City of (extremely powerful) light

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Last updated on August 6th, 2017 at 06:36 am

Readers aren’t convinced by the Age’s before-and-after shots of Sydney’s Earth Hour lights-out experiment:


The first shot is ridiculous. Drivers wouldn’t require headlights if Sydney were illuminated so. They’d need sunglasses, and lead shields.

A few nights ago there was an awful accident below the Harbour Bridge in which several people were killed when their boat was struck by a ferry. Whether the struck vessel was displaying navigation lights is a matter of dispute; but if conditions were even close to those depicted in the first image, navigation lights would be redundant. Perhaps the ferry skipper was blinded by our hyper-bright bridge. Light-wise, that first image has been cranked.

Let’s take a look at a few other shots of Sydney at night, without Age light enhancement. There’s this one:


And this:


And one more:


UPDATE. Attention Media Watch: the photographer you need to speak to about relative exposure times and so on is Adam Mclean.

UPDATE II. When de-brightened, the first image looks compellingly realistic.

UPDATE III. Lefty blogger Daily Flute says bollocks to Earth Hour.

UPDATE IV. Another lefty calls bollocks.

UPDATE V. The Fragrant Elf reports Earth Hour drama:

I nearly burnt my hair while lighting the candles and tripped over the rubbish bin … I also had to cheat for a minute, as when I got back to my flat after checking out the view of the city (a couple minutes walk away) to see the lights go off, there was a large bump and I had to turn on all the lights to check everything was ok.

UPDATE VI. Lack of interest noted outside of central Sydney:

In North Parramatta, all the neon signs were on as usual. Shame … we went outside and had a look to see if any businesses around were participating, and it didn’t seem as though they were, so it looked like any other night.

UPDATE VII. Mark Steyn:

Being on Eastern Time (US) rather than Eastern Time (Oz), I’m afraid I slept through the excitement of Sydney’s “Earth Hour” when, from the Lord Mayor to the lowliest rummy lying in the gutter belching incandescent meth fumes, the entire city turned out its lights for one whole hour in order to stop global warming. You can see a satellite picture of it here.

No, wait, that’s North Korea by night. Now there’s a guy who’s really doing his bit to save the planet.

UPDATE VIII. Stately Blair mansion shines on through the Earth Hour gloom:


Posted by Tim B. on 03/31/2007 at 03:17 PM
    1. Looking at the bridge traffic, both shots are long exposures (i.e. they left the aperture open for several seconds).  The top one seems to be for a much longer time then the bottom one, hence the brightness.

      Posted by 2dogs on 2007 03 31 at 03:37 PM • permalink


    1. Well, if it were possible to illuminate a city to such a degree, as in the first pic, there’d be no roach-worries.

      This whole exercise of eco-atonement would have been more impressive if the city’s generator plants had actually been shut down.

      A real savings of power would have occured (discounting restart consumption) and people would have gotten a feel for where the EcoClergy want to take us.

      By the way…Thats one beautiful city.

      Keep her lit up.

      Posted by Thomas on 2007 03 31 at 04:20 PM • permalink


    1. You don’t have to photoshop to get that effect, you just need a tripod and a long exposure.  The “river of light” on the bridge (in the two top photos) indicates an exposure of at least 15 seconds.

      The flashing red lights at the tops of buildings are also huge, another giveaway of a long exposure

      It would be interesting to see the exif data for the 2 shots to see if the shutter speed and aperture are the same in both.

      If not, they’re cheating.

      If I was taking the photos, I would’ve optimized the settings for the dark shot, then used the same settings for the lit shot.

      They should have picked a moonless night.  Turning off lights when there’s almost a full moon is kind of silly.

      Posted by Kevin on 2007 03 31 at 04:23 PM • permalink


    1. C’mon, Tim. Pictures don’t lie. They only record what the photographer sees, right?

      What? Well OK then, bigtime newspapers don’t lie. Right?

