Stop the hysteria – That black and blue turned white and gold dress

I can’t believe I’m posting about a dress, but this mass social media hysteria about the black and blue or white and gold dress has got to stop. People on either side of the discussion are both absolutely convinced on what the colour of the dress is. Of course the dress can only be one set of colours, so which is it?

This image was first posted yesterday on a Tumblr account named SWIKED by Caitlin Mcneill from Scotland, starting a worldwide debate on whether the dress is white and gold, or blue and black.

 blacknblueromandress1111111

My first thoughts are that it appears to be a white and gold dress. Appears.

However many posters are convinced that it is blue and black, and are 100% sure of this simply because they loaded the image in Photoshop and put the colour dropper on the dress, showing it to be blue. One very popular science website Science Alert even thought they proved this by printing this out and comparing the colour of the dress to a neutral background. All of these tests are completely flawed.

The reason I say this is due to a fundamental element of photography – White Balance.

A completely white sheet of paper (or dress) does not reflect “white light”, it reflects ALL light. When all the visible wavelengths exist at the same intensity, the light appears white and so does a white dress when it reflects this light.

This is usually the case in typical daylight. However when you have a different light, such as light from a sunset or shade, the light reflecting off the dress is no longer white, and hence the dress may appear a different colour. For example, in the shade, as there is no direct white light from the sun, the dress will mostly reflect the blue light from the sky. This would make a white dress appear blue.  To compensate for this, if you adjust the white balance of the image for shade, you will remove the blue colour cast and the dress returns to white pixels on the monitor. This is usually done automatically by the camera in a mediocre fashion, so it is usually best to set it manually on the camera or in post processing if you are shooting in RAW. Of course in this case it was most likely done in a mediocre fashion on a poor quality camera phone.

Unfortunately all us bloggers and keyboard warriors can only view the image of the mystery dress as is, and our brain does it’s best to interpret the colours with the little information given. To the naked eye, it is actually IMPOSSIBLE to know if this dress is blue or white because we do not know the nature of the light source shining on the dress or even what white balance settings the camera chose. If this dress was illuminated by the same golden light as we see in the background, that would indicate that the dress is the blue colour that we observe, however if the dress is in some sort of blue shadow, that would indicate the dress is white.

The issue of the darker lines on the dress is a little more complicated.

A true black object will not reflect any light regardless of the hue. Of course most black materials reflect a small amount of light to reveal some degree of texture and shape. If the dark lines were in fact a dark gold material that is simply in shade, they will of course appear darker – close to black. However if they were black lines with a bright gold light source shining on them, they may reflect a small amount of gold light, appearing dark gold.

Where is this going?

You could probably analyse the photo further, however the image is of such poor quality that you are going to begin seeing things that simply never existed. Haven’t we chased our tails enough here.

Fortunately we have some fairly solid evidence of the facts.

THE DRESS IS BLACK AND BLUE.

Here is an article from Business Insider which quote Caitlin Mcneill (who originally posted the image) stating that the dress was “obviously blue and black”.

And for some reassurance, here is the dress for sale on amazon, in black and blue:

amazonblack111111111

So where does that leave us? Why was this so confusing?

Knowing the colour of the dress makes it much easier to understand the confusion.

Obviously the blue is actually far darker and more vivid in reality than the original photo suggests. This indicates that there was a very bright light source shining on the dress, which would lighten the blue. Observing the dress, you can observe the location of this light source. According to the contours of the dress, the light source is to the left of the person holding the camera. This bright light when shone on the black part of the dress is bright enough that part of this light source is reflecting back to the camera. Possibly there is some more gold or red in the light source. Or possibly the black material has a slightly metallic reflection.

This suggests that there are two issues, a problem with the white balance, and a problem with the exposure. This can be shown simply by basic adjustments in Lightroom. I reduced the temperature (-24) to compensate for the incorrect white balance, reduced the exposure (-1.33) to account for the overexposure, and increased the blacks (25) to balance the histogram.

 thedressfixed

So there we have it, not such a mystery in the end. Just a shitty photo.

Now enough blabbering about dresses…

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Georgia – King of the Caucasus

The most visited of the three Caucasus countries, Georgia has done well to rid itself of it’s Soviet past, providing an exciting new destination for visitors. The welcoming and proud people have preserved much of their culture and traditions, most notably their wine production – with evidence suggesting they were the world’s first producer. Beyond the abundance of cute towns lined with cobble stoned streets and ancient monasteries scattered across the country, it is the spectacular Caucasus Mountains that steal the show, offering gorgeous vistas of some of the tallest snow-capped mountains in Europe.

