Half way through last year I had decided that looking back on pictures from five years ago and not really being sure of where they were taken sort of sucked and fervently went around my photo folder armed with Picasa and Google Earth, geotagging as many pictures as I could. This is all very well with UK pictures, and made more difficult when it involved any older sailing ones for instance, as coastlines where present are often not too distinguishable. Of course its damn near impossible with the pictures from Northern Italy I’d taken in 2007, although I had a good go at it.
When I visited Cape Town last year I took what was then my new phone (HTC TyTn II) which thoughtfully includes an inbuilt GPS. Pairing this with an early version of LEM’s TrackMe logging application and I felt fairly well prepared to geotag all my pictures on my return. The trip itself went well and the phone managed to log most days movements (at 2 minute intervals) without the battery giving up (phone part switched off), giving me an acceptable accuracy to tag the pictures by matching up the nearest position fix with the timestamp on the photos.
However after this I decided that although the phone did the job ok, I ‘d rather not have the constant worry of the battery running flat and bought a Royaltek RBT-2300 gps logger off ebay. Its a basic little unit, the software is a little lacking but it was cheap and it does the job admirably while at the same time using nokia phone batteries meaning that if I have need I can get a second battery for it.
It came with only a car charger which isn’t great but I’ve found that its quite happy running off 5v so made an adapter cable in work so it can be charged from my standard travel usb charger.
So after experiementation, and some scares with software causing data corruption on the photos (always do backups!), my process seems to go something along these lines when returning with fresh pictures:
- Copy photo’s to computer, leaving originals on SD card as a backup
- Use Phil Harveys ExifTool to set common meta data on each picture, so thats author, copyright and a basic description of the occasion if the photo’s were all taken on one occasion, this is stored as EXIF and IPTC tags.
- Extract tracklogs from the Royaltek logger using their software.
- Convert this to the GPX file format using GPSBabel (I tend to use the version with the user interface for this, beats remembering command line options).
- Geotag all pictures with GPicSync (this also produces a Google Earth KML file)
This may seem like quite a long drawn out painful way of doing this, in actual fact it takes me about 5 minutes each time. There are other commercial bits of software which may be able to shorten some/all of this, in fact I’ve contemplated buying Downloader Pro which I hear good things about for a while. Â The software used above however is all free/open source and does 99% of the process, I tend to use InfranView for image rotation.
My approach to photography now is pretty much to store as much information as possible about the photo’s and never to delete any no matter how bad you think they are at the time (storage is cheap),Â there are software packages which can store more information, the only problem half the time is that its more data stored in a separate database which you then rely on to keep track of your pictures.
This method ensures that the data gathered is all stored in a standard format. Its also great when uploading to Zooomr or Flickr, thats when the meta data comes into its own when you see the photo sharing site build the page around it, including a map, author information and the description already filled in among others.
Its a workflow which has done me well for the last few years, hopefully in 10-15 years time it’ll make it worthwhile to remember where that picture was taken…