“Simplicate and add lightness.”
– William Bushnell Stout & Gordon Hooton
GeoSetter (by Friedemann Schmidt) is a Windows program that does a great job helping you set the location for your photos. In this article, I will go in depth on how to use this tool. If you are interested in a Mac program, or a more general overview of geotagging, see my previous post – How to Geotag Old Photos.
With GeoSetter, you can geotag photos manually by using the map. Or you can geotag automatically using a GPS track file such as .kmz or .gpx files. It allows you to save latitude/longitude coordinates (and in some cases altitude) to the EXIF data of your photo files. In the background, it uses the open source exiftool program for saving changes. GeoSetter’s interface includes Google Map display, file browser with thumbnails and previews, and track overlays. Most importantly, it features manual and automatic batch geotagging. The author hasn’t updated the software in a while, but I found it really easy to use for both methods of geotagging. I like seeing the results when the map updates as I browse through my photos. The program has great documentation as well. You may find something else out there, but I’ve tried a few, and this is what I use.
Manually Geotagging Single Photos
It’s easy to geotag a few photos with GeoSetter.
- Open the folder with your photos in the file browser area, and click the photo that you wish to geotag.
- Find the right area in the map (you can search to get there quickly).
- Click on the map to pin the location.
- Click the “Assign position marker to selected images” button in the toolbar above the map (red pin with left arrow). The new coordinates will now show red underneath the photo.
- Click the floppy disk icon to “Save all change to image files” or use Ctrl-S. This writes the changes to the file(s).
Of course, you can assign the position on many photos before hitting the Save button to save a bunch in a batch. It may take a minute so that’s a good way to do it.
Once the location is saved in the file, the photo is ready for map displays wherever they are used. This includes uploads to photo sharing sites such as Flickr (see Flickr’s photo map), or uploaded photos of places in Google Maps (How to Upload Great Photos to Google Maps), and many others.
The altitude (or elevation) will not be set using this method. There is no source for that information like there might be in a GPS track.
When Using a GPS Track, Timing is Everything
Geotagging photos automatically using a GPS track is a great way to go. Of course you need to have recorded a GPS track at the time. You do have to be careful about the photo timestamps though. Programs like GeoSetter rely on the time saved in the photo for finding where the photo fits along a GPS track. If the time is incorrect, it won’t match up correctly with the points saved in the track file and the location chosen will probably be way off. Conveniently, you can use an option within GeoSetter to offset the time for purposes of setting photo coordinates.
GPS receivers and apps record the current UTC time into the GPS track in the resulting GPX file. UTC does not have a daylight savings time shift like many places do. So even if you have your camera’s time set correctly, you may still need a correction. When I last geotagged some older photos, I had the time set correctly on my camera, but I had to adjust for 1 hour in the GeoSetter dialog to sync them properly. After that, the result was excellent. I had a few photos where I took one both with my camera and my phone (which already had GPS coordinates), and they matched.
Now you may want to actually save a new time within each photo file to correct it. I do this when I forget to adjust my camera’s time while in a different time zone, and back home I want to keep photos from both my camera and my cellphone in the same folder sorted by time so they show up in order. For this I recommend using ExifToolGUI.
How accurate is geotagging automatically from a GPX track in this way?
GPS tracks do not have continuous data. They record track-points at certain intervals and normally that’s good enough. GeoSetter, and other geotagging applications, allow for estimating the position in between GPS track-points in your track. Presumably it interpolates in this way by the elapsed time between the two points and the time of the photo.
What does this mean? If the photo is taken about halfway between the time of the two track-points, then the program will place it halfway between the two GPS coordinates of those track-points. So the location it finds can be slightly off depending on the consistency of the speed in which you travel between those two points, the straightness of your trail, and just the time elapsed between the two track-points. If you stop and take several photos in one place, the time difference between them causes them to be put at different locations along your path. Photos taken within a short interval relative to the rest of your travel will be placed quite close together.
You can likely adjust how often track-points are recorded in your GPS receiver or app. Shorter time intervals between track-points will of course result in more accurate estimations (and use more battery). But don’t bother with this unless you notice a need for it.
For a test in accuracy, I have used my track file recorded by the MotionX GPS mobile app during a backpacking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park, and of course the geotagging program GeoSetter. I took some photos with my camera and some with my phone. The cellphone shots have accurate GPS info saved in their EXIF data due to the phone’s GPS. I stuck one of those in with my regular camera photos, and then ran the synchronization in GeoSetter. That set the location of all my un-geotagged photos. It also overwrote the GPS coordinates on the one photo from my phone to its best estimate based on the photo’s time and the GPS track data.
Below is the result. I’d say it’s pretty darn close! Depending on how your GPS track is recorded and the other conditions I mentioned, I’m sure it will be accurate enough for you as well.
I came across a stunning aerial image by Tim Lawnicki on Flickr of Post Peak and the surrounding area. In the photo is the Ansel Adams Wilderness within the Sierra National Forest, with some of southeastern Yosemite National Park. It’s a spectacular view of this remote part of the Sierra Nevada. We trekked across this trail on our 2007 backpacking trip. Serendipitously, the photo’s lighting even looks like it is very similar, like it was taken at the same time of day, and both were even in September. With Tim’s permission, I had to mark our trail and add a few labels. On our trip, we came over Post Peak Pass, travelled the ridge, then took the trail down into Yosemite National Park. We were only in Yosemite for 45 minutes since we took the first right and headed back up to Isberg Pass, which is just outside the photo. Also, I’ll mention that Triple Divide Peak is just a mile away following the crest at top right.
