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Geo-tagging Photographs

by admin on December 27, 2011

Geotagging Your Photographs

 Originally Posted May 2010

When I was hired by the MN Department of Natural Resources and the Nature Conservancy, both of these organizations requested that I provide GPS (Global Positioning System) information in the metadata of all submitted photographs. After an initial round of research I discovered that my Canon 5d was one generation too old to accept GPS input into the metadata. The solution would require me to purchase a new camera the Canon 5d Mark II ($2700) a wireless transfer unit to attach to the camera ($800) and a hand-held GPS unit ($200-500) for a total cost approaching $4000. Needless to say this approach was not in the budget for these projects.After some more research I found a device called PhotoTrackr Mini DPL900. This unit is about the size of an overgrown thumb drive, on one end of the unit is a USB male-port just like a thumb drive. The device retails for about $69, along with an upgrade to read Raw format images, charging unit, and shipping my total cash outlay was about $120. It will work with any digital camera.I received the unit in a timely fashion and downloaded the software. The software set-up is not for the technically challenged, but if you have anything more than basic computer skills it should go fairly smoothly. Within about 30 minutes I was ready to test the unit. The first step was to sync my camera with the GPS device, this is a relatively simple process of going to the PhotoTrackr’s software clock and setting my camera clock to the same date, hour, and minute. Then I went outside and turned on the PhotoTrackr unit. The unit is a passive GPS locating device, it records a GPS position every 5 seconds. It initially took the unit about 10 minutes to locate the GPS satellites for positioning; subsequent start-ups take a lot less time usually under a minute. I made several test exposures, walking and sometimes running between locations. I came back into the office and downloaded the images in my normal fashion, I also downloaded the GPS data from the PhotoTrackr unit.

Once the data was downloaded I opened the PhotoTrackr software and went through the step by step wizard to attach the GPS coordinates to all of the images. This process will take anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes depending upon the number of images, the largest batch I have processed at one time was about 200 images and it took about 5 minutes to sync the data. The PhotoTrackr software looks for images that have the same date and time stamp as the GPS data that was downloaded from the device. Once you have your images tagged the software allows you to go to a Google Map where the photograph locations are displayed, the software even displayed the rate of speed of travel required between the images.
As time goes by the additional GPS information will be extremely valuable for the MN DNR and Nature Conservancy land stewards and biologists. I have used this unit on a couple of photo-shoots. The process is pretty simple and doesn’t take too much effort once the initial set-up is in place on your computer. Of course there are the additional steps of making sure the unit is charged and goes with you on the photo-shoot, as well as downloading the data after each trip, however, if you have ever wondered where you took that mysterious great image this process will insure that you always have the exact location.

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