Sighnaghi, one of Georgia's smallest towns

Sighnaghi, one of Georgia’s smallest towns

 

A fault line shows itself near the disputed Georgian-Armenian border

A fault line shows itself near the disputed Georgian-Armenian border

 

The David Gareja monestary built into the rock faces

The David Gareja monestary built into the rock faces

 

Discovering ancient artwork painted on the walls of caves

Discovering ancient artwork painted on the walls of caves

 

Street painting in the capital, Tibilisi

Street painting in the capital, Tibilisi

 

Ruins in the town of Kazbegi

Ruins in the town of Kazbegi

 

The beautifully placed Gergeti trinity church in Kazbegi

The beautifully placed Gergeti trinity church in Kazbegi

 

View towards Mt Kazbek in the Kazbegi region

View towards Mt Kazbek in the Kazbegi region

 

Svaneti Chaaladi glacier makes it's way slowly down the gorge

Svaneti Chaaladi glacier makes it’s way slowly down the gorge

 

Beautiful light show between clouds from Lake Koruldi, Mestia

Beautiful light show between clouds from Lake Koruldi, Mestia

 

Clouds begin to clear for the day in Mestia

Clouds begin to clear for the day in Mestia

 

Beautiful light show between clouds from Lake Koruldi, Mestia

Beautiful light show between clouds from Lake Koruldi, Mestia

 

Mountain rises from the clouds from Lake Koruldi, Mestia

Mountain rises from the clouds from Lake Koruldi, Mestia

 

Rainbow breaks out after some rain, Mestia

Rainbow breaks out after some rain, Mestia

 

Russian mountains reflect off Lake Koruldi, Mestia

Russian mountains reflect off Lake Koruldi, Mestia

 

Lake Koruldi Mestia

Lake Koruldi Mestia

 

Enjoying a freshly made yogurt after a hike in the mountains

Enjoying a freshly made yogurt after a hike in the mountains

 

Home for the night at the Koruldi lakes in Mestia

Home for the night at the Koruldi lakes in Mestia

 

From one paradise to the next

After a much longer than expected 4 days sailing to Ziguinchor in the Casamance, a beautiful river region in the south of Senegal, on a boat which I’d hitched from Dakar, I walk into a beautiful camp site surrounded by palm trees where I can see endless days of lying in a hammock. Only some 10 minutes later, I receive a phone call. Gabor, another boat hitcher from Austria calls on behalf of Isreali Captain Alon. A spot has opened up on on Alon’s boat, due for a transatlantic crossing in a few days. Destination:  Barbados. After over two weeks of waiting in the Dakar sailing club I thought I may never find a boat in good time for this crossing, particularly when it seemed more hitchers than boats were arriving. So no sooner have I arrived, it is time to find transport back to Dakar for this next stage of my journey. It might sound like an amazing opportunity, and it is… but the four days just spent on the yacht where I travelled no more than 200 miles with an old French skipper was far from easy sailing, a story on its own. A new perspective of what lies ahead for the traverse across the Atlantic has dawned on me. This is more than just a cheaper or more romanticised way of travelling across the ocean. It’s an adventure with some serious risks. Approximately 3000 miles of unknown. So I leave you with farewell as I prepare to take the same voyage taken by millions of Africans sent across the Atlantic between the 14th and 19th Centuries, with the fortunate difference of a tropical paradise waiting for me at the other end, and some more of that stuff we call freedom. Adios amigos! Live your life!

In the distance, Fisherman remove their dugout canoe after a days work in Ziguinchor

In the distance, Fisherman remove their dugout canoe after a days work in Ziguinchor

Palm tree trimming along the Casamance river, Ziguinchor

Palm tree trimming along the Casamance river, Ziguinchor

Cruising up the Casamance river towards Ziguinchor

Cruising up the Casamance river towards Ziguinchor

Azerbaijan – Land of Fire

Entering the first Caucasus country from the east will take you to the little known Republic of Azerbaijan, a mostly Muslim country with a lingering soviet past. Apart from its appearance as hosts for the 2012 Eurovision finals, the country is most known for its massive oil reserves under the Caspian sea, responsible for some impressive economic growth, and the transformation of the capital city of Baku where modern architecture now blends eloquently with the medieval old town, Icheri Sheher. The abundance of oil under the sea is evidenced on land, with hundreds of unusual baby mud volcanoes which expel mud bubbles of methane gases. These made world news in 2001 when they erupted in flames and burnt for several days. The country plans to make further headlines with an ambitious Dubai like $100B project, the artificial Khazar Islands, an archipelago of 55 islands and the world’s tallest building, Azerbaijan tower – at 1050m.