      Posted by rinardman on 2007 03 31 at 04:25 PM • permalink


    1. Well now we know where that Fauxtographer who did such a good job for AP went.

      Posted by kiwinews on 2007 03 31 at 04:44 PM • permalink


    1. Here‘s what it looks like if you adjust the image correctly.  It looks like the big change was that they turned the lights out on your bridge.

      Posted by blogagog on 2007 03 31 at 04:48 PM • permalink


    1. 65000 households signed up.
      Pathetic return for the organisers.

      Posted by boxofmatches on 2007 03 31 at 05:17 PM • permalink


    1. If it were a fair comparison, the lights from the traffic on the bridge would be the same in both shots, or were people encouraged to drive without headlights as well?

      Posted by TheMoth on 2007 03 31 at 05:17 PM • permalink


    1. “It’s the darkest I’ve ever seen it – it’s fantastic,” he said.

      Organiser of the earth hour.

      A dark ages fancier, wonderful. Perhaps he should get together with our coming islamic overlords.

      Posted by boxofmatches on 2007 03 31 at 05:21 PM • permalink


    1. Eh, well, it makes a pretty contrast, and that’s all that matters, right? “Fake but accurate” again.

      Gotta say, though, that’s one gorgeous skyline you folks have there. And I say this as a lifelong Chicagoan.

      Posted by Tungsten Monk on 2007 03 31 at 05:31 PM • permalink


    1. To follow up the Tungsten Monk, the “truthiness” is all that matters. Long exposures – whattaya people talkin’ about??? Can’t you see that we’re killing the environment? And we’ve got to convince the huddled masses of it. That’s what counts.

      Sure is a nice pic of Sydney, though.

      Posted by Meg Q on 2007 03 31 at 05:35 PM • permalink


    1. When I saw it mentioned on CNN with video of Sydney and the caption “Lights out in Sydney” I thought why are those lazy bastards using file video with all the lights on? Efficiency is great but this was embarrassingly pointless.

      Just look at what an overdeveloped sense of self-importance can accomplish.

      Posted by Col. Milquetoast on 2007 03 31 at 05:51 PM • permalink


    1. Sky news: ‘I think we can say it’s been fairly successful- some 50 thousand households took part’

      trans: ‘It’s been a fizzer’

      Posted by eeniemeenie on 2007 03 31 at 06:27 PM • permalink


    1. Rudimentary digital image analysis should prove some augmentation of the images …

      Posted by egg_ on 2007 03 31 at 06:35 PM • permalink


    1. The street lights that should be the same in both pictures they aren’t and some of the skyscrapers have the same number of lights on but are much darker.

      The first picture, as others have suggested, has a very long exposure.

      Posted by rsloch on 2007 03 31 at 06:35 PM • permalink


    1. Terrible accident, indeed. May those poor souls, rest in peace.

      BTW, if the first pic was indicative of the brightness, forget Hawaii. Hell they could see Sydney from L.A.

      Posted by El Cid on 2007 03 31 at 06:36 PM • permalink


    1. Check out who else is doing their bit to reduce global warming.

      Posted by Young and Free on 2007 03 31 at 06:40 PM • permalink


    1. Has anyone asked the local power company what the change in electricity demand was over that evening??

      Should be worth a cent or two.

      Posted by Wimpy Canadian on 2007 03 31 at 06:42 PM • permalink


    1. We get the light off, they get red lights on.
      I feel let down they didnt turn off humidicribs, life support machines and the fridge at the blood bank as well.

      Posted by thefrollickingmole on 2007 03 31 at 06:43 PM • permalink


    1. I notice that no car users were following the lights-out decree. I think that is very telling.

      Posted by Wimpy Canadian on 2007 03 31 at 06:44 PM • permalink


    1. #9 No, send him to North Korea. Much darkness there; he’ll love it.

      Posted by Wimpy Canadian on 2007 03 31 at 06:47 PM • permalink


    1. #3
      see if the shutter speed and aperture are the same in both

      Plus some contrast tweaking of the digital images?

