Tip: Use Your Sports Watch to Geotag Your Photos.

 

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(Note: all images taken with the new FUJINON LENS XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR)

 

Are you a runner? If you are, I would guess that you have a sports watch with a GPS function. There is a high probability that you can use this watch to geotag your photos. I can’t write this with certainty that it will work with all watches, but there is a really high probability that yours will work. Continue reading

iPhone Offline Maps Review Revisited

Back in September of 2010, I did a blog post on a few iPhone offline maps. It became actually one of my most read blog posts. I realized I have struck a nerve with many of my fellow travelers.  The iPhone Maps app is great. It can direct you through a city with very little difficulty. The problem is it needs a data stream to work. But let’s face it, most of us don’t want to pay for international roaming so we can’t use the Maps app on the iPhone. This is precisely why “offline maps” have become so popular with travelers. Continue reading

Prepping for a Cross Culture Shoot

A water buffalo sacraficed during Eid al-Adha in Kashmir, India 2006.

While many of my friends and associates are off to India to attend the Pushkar Camel Festival this week I decided to go the opposite direction. I am headed to Jogjakarta, Indonesia to photograph Eid al-Adha or as we used to call it in India, Baqra Eid (Goat Eid). It is also known as the greater or Big Eid. It is a festival of sacrifice for Muslims. On the first day of this festival many Muslims will sacrifice a lamb, goat or even a water buffalo or camel to commemorate Ibrahim’s (Abraham) sacrifice of his son, Ishmael, as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened to provide him with a ram to sacrifice instead. Continue reading

A few iPhone Offline Maps Apps

Do you know where you are?

Editor: This review has been updated and many more apps added to this list. You can find updated reviews HERE along with my new choice for Editor’s Pick.

Often when I travel I find myself without cellphone coverage, for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes I am so remote there is just is no coverage. Sometimes there is coverage but I don’t have a local sim and I don’t want to spend the bucks on roaming. Then there are times like this next trip to Ladakh. In Ladakh the government, for reasons of security, have permitted only local sims to work in the region and has created so many hoops that getting a local sim is next to impossible . When this happens I relax and enjoy my solitude. But wait! What if I want to use the nifty GPS on my iPhone? After all, I am so remote I might get lost. OK, maybe not lost, but I might want to see how far the next town is from my current location. With no cell or data coverage I would need offline maps for my GPS to use.
Continue reading

South Sumatra #1

Had a good first day of shooting. I am reminded how wonderfully friendly the Indonesian people are. The men and women are both so willing to have their photos taken. In fact, almost incessant at times. It has been raining every afternoon and thus the weather has given us some great opportunities for dramatic images. The local staff I am traveling with think I am a bit crazy, because I curse the sunny and praise the cloudy and raining. It’s just that there is so much more mood in rainy weather.

I shelled out the money and bought the Megellan Tough Case for the iPhone. My initial thought is it is not worth it and I might return it back to REI. The idea of the Tough Case is that it gives the user a lot of additional battery time and enhances the GPS signal. It seemed to work the first day, though it might also have been because I was sitting in the font seat of the car 😉 But it did give me an accurate reading and I was able to run the GPS in the background for a good 8 hours.

I blogged about a WordPress plugin that puts a geotagged map link on the photos I post.But I never really got it to play nice with my other plugins, so this may be the last post using it. I will turn off the plug in and just post large (900 px) images of the day’s shoot rather than the 550 px wide images here. Whaddya think? What to see where the image was taken or just the image?

Geotagging: Just Because We Can

The Window

For most people the fun thing about geotagging, or adding the gps coordinates to a photo is simply because you can. But there are some practical uses. I have a client that hopes to create a database of their projects around the world. In this database they might store information and names of staff that are working on certain project, the area that the project centers around, they might even list the some of the ethnocultural groups in the projects area of influence. This type of application of geotagged photos is new (at least to me). Up till now the only real reason to geotag a photo was because we could, or to show friends and family where you had traveled on your last vaction. My client for this next trip want their images geotagged. So even though my client does not wish to have their name in my blog they have granted me the right to post a few select images and show where these images were taken. To do this I will be using my iphone 3gs, an iPhone app called Geotag Photos by Jindrich Sarson (not very creative, but descriptive) and then on my MacBook Pro some software called GPSPhotoLinker by Early Innovations as well as Lightroom and of course my Canon 5DMKII.

There are many Geologging apps for the iPhone, I chose Geotag Photos because of one important feature that I only found with this application. It is the ability to file share the GPX file. A GPX file is the file that all geo-logging software creates that contains the navigational coordinates and timestamps.

