Geotagging your travels: why you should, and how to do it

geotagging your travels

Even casual travelers know the wonders of GPS. It’s hard to imagine how we functioned on the road just a few years back without a satnav at our disposal, and now that our smartphones are also well equipped to guide us from point A to point Z (and everywhere in between), having a true sense of direction isn’t quite as necessary as it once was. But GPS satellites are useful for quite a bit more than just routing us. In the photography world, geotagging is becoming an increasingly attractive way to effectively track ones travels in a unique, refreshing visual fashion.

If you aren’t familiar with the term, geotagging refers to embedded GPS data on each image, which can then be read by various photo applications and mapping software. When you take a photo using any existing DSLR, a great deal of “metadata” is embedded onto each image; this data enables individuals to see what aperture, shutter speed, white balance setting and focal length (among other things) were used when a particular shot was composed. These pieces of information are remarkably useful when comparing shots after the fact, and geotagging adds one more vital bit of data to the mix: coordinates. Read on to find out how you can start adding GPS data to your images, and why you should make the effort to do so.

%Gallery-115291%The easiest way to make this happen is to buy a camera with a GPS or Hybrid GPS module built-in. A number of newly introduced compact models include this. Fujifilm’s FinePix XP30 has inbuilt geotagging support (not to mention a rugged, waterproof casing), and Casio’s Exilim EX-H20G is a non-rugged alternative with integrated geotagging. It’s an easy feature to find — either a camera has it built-in or it doesn’t, and manufacturers will generally go out of their way to ensure you know if a particular model does.

geotagging your travels

If you aren’t in the market for a new point-and-shoot, existing DSLR owners can upgrade their camera to support geotagging. Nikon makes a module of their own that fits certain models (GP-1), and if your camera doesn’t have a first-party add-on, Gisteq offers a (mostly) universal solution that connects via Bluetooth (PhotoTrackr Plus and PhotoTrackr Mini).

geotagging your travels

Once your camera is equipped to embed geotagging data, all you need is a program that’ll read that data. Apple’s iPhoto (displayed throughout this post) is a great example; any image that you load into iPhoto can be sorted by ‘Places.’ If you have an Internet connection, you’ll see pins populate the map (as shown here) in order to represent all of the locales where photos were taken. Google’s Picasa is another solid option, as is the popular Flickr.

geotagging your travels

What you’re left with is an incredibly visual way to look at a trip you recently took, all by way of photographs. In a way, these specific location points tell a story in an of themselves. Rather than simply telling friends and family that a certain group of photos were taken in Montana (for example), geotagging allows them to see exactly what routes you took on a road trip and precisely which trails you skied at Whitefish Mountain Resort. If you took multiple images at a certain place, you can easily sort those by selecting a single pin. The images throughout this article show (most) of the photos I took on my Casio Exilim EX-H20G while in northwestern Montana, including a number of shots while on Big Mountain itself.

geotagging your travels

On a grander scale, geotagging all of your images for the foreseeable future would enable you to create a lifetime travel map that visually shows where you’ve been in the world. It’s certainly a lot easier than trying to remember every off-the-wall stop you made, and it’s most definitely more satisfying than some Bucket List you’ve generated in Microsoft Word. On a smaller scale, sending your child off to camp with a geotagging camera would allow you to see where all the counselors shuttled your young one around — after all, kids have a thing for not keeping a very detailed journal, and this would make their job of explaining what all they did a lot easier.

geotagging your travels

Interested in getting started with geotagging? Listed below are a few recommended GPS-enabled cameras, geotagging add-on dongles and photo applications that work well with geotagged images.

GPS-enabled point-and-shoot cameras:

Geotagging add-on dongles:

Geotagging applications:

Casio EXILIM EX-H20G is world’s first camera with hybrid GPS and landmark database

This morning, Casio announced two new digital cameras. One of the new products from their lineup is especially interesting to travelers, because it is the first in the world to bring a hybrid GPS system to a digital camera. The basic specifications of the new EXILIM EX-H20G are what you’d expect from a current generation digital shooter – 14.1 megapixels, 15x zoom, 720p HD video recording and a super clear outdoor readable LCD display.

What sets its specifications apart from any other camera on the market is its ability to perform photo geotagging both outdoors and indoors. Outside, the camera picks up geotagging information from GPS, then motion sensors take over to provide a hybrid positioning system to pinpoint your location inside. This makes it the first and only camera in the world to allow for precise geotagging no matter where you are.

The system takes this hybrid GPS one step further by including a built-in database of over 10,000 worldwide sightseeing locations and other photographic points of interest. This allows you to actually plan for the best location to take photos, even before you head to your destination. Once you’ve made your photos, you can upload them along with their geotagged information to sites like Picasa, Panoramio, Flickr and iPhoto, where you’ll be able to view the images along with their location.

The location database includes detailed maps of 140 world cities with over one million different items. These destinations are all stored in the internal memory of the camera, so you don’t need to worry about loading anything yourself. The camera features a mini HDMI port which allows for quick connecting to an HDTV.

The new Casio EXILIM EX-H20G will be available in November for $349.99.

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Spring photography roundup

Travel photography enthusiasts will be pleased to hear about the flurry of recent product launches and news floating around the web. Perhaps everything was timed to the warm weather and extra daylight of Spring? Those tricky camera manufacturers – how diabolical. Anyway, here’s a quick rundown of some of the more interesting news.

Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-LZ10

Engadget has the scoop on Panasonic’s new 10-megapixel Lumix DMC-LZ10. I’m not the biggest fan of Panasonic’s digital cameras, but Engadget and Photography Blog both give it high marks, calling it “one of the most versatile compacts in its class.” They were particularly impressed with the camera’s manual controls and image quality. Considering it retails for less than $250, it could be a nice model to snap up for those family vacation photos. Remember, if you’re in the market for a point and shoot digital camera, don’t get too caught up with the number of megapixels. A better optical zoom and a quick startup/shutter speed are much better indicators of quality.

Hacking your Canon digital camera

Enterprising Canon camera owners should also head over to Wired, where they’re offering a cool Wiki on how to modify your camera’s software. Why would you do such a thing, you might ask? Because digital camera hardware can often do much more than is allowed by its standard software. For instance, Canon only allows shutter speeds up to 1/1,600 of a second, but the camera is actually capable of up to 1/60,000! Once you’ve installed the hack, you’ll unlock all manner of cool functions like super-long exposure shots, RAW file format and battery readout. I tried it last night on my Canon SD630 and it worked like a charm. It’s worth noting that the process can get a bit technical – make sure you know what you’re doing and that you have a compatible Canon camera before giving it a try. Jump over to Wired for full instructions and FAQ.

The Ultra-fast Casio Exilim EX-F1 SLR

Meanwhile, New York Times gadget guru David Pogue reviews Casio’s speedy new semipro Exilim EX-F1 digital camera. A typical digital camera snaps about one picture per second, but the Exilim, which is billed as the world’s fastest camera, can take up to sixty. Remember that shot of the cheetah chasing the antelope you missed on safari because you couldn’t get your camera snapping in time? This is the model you’re looking for. It also has a motion detector which will wait, for hours if necessary, until motion is detected and then automatically snap a rapid fire of 60 shots. Pretty awesome. The Exilim retails for $1,000.