      Posted by egg_ on 2007 03 31 at 06:47 PM • permalink



    1. #23

      Today’s paper was printed using green energy. Fairfax Media, the publisher of The Sun-Herald, bought GreenPower credits from Climate Friendly, an alternative energy supplier. GreenPower is clean, non-polluting energy that generates negligible greenhouse gases.

      This doesn’t smell right.

      Posted by kae on 2007 03 31 at 07:07 PM • permalink


    1. #24

      I thought so…

      Climate Friendly does not sell green energy credits bundled with your electricity, as your current electricity supplier might. We sell you green energy credits that, when matched against your current electricity use, becomes ‘green power’.

      Buying Climate Friendly’s green energy credits separately from your current electricity supply is a fully accredited way to obtain GreenPower and earn the GreenPower tick of approval.

      So they aren’t producing any green power, they are just flogging custom-made indulgences carbon offsets with the power.

      Posted by kae on 2007 03 31 at 07:12 PM • permalink


    1. All GreenPower does is buy hydroelectricity, generated by dams, that flooded valleys full of trees, that would otherwise have taken in CO2 generated from burning coal.

      Green electricity is a con.

      Posted by Young and Free on 2007 03 31 at 07:14 PM • permalink


    1. #26 Y&F

      Green electricity is a con.

      Not always.

      Posted by Thomas on 2007 03 31 at 07:37 PM • permalink


    1. In the dark shot the every light that is on in the building is ALSO on in the bright shot. this is strong evedidence that they are the same shots.

      The wonders of Photoshop. Obviously the AGE has learnt the lessons from the Photoshop experts of Hesbullah who supplied Al reuters during the Lebanese war.

      Posted by davo on 2007 03 31 at 07:40 PM • permalink


    1. The SMH’s own photos in a different section tell other stories. This is one of the most far fetched and contrived shots I’ve ever seen (Its the Sun Herald editing room).

      this one from the SMH from a different perspective, shows the night was not quite as dim as they’d hoped.

      Posted by Nic on 2007 03 31 at 07:58 PM • permalink


    1. #6
      V good, LHS is nearly identical in each shot.

      Posted by egg_ on 2007 03 31 at 08:11 PM • permalink


    1. Yeah, that first shot looks like it was taken a nanosecond before a nuclear blast.

      Posted by Jim Treacher on 2007 03 31 at 08:14 PM • permalink


    1. Why didn`t they just get everybody to go to

      bed an hour earlier? I reckon lot`s more

      people could say they did their bit. Added

      bonus, didn`t take much effort (the best


      Posted by haranton on 2007 03 31 at 08:16 PM • permalink


    1. Today’s paper was printed using green energy.

      It could happen!

      Posted by Jim Treacher on 2007 03 31 at 08:17 PM • permalink


    1. But The Age doesn’t lie manipulate the facts report creatively, does it?

      Posted by ann j on 2007 03 31 at 08:29 PM • permalink


    1. I must admit I did my best to make the event a success.Every light switch turned ON (total of 66 lights evenly divided between fluro and incandescent) A/C ON and flat out on the Heat Cycle.Oven,four hotplates and grill, all ON max.Refrigerator,freezer and washing machine ON.Sadly I couldn’t muster enough appliances to exercise all of the available power points,nevertheless when viewed from the top of the hill my place looked like a small version of the Fairfax Printing Works at Chullora which also remained fully lit during the Sacred Hour.I checked the meter once I’d got the place fully cranked,that little disc was spinning faster than the one in my hard drive.I was so moved by the occasion that I now plan to repeat the exercise monthly.

      Posted by Lew on 2007 03 31 at 08:32 PM • permalink


    1. Crikey – talk about a bunch of sceptics…

      How then do you explain this image of a Sydney woman momentarily stunned when the lights went back on?

      Posted by Margos Maid on 2007 03 31 at 08:41 PM • permalink


    1. #6 blogalog. Yours is a very good image adjustment back to reality.
      I tried it the other way by working on the dark shot to make it light.
      It’s a very simple process and anyone out there with Photoshop might like to try this:

      Copy and paste the The Age’s photo into a new document in Photoshop.
      Select the bottom (dark) half of the image.
      Click Image/Adjustments> Shadow/highlights.
      The bottom half will appear almost exactly the same as the top half. If you want to be blinded by an unlit Sydney, move the Shadows slider to 100%

      The days when you could believe anything you saw in the media are long gone.

