Occasionally, against all odds, you'll see an interesting or even enjoyable picture on the Internet. But is it worth sharing, or just another Photoshop job that belongs in the digital trash heap? Check in here and find out if that viral photo deserves an enthusiastic "forward" or a pitiless "delete."
After blowing up on Twitter, this photo (and its inevitable parodies) were featured pretty much everywhere this week, including no less than four Gawker Media blogs. Given the improbability of the shot, it also inspired a good deal of skepticism, but all evidence points to the picture being the real thing.
Additional photos from the sequence published by ITV make pure Photoshop an unlikely scenario, but National Geographic dug even deeper, consulting both a digital forensics expert and National Wildlife Federation naturalist David Mizejewski:
Mizejewski said European green woodpeckers feed on ants, which means they spend a lot of time on the ground. This type of foraging behavior makes the birds vulnerable to attack from predators—in this case, a hungry weasel.
"The least weasel's signature move is to sever the spinal cord of its prey with a bite to the neck, which is exactly what we're seeing in the photo," said Mizejewski.
Images via Twitter
After months of floating around online, the above image finally took off this week, boosted by a post from the Facebook page "Veternaria." Variously described as "an Inari fox" and "a monkey from Madagascar," the odd creature actually belongs to the taxon "total bullshit."
Created by Russian doll maker Santaniel late last year (and available for just $499), this isn't the first of their whimsical creations to be mistaken for a real animal. In 2013, another doll from Santaniel's "Inari fox" series similarly went viral.
While usually Antiviral deals with fake photos passed off as real, this entry is just the opposite. As Gawker's Andy Cush explained earlier this week, the above picture and other "unbelievable" photorealistic CG images currently circulating online "are actually plain old photos."
All of them come from HYPER REAL CG, an Instagram account created by David O'Reilly, the artist behind web parodies like Twitter's @free_facts (sample fact: "Fish never sleep because they are so full of rage"). O'Reilly apparently thought the gag was pretty straightforward, expressing surprise on Twitter after sites like the Huffington Post and Gizmodo fell for it:
So.. I thought the #hyperrealcg joke was really obvious - the blandness of virtuoso 'photoreal' 3d. Didn't expect sites to take it literally [...] #Hyperrealcg is just some fun ribbing at cg tropes. Not trying to fool anyone. Hope you guys are enjoying and not getting angry. ✌️
Another seemingly obvious joke widely taken at face value, this supposed rejection letter from Harvard required a full explanation from author Molly McGaan on Tuesday after it was retweeted tens of thousands of times:
I have literally gotten 12 messages asking me this, so I thought I clear it up. That Harvard letter I shared is not real. It's from the comedy magazine I write at my school.
PLEASE DON'T FORWARD
While it doesn't appear this now-famous image of a lizard "playing" a leaf was digitally altered, this shot and others by photographer Aditya Permana bear the hallmarks of an arguably more insidious trend: twee nature photos staged by manipulating and even injuring animals.
Often coming from Southeast Asia, these macro shots regularly show their subjects in "cute" but unlikely or impossible poses, sometimes aided by wire and glue. Photographer Jenn Wei explains what makes these pictures such an affront to her and her peers:
Winning awards and gaining profits with deceit and animal abuse is unfair for the real nature photographers. [...] Nature photographer should capture the true essence of wildlife, not forcing the poor animals to hold an umbrella, dance or do kungfu. The nature is beautiful and interesting as it is.
Permana insists this photo wasn't staged, telling the Daily Mail that after watching the lizard for an hour he "noticed it looked like it was playing a guitar." Only Premana knows for sure, but even if the lizard wasn't posed, this photo promotes the kind of unnatural nature photography Wei decries.
Images via Twitter