Scare Force One Photo: Obama’s “Exif” Strategy?


UPDATE: Welcome, Ace of Spades readers! Feel free to browse around and enjoy yourselves.

Color me skeptical, but there’s something that still doesn’t smell right about that April 27 $328,000 photo op flight involving Air Force One (tail number 28000 when the POTUS is not on board) that caused utter panic on the ground as it buzzed New York City.

Here’s the picture location from the White House web site:

First of all, it’s an awful picture for an official “Photo Op”:

  • It’s dark
  • The canopy of the plane taking the photo is reflecting light in the upper right
  • By “hundreds of thousands of dollars‘” standards, it’s low-resolution

But there’s something else that’s possibly even more telling about this photo: If you take the shot into a decent photo software package, the Exif (Exchangeable image file format) data is missing.

Here’s what I’m talking about; below is a link I picked at random to a typical White House image release:×504/americas03.JPG

Now, if we look at the Exif info, everything looks as expected:

POTUS Security with Exif

See all that geek data in the bottom 2/3rds of the Exif window? Well, that’s typical for digital cameras. It contains  technical information about the photo, including the brand of camera, shutter speed, aperature settings etc. and is automatically embedded into the photo at the time it is created. Not everycamera generates those numbers, but the majority do. Now, look at the Exif data for the $328,000 photo:

Air Force One with Exif info missing

Looks kind of stark, doesn’t it? Hey, it’s possible the camera didn’t support that info (though I’m skeptical in the extreme). IMHO, it’s far more likely that the data was purged before the picture was released because the shot was taken by a POS (Point and Shoot) camera. And it’s an either/or situation. For the moment… your call. In any event, that’s a crappy $328,000 photo.

But mark these words: If it turns out that the April 27 flight wasn’t a “photo op” gone bad but instead was a joy ride for insiders, lobbyists, or “movers and shakers”, mainstream America is going to have a kitten! Americans will tolerate a lot from their elected officials – we’ll take unfair tax hikes and corruption from both the Right and Left. We’ll wince away at “Read my lips” and “the definition of ‘is'”.

But we will not accept a “Let them eat cake” governmental mindset that sends New Yorkers justifiably running screaming into the streets for fear that their buildings are about to be hit again. Events like 9/11, Pearl Harbor, and even the Civil War resonate to the very core of our national being.

This is thin ice…

Once again, I suggest that you submit a Freedom Of Information Act Request to find out exactly who was on Flight 28000…

Alan Speakman


24 Responses to Scare Force One Photo: Obama’s “Exif” Strategy?

  1. jhrhv says:

    Also the bottom right you can clearly see the bottom of the canopy. I could have taken a better photo with my Rebel XSI. I would have thought if you were doing a photo op you would have several photographers on the ground and have at least one airborne camera mounted on the outside of the plane.

    Then again I’m not a photographer getting paid thousands of dollars to take these photos so what do I know. And 1 photo only?

  2. Mike Jefferson says:

    I’m sorry to burst your conspiracy balloon, but it’s very easy and quite common to remove exif information from digital photos. People do this for a variety of reasons – not wanting to disclose information that can trace the image back to the individual, type of camera, etc. What is even more interesting is that there are commercial programs that will encrypt data into the pixels that is not visible and can only be retrieved by using a special key.

    Beyond this, I don’t know why you are looking to find something that doesn’t pass the smell test. Even if this is a bit of fauxtography, the question is who cares? The Obama administration really screwed itself with this flyover maneuver whether or not they created pretty pictures.

    I agree that the image sucks. And anyone with beginner photoshop skills can create something better in less than five minutes. See: Again, I would ask what is the point of all of this speculation?

    • Hi Mike,

      Thanks for your comment…

      I don’t think there’s a conspiracy here… Flight 28000 happened for one of two reasons… Either as a photo op or as a joyride…. In a way I’m hoping it was a joyride… It would be particularly sad to discover that our government would blow $300k for that lone, sad photo…

      Thanks again for the comment,

      Alan Speakman

  3. Actually there are better quality jpgs available of this photo. As someone who makes his living working in Photoshop and other digital media, I have to throw a wet blanket on this conspiracy. The image was likely show in RAW format and then color corrected and saved in PSD format. Finally there was a release file that was most likely TIFF. Then the AP and Reuters resized the picture and spit out the Jpeg most likely at various sizes and compressions for the various needs of their clients. The clients being TV, newspapers, and websites, who BTW likely further played with it. I know I resized it. See the copy on my blog. You notice this Reuters story link has a much better quality.

