Weekly Image: Rough Job

Landscape, Weekly Image 1 Comment »

My brother (an excellent landscape photographer) interned for the national park service (the internship was to help map the park using GPS) in the Tetons a few summers ago. This week’s picture is one he took while there and just recently processed. This was pretty much his view during work and from the house he was staying in (it had a ridiculously good view of the entire Teton range).

Rough work, eh?

Click for a larger view.

Specs for This Photo

Rebel XTi, 18-55 mm lens at 18mm, f8, 1/2 sec, 100 ISO.

A Better Way to Geotag Photos Using GPicSync

GeoTagging, Landscape, Reviews 3 Comments »

I recently posted several articles reviewing options for GeoTagging your photos (you can view them here and here). Both are still accurate and good reviews/overviews of GeoTagging tools and how to use one of my favorites, ExifTool.

Last night, as I was browsing the web, I came across GPicSync, a tool that trumps them all! It uses ExifTool in the background, but does EXACTLY what I was looking for. It tags photos with GPS data that I was looking for, automatically. It looks at the time stamps of the GPX file (a common GPS format) and the camera file and automatically tags it if they are within a certain number of seconds of each other (specified by the user). It works on Windows Vista and best of all, it’s free!

You can download GPicSync here. After installing, it gives you the option to choose the folder full of images you want to synch and the appropriate GPX file. You can also change how close the two timestamps need to be in seconds and a few others settings. Output options include putting the data in the EXIF headers, the EXIF Headers and the IPTC Comments, and creating a Google Earth file. The interface is very simple and the product works very well.


GPicSync Screenshot

A special thanks to the Adobe Lightroom Journal, which provided the link to this wonderful resource.

Automatically Map Your Geotagged Photos

GeoTagging, Landscape, Reviews 3 Comments »

Originally, I only planned one post on Photo GeoTagging. After researching, playing around with different techniques and sitting down to write, I realized that the topic involved more than I originally thought (and was even more cool than I originally thought). So this, the third post in the series, is about how to display your photos once you GeoTag them. (See GeoTagging Your Photos and Using ExifTool to GeoTag Your Photos for the first two posts on this entry.)

Flickr and Google Maps (using Picasa) are the two most popular, free, public tools available for automatically mapping geotagged photos. I tagged a photo from a recent trip to Moab, Utah and uploaded it to both sites. The rest of this posts outlines my findings (from a ‘new’ user’s standpoint) on how each worked.


PicasaWeb – Google Maps (Click for larger view)

Flickr – Yahoo Maps (Click for larger view)

The following are the items I compared during the evaluation and which I preferred.

Item Preferred Tool

PicasaWeb – Google Maps

Click here to view my mapped photo in PicasaWeb.

From a beginner’s standpoint, PicasaWeb was much easier to use. It’s interface (and lack of features) makes it more approachable and mapping is much more simple. It also displayed a thumbnail of the photo directly on the map and displayed a small preview of it when the thumbnail was clicked. To top it all off, you can easily click on and view the location in Google Earth, which allows you to view the scenery all over again – very cool!

Unexpectadely, PicasaWeb did a poorer job of accurately placing the photo. The displayed coordinates didn’t match those tagged to the photo. They were close (within a few hundred yards), but as this is powered by GoogleMaps (the best mapping tool on the web, in my opinion), I was disappointed that it wasn’t 100% accurate. Disclaimer: I didn’t spend much time trying to troubleshoot to see why it didn’t read it properly – I was trying to see how well it worked without fiddling around.

Flickr – Yahoo Maps

Click here to view my mapped photo in Flickr.

Unlike PicasaWeb, Flickr’s mapping accuracy was spot on. It also provides MANY more features than PicasaWeb for organizing and sharing the photos outside the map, which is appealing to many. Flickr is the industry standard for photo sharing, which makes this option fairly attractive. I also liked the feature that allows you to e-mail your organized sets to others directly. You can always copy/paste the link, but this removes one additional step, especially for new users.

Flickr’s dispaly of the photos on the map was one of its major downfalls. While PicasaWeb displays a nice thumbnail and preview when clicked, Flickr decided to implement a small dot to indicate the presence of the picture. When the dot is clicked, a small preview of the photo is shown in the bottom left corner of the map, far away from the dot. I found that fairly inconvenient.

