworth-Booth determined that Fenton probably staged this scene, moving cannonballs from the ditch onto the road in order to create a more dramatic image.
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