    That said I agree there is a conspiracy but the conspiracy is to protect the President from the embarrassment of a very tacky and bad decision.

    • Hi AI,

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment… My thoughts…

      * I too draw a paycheck for fussing with a camera. And that’s especially true for the wife.
      * The reason I used was because I wanted to go to the source.
      * Being an engineer, I don’t buy into conspiracies… I don’t believe in ghosts, ET in Area 51, or UFOs for that matter.
      * I don’t know what happened with that “photo op”… But objectively speaking, I think I can narrow it down to one of two scenarios… Either it was a legit (and stupid) photo op, or it was a joy ride… The fact that the White house only released one photo speaks volumes… (Seeing how the Greenville happened in 2001 in the new Bush admin, I guess I can be non-partisan in my skepticism…)

      Thanks again for the comment…

      Alan Speakman

  4. JIm says:

    Wrong, Wrong and Wrong. Try this out. The F-16 was from the Alabama Air National Guard painted with a solid red tail commemerating the Tuskegee Airmen, whose aircraft originally had a solid red tail It flew all the way requiring refueling support only to meet up with AF1 or VC-25. Cuba Gooding announced April 7th of his new film “Red Tails” about the Tuskegee Airmen. Now Obama, a friend of the film industry could do a voice over with the image of AF1 and a reminded of the Airmen over NYC and the Statue of Liberty. Of course the outcry means they can’t divulge any info about a private movie production soooo, it gets classified. Bet that film (video) is on the eiting room floor.

    • Hmmm… Let’s back up… Does anyone have a link to a decent and reputable photo of the chase planes on that day beside 28000… One step at a time.

      Sorry… But paint me extraordinarily skeptical about everything.


  5. So? says:

    Who took this photo. From the reports there were 2 F-16s tagging along each side of the plane. Nobody ever reported helicopters which you think would be holding the professional camera crew. Which is why New Yorkers weere scared to death.

    No fighter pilot took this shot, nor is there room inside or would it make sense.


  6. Mike says:

    The one thing NO one is noticing is that this is the ONLY angle where you can see the Statue of Liberty and NOT tower buildings in either lower Manahattan or Jersey City. Believe me, there would be MANY pics taken with the plane in the foreground, with or without the Statue, and skyscrapers in the background. To release them would show just how stupid this event was by needlessly scaring people.

  7. Jim says:

    Any image editing where the image is resized and saved as a new image will erase exif data. I know for a fact because I do it all the time. Not on purpose, it’s just what happens.

    • Stoutcat says:

      Jim: The original link at the top of Alan’s post goes directly to the White House source photo. Regardless of how many news sources copied and distributed it, the fact remains that the original image from the source has no exif data. I wonder why.

  8. rushbabe says:

    Michelle Malkin has filed FOIA requests out the wazoo for this fiasco. Stay tuned.

  9. Wolfwood says:

    So looking at the above comments, it seems there is indeed a third possibility: this was a photo-op, but for a movie and not for the White House. It’ll be pointed out that the military does this all the time, and that’s generally true, but if that’s the case then this was extraordinarily poorly thought-out.

    First, is it really less expensive to spend a third of a million dollars than to use CGI to put Air Force One and two red-tailed F-16s over New York? Is the .gov getting compensated by the film-makers?

    Second, why the secrecy? Before the subway stop nearest my parents opened up, they filmed a scene for a movie there and everyone knew about it ahead of time; the papers even ran articles about how neat it all was.

    Third, why the snapshot? If it’s for a movie, just say so. I’d think that “Hey, this is the movie where Air Force One buzzed New York City!” would cause more people to want to see it. The snapshot is either a massive waste of taxpayer dollars or a deliberate (and stupid) attempt at deception.

    I can understand that this may have been a photo-op gone wrong, and I wouldn’t likely hold the President accountable for that (although at the same time, you’d think that at least some of the White House publicity people would be bureaucrats and have been at their jobs long enough to know better). Is this a lame attempt at rope-a-dope? Very odd.

  10. yomomma says:

    @ Jim. That’s not true in the least. You’re either ignorant or an astrorurfer.

    I am a photographer and graphic designer who works with these types of files all day. the file will retain exif data until it is stripped or saved in a format that doesn’t support it. All file types in the normal workflow of a professional photographer retain exif data.

    This photo had it stripped. Why?

  11. Highly unlikely that the link references the original file. They would not take an important photo in JPEG format. This is likely a distribution copy. One only need look at the canvas size to know that. 1024×683 72dpi. Hardly professional. My wife’s cheap canon shoots at 2124×2032.