The Icheri Sheher (old town) with the Flame towers in the distance

The Icheri Sheher (old town) with the Flame towers in the distance

Bizare baby mud volcanoes south of Baku

Bizare baby mud volcanoes south of Baku

The ubiquitous Lada, parked outside a shop selling Şeki halvasi

The ubiquitous Lada, parked outside a shop selling Şeki halvasi

Kazakhstan – You will never get out, la la la la la

Still feeling the effects of its Soviet ruled past, don’t be surprised if while touring Kazakhstan, you are treated like a criminal. Constant passport checks by police, requests for bribes to avoid “problems”, and sometimes a need to register your location with police every five days rather than just once, can get you in sticky situations such as where a phone is handed to you with an English speaking Kazak sternly informing you that you require an “attorney and translator”. After a ridiculous amount of paper work, visits to a lawyer and the case decision formalised by a police chief, followed by payment of a fine to a government bank account, all because you did not register your accommodation a second time as you could not read the immigration card written in Kazak, you learn that there is no flexibility with the Law here, and that the safest thing to do is just get out of the country as soon as possible to avoid overstaying your visa – a crime that results in jail or deportation, and an even larger fine. Of course it is difficult to exit the country when the police hold onto your passport for days due to the horribly slow process of a simple administrative fine, while at the same time telling you that you must leave country to avoid overstaying. Do not expect common sense here.

With much time spent waiting for available transport across the country, days spent in the Migration Police offices, further days spent sorting out a visa for the proceeding country to enable escape, and searching for accommodation that is not four times more expensive that the rest of Asia, all the while eating mediocre food, it’s understandable why tourists who visit do not always have glowing reports (and why there are no good photographs to share). It’s not all that bad though, many of the locals can be extremely accommodating, and intriguingly Kazakhstan has some of the most beautiful women of any nation. Unfortunately there are no photos of beautiful women to post, so please accept this image as a summation of Kazakhstan, a Mercedes Benz mustering a herd of Kazakh horses (one of their most popular meats).

Herding horses - Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve

Herding horses – Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve

If you want to enjoy some of Kazakhstan for yourself, it’s safer, cheaper and easier to just rent a copy of Sacha Baron Cohen’s film “Borat”. It may not even be filmed in Kazakhstan, but it is suitably politically incorrect, and far more entertaining – and yes, bride kidnapping is still a reality here. Alternatively, visit beautifully rugged western Mongolia where many Kazakh people fled to during soviet rule, and as a result maintain a traditional Kazakh life with little soviet influence.

Kazakhstan-Astana-flower-bed-mosque

The out of place capital of Kazakhstan – Astana

China – Xinjiang province, middle Earth

Heading west directly from Mongolia into Kazakhstan is not possible overland due to roughly 50km of a China-Russia border. A Russian transit visa to traverse the north side of this border would be the quickest route across, but heading through the recently opened (to tourists) border crossing into Xinjiang province takes to you an unusual part of China not often considered by most. A place of extremes, Xinjiang province is roughly the size of Alaska, contains the furthest point on earth to any ocean, has the second lowest depression in the world at 144m below sea level and consequently has the hottest temperatures in China. The province is culturally and ethnically characterised by the Uyghur people, a Turkic ethnic group, rather than the usual Han majority group. Instead of chow mein and dumplings, it’s mutton pilaf and kebabs.

China, Xingjiang province, ethnic Uyghur man dancing in square

Uyghur man dancing in Urimqi’s Nanhu green square

Squares in China often full of activites, Urumqi

Evening times in Urimqi’s Nanhu green square

Night food markets in Urumqi

Night food markets in Urumqi

Night food markets in Urumqi, bbq

Night food markets in Urumqi

The tranquil Kanas lake in the Altai Mountains

The tranquil Kanas lake in the Altai Mountains

Hiking around Kanas lake in the Altai Mountains

Hiking around Kanas lake in the Altai Mountains

China ruins, Xingjiang province

Jiaohe ruins in the Yarnaz Valley Xinjiang Province

old ruins, china, xinjiang province

Jiaohe ruins in the Yarnaz Valley Xinjiang Province

Gaochang Mountains, soaring temperature in the Tian Shan Mountain range

Hottest part of china, showing 67°C in the sun, Flaming Mountain/Gaochang Mountains

Mongolia – Heading West

As one of the world’s least densely populated country, Mongolia is a country of vast open spaces, nomads and mutton. At the countries center, along the Trans Mongolian railway lies the coldest capital city in the world, the rather bland Ulan Bator. Venturing out of the city is where you discover Mongolia’s rugged beauty and great hospitality. To the south lies Asia’s largest desert, the Gobi, which is constantly growing further into the north of China. Heading into Western Mongolia gives an immense sense of isolation. Here you find Kazakh nomads who fled Kazakhstan because of the “Russification” since 1920, and set up permanent residence in the Bayan-Ulgii province. To see the best of the country it’s suggested to tour the country using your own vehicle (or a guide), however attempting to master your own way around on public transport can be an experience in itself.