There are plenty of blogs that explain how-to geotag your photos. This is not new. So I will abbreviate my process for you. The in short it goes something like this:

You open up Geotag Photos on your iPhone, you sink your camera’s clock to the time in the application. Geo-tagged photo gives you options on how often it will takes coordinate readings. I set mine to every two minutes. It saves a little bit of battery life and I don’t think I’ll be moving around that much. Then I head out and start shooting. At the end of the day, I return and download my photos into Lightroom as I would normally do. While my photos are being downloaded and converted to DNG files, I open up iTunes and sync my iPhone. In iTunes I go to the image of my phone on the left sidebar and then click the “App” tab for the phone. In the App window, scroll down to the bottom and you will find a small window that allows file sharing for certain apps. Geotag Photos is one of those applications.  I then locate the GPX file that I’ve named in Geotag Photos and I simply drag it to the desktop. At this point I open up GPSPhotoLinker. This is the software that will merge the GPX data into the DNG files. I take the GPX file that I saved to the desktop and drag it into GPSPhotoLinker. Then I find the folder with my newly downloaded DNG files and drag those two GPSPhotoLinker as well. Then I hit the batch process button and all of the navigational data in the GPX file is now embedded into the DNG photos. At this point it’s just a matter of opening Lightroom and selecting all the photos that I just downloaded, right click, select “read metadata” of the photos and then Lightroom updates the the new metadata. The cool think about using GPSPhotoLinker is it not only adds the navigational coordinated, it also adds the city, state and country when the image was taken in to the IPTC fields.

There are plenty of options for geo-logging applications and desktop apps that will sync your GPX files back to your photographs. But the process remains pretty much the same. Until Canon comes up with a GPS embedded in their DSL are this cumbersome process will remain the same.

You will notice the photos that I shot today have a small Google type pin icon in the lower right-hand corner. This is from a very clever plug-in by Dave Stivens.  If you click on the icon a Google map appears in a lightbox style window. I love the effect and how unobtrusive it is. The problem is this plug-in conflicts with my other plug-in that I use to get the same effect with most of my photos posted in my blog. So after a few days, I will disable Stiven’s plug-in. Unless someone can figure out what the conflict is and we’re able to fix it.

I’ll be posting my itinerary on Friday. I hope to be able to post photos now and again and reflect on my trip while I’m gone, but I’m not sure what kind of Internet access will have available.

Sitting Comfortably

The Landlord.

Review: Jobo’s PhotoGPS

The Jobo Photo GPSThe Jobo Photo GPS

I really like the idea behind geotagging photos. ((For a long winded explanation of geotagging go HERE.)) Many of you know I have been wanting to get my greedy little hands on the Jobo Photo GPS unit since they first announced it two years back. For whatever the reasons, Jobo had a series of delays releasing this unit. Finally in December 08 they released the product and I got my hands on the little guy. ((One note, this is a completely different unit than they had planned to release. The original one had a led display on the back and a higher profile. I am not sure if this unit is made by someone else and distributed by Jobo with their name on it or if Jobo is producing it for Geotate under the name Kato. No biggy, manufactures do this all the time. Just an interesting fact.)) Only to have my excitement dashed as they did not have Mac software for it only Windows. So I have this tiny sexy little gps for my camera sitting on my desk for the past month or so waiting for the release of the Mac interface. Finally a few weeks back they released it. (Remember, click on any images to view them larger.)

I downloaded the software and right away went out to my front yard to shoot two or three frames to test the unit. I returned to fine the software was not finding any locations. It recorded the shots and the times, but no locations. I had heard from Jobo that this was supposed to be so specific that the software would not only record the latitude and longitude but also the street name. This I wanted to see. But nothing.

So I emailed and called Jobo with not much luck. Finally they wrote and told me I must have a defective unit. I don’t think so.  Here’s why; In a last desperate attempt I went out into the city and just drove around and shot with the unit on my camera. I came home and found that several locations where in fact recorded and even had street names. Hurray! So I went out again yesterday to do a more detailed test.
One of the many aborted attempts to load the data into the PhotoGPS software.
Before I get into the workflow let me describe the actual unit its self. It is really small. It is about 2 inches by 1 inch. It is mounted on the camera flash shoe and records a position every time the shutter is fired. The one gripe I have about the actual unit is that the hot shoe connector does not have a lock of any sorts. The unit just slides on and slides off. It fits snugly on the shoe, so it won’t fall off if the camera is turned on it’s back. But not that tight to give me any comfort that it would not get knocked off while the camera hangs upside down on my BrackRapid strap. This just seems like an design over site and very risky.

