12 May 2013

On organizing the photo collection - take the notes about a photo location

When taking photos during a holidays, business trip, or in general at the locations I don't visit often I try to take notes about the photographed objects. There are different ways of doing so, but most of the time I use a GPS data logger that I keep switched on all the time during my photo walks. I use the GPS logger called AMOD GPS data logger. It is a standalone unit that registers every second the current GPS location in its internal memory, together with a timestamp of the registered position. The timestamp registered by the unit is very accurate, since it comes from the atomic clock of the GPS satellites. 
On the other hand the camera registers the time of capture of each photo. If the time of camera's internal clock is accurate as well, it is possible to assign GPS locations to the photos during postprocessing. The software just takes the time of capture and looks for the geolocation registered in the GPS log file with the timestamp closest to the time of capture. That is why it is important to keep the clock settings of the camera accurate. If the time in camera deviates from the actual time too much,  the locations of the photos will be shifted along the path one walked.
Having the location attached to the photo I can locate it back on the map and take more information about a place from the Internet.

On the technical side: I integrate GPS data with my photos in Lightroom (which has a dedicated Map panel for that purpose since version 4). Since Lightroom requires the GPS log data files in a .gpx format, I need to convert the original log stored by my GPS logger. I use the application called GPS Babel, that can convert pretty much everything to anything on the GPS area.
Of course the whole process of geotagging is much more simple if one uses the units dedicated for the specific camera (like Nikon GP-1 for most of the recent Nikon cameras). For me however the price of the Nikon unit is too much and the comfort of use doesn't compensate for the price difference ($199 for Nikon vs ~$60 for Amod).
And last but not least: nowadays we have a very wide choice of taking geolocations: from dedicated units to smartphones. Just take anything that suits your needs and budget.

When GPS is not enough

There are (rare) situations when a GPS data is just not enough to successfully memorize the information about the place. It happened to me lately, during my short holidays in Switzerland. On my way I took a snapshot of a lovely church:
And the registered geolocation indicated the place:
The thing is that even having the exact location, I couldn't find anything about this church in Google Maps! I have looked for the street name, churches in Geneva and yet got nothing specific. Thanks to my camera's high resolution I could read something from the church's information board:
Now I know that it Chapelle des Crets. Now I had the information I was looking for. But it was only thanks to the good circumstances: the presence of the information board in front of the church and the excellent quality of my camera and lens. Next time I might not be so lucky. Time to take some notes for the future

The lesson learned

  1. It is worth to take some time and look at the additional information in the vicinity of the object like information boards, names. Just take a photo of such board and you don't even need to look at the GPS data,
  2. Gather the information early after the trip, when the memory is fresh. The brain can recall much more details about visited places,
  3. Use the photo metadata (EXIF fields like caption or description) to store the captured information.