    I work daily with photos as well and I can tell you if you shoot RAW, edit in PSD, and output TGA, PNG, or many other formats that don’t support exif and the exif data will be gone.

    yomomma is it your normal mode of argument to call people names? I’m sure in your little world you are able to maintain the exif data. I know using RAW to PSD and out to JPEG I maintain it, but in the professional and commercial world where photos are edited and distributed by diverse companies with diverse software/workflows such data can be easily lost.

    Finally, I did nothing to intentionally lose exif data. Here is the original canon snapshot (this camera shoots jpg) on my daughter Now all I did was open in Photoshop and save as targa then open the targa and save as jpeg. Here is the resulting file Notice no exif data. Who knows how many hands that photo went through. The same result occurred when I used the COMMON png file type rather than Targa.

    That demonstrated, yomomma I doubt you work in “all file types”. I also think you owe Jim an apology.

    • Hi AI,

      I’m not saying that this is necessarily sinister. But I am saying that this is unusual… Here’s what I did… I went to the White House dot gov site, and went thru some of their photos (including the security pic in the post…) All seemed to be raw, or at least still contained the the Exif data… But that doesn’t mean that that particular pic couldn’t be raw and not have Exif…

      Here’s where I’m at:

      * I don’t know whether that pic was the original or not.
      * I don’t know if the camera used to take that photo produced Exif data or not.
      * By all accounts, that was a pretty sad photo.
      * If the image had been PhotoShopped, it was an extraordinarily poor job.
      * Only one photo has been released. Obviously AI, you’re a pro with a camera… So let me ask you this… If you had been given the task of photographing Air Force One in a flyby of the Statue of Liberty, how many cameras would you take, and how many pictures would you take? And, could you do a better job? Given your photo of your daughter with the bird, my hunch is that you could have done a far better job. (By the way, my job requires that I use a camera… While I’m certainly not on your level AI, I can still hold my own: I also wrote a piece on digital photography here.
      * A jaunt in Air Force One is NOT just a jaunt, let alone over restricted air space. A ton of very important people had to sign off on that flight.

      I don’t know… I really don’t know… But I do know this… If I were given that chance at that “training flight/photo op”, things would have been extraordinarily different. Something isn’t right.

      Thanks again for your thoughts,

      Alan Speakman

  12. I’m positive there were hundreds of pictures taken. The poor lighting does not surprise me. Taken in natural light and this one appears through a window. Seen many field shoots and sporting event photos that needed color correction, sharpness, ect. As you know supplemental lighting is impossible in this circumstance. (Wish I could show you samples but I’d put my job in jeopardy.)

    I’ll agree this photo doesn’t look PS. I think it was either taken on an old camera (not likely) or it was resized in a free/crap image software package like Paint. Although at some point this file had to have been saved png or some other format that lacks exif data. I think however strange it appears, anything can happen and it might not be illogical.

    • Hi AI,

      What makes you so “positive” that “hundreds” of pictures were taken?

      Were the rest of the photos not released because of security reasons? Then explain the pic in my original post. There’s a whole lot of security info given away there. (Not to mention the Exif data.) And that’s not to mention the hour-long special that the History Channel aired on Air Force One. ( No… I doubt secrecy is at the heart of your missing hundreds.

      Perhaps the missing hundreds were of inferior quality… Maybe. Though if you or I took that flight, the missing hundreds wouldn’t be missing for long… And given the hostile blogosphere, if I were 1600, I’d release all of them ASAP as proof that there was no hanky panky – just some lousy photographs.

      Come on AI… There’s something flaky here… I don’t know what it is, but something just ain’t right. (And don’t think I’m picking on “The Left”… The Greenville happened under Dubya’s watch, and right from the git go, there was something wrong about that too.)

      Once again, sincere thanks for your contributions…

      Alan Speakman

  13. Smorgasbord says:

    You forgot to mention how to get the information. The email address is (

  14. Smorgasbord says:

    Your “Freedom Of Information Act Request” at ( told how to file a request, but didn’t include an email address, just the regular mail and the fax number. I suggest anyone interest in obtaining the information go there and see how to file. The email address is ( I am sure more people would file a request if you let them know the email address.

    I also mentioned in my request that if there were tickets sold, how much were they.

    • Hi Smorgasbord,

      Thanks for the update! When I looked at the FOIA site, it appeared that the only way to submit a request was to either fax or mail…

      Thanks again,

      Alan Speakman

  15. […] Scare Force One Photo: Obama’s “Exif” Strategy?   UPDATE: Welcome, Ace of Spades readers! Feel free to browse around and enjoy yourselves. Color me skeptical, but ther […] […]

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