      Posted by Skeeter on 2007 03 31 at 08:43 PM • permalink


    1. They are not the same picture but they do deserve some questioning. In the top photo, the home units on the left are decidedly two tone. The bottom parts are in shadow from buildings between them and a strong light source.  If the light source is street lighting, which remained on, the face of the buildings should have the same pattern and brightness as the top picture. If the light was from a source that switched off for Earth Hour, the brighter part would have darkened, but the point where light meets shadow would have shifted to the next brightest light source. It hasn’t.

      Fairfax media is greatly exaggerating the impact of Earth Hour for commercial reasons. Claiming it was a success allows it to go to advertisers are say “see, we are influential”. Unfortunately for fairfax, the lies mount and eventually they will have no credibility. Why, I know of one rural paper that through exaggeration and half-truths is no longer the first place ordinary people go when they have a hot news story. The paper’s newsroom relies on the TV station’s 5.30 bulletin to find out what is happening, then scrambles around trying to catch up.

      Posted by Contrail on 2007 03 31 at 08:43 PM • permalink


    1. #36 Margos you have made my day again. Hilarious!

      Posted by Skeeter on 2007 03 31 at 08:49 PM • permalink


    1. This looks like an open and shut case of AAP Fauxtography to me.  They must have taken a leaf out of their AP Fauxtography cousins which started with the infamous Qana episode.

      So as a Sydneysider, have I ever seen the city lit to the extent depicted in the first photo of the two in the Age?  No.  We’d need a few incendary bombs to create that much light.  The photo is fake. It has been photoshopped.

      Posted by Wand on 2007 03 31 at 08:55 PM • permalink


    1. #32 If the Greenies could arrange for Miss Travis County (of apologetic head tilt fame, remeber her?) to accompany me I’d be willing to save energy by going to bed three hours earlier.  Can’t ask more than that.

      In Washington State, USA accidents with ferryboats are generally caused by drunken ferryboat captains.

      Posted by Michael Lonie on 2007 03 31 at 09:01 PM • permalink


    1. Wow!  Even allowing for the Fauxtoshopping, Sydney looks mite pritty.  Reminds me of an old LeRoi Brothers tune, “Pretty Little Lights of Town”; there was a great line in it, where the singer’s girlfriend says of the Big City lights, “Baby don’t they sparkle like bubbles in a glass of beer?”

      I say, ramp up the generators and crank the Gigawatts to 11!

      Posted by Tex Lovera on 2007 03 31 at 09:12 PM • permalink


    1. If they keep this up, everyone will soon have a generator in their backyard.  Just like those other advanced countries such as Yemen.

      I wish Fairfax had gotten really serious and asked people to turn off the aircon at noon on Christmas Day as a sign of their commitment to Gaia.

      What a bunch of do-nothing feel-good throttlers.

      Posted by mr creosote on 2007 03 31 at 09:19 PM • permalink


    1. “It’s the darkest I’ve ever seen it – it’s fantastic,” he said.

      Then that asshat would just love North Korea. It’s dark there all the time. And Haiti is pretty dark, too. And Zimbabwe is getting darker all the time. And everytime al Qaeda blows up a power pylon, parts of Baghdad go dark, which must set this fool clapping his hands and skipping for joy.

      Not pro-Earth: anti-civilization.

      Posted by Urbs in Horto on 2007 03 31 at 09:58 PM • permalink


    1. Judging by the first picture you would have to wear 30+ Sunscreen before going for a casual stroll through Sydney at night.

      Posted by Skip on 2007 03 31 at 09:59 PM • permalink


    1. Perhaps the first photo is symbolic of the lighting conditions poor old Dawood had to suffer.

      Posted by haranton on 2007 03 31 at 10:43 PM • permalink


    1. Tim you’re right. IF the two photos were correctly matched the flare from car headlights on the lower photo would match that on the top. The number of cars on the bridge would be close enough to constant.

