Travels with my geotagger

Since returning from Chester on Saturday and collecting Freya on Sunday, I have been pretty busy. It is surprising how, during just a few days away, things pile up and lie in wait for you. There are bills to be paid and letters and cards to acknowledge (it was Father’s Day while we were in Chester); there are emails; and there is a huge volume of unread articles in my RSS reader. There is also shopping, making appointments and all the other fiddly but necessary chores that weave the rich tapestry of this thing we call "life".

Then there are photographs. Lots of photographs. I am a prolific taker of photographs, especially when I am somewhere new and interesting. What you see on the blog is but the tiny tip of an immense iceberg. All the photos I took during our trip have to be sorted, located, filed and backed up.

Then there is the blog of our trip. I write this as I go, but it needs editing – for one thing using the tiny keyboard of a Blackberry on swaying trains and jolting buses produces lots of spelling mistakes and typos. Well, that’s my excuse! Sometimes I realize the information I have given is wrong or incomplete and I have to do some research to correct it.

The geotagger is a boon. As we speed hither and thither, taking photos as we go, the images accumulate and it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to work out afterwards where some of them were taken were it not for the position data recorded by the geotagger.

These days I take my laptop with me and leave it at the hotel. Each evening, I go through the same routine. First we find a convenient power socket and plug in our trailing socket. Into this I plug my mobile phones, and later the geotagger, to recharge.

Then I fire up the laptop and make new folders for today’s photos and the maps and other data files that will be generated from them. I soon learned to make two copies of the photos, the copy to be used with the geotagging and mapping software, and the backup copy kept safely in case things go wrong. There is not often a problem (there were none during this trip) but should trouble strike, there may be no way to recuperate unless you have a backup of the photos.

Once the photos are safely stored on the computer, the geotagger can be plugged in via a USB socket and connected to the special software. This reads the log and creates a preliminary map of our route. Or rather, it would create a map if I could go online. Usually, I can’t go online as I don’t want to pay a connection charge for a few minutes a day and the software works fine without access to Google maps, other than that the maps cannot actually be displayed until I go online at home.

Having uploaded the log file, I next have to tell the program where to find the photos. It loads these and displays a list together with the geographical coordinates (latitude and longitude) of each one. On the click of a button, it adds these to the EXIF data of each photo. This can take a while but who’s in a hurry on holiday? Just make tea and relax!

Once the program has the log file and photos in its grasp, I can tell it to create the maps and other data files. After the maps, the most important of these is its custom file that records all the information. If I have this, I can always  reconstruct the maps later if I lose them or they become damaged.

Once all that is done, I can switch off the laptop and put the geotagger on charge alongside the mobile phones and the camera battery.

It all sounds easy, and it is, but when you have been out all day and feel tired and bed seems the most attractive place to be, taking time and energy to perform the above sometimes feels like a chore. I shouldn’t grumble, though, because this work produces rewards later and storing the photos means I can start with a clean data card in the camera each day.

When I get home, I run my photo organizer and tag each photo with its location and any other useful information. Finding the location is usually easy, thanks to the geotagger. I can look up each photo’s coordinates individually on Google’s or Bing’s maps if I want to (and I sometimes need to do so), but this is not usually necessary. Normally all I have to do is display the Google map that was created back at the hotel and read the positions of the photos off that. I can then tag a whole batch of photos at once.

The only fly in the ointment is that the geotagger occasionally goes haywire and produces spurious coordinates. I am not entirely sure why this happens but suspect that reflections of the radio waves off shiny buildings or blocking of the signal by large features such as mountains can have their effects. These are just guesses, though, and I do not have an answer that I am certain of.

In the worst case of recent times, the geotagger placed a set of photos in completely the wrong town! We were in Ironbridge and the photos appeared to be in a small town several miles away! How it managed that, I do not know. Such cases are rare, fortunately, and even add spice to the proceedings as I then have to work out where they were really taken.

Apart from that, geotagging has been a great success as even journeys in trains and buses have been recorded. The value of having a separate geotagger as opposed to one built into the camera is that it can geotag all my photos, both those taken with the camera and those taken with my mobile.

Though there was that amusing incident in Nottingham when we visited the Castle and I left my camera in Tigger’s capable hands while I went to the loo. With it, she took several photos at various places in the castle grounds but, of course, according to the geotagger, all these photos were taken in the loo! In that case, a built-in geotagger would have produced more correct results. Another solution would be to clip the geotagger to the camera rather than to my belt but such problems are rare and easy to rectify.

I am gradually producing my account of our trip, both as separate daily episodes and as one complete page, labelled (appropriately enough) "Chester 2010".

Copyright © 2010 SilverTiger,, All rights reserved.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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2 Responses to Travels with my geotagger

  1. Villager says:

    You have certainly produced some very fine photos on your blog, and I look forward to seeing many more !

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