The Usual Tech Ramblings

Hobby Tangents...

A few months ago, I signed up for an account with Zooomr, just to play. Whilst uploading a batch of images from the Dallas Arboretum, I noticed a “Geo” feature (I believe Flickr have a similar feature). Having a quick play around, I noticed I was able to append longitude, and latitude to the pictures, and then search by those coordinates to find other pictures from the same location. This started a little seed in the back of my head, regarding GPS tagging images…

It wasn’t until l was starting to think about my vacation this year that the seed sprouted roots, and set up home. I know some cameras have the ability to Geotag images, when attached to a GPS device. I did some looking around, and found my camera, a Nikon D70s, wasn’t one of them. However, the Nikon D200 was, using the NMEA protocol to communicate with the GPS device. While a D200 would have been nice, not a possibility.

Then I thought about a simple GPS handheld device that’d write to a standard format (tab delimited for example), and then I could match it up with the EXIF information in the images with a small PHP, or perl, script. Obviously, if I’ve had the idea, about 50 thousand other people have too, which means the software was already readily available. Leaving that part of the project aside until after the vacation, I set out to find a simple GPS device. The list is extensive, but I ended up settling with a Garmin eTrex Summit® HC. It was originally going to be the base eTrex model, however as I was doing more research whilst standing in Fry’s, I decided to do some more reading. When I returned to a different Fry’s store at a lunch break, they had a better model for the same price as the base, so I nabbed it.

So, from the moment I set out on my vacation (with the exception of having it shut off on the plane trips), I had my GPS turned on. It produced some interesting maps of my travels around town during the week, but the bit that interested me was getting down into the matching of the coordinates, and the images.

Wikipedia was a starting source for software in this search for me. Under their Geocoded Photography, they list a handful of software applications that work on a variety of platforms. I dismissed most of them for general unusuability, and speed issues. Then I returned to google, and stumbled across my two keepers so far. The first was RoboGEO, and the second was COPIKS PhotoMapper. The first is a fairly cheap application, at about $40 for a non-commercial license, while the second is donationware.

The really cool thing about both of the applications is not just their ability to update the EXIF information with the geographical locations from the GPS device, but the ability for them to create Google Earth maps. This doesn’t just build maps showing your tracks, but allows you to attach thumbnails, and links, to the locations you shot photographs from.

I think this is probably just my supergeeky side showing now, but I’m actually quite excited at the possibilities. While probably not something that the world will find beneficial1, but I thought it’d be something pretty nifty for the geeky me.

Stay tuned, I’ll probably post a few of them here soon.

  1. Though saying that, checking out [PhotoSynth][11], a collaborative project between Microsoft and University of Washington. Checkout the video for NASA.