Which I Will Use

The comparison chart above makes the comparison look fairly equal, and honestly, it was pretty close.

If you are looking for a quick and easy way to share your geotagged photos and don’t have much use for other features, I would recommend PicasaWeb. It was easier to use and displays the photos on the map in a more appealing way.

If you are looking for more features to manage your photos in other ways, though, Flickr is the industry standard. It provides many more features and a much larger community of photos.

As GeoTagging is only part of my photo sharing/management, I chose Flickr. For more specific on how to upload and display images, you can visit their sites directly at Flickr or PicasaWeb.

Using ExifTool to GeoTag Your Photos

GeoTagging, Landscape, Software 3 Comments »

Screenshot is of ExifTool GUI – an ExifTool companion program

[Update after original posting: I recently found a new tool that uses EXIFTOOL in the background but trumps this one! Check it out here.] Not sure what GeoTagging is? Not sure why I chose to run you through the steps of ExifTool? Check out my other, more general post/review, right here.

With that said, let’s jump into ExifTool. Now, to start off, this is meant to be primarily a command prompt tool, which means right out of the box it doesn’t have a pretty interface. Please don’t let that scare you, though! If you use the steps in this post you will be able to use this free tool to geotag your photos!

There arethree basic ways you can use ExifTool to tag your photos.

  1. The GUI Way (I just found this and it does provide some pretty buttons! – definately try this way first). It is by far the easiest and fastest. If you only need the lat/long/altitude information, this is gold.
  2. The kinda easy way: Just in case the GUI way doesn’t work.
  3. The harder way, which lets you attach lots more GPS info to your photo. This uses the program directly from command prompt. If you need your photos tagged with more GPS information, you should probably read about the harder way.

[*Geek Note - GUI stands for Graphical User Interface - the pretty parts of programs that let you click buttons, view nice text boxes, etc.]

The GUI Way (what you are probably used to) TRY THIS WAY FIRST

  1. Download the ExifTool .zip from this site and unzip the .exe file to your desktop or other location on your computer. Rename it to exiftool.exe. It was previously named ExifTool(-k).exe.
  2. Download the ExifTool GUI from this site and unzip the .exe file to the same location that you just placed the ExifTool.exe at.
  3. As long as they are in the same directory, you can double-click on the ExifToolGUI icon to run the program. It is fairly easy to use.
    1. Locate the folder that contains the images you want to apply the GPS data to.
    2. Select the image(s) you want to affect.
    3. Make sure the EXIF button on the right side is selected.
    4. Click one of the ^ buttons next to the word Edit. Click the GPS tab and fill in your data. It has a check box for North and East. If it is South or West, simply leave the appropriate box unchecked (for example, if your coordinate is North, leave the South box unchecked). Click the Save button.

A Few Things to Note:

  • You can make a few basic configurations in the Options menu at the top.
  • Just a reminder that the site states that this is not a commercial product and that you should use at your own risk… other disclaimers that remove liability from anyone else if your photos blow up. It worked for me – try it on some copies of your photos initially. Once they work, you can probably feel fairly comfortable using it.
  • The GPS fields are pretty limited using this option.

The kinda easy way

I like this way because it also lets me quickly select specific images and tag them. In many cases I might just want, say the first 10 images, when I knew they were at a particular location. I can then drag and drop just those without have to put them in their own folder or running the script on them one at a time (which is what is required in the harder way).

  1. Download the ExifTool .zip from this site and unzip the .exe file to your desktop or other location on your computer.
  2. Rename the executable as described below.
    • You’ll rename the executable to contain the GPS information you want to apply to a particular set of photos. Then, when you want to tag a different set of photos, you can rename it again.
    • It should be named in this general manner: exiftool (-GPSLongitudeRef=[W/E] -GPSLongitude=[longitude coordinate]…).exe  [my note - you may not have to actually type the .exe part. If you didn't see it there when you started renaming, you can probably leave it out]. You should fill in the W/E and longitude coordinates with the specific information that you manually read from the GPS waypoints you recorded during your photo shoot.
    • A specific example is as follows: The only spaces are those between exiftool and the first ( and the space just prior to the new set of information, like between the W and -GPSLongitude. It labels my photos with the coordinates, altitude and timestamp that the coordinates were recorded at.
      • exiftool (-GPSLongitudeRef=W -GPSLongitude=104,54.3101 -GPSLatitudeRef=N -GPSLatitude=39,33.5368 -GPSAltitude=1796m).exe
    • For full documentation on the available GPS tags, you can check out this page.
  3. Drag/drop the file(s) or directory that contains the files you want to tag with a particular set of information. (See, I told you it would be pretty easy).

