An interesting thing happened to me Friday on a journey from my Twitter feed to a national news web site after they proclaimed they had just posted a gallery of weather photographs submitted by readers.
Anyone who has seen this blog before knows I'm a sucker for gorgeous weather photography and so I had to take a peek. But while rummaging through the photos, I came upon one I had seen before of two lenticular clouds stacked upon themselves over Mt. Rainier at sunrise. Only the caption had it taken during the summer of 2012 by an Aaron T.
I knew the picture has been around for ages, and after some Google sleuthing, came upon the original photographer and his Flickr stream, showing two more photos taken the same day.
It's not "Aaron T." but Jim George, who tells me he took the pictures off his back deck from his home in Puyallup -- in November of 2004!
"My kids woke me up and told me I had to come look outside," he said.
He said he's seen his photograph since be passed around the internet for years, most times unattributed, mis-attributed, or just plain stolen.
"It's been really frustrating," he said, adding had he known, he would have watermarked the picture. He's even got a note on his Flickr page hoping people get the message: "IF YOU ARE GOING TO STEAL THIS IMAGE AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION LIKE MANY HAVE, AT LEAST GIVE ME PROPER PHOTO CREDIT."
I told him I would help set the record straight and so here we are: If you ever see this photo online, it's by Jim George of Puyallup, taken November 20, 2004.
How to check the source of a photo
If you ever come upon a picture and want to check its source, it's actually fairly easy. If you go to images.google.com you can drag and drop a photo from the web site in question, or load the picture into the site and it'll show you where else it appears on the web. That's how I found Jim's picture on his Flickr account, and the fact he had two more from the same event helped authenticate it.
It doesn't bat 1.000 but can help with many photographs.
Photo also solves Snopes.com mystery
Now, there is a second, very similar photograph of the two-stacked clouds that have also made the Internet rounds. At first glance I thought this was the same picture but it's slightly different -- the cirrus clouds behind it are a little different and the trees are missing. (Jim confirmed it's not his photograph.) The Google Image trick didn't really work here because the photo is prolific and is on dozens of sites.
But the photo was the subject of a posting on Snopes.com that purports it was over Mt. St. Helens. Snopes wasn't sure, but used a cutout of St. Helens' peak to perhaps show it was the volcano. But George's photos prove it's from Mt. Rainier.
And in also another point that you can't always trust the internet, you'll find several erroneous references to this photo that it's not only Mt. St. Helens, but it's part of the 1980 eruption.
But if you were the original photographer who was out on that November day in 2004 -- somewhere near Puyallup it seems -- and can prove it's your photo, let me know and I'll help set the record straight!