Sorting the Real Sandy Photos From the Fakes

Update: More confirmation of this level of flooding. Christopher Confessore emailed me this video, which was posted to the tenants' association. I'd say that's incontrovertible. 


The latest photo to circulate on social media is a building that collapsed on 8th Ave in Manhattan. It is real. It was posted by journalist Meg Robertson, who has confirmed she took the photo and has posted several follow ups from the scene. (At least one other person near the building has also posted photographs.)


Here's a photo of a shark purportedly swimming in the streets of Brigantine, New Jersey, a city which has experienced serious flooding. This photo is fake. The shark fin was Photoshopped into the image of the city. Tom Phillips found the source shark fin in a Google Image Search, which I've overlaid on the original fake image in the GIF below.

This image popped up while we were researching a *different* supposed shark photo from Brigantine, which we have not been able to verify one way or the other. Though we've found no evidence to indicate that the photo below is fake, we're suspicious because of the number of times fake shark photos have cropped up during floods. The photo below was originally posted by Kevin McCarty, who appears to live in that town. This is a complicated situation because McCarty posted both of these photographs, one of which we now know to be fake, and on the Facebook thread for that image, people call out his Photoshop skills. It's still possible, all these hours later, that the photo below is real and McCarty decided to have some fun with the picture above, or that they are both fakes.

UPDATE 10/30 2:44pm: Mystery solved! It's a fake; a very craftily created Photoshopping job. Snopes tracked down the original photograph. The original on Flickr was taken in 2006 in South Africa


For fun, I overlaid the source photograph on the image of flooded New Jersey, so you can see how the job worked.


This photo of the George Washington Bridge was taken in 2009 and is sold on Getty Images, Eliot Bentley points out


Here we see an example of the third variety: an old, Photoshopped image that's been cropped up for more than half a decade. This Statue of Liberty shot was actually created by merging a supercell image from Nebraska with one from New York. Snopes had long ago done the investigation on this.


Here we see midtown Manhattan in a real photograph ... taken in 2011. This photograph first ran in the Wall Street Journal, as sleuthed by IsTwitterWrong.


Here we see the Old Guard, which guards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The photograph is absolutely real, but it was taken in September, as the Old Guard's Twitter feed has been pointing out this afternoon.


Not every stunning image is fake, though. Here's one from Red Hook, a Brooklyn neighborhood. The person who took this photograph, Nick Cope, has confirmed that it was taken today. And there is corroborating evidence both from local officials and journalists that Red Hook streets are flooding, particularly in this warehouse district (which I actually know well).


Updates (These Will Be Rolling)

Below, we see a still from movie, The Day After Tomorrow, which has had a New York TV logo superimposed on it to fool people. 


@twitsplosion sent in this photo of Times Square, which has also been making the rounds. Unfortunately, it's a ZUMA Press image from August 2011. 


The next two pics are both from Atlantic City. I haven't been able to track down the provenance of either, but I think they pass the plausibility test. The first was posted by Weatherboy Weather on Facebook with credit to an unlinked man, Dann Cuellar. 

UPDATE, 9:14pm: Ok, mystery solved! The original Facebook poster misspelled Cuellar's name as 'Dan Cuellar.' Dann Cuellar is a reporter with WPVI in Philadelphia. It turns out, as we hypothesized, that it was taken from the Flagship Hotel. (We got there by noting that it was quite similar to this image geotagged from that same spot, although minus the flooding, of course). Cuellar's Twitter page has various other shots from the same location. 


One of the reasons I'm willing to do so is that other photographs from the early high tide in Atlantic City corroborate that this area of the city was badly flooded. With Bing Maps, I was able to view the streets in this area and find plausible vantage points from which the photos could have been taken. (Google Maps did not have coverage of the area for some reason.) There is a tall building in just about the precise location that this photograph would have to be taken from. So, again, I'm wouldn't bet my life on it, but I think there is a very good change this photograph is real. If it's not, you should probably hire its creator for your next CGI spectacular.


And finally, Garance Franke-Ruta sent this one over, which didn't take too much investigation. 


Thanks to @nathanjurgenson, @edyong209, @discoverymag, @neve_science_wx, @kathyf, @KateRoseMe, @harmonicait, @NigadamaSoup, and @sebprovencher for their help rounding up images.

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