      Posted by Pericles on 2007 03 31 at 10:55 PM • permalink


    1. We can all laugh now. But just imagine how earnestly they will shove this garbage down our throats if every state, territory and federal power is Labor?

      Posted by Pericles on 2007 03 31 at 11:08 PM • permalink


    1. Faint stars usually hidden by light pollution became clearly visible.

      That happens every single day here, sometime just after sunset.

      I’d estimate that I’m immersed in light-pollution about 12 hours a day.

      Really…it’s no big thing.

      Posted by Thomas on 2007 03 31 at 11:53 PM • permalink


    1. Man if that first pic is accurate, you guys in Oz really chew through the old Gaia juice.

      Proud of ya!

      Posted by Vanguard of the Commentariat on 2007 04 01 at 12:01 AM • permalink


    1. Damn!  The first was such a gorgeous picture and I was hoping to visit such a luminous place some day.  My tourist bucks are gone.

      Posted by fresca on 2007 04 01 at 12:05 AM • permalink


    1. this is a job for mediawatch, though I’m pretty certain that even now they’ll be scouring the rural papers for the far more important issue of a sub editor letting a typo slip through

      Posted by eeniemeenie on 2007 04 01 at 12:17 AM • permalink


    1. This news, in the UK press today, will induce apoplexy in the Greens. It’ll be interesting to see what tired and illogical arguments against it they can muster.  Success is about two years off:

      British scientists are involved in a £500 million project…to produce a clean and almost limitless source of energy…[in] the world’s first nuclear fusion power station.

      “The promise of fusion is huge. Fusion fuel is plentiful, it produces no carbon emissions and has no long-lived radioactive by-products or risk of meltdown. The energy we get out is about a million times more than from burning coal or oil.”


      Posted by walterplinge on 2007 04 01 at 12:31 AM • permalink


    1. #43 Mr Creosote, but Christmas Day in Sydney was relatively cool this year – the Gore Effect was lingering, remember?

      Posted by Brett_McS on 2007 04 01 at 01:21 AM • permalink


    1. Yesterday, I attended a wedding ceremony at Captain Henry Reserve about 100 metres east of the North Pylon of the Harbour Bridge. (It was a lovely ceremony too. Although there was some noise from a police chopper which we suspect may have been to do with a search for that girl killed in the ferry accident a few days ago).  Afterwards, we went to a function centre in Kirribilli just a few hundred metres up the road.

      We had easily accessible clear views of the city, the North Sydney business district, the harbour bridge, everything.  During ‘earth hour’ we walked out into the park to check it out, with most expecting a dramatic difference.

      Virtually nothing had happened…

      In fact, to the untrained eye, it was almost impossible to tell if anything happened.

      I live only a few miles from the city and see the skyline everyday, and I had trouble spotting any specific differences from normal!

      Some friends who work in the city were able to confirm that an occassional specific building was slightly darker than normal.

      For me, the only building I specifcally witnessed do anything was an office block in North Sydney with a large neon sign that said “TOWER” on top – it did indeed shut down the sign for an hour or so. (Whilst being surrounded by other blocks like the “Vibe Hotel” that did absolutely nothing).

      Earth Hour was a fizzer in the Syndey CBD at least.  And those Fairfax photos are faked.

      Still, at least they didn’t artifically add any magical Lebanese ambulances or jewish missiles to the pic, so I’m thankful for small mercies!

      Posted by ekb87 on 2007 04 01 at 01:32 AM • permalink


    1. Tim should have rented a couple of those searchlights that wave around in the sky. Although that would probably attract a lot of moths. And lefties. (Do you have moths down there?)

      Posted by Jim Treacher on 2007 04 01 at 02:14 AM • permalink


    1. Slightly OT: this just has to be an April Fool’s Day joke (or is it?):

      Council inspectors to demand £5 ‘carbon offset’ for barbecues
      It is one of the timeless rituals of the new globally-warmed great British summer: firing up the barbecue and slinging on a steak.

