Africa Photography Report #1: Lessons in Geotagging – Gisteq Phototrakr + Lightroom

"Geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification metadata to various media such as photographs, video, websites, or RSS feeds and is a form of geospatial metadata. This data usually consists of latitude and longitude coordinates, though it can also include altitude, bearing, accuracy data, and place names." – Wikipedia 11/2/08

I spent all weekend distilling Africa trip photos from 5K down to around 700, some more distilling and tagging left to do. Then I’ll be developing and publishing these on www.fluidpixel.com, soon(ish).

Part of this mission was Geotagging. Thinking I’d speed up geotag matching from the GPS files to the photos by trimming down my photos first, I made life more difficult for myself by doing some Lightroom Meta Data work first (colors tags, ratings reject-flagging, etc. to try reduce the number of photos).  Then I did the GPS work, thinking I could ‘sync’ the files, or at least load those Meta Data line items. I couldn’t – with my limited technical knowledge. Ironicly I havn’t purged those flag-rejected photos from Lightroom yet either.

My new advice (I know, it’s obvious);

1. Do the Geotagging/GPS work first before going into Lightroom.

2. Salvation: If you do what I did you can recover; “Write Meta Data to files” in Lightroom, then in Gisteq “Write GPS to files” (select all files and right click). This is made possible by Gisteq relying on a database of GPS coordinates matched to photos, not simply writing to the photos. And assumes you already have your Gisteq GPS "Groups" set up, filled with photos that have been GeoTagged.

Some reports on how Gisteq [Software] performed;

  • The end result GPS data seems to have been effectively embedded into the files, So despite the below… it was successful. I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars
  • It seems badly coded for several reasons;
    • Its slow, especially when dealing with lots of files
    • It is a memory hog
      • It was so slow ‘adding to memory’ (I watched in task manager) that I couldn’t have one “Group” for all my photos (60gig in 5K photos taken on 4 cameras over 3 weeks)
      • Luckily I had photos in multiple folders so it was easy to create multiple groups
      • 5-7 gig of photos is the most I would put in a group at a time
    • Threw lots of errors including some .net errors, IE slow script errors. And I had to rebuild the catalog 3 times due to software crashes
  • “Reverse geo-encoding” for address/rough location is slow, and in fact on Sunday started grinding to a halt so I stopped doing it (after one, small group was going for 1hr+ with no results – should have taken more than 10 min)

The hardware seemed to do well with a battery lasting ~2 days. Some places in Stone Town, Zanzibar took longer to get a lock but to my memory this never took more than 5min. With an open sky it happened almost instantly. It worked find in my pocket at all times. It even worked on our internal Tanzania flights – its like watching an Indian Jones movie when you do the ‘playback’ mode in the Gisteq software!

Some Lightroom commentary
  • Avoiding GPS/time zone problems;- Lightroom can alter times on files with a reset time and a ‘time zone’ feature – which I will do to all my shots tonight (add 10hrs to the time stamp)
    • I thought I didn’t care about the time stamp, I can say that I am happy however that I can do this easily for posterity.
    • This means I can leave my camera and my Gisteq Phototrakr clocks set to one time zone then use Lightroom to sort the metadata on my return. Not a problem because I will always know where I have been! And this problem is less than having to re-align the GPS cords with an incorrect time (imagine being in Europe and having to transverse 3 time zones)
  • I am turning into a huge Lightroom fan– In fact, not only the image tweaking but the integrated catalog is really a very enjoyable and efficient experience.
  • The Lightroom experience has been enhanced by Martin Evening’s book on the product that my wife bought me for my birthday last week
  • I realized that putting my Lightroom catalog on my Raid 0+1 drive would have a significant improvement in performance, I was right.
  • Lightroom isn’t without its faults, in fact it crashed twice over the weekend. All in all I’m very happy with the product so far.
  • If you have allot of photos to sort; Another Lightroom tip is to render high quality previews, leave your PC to do it, then when you return you will be able to review focus etc more effectively as it won’t try rending the high res one every time you go to come to a new set of photos to review/compare

For the record I’m running a QX6700 Quad Core, with 2.8gig effective memory (from 4gig physical in Vista 32bit). My C: drive is Raid 0+1 and 250gig in size (I have various data drive & backup solutions).

geotag_48  — fluidpixel.com will contain the geotagged photos soon (ETA 11/15)

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