Gobi desert from the Trans Mongolian railway

View of the Gobi desert from the Trans Mongolian Railway enroute to Ulan Bator

Officer waves in Sukhbaatar Square, Ulan Bator - Mongolia

Military procession in Sukhbaatar Square, Ulan Bator

Mock fighting in Sukhbaatar square, Ulan Bator Mongolia

Mock fighting in Sukhbaatar square, Ulan Bator

Munks cleaning dishes in Gandantegchinlen Ulan Bator Mongolia

Munks at Gandantegchinlen, Ulan Bator

Women mongolia black market ulan bator depressed

Women waits at her packed up stall in the black market, Ulan Bator

Terelj National Park Mongolia

Terelj National Park, outside Ulan Bator

Overview of Terelj National Park, Mongolia

Sunset over Terelj National Park, outside Ulan Bator

Terelj National Park Mongolia, horse riding

Terelj National Park, outside of Ulan Bator

Terelj National Park Mongolia, horse riding

Terelj National Park, outside of Ulan Bator

Food stop on the 36hr bus journey from Ulan Bator to Khovd

Food stop on the 36hr bus journey from Ulan Bator to Khovd

Car swap, mongolian policeman, enroute to olgii

Confusing situation with police enroute to Olgii in the far west

Bayan-Ölgii Province, snow capped mountains and fields of grass

Remote landscapes of the Bayan-Ölgii Province

Eagle flying in front of mountains western Mongolia

Eagle soaring in the far west of Mongolia

Green grass, russian van, mongolia, transport

Driver stops in the middle of a field to swap some of his fuel for alcohol

russian jeep arrives on dirt rd at sunset in Olgii Mongolia

Arriving in the far west of Mongolia, Olgii

Outdoor pool in the sun, black markets Bayan Ölgii Mongolia

Playing pool at the black market in Ölgii, Mongolia

Horse by the river through Tsengel, Bayan-Ölgii‎ Mongolia

Riding along the river towards Tsengel, Bayan-Ölgii‎

Khurgan Nuur (lake) in Bayan-Ölgii Mongolia

Khurgan Nuur/lake in Bayan-Ölgii

Cow dung fire, cooking fish from Khurgan Nuur, Mongolia

Mardan lights up some cow dung to cook freshly caught fish from the Khurgan Nuur

Black and silver horse tied up to a post, mongolia

Horse waits patiently near the Khurgan Nuur

Goat milk, khurgan nuur Mongolia Bayan-Ölgii

Milking goats by the Khurgan Nuur

Khurgan Nuur (lake) in Bayan-Ölgii Mongolia

Khurgan Nuur (lake) in Bayan-Ölgii

Cooking a goat and cooling it off in the Khurgan Nuur

Kids pose while a cooked goat is cooled off in the Khurgan Nuur

Curious kids observing me eat by the Khurgan Nuur Mongolia, sunset

Curious kids observing me eat by the Khurgan Nuur

Mongol kazak kids playing at khurgan nuur mongolia

Kids playing around by the Khurgan Nuur

Kid playing on a hill by the Khurgan Nuur Mongolia

Kid plays with rocks by the Khurgan Nuur

Three Kazak-mongol men walk along the Khurgan Nuur

Kazak Mongolian men stroll along the Khurgan Nuur

Mongolian ger/yurt, their living room, kitchen and bedroom

A family inside their ger, camped around the Khurgan Nuur

Horse reflection in waters above the Khurgan Nuur Mongolia

Drinking from the Khurgan Nuur

Horses play around the Khurgan Nuur lake, Mongolia

Horse love along the Khurgan Nuur

Man on a silver horse with a purple sunset in Mongolia Khurgan nuur

Kazak-Mongol man on his horse by the Khurgan Nuur

Man plays with a goats head after cooking

Head from a cooked goat, Khurgan Nuur

Sunset in Khurgan Nuur lake

Sunset enjoyed by five kids and one baby wolf, Khurgan Nuur

Dog howls alongside the Khurgan Nuur, Altai Tavan Bogd

Dog howls alongside the Khurgan Nuur

Goats and kids on a hill in the Khurgan Nuur lakes region

Kids and goats fool around near Khurgan Nuur

Altai Tavan Bogd, women cooking along the Khurgan lake

Kazak-Mongol women cooking by the Khurgan Nuur

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