A Few Things to Note:

  • This will erase any pre-existing GPS related information on the photo (all other metadata is left the same).
  • You have to avoid using several characters in this as they are not allowed in Windows file names. They are
    /\?*:|”<>. That is why we had to avoid a timestamp in this method (which would have involved both a : and a /).
  • This process copies the originals of your photos and puts an _original at the end, giving you a set of duplicate file names. You can avoid this by adding -overwrite_original just prior to the last parentheses. Note that this is at your own risk as it can sometimes cause file corruption.

Now, the Harder Way

If you’ve lasted this long, you’re ready for the hard stuff. It is in command line, which isn’t too bad, if you’ve seen it before. If you haven’t, well, proceed at your own risk.

  1. Download the ExifTool .zip from this site and unzip the .exe file to your desktop or other location on your computer. Rename it to exiftool.exe. It was previously named ExifTool(-k).exe.
  2. To pull up command prompt, click the Start button at the bottom left of your screen and choose run. Type command and you will see a black box pop up.
  3. You’ll need to run the program through this and pass it some parameters. You’ll need to modify it a bit for your own situation. You’ll need to use different lat/long/alt coordinates. You’ll also need to point to a different folder where your pictures are stored. You should point to a different directory for the exiftool.exe (you should point that first part to wherever you saved it at). As this isn’t a full tutorial on command line use, I pasted all the information I typed into it in step 4. Don’t forget, replace the applicable information with yours.
  4. C:\Users\Brian\Desktop\exiftool -GPSLongitude=104,54.3101 -GPSLon
    gitudeRef=W -GPSLatitude=39,33.5368 -GPSLatitudeRef=N -GPSAltitude=”1963.00 m” -
    GPSDateStamp=2008:01:10 -GPSTimeStamp=”3:50:01 PM” “B:\My Pictures\Reyman\2008\2
    008_01_GPSTest”

A Few Things to Note:

Geotagging Your Photos

GeoTagging, Landscape, Reviews, Software 10 Comments »

If you aren’t already familiar with GeoTagging – it combines two simple things; a picture and a location (in this case, a very specific set of coordinates based on latitude and longitude). It allows you to always know where your photos were taken (which is very handy for landscape, wildlife and travel photographers) as well as display photo locations on a map. Google Maps and Flickr both have great tools that allow you to click on the map locations and view the related pictures. (The picture at the top of the screen doesn’t really have anything to do with GeoTagging – I was just looking around on my hard drive for earth-like images and that one seemed fun).

Recently, I decided to jump on the GeoTagging bandwaggon. I do some landscape/travel photography and thought it would be neat to share them via a map view. I already have the first piece of the puzzle, the pictures. I recently purchased the other, a handheld GPS system. It’s the size of a cell phone (well, maybe a cell phone from 5 years ago when they were a bit larger). Among other things, it allows you to press a few buttons and record your current location. I did some research and chose the Garmin eTrex Legend.

The final step of the GeoTagging process is attaching the location to the photo. After several hours of research, it turns out this is by far the hardest part of the whole thing. I found several usable methods; some that work in my specific setup, and some that may not work for me but that may work for others.

My Requirements

I needed a solution that would attach my Garmin GPS data (which can be exported to a .gpx file, a common GPS file format) to photos stored as .dng (digital negatives – an Adobe format that is equivalent to RAW). I was looking for something as inexpensive as possible – idetally free. I was also looking for something that would work easily into my workflow – I didn’t wanted to have to add too many steps that aren’t in my download/sort flow already. I work on a PC, Windows Vista. [Note after original posting - my requirements (and as a result, what I searched for and found) also include being fairly entry level, especially with cost. My brother, a GPS expert, reminded me that there are many solutions in the $100+ range that will geotag photos very well. I tried to find something that will let me spend my money on photo gear and keep this part of things as a hobby. Just something to keep in mind as you read.]

