Geotagging on the Road – Part 2

Dec 08, 2011 View Comments by

In the last issue we discussed how and why to geotag your photos. In this segment we’ll be touching on methods of geotagging while you’re on the road.

Writing GPS coordinates of a photo’s place into the digital file helps to present, archive and/or relocate the motive and put it into an informative context. Only a few cameras have an internal GPS receiver, however, and not everybody wants to bid farewell to their favorite camera model. There is an alternative to geotagging: using an external device. This seems to be more interference-prone but has its advantages, e.g., if you carry a GPS device when traveling. But remember that a GPS receiver uses a lot of power from the internal camera battery so GPS tracks should be recorded only once to preserve power.

If you are using the recorded track of an external device to tag your photos later on the computer, or add them to the attached xml sidecar file, you can tag the pictures of several different cameras simultaneously. For this method you may use any satellite-navigation device that can record a track, or a special GPS data logger, which only records tracks but doesn’t navigate. These loggers are more affordable, compact, lightweight and use less battery power. The HOLUX M-241, for example, runs about 10 hours with only one AAA battery.

Once such device is the JOBO® photoGPS, which saves only the data it receives from the satellite without generating your actual position. This work is done later while downloading the data on the computer. The drawback is that the JOBO requires a stable Internet connection to download the data and calculate the position. Another downside is that you have to choose between the GPS coordinates and using the flash. Another option is to take two pictures, one for the GPS data and one with the flash.

Owners of a newer Nikon SLR or a comparable camera with an accessory plug that supports such geotaggers as the Dawntech and the Solmeta models are better off. They can be connected with the camera, write the positioning data directly into the picture file, and even give the direction in which the picture was taken without necessarily occupying the flash shoe. Solmeta offers a multi-plug connector to add more than one device to the camera.

Nikon also offers a geotagger. The GP-1 GPS unit records the latitude, longitude, altitude and time information and writes them directly into the picture file. Older cameras might need a software update to do so, but Nikon says the device is compatible with many of its popular DSLRs, such as the D2Hs, D2X and D5100.

Promote® Systems also offers a reasonably priced GPS receiver for such Nikon models as the D300, D700 and D3, as well as for the Fuji S5 Pro and IS Pro. Macsense sells the Geomet’r GNC-35 receiver for such Nikons as the D300, D3 and D200, and Fujifilm’s S5 Pro DSLR, plus the Promote GPS-90 for Nikons including the D90, D3100 and D5000

Dawntech offers some geotaggers for high-end Canon SLRs, but you also need Canon’s Wireless File Transmitter (WFT), which costs a small fortune – about $800. Before investing in such a product consider whether it is necessary to immediately write the positioning data into the picture file or if entering it manually will suit your needs. The alternative is to tag photos after they’re downloaded onto a computer. The Internet offers various programs to do this, including recommendable freeware from locr and GPSPhotoLinker. The workflow of these programs is basically the same: You download the pictures and the GPS track to your computer and then start your linking software, which will connect the right location to the right photo by matching the time and date of the picture files and the positioning data.

To be on the safe side you can first check the position of one or more pictures in Google Earth. This is highly advisable, especially if you travel in different time zones. If the time on the camera doesn’t match the time transferred by the satellites you will end up with wrong GPS tags. Such mishaps can be solved, however, with the help of a good computer program that allows you to shift the time of the pictures to the time of the location, e.g., one hour back or ahead.

The workflow of the JOBO GPS works differently because it has not yet calculated the coordinates from the satellite data it receives. You need stable Internet access to download the data from the tagger since the coordinates are calculated online while you download the satellite data from the device. Because the storage capability of the JOBO GPS tagger is limited you have to link yourself to the Internet no later than after shooting some 1,000 pictures and download the GPS files before shooting again and saving more files.

The calculation of GPS coordinates can be time consuming, especially if you have a slow connection. Once done you have the address plus sightseeing spots, hotels, gas stations and other information. Tagged pictures can help you find your way if you decide to go back. CDFinder, for example, can export the GPS data as a kmz file, and such a translator as GPSBabel transforms it into a GPX file or almost any other format needed. The new generation of Garmin® Zumo, the 210, 220 and 660, are ready for photo navigation: They accept kmz files as waypoints and show you your own geotagged picture of your destination.

Being a member of one or more of the many Internet photo communities is also beneficial because you can download others’ geotagged pictures to plan your next trip. The Internet platform EveryTrail even provides the photo albums of others with complete kmz tracks to follow their ride. Geotags not only help find photos, but they are a great way to search out new places to visit.

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