One Man's Eyes

I'm an early 30's engineer with delusions of adequacy. From here, I'll share my perspective, usually through words, sometimes through pictures, of the view of the world from one man's eyes.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Nerdgasm - GPS

Yes,'s been a while. I keep telling you I'm not really a blogger. I also keep saying I'll try to do better. So, I won't repeat myself again :)

Today, I'm having, as my friend calls it, a Nerdgasm. And I'm going to share it with you. I enjoy photography and I'm also a bit of a gadget nut. Over the last few years, I've taken to Geotagging many of the pictures that I take, especially if there from a place that we don't regularly visit. I had been using the built in ability of my Adobe Photoshop Elements organizer to tag photos, and it works well enough.

But, we're going on our first real vacation since the kids have been born and I plan to take lots of pictures in different places. I'll probably come home with a few hundred, and geotagging them manually would be a tedious and imprecise process at best.

I briefly considered laying down the coin for a replacement camera, a Nikon D300 that I've been lusting after a bit anyway. For this camera, I could have laid out some more coin for a GPS attachment that would write the location data to my pictures on the fly. But, I balked at the about $2000 that such a setup would take.

So, I did some more exploring and have found a way that breathes new life into several of my gadgets. The first is my old hand held GPS, a Magellan Meridian that I bought used several years ago when I was into Geocaching. It's been sitting dormat in my room for a couple of years. But, it will be coming with me on the trip, serving as a GPS logger, to record my progress at several places we visit. I've even put to use an otherwise worthless 16MB SD card. It's far too small to be useful for pictures, but it could store track data of me around the world several times. The last gadget is my trusty Nikon D70 that has continued to serve me well as my main camera.

To make it all work, I've picked up two free pieces of software. The first, GPSBabel, takes many of the different ways that different GPS units store track data and converts it into forms that work with other programs. The second wonder toy is GeoSetter - and this thing is truly magical. I made a test run today as I drove to work. I had the Magellan record my track as I drove to work and I took random pictures along the way out the car. Before I left, I made sure that the clock in my camera was set to match the time from the GPS satellites.

After that, I pulled the card of pictures out of the camera, and the SD card out of the GPS and put the files to my computer. GPSBabel took the Magellan format and converted it into a neutral form that GeoSetter could read. Then, I opened the images in GeoSetter and used it's sync function to read the track data and, based on the time stamps in the track, apply GPS Coordinates to all the sample pictures that I took. I had some problems at first, but once I figured out the configuration - WHAM! All those pictures were tagged and tagged quite accurately.

This is huge! We're going to San Diego, and will see the Zoo and the 1800 acre wild life park. On my own, I would have taken all the pictures and given them a common location, likely at the entrance to the Zoo or Wildlife Park, respectively. Now, with this, I can hang the GPS off my back pack and let it follow me around all day and then tag exactly where in the 1800 acres of wildlife park a particular picture was taken!!!!!

Now, if all that has left you giddy, then you've just had a nerdgasm, too. If, not, well, I suppose that's OK, too. Of course, saving $2000 is pretty exciting, as well.

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