      But people who choose to burn charcoal may have to think twice – as councils now have swinging new powers to force homeowners to buy ‘carbon offsets’ before they light up or face a £50 fine.

      Posted by Art Vandelay on 2007 04 01 at 02:56 AM • permalink


    1. #53 I’m all for nuclear fusion but what is the power source for the ‘high powered lasers’? hmm

      Posted by Blokehitchedwith2 on 2007 04 01 at 03:00 AM • permalink


    1. There is only one word for this: FRAUD.

      Posted by lingus4 on 2007 04 01 at 03:40 AM • permalink


    1. Jim: I think they have giant bats instead.

      Posted by Andrea Harris, Administrator on 2007 04 01 at 05:48 AM • permalink


    1. #56 Here’s one.

      BTW Is that 1.6 peeking out from behind the curtains?

      Posted by Margos Maid on 2007 04 01 at 06:01 AM • permalink


    1. If I’d turned the power off I wouldn’t of been able to record Top Gear on SBS.

      Rather than paraphrasing my own blog, here’s what I wrote earlier:

      I heard a representative from the World Wrestling Federation on the Naked City this morning saying that the inspiration for Earth Hour came not from environmentalists but from the former hand-in-the-till Prime Minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, who urged people to turn their lights off in protest of the coup that ousted him.

      Meanwhile, a caller to Radio 2BL the other day said his wife would be arriving in Sydney on said day, from Zimbabwe where they no longer have electricity, and would be indulging in an orgy of power usage.

      Posted by monaro on 2007 04 01 at 07:23 AM • permalink


    1. Sadly, earth hour was over before I had a chance to switch on extra lights, and besides I normally leave the ceiling lights off at night to get ready for sleep. However I made up as best I could for missing this nauseating orgy of greenie self-congratulation and self-righteousness by leaving the computer on overnight downloading porn.

      Posted by Jim Geones on 2007 04 01 at 07:28 AM • permalink


    1. Re Mr Steyn’s (Update VII)link,Just a little correction. That’s the Korean Peninsula and the lights are all on the South Korean end.

      Posted by filcan on 2007 04 01 at 07:34 AM • permalink


    1. #53,

      Fusion was “right around the corner” when I was but a wee lad.

      I am now half-century old and we are no closer to achieving fusion now then when I made my surprise appearance on this orb.

      Best estimate by those at the forefront of fusion developement is no sooner than 2075 if at all.

      Posted by joe bagadonuts on 2007 04 01 at 08:51 AM • permalink


    1. I see Tim replaced the potted tree that Andrea ripped out to use as a makeshift whip during the last open thread party at his place.

      Posted by Some0Seppo on 2007 04 01 at 11:20 AM • permalink


    1. I just wonder which of the Age’s photos is more representative of the kind of city one would like to live in. For example, which one do you think is the best bet to wind up in a travel brochure?

      There’s a stink of death around all this green exhibitionism of late. It seems their goal, the thing they urge us all to yearn for, is a dank, dangerous world devoid of civilization.

      Posted by Nathan on 2007 04 01 at 04:03 PM • permalink


    1. I note that while some Sydney niteclubs turned off the lights, they left the tills ON. Give until it’s about to hurt. Then stop. No point in being silly about all this.

      Posted by Pickles on 2007 04 01 at 10:24 PM • permalink


    1. The first image looks as if it’s photographed with a 20-24 ml lens.

      The second image looks like a 60 ml.400iso using a speed of around a second depending if the people might be moving or not.
      The last looks like 24 ml, open shutter of around 10 seconds on tripod.

      Tim B, you should have put all the lights on!

      Posted by 1.618 on 2007 04 01 at 10:27 PM • permalink


    1. Oh hang on, they’ve used an Islamic Reuters, and added more light into the picture by cloning it in the windows… (winks)

      Posted by 1.618 on 2007 04 01 at 10:40 PM • permalink


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