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Geotagging in the field

From: Shooting on the Road, from Gear to Workflow

Video: Geotagging in the field

So I found this beautiful location. The light is fantastic. I have been doing some shooting around here. There is no wind. The temperature is perfect. It's a great place to spend a late afternoon. I've got to tell you, I don't have the foggiest idea where I'm. The process of encoding location information into your images is called geotagging. As you probably know, every time you take a picture, your camera records metadata into the image file. That's the date and time it was shot, the shutter speed, aperture, ISO that you were using. All of those camera settings get embedded in the file.

Geotagging in the field

So I found this beautiful location. The light is fantastic. I have been doing some shooting around here. There is no wind. The temperature is perfect. It's a great place to spend a late afternoon. I've got to tell you, I don't have the foggiest idea where I'm. The process of encoding location information into your images is called geotagging. As you probably know, every time you take a picture, your camera records metadata into the image file. That's the date and time it was shot, the shutter speed, aperture, ISO that you were using. All of those camera settings get embedded in the file.

There's also room in that metadata for latitude, longitude, and altitude. Now the problem is you have to know your latitude, longitude, and altitude, and I don't even know what county I'm in right now. So, I've brought special hardware that figures out my location and allows me to geotag my images. You have a few different options if you want to do this. First, you can get a camera that has a geotagging facility built into it. For example, I have this point-and-shoot camera here. This is a Canon PowerShot S100. It has a built-in GPS.

Every time I take a picture it figures out my location and stores that in the image metadata. So this is a great way of automatically getting geotagging for images that I've shot with this camera. I am mostly shooting with my SLR though. However, if I come across an image that I shoot with my SLR and I really want to know where it was, I could take a reference photo, if you will, with this camera. When I get home I could look up that GPS information in the metadata of the image from this camera and simply copy it into that camera. Now another option is your SLR might have a geotagging facility of its own, either built-in or, as in the case of my camera, there's an extra gizmo that I can get that I slip in the camera's hot shoe and plug into the camera and now all of my images will automatically be geotagged.

That's another option. I don't have one of those, because one, it's expensive; two, it would take out my hot shoe; and three, I've got some other alternatives that I like even more. This trick I mentioned with my little point-and- shoot camera, I could also do that with my smartphone. I've got an iPhone here, which has a GPS in it, and every time I take a picture with the phone's camera, it records my location. I don't have a cell signal right now, but that doesn't matter because my GPS is still working. So, this is another way that I can take a reference photo that has my location. I could then copy that information to the images from my SLR.

My favorite solution is this thing. This is a geologger. This is a tiny, little box. It barely weighs anything. The battery lasts a good 18 to 20 hours. And what it does is, via GPS, via satellite link, it simply keeps a log of where I am all the time. So I turn it on, I put in my pocket, and I just keep it there throughout the day. So, what happens is every second, or maybe even more frequently, it records, oh here is the time and here is where he was. When I get home, I can use special syncing software to sync up this location information with the images from my camera.

So the way it works is the syncing software looks at the timestamp that the camera recorded on an image and then it comes over to my location log and says "oh, at that time he was in this location" and it takes that location information and embeds that in the image. So what's great about this is it doesn't take up my camera's hot shoe. It doesn't drain my camera's battery. Its own battery lasts forever. It doesn't really weigh anything to speak of. It doesn't take up much space, and it works with all my cameras. So this $100 geologging device gets me location information no matter what camera I'm using.

So I really like this as an option. If you do a lot of solo backpacking or hiking or mountain biking or motorcycling or anything else that takes you off into the woods on your own, you might want to consider one of these. This is a spot, and what this is is basically a satellite-based one-way communication device. I can press a button and have a message go out via satellite to a predefined mailing list that I've set up, and that message is also predefined, and I can set several different messages on this device.

So I can press one button that sends a message that I've set up to say "here's where I am" and it sends a latitude and longitude. It even sends a link to, I believe, a Google Map and whoever gets the email can just click on that and see the map. I have set up another message to say "here's where I am and I don't have cell phone coverage right now, so don't bother trying to call me." A lot of times even if I have cell phone service, that's the button I use. I have a couple of other buttons I can use. One I predefined for an emergency situation. It says "here's where I am and I need help" and that goes out to just a few people. And then I have finally another button that is labeled SOS. When I press this, actual official search and rescue teams will hopefully come and find me.

The reason I bring this up for geotagging is that that email that gets send out has latitude and longitude date and time in it. So, if I'm carrying one of these anyway and I don't have any other geotagging devices, this can become a little ad hoc geotagging device. If I take a picture and really want to remember where I was, I can hit one of these buttons to send a message and as long as I'm in that mailing list, when the message comes in I will have a record of where I was at a certain time. I can then go ahead and copy and paste that latitude and longitude into the appropriate image.

So these are just a few ways you can geotag your images, that you can get location information into your images. Why would you want to do that? Well, there are couples of reasons. Once I've got that location information in there, I can, for example, open up Lightroom and simply see a map that shows where I've taken pictures. Aperture will do the same thing. iPhoto will do the same thing. There are lot of other applications that will take the location information and show you little thumbnails across the map. Google Earth has been geotagging tools. A lot of social networking sites have geotag-reading tools that are very interesting, that let you sift and sort your photos visually based on their location.

It's also just nice because very often I get back from a long trip and I don't recognize a particular thing. I don't know where it was and I get curious. And of course as the years roll by, I'm certainly not going to be able to remember. So these days it's so easy to get your images tagged, there's kind of no reason not to. Now I'm going to go try and figure out where I am.

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Shooting on the Road, from Gear to Workflow

33 video lessons · 16065 viewers

Ben Long
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