The gps is always on and in standby so unlike other gps units it does not need to find the satellite. I am not going into details of how the GPS unit works. For some of you that is important. For me it is not. All I need to know is that it does work, and it does. What I struggled with was not the gps unit but the Mac software.

So once you have taken your images and return to the computer to download them you need to run the Jobo software, PhotoGPS. The software is simple and easy to use. But it does become an extra step in the download process. You will want to run the PhotoGPS software before you load your images into LightRoom. The reason being is that LightRoom reads your metadata and records it into each file. So it will read the gps coordinates on import once PhotoGPS embedds it into the RAW file. You can run the PhotoGPS software after import into LightRoom. But, once you add metadata to each file after import, like the gps coordinates, then you will have to have LightRoom re-read each file for the new metadata and that just gets complicated and time consuming.

JoboGPS software finding the gps data from the server.GPS data matched with the photos.So once you open the PhotoGPS software you are given a two paneled screen; one side for the gps data and the other for the photos. (See the image to the left.) The Jobo gps unit plugs into the computer through a USB 2.0 cable. PhotoGPS sees the unit and tells you it is there and that it is charging. You are given two ways to read the gps data, either by reading it directly from the unit or by downloading the data to the computer and storing it in a folder on your hard drive. I tried reading it from the unit first. The software thought a long time then crashed. I tried again, and it thought a long time, then started to download, then crashed again. This was not encouraging to say the least. So I tried the other option of downloading the data. I told it the folder I wanted the data to be stored in and told it to download. It thought, and thought and thought and…well, you get the picture, it hung. I quit the application and restarted it. This time it loaded the XMP sidecar filedata fairly quick. Overall in this process the PhotoGPS crashed or froze several times. It is clear there is an issue with the Mac software. Finally the images all loaded. The next step is to match the data with the images. This is done simply by a push of a button. So I pushed the button and prayed; this time no issue. All the data matched up to all the images. Then the last step is simply to write the data to the RAW files. To do this you push the “Tag Photos” button and it writes the data to a XMP sidecar file where you have the photos stored, in this case the flash card. Apparently it write it directly into the EXIF data in a JPG file. Again, it went off without a hitch.

Now you just proceed to import the files like you would normally do into LightRoom. Only this time you will see two new metadata fields. Yes, two. One for the gps coordinates and the other for the altitude. Fun. One more thing that is kind of cool, but needs some tweaking, is that on import all the street information is imported at key words. Very cool! This mean you do not have to key word on import the location of your shoot anymore. But here is the downside to this and where it needs tweaking. What I found was that the location did not import as multible key words but one single entry. Normally I would inter key word and they would look like this: Malaysia, Penang, Tanjung Tokong. Each place or name separated with a comma. But when PhotoGPS entered the key words they came out like this:  Mukim 18 (Tanjong Tokong) Penang Malaysia. To be honest, I am not sure if this is really and issue or not. But it does make for some very long key word sets in LightRoom.

Once in LightRoom you will find the Metadata field that holds the gps coordinates you will see a small button next to them. (See image) lightRoom puts the gps data intot he metadata and links it to Google Maps.If you click on that button you will be taken to Google Maps and shown where the image was taken. For the most part the data was very close to the spot I stood. The difference might be at the most 50 yards, but much of the time it was within a few feet.

Another LightRoom add on is the Flickr plugin that Jeffrey Friedl has made. This will upload your images to Flickr with the gps coordinates and then visitors can view them on the Flickr map.

So, over all what do I think? I really, really wanted to love this product. I love a lot of Jobo’s product like the Gigaview Pro. I love the concept and the unit itself. Jobo, or somebody did a great job designing a small, low profile gps unit for the camera. It does what it was designed to do and for $159 it may well be worth it, especially once they get the software kinks worked out of it. But what I really dislike is the Mac version software PhotoGPS. Not because it is hardFlickr Map to use, it is not. It is very simple. It is just glitchy, really glitchy. It took so much time to load and then reload the images due to all the snags. I am just not sure it is worth the effort. I guess it all comes down to how important is GeoTagging your photos. For me, at this time it is mostly just for fun. But there are important uses. When I went to Sumatra in Feb 08 I needed this unit, but it was delayed. The NGO I was shooting for really wanted to know where the images of each people group I shot where taken. I had to just point them out generally on a map after the trip. This would have been really handy. The PhotoGPS  is a group effort between Jobo, Geotate and it uses the data from the OpenStreetMap project. This product has a lot of potential. With all that said it still is a far cry better than the way I was doing geotagging before. A lot fewer steps and I thing this is all correctable in the next version update. But for now. Just be ready to fight with the software if you really want your photos tagged.