NYT article - GPS tagging of digital photos

Discussion in 'Digital Cameras' started by Alan Browne, Dec 16, 2004.

  1. Alan Browne

    Alan Browne Guest

    The idea is not exacly fresh, and has been discussed in both NG's. I myself
    thought of this (and others did too) back in the late 80's before GPS had a user
    friendly constellation (or indeed before cheap receivers were available). [Then
    the idea would have been to 'stamp' the negative/slide with the lat/long,
    similar to the date marking systems].

    One item I think would be useful would be to add the heading (direction the
    camera is pointing) to the tags. This would of course require a heading sensor,
    perhaps attached to the base of the camera (mag+gyro). Or perhaps simply
    recording the GPS TRK, and the operator has to take care to move in the
    direction of the scene prior to taking the photo. The focus distance is already
    a tagged item.

    It occurs to me that in digital systems with serial data interfaces (USB,
    Firewire, other) a firmware upgrade would be all that is neccesary to retrofit
    the capability of Rx'ing GPS data.

    Anyway, good reading.

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    December 16, 2004
    Digital Bread Crumbs for Your Photos
    New York Times

    WHEN you release the shutter on a digital camera, it records more than just Aunt
    Millie's toothy smile. With each photograph, the camera attaches descriptive
    data - information like date and time, make and model, white balance settings
    and whether the flash was used. Among the 300 or more types of data that can be
    attached are Global Positioning System coordinates, pinpointing where the
    photograph was taken.

    Most digital cameras cannot be connected to a G.P.S. receiver, so they cannot
    automatically tag images with coordinates. But interest in the combination is

    When Frederik Ramm, a software engineer in Karlsruhe, Germany, strapped a
    digital camera and separate G.P.S. receiver to his car and drove around northern
    Scotland, he posted his results to the Web in the form of a geographically
    navigable travelogue.

    "I found myself driving just because I wanted to know what a certain road would
    be like, what views it would offer," Mr. Ramm said. "I first thought of a way to
    mount the camera inside, then of shooting photos while driving."

    Using the G.P.S. receiver, he added, "seemed like the logical next step."

    Visitors to Mr. Ramm's site can view his photos moving in any direction, or
    watch an automated slide show retracing his journey in its original sequence.

    Geocoding digital photos is catching on beyond fancy vacation slide shows.
    Relating pictures to precise locations has obvious applications for
    archaeologists and cartographers, but also for real estate agents compiling
    listings and law enforcement officers conducting investigations.

    Researchers can measure population distributions of plant species with highly
    accurate photojournals, or document the changing landscape of the California
    coastline, as Kenneth and Gabrielle Adelman have done with a helicopter, a
    digital camera, a G.P.S. receiver and a laptop computer.

    As part of an effort called the California Coastal Records Project
    (www.californiacoastline.org), Mr. Adelman has taken more than 20,000 aerial
    photographs of the coast (except for a restricted area around Vandenberg Air
    Force Base near Santa Barbara) from a helicopter flown by his wife.
    "Photographing particular parts of the coast for the Sierra Club led to the
    idea," he said. "It was the digital photography and the G.P.S. interface that
    made it practical."

    Mr. Adelman uses a Nikon D1x digital camera, a high-end professional digital
    model and one of the few that can directly communicate with a G.P.S. receiver.
    Currently available for around $3,500 (without the receiver, which can run a
    couple of hundred dollars more), the six-megapixel D1x is not an inexpensive
    solution to combining location information with digital photography. Nor is its
    newer replacement model, the 12-megapixel Nikon D2x (at a cost expected to be
    near $5,000), which Mr. Adelman plans to evaluate when it is released early next

    A less expensive option is the three-megapixel Ricoh Caplio Pro G3, which has an
    optional integrated G.P.S. receiver and costs $1,000 for the bundle.

    Aside from the limited choice and high cost of G.P.S.-ready digital cameras, the
    physical tethers can also be unwieldy, complicating mobile operations. More
    often, geocoding enthusiasts favor the lower-tech solution used by Mr. Ramm -
    simply traveling with both their preferred digital camera and an inexpensive
    G.P.S. receiver, separate and unconnected.

    Small G.P.S. receivers such as the hand-held Garmin eTrex series ($110 to $250)
    or wristwatch-based Forerunner series ($80 to $120) will record positions in a
    track log, updated at frequent intervals for up to several hours or more
    depending on the model. Because the digital camera records the date and time
    with each picture, as does the G.P.S. with each track point, the two can be
    compared later to produce G.P.S. coordinates for each photo.

    A variety of software packages can download the track log from the G.P.S.
    receiver and apply the G.P.S. coordinates to the photo metadata - in effect
    retroactively tagging the pictures just as the expensive cameras do in real
    time. Free software such as StuffWare Photo Studio, World Wide Media Exchange
    Utilities, and OziPhotoTool can all update photo tags with track logs from
    popular G.P.S. receivers.

    Once G.P.S. data has been tagged to digital photos, commercial software like
    G.P.S. Photo-Link ($229) and TopoFusion ($40) can generate maps using
    topographic or aerial data. With a photo record superimposed on a world map, you
    can quickly and easily relive a travel journey, see the distribution of photo
    subjects or visualize a historical record.

    In the near future, more digital cameras will come with wireless Bluetooth
    capability, allowing them to communicate directly with Bluetooth-enabled G.P.S.
    receivers for instant geocoding with no wires.

    Mr. Ramm predicts the trend will evolve both "from the bottom end of image
    quality, driven by mobile phones that are already commonly equipped with a
    camera and sometimes with G.P.S.," and "from the top of the quality scale, where
    digital cameras will be hooked to notebooks for immediate image processing."

    Indeed, Mr. Adelman is already considering replacing his current setup with a
    higher-quality medium-format camera without direct G.P.S. input. But with it he
    plans to have a computer that can later match the G.P.S. data against the time
    stamps in the images.

    Alan Browne, Dec 16, 2004
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  2. I've had the same idea some time ago. With exact position and heading
    added to the pictures, and a large enough collection of pictures of a
    certain area (taken from different angles), you could easily build a 3-
    dimensional model of that area.

    I've once tested a software that allowed you to manually match several
    pictures to a 3-dimensional model ("Canoma", IIRC, BICBW), but it would
    be much easier if all the position data would be in the pictures.

    Juergen Nieveler
    Juergen Nieveler, Dec 16, 2004
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  3. Alan Browne

    Reg Guest

    I already do this. I have recently taken many pictures of my local
    village and the W.W.II local airfield.

    I use my eMap and Casio watch built-in compass to mark position and
    direction. Slow but a much better historical record.

    Reg, Dec 17, 2004
  4. Alan Browne

    btooth Guest

    imagine the security issue though. as many pics are shared/publishe
    online knowingly or not, we need to make sure that the photographer an
    the subjects knows that their location is being recorded

    "look, this guy has a nice stereo system." "oh yeah, they are locate
    in xxx.xxxx, let's drive the truck over.
    btooth, Dec 22, 2004
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