What Didn’t Work

I’ll start with a brief look at what I tried, but didn’t work. While these didn’t work for me, they might work for you and your needs. Also, while I spent a good amount of time on the web, this list isn’t necessarily comprehensive and only includes programs for PCs – I wasn’t able to test anything for Macs. If you use a Mac, though, technology guru Terry White wrote a good review on GPS data conversion on the Mac (including a different GPS receiver than I chose). You can find it on Terry’s blog, here.

  • PhotoMapper: This looked promising. Very easy to use initially. It did, however, end up crashing on Vista (meant just for XP and below, I suppose, although the web site wasn’t super clear). Also, it only wrote the information to .jpg files.
  • PhotoMe: This looked very promising at first. It is primarily used as an EXIF/IPTC metadata editor. Its interface is simple and fairly intuitive. Unfortunately, it doesn’t batch process photos and can’t add new data, it can only edit. Because my GPS data wasn’t there to begin with , it wouldn’t add it.
  • AiS Exif: Installed and couldn’t even get it to run. Not sure if I needed to install the .net framework. I didn’t want to invest that much effort to even get the thing off the ground. Also, a full license was $50, which detracted even more from troubleshooting.
  • Downloader Pro: I didn’t try this one, but others have and give it high reviews. It is an alternate way to download files and attaches the GPS data as it does so. I chose not to use it because it costs $30 and it adds an extra, time consuming step (I wouldn’t normally mind paying, but if it adds another step too – that pushes the decision into the no category, even thought it is a pretty strong product.). Normally, I convert my files to .dng on import. This would require importing (and tagging) as raw and then a conversion to .dng.

What Did Work (and one that didn’t, but mostly did)

When it came down to it, price turned out to be a big factor. I couldn’t find anything that fit seamlessly into my workflow – everything ended up replacing Lightroom’s import feature, which I wanted to avoid. Several options mentioned above work with the workflow workaround, but I don’t want to pay for a feature that interrupts things that much. If I’m going to slow down my process, it had better be free. Also, I’m hoping that Adobe will eventually make this part of Lightroom.

So, without further ado, my top choice is ExifTool.

[Update after original posting: I recently found a new tool that uses ExifTool in the background that makes it even easier to use. It is definately my top choice! Check it out here.]

RoboGeo: Okay, I know what you are thinking (or should be if you’ve been paying attention) – “I thought you just mentioned ExifTool!”. I did – it was my final choice – RoboGeo was so close, though, that I wanted to mention it in this section. It works on Vista, it imports photos and .gpx files and can even automatically synch with my Garmin GPS receiver. And it does all of that will about 3 clicks. Here’s the few catches, though. First, it’s about $50 – and as you can tell from the rest of this post, I don’t particularly want to pay for this piece of software. Second, it has a fairly strange implementation.

One would normally assume that it would synch the photo that had the closest timestamp to a timestamped location from the GPS information. It turns out, though, that it needs at least two readings, one timestamped before the photo and one after. If you shoot the picture before the first or after the second, you are hosed – it doesn’t end up working automatically. You can set your GPS to constantly record points, say every 5 minutes to help a bit. But, any photos taken between GPS recording 2 and 3 won’t be automatically tagged, any between 4 and 5, etc. If it sounds crazy, it’s not just you, it is.

So, back to ExifTool, my tool of choice.

The number one reason I chose it, you guessed it, is the price. It is a whopping $0! Also, it works on Vista, can batch process files, and once I figured it out was fairly easy to use.

The downside is that it did take a few minutes to pick up – it works primarily from the command line (I listed the steps in this post, here, though, to help things along) and it doesn’t automatically tag the photos – meaning that it won’t automatically compare time stamps and insert the data. I have to choose the photos and then apply the location with the tool. For now, this will work, but if I was shooting landscapes professionally or if I just ever get tired of doing it this slightly slower way, I might continue looking for alternatives.