Photoshop cloned trees in Google Maps


From Google Maps, here's an obviously manipulated photo of some trees next to a golf course in the Netherlands. Is it common for the company that licenses its satellite photos to Google to alter images this way? The discussion in Photoshop Disasters offers up some theories. Google Maps: Unusually Similar Trees = Black Helicopters (Photoshop Disasters)


  1. Could be as benign as when mapmakers insert fake roads into the middle of nowhere as a watermark to detect when competitors have copied their maps.

    Or this is the secret stronghold from which the Lizardmen rule over us.

  2. maybe they want the crappy golf course to look better, after bill murray blew up the gopher holes with too much tnt.

  3. If they were actually hiding something important, you hope they would do a better PS job than that, right?

  4. you guys are all wrong. this area was obviously hit with iranian missiles.

    they have this affect.

  5. If up to me, I would have cloned something interesting like giant Norwegian forest cats. That would make me visit a golf course.

  6. Has anyone bothered to consider the obvious point that the trees could well be clones themselves?

    [/horticulture joke]

  7. I would love to see someone near that location do some creative kite photography and create a KML that fixes this. One could create a bug repository for things like this in Google Maps/Earth, and have people submit patches (photos). Crowdsourced mapping FTW!

  8. I would say the same thing Noah did at #3. Probably a shoddy image stitching or a sloppy job of covering up an error created by the camera, debris in the field, anything. Maybe even trying to remove a passing airplane from the image.

  9. Vectr,

    weird, I can’t imagine what’s to hide there. I know it well enough that I’ve been around that area a lot and never noticed any secret government installations etc., just hotels and stuff.

    Eg. Kattenburgstraat. Annoyingly the camera is facing the opposite side of the tracks than the pixelated area. Maybe that’s a clue.. it must be super-secret :)

    Very strange indeed.

  10. I remember when the roof of the US Capitol building and the White House both had grey mspaint-style blocks covering their roofs. They have since been replaced by some newer images, but not so new that they don’t show the AA guns or white tents with spotters and snipers. It’s pretty routine to see this stuff IMO, but nonetheless a good catch seeing it in the trees.

  11. the data from google earth comes from a variety of sources. higher resolution data actually comes from aerial photography from planes.

    What with lens distortion and all, i think they’ve done an excellent job to have as few areas of obvious retouching as they do.

  12. Most high resolution imagery in google maps are from airborne cameras and not satellite. The photos are post processed to correct for lens distortion, shifts in terrain etc. The process is called ortho rectification.

    Errors in ortho imagery origins mainly from errors in the orientation of the camera and errors in the terrain model used for the georeferencing. These errors will show as displacement of the images – slight shifts, objects appearing multiple times etc. It is common for companies to QC the processed images using photoshop and also correcting minor errors with the clone tool. The cloning done above leaves a lot to be desired though (but is by far not the worst example).

  13. If people want to fire missiles that accurate at the Netherlands, then they already have better pictures than the n00bs like you and me have from Google Maps. This could easily be an artifact of the photomatching, it could also be a NATO radar installation or something. It could also be a Tree Farm, where they grow cloned trees.

  14. #10 vectr: it’s a navy base. That’s where the Dutch High Priest of Navyness lives. The Navy end boss of the Netherlands level, so to speak.

    By the way, if you cycle along the Kattenburgerstraat, on the other side of the wall you can see these weird looking silos. These are not the Dutch Area 51, but a storage space for the Maritime Museum which is not far from there.

    I know all this because my father used to work there before he retired. Perhaps my dad is in one of those pixels!

  15. i guess i think it’s funny to see how many people respond to this with surprise. you think GOOGLE EARTH is the biggest thing that higher-ups keep stuff secret through? it goes so much deeper, so, so, so much fucking deeper. about as deep as the caves that all reptilians have been hiding in waiting for the day to reclaim the surface of the earth before the greys come back and tell us all the secrets….who knows what i’m talkin about?

  16. well as somebody who used to photoshop aerial photography for a company providing orthophotography to local and regional governments, i can say that this sort of thing is probably the result of a large blemish on the scan. it probably wasn’t a hair since the area is not linear, so really it could be anything.. the editor was quite an amature though. he should have cloned in an entire clump of trees from far away.

    but yeah.. it happens all the time.. nobody want to deliver a product with dust and scratches all over it.

  17. @26

    sounds like you know the biz. when i came on 9 years ago, my bosses thought of me and my photoshop clone tool as gods magic wand. they used to send out orthos with huge stitching lines with no blending.

    things are very different now, though who knows if its for the better, when you can fix errors with photoshop, can you really trust the ortho?

  18. Not a big deal, but you can see the blue circular Photoshop brush images just north-east of Galveston, TX in the mid-range view.

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