Location data and photography

2009-01-03

in Geek stuff, Internet matters, Photography, Travel

Dylan and Dusty

Before long, I expect that many cameras will have built-in GPS receivers and the option to automatically tag every photo with the geographic coordinates of the place where it was taken. That will allow for some neat new kinds of displays: from personal photo maps that show the results of a single person’s travels to composites of the photos a great many people have taken of the same place.

For those who would be interested in such things, but don’t yet have equipment that can locate itself, it seems like there could be a simple workaround. These days, low-cost GPS tracking devices are very affordable. All you need is a camera and a tracker with coordinated clocks. Then, you carry the tracker with you when you take photos. After you upload them to a computer, you can run software to automatically attach location data from the tracking system to the photos. Given the increasing number of cell phones with GPS capability, they might be the ideal devices to provide such locational data. You could even configure one to automatically upload a track of your movements to a web service which would then match up that information with photos you upload later.

One snag would be photos taken in areas where GPS doesn’t work, such as on the subway. To deal with that, users could be presented with a few choices. The coordinates from the closest point in time where data is available could be used, a very general coordinate for the city or region in question could be substituted, or such photos could simply be left untagged.

No doubt, people could dream up some very clever ways of using this kind of data, especially once a lot of it was online. You could, for instance, produce collages of how a particular area looked over time. A mountain valley could be presented from the perspectives of everyone from those hosting afternoon picnics to those undertaking technical climbs of the peaks, with spring and summer photos contrasted against snowy winter shots. Groups of friends could also watch their trails of photos diverge and overlap, as they move around the world.

All told, it could be a very interesting experiment in communal memory.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Padraic January 3, 2009 at 12:12 pm

I love geodata. If I recall correctly, there is special software that helps with your GPS clock workaround.

Check out my geotagged photos (which Flickr annoyingly only displays 20 at a time):
http://www.flickr.com/photos/padraics_travels/map/

Anon January 3, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Amusing photo. I think it would be better if the left paw was at the edge of the frame and the cat had some empty space to be looking into.

R.K. January 3, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Personally, I would rather have any tracking data on myself kept on a device I control, rather than someone else’s webserver.

That being said, I can see how the latter would be convenient for people uploading photos.

. February 23, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Apple to use iPhone’s GPS to geotag locationless photos?

Digging through iPhoto ’09’s innermost sanctums has apparently revealed references to some sort of asynchronous geotagging capability, whereby selecting locations from an app on the phone (or iPod touch, as the case may be) could be transferred directly to iPhoto and associated with events — perfect for shooting with, say, a real camera while toting your phone in your pocket.

. October 26, 2009 at 10:48 am

PhotoTrackr Mini geotagging device shrinks down, adds Mac and RAW support

Looking for a geotagging solution that doesn’t discriminate based on what kind of camera you have? Looking for one that can fit snugly into your Fifth Pocket? The PhotoTrackr Mini looks to be that very device, boasting a diminutive thumb drive-esque appearance and the same geotagging technology as found in the original. Put simply, the device works by syncing the time of your camera with bundled software; when you’re back from a shoot (a shoot where your device also was), you just allow the application to figure out where a given shot was snapped at what time. There’s also Mac and RAW file format support on this model, neither of which were compatible with the prior version. Pre-orders are being accepted now at $69, and the first shipments are expected to go out next month.

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