Seeing the different perspective is really neat. It looks like he was flying fairly low to catch this much clear detail, but things look far different than they did on the ground. I remember the massive boulders on Post Peak Pass that we had to navigate. Here you can barely discern them. I also remember the incredible slick granite drop-off to the east of the ridge between Post Peak Pass and Isberg Pass to the uppermost Ward Lake. At the time, it crossed my mind if you ventured too far off the top of the ridge on that side, you’d be a goner. The solid rock just got steeper and steeper and the lake disappeared from view. In the aerial shot you really don’t have a sense of that. One thing that does match the feel – I recall as we hiked higher up to Post Peak Pass, the surrounding landscape became dominated by the gray granite of the Sierra Nevada batholith. Up there, it looked like everything was rock, even though we had hiked in the forest most of the way.
Here are a few of our photos from the ground
Boulder hopping near Post Peak Pass
Looking back to Post Peak
Ward Lakes, Sadler Lake, Sadler Peak. Banner Peak, Mt. Ritter, and Minarets in background
Upper Ward Lake
Descending into Yosemite, Isberg Peak and Pass at top
The Snow Peak GigaPower Auto isobutane canister stove is on a fantastic sale price right now at REI – $25. It really is $50 normally, and I see that’s what it is on Amazon right now.
I’m not sure why it’s on sale, but maybe it’s due to their LiteMax stove ($60). Or perhaps they will make a new version or something. Alternatively, Amazon sells cheap stoves (such as Etekcity for $10) that fit the same fuel canisters and do the job, but aren’t as refined and are slightly heavier. I have one as a backup.
I’ve had the Snow Peak GigaPower Auto since our 2005 trip in Sequoia National Park and still love it. It’s very cool it won the Backpacker Magazine’s 2015 Editor’s Choice Gold Award. The design is still a great way to go if you want one. They do make a $10 windscreen for it also that I got a few years back and it helps with boiling quicker.
Backpacker Magazine said:
“Flashback to 1999: A Japanese company hit the U.S. scene with a number of elegant products, and the tiny, powerful GigaPower Stove became a staff favorite and Editors’ Choice Award winner. Today, that stove is still tiny, still powerful, still a staff favorite”
…from a Geolocated Photography Enthusiast
Now that Panoramio will be shut down, Google has encouraged Panoramio users to move to Google Maps. In their stated plans, Panoramio users’ photos will automatically be copied to a user’s Google Album Archive. They will continue to be shown in Google Maps if they had before. At the same time, Google is really mounting a serious effort with their Local Guides program, in which volunteers add to and improve on the place data for Google Maps.
While Google Maps is an amazing tool in so many ways, it is definitely lacking when compared to Panoramio’s strengths. I am willing to switch over to Google Maps, and upload my geotagged photos there to fill in empty spots much like I did with Panoramio. But, I need to see a few basic improvements before I have enough incentive to do that.
Below, I have my wishlist for improvements to Google Maps for a geolocated photography enthusiast. I limit this list to the things that I think really need adjusted before I’ll start uploading to Google Maps as I did in Panoramio. I’ll even go into some detail on how Google could achieve the adjustments. I am sure there is an extremely small chance someone at Google will see this list and take it to heart, but I felt I needed to say it. If they do make positive adjustments, then will help them gain more high quality contributions for the photo layers in Maps and Earth. They may have need of better photo coverage once Panoramio is fully shuttered.
Google Maps Wishlist
True Location for Photos
Improve User Photos View
Allow for Comments on Photos
1. True Location for Photos
I would really, really prefer the photos in Google Maps’ photos layer point to their true location on the map, and not just to the “snapped-to” point of interest (POI). I have a few experiences related to this that I’ll relay, though I’m sure there are others. First, for my Panoramio photos that appear in Google Maps currently – I see that they show with a pin at the “snapped-to” POI rather than the correct location. This is when I view those in my contributions area. But, when I view the same photos while just browsing around in Google Maps as a random user, then they show at the correct location. I have also uploaded a few photospheres to Google Maps using Google’s Street View mobile app. With these I see a similar thing. In my contributions, it shows them pinned at the “snapped-to” POI that I chose, but when just viewing the map I see they have the correct location.
Unfortunately when I have uploaded directly to Google Maps from within a desktop web browser, it shows the location for that photo as the POI and not the true location in both views. That is deal breaker for me.
I want to see the correct location of photos and I want others to see the correct location for my photos. I plan to upload quite a few photos with points of interest that cover vast areas such as national parks. I can try to be more specific if there is a POI that fits, but otherwise, I can see these photos being stuck showing at just one spot in a big national park. Not showing the true location really kills the usefulness of the photos for exploring the map or planning a trip for example. It just seems inaccurate to me.
The fact that Google shows some photos at the snapped POI in one view but at the true location in another view shows that Google saves both the linked POI and the correct lat/long coordinates. But what about for those that show the location at the POI in both views? Could Google drop the correct lat/long for photos uploaded to Maps? I really hope not. If not, then an interface change could remedy this and is something they should do.
Perhaps Google consciously made the decision to do it this way from the perspective of more urban photos, including those of businesses. Outdoor photos taken from different locations of a business, and even indoor photos, would then fit together all in one spot. If you were trying to learn more about the business, that would make sense. Perhaps they believe that’s where the money is? But it would still be inaccurate if you wanted to see a true view from certain spots.
The problem is, there are small, specific places such as a restaurant where it’s maybe ok for some purposes to have photos taken from different locations jumbled together. They have the same subject. But there are also places where that makes no sense at all. Think of a huge national park with many attractions, many features, and also lots of open space. Having photos of all those thrown in together in one spot does not make sense. The photos can be of completely different things. And there is a spectrum of places that fit somewhere in between. For another example, say POI is the Golden Gate Bridge. Then I would want to see from where each of the photos was taken for the different views of the bridge. If I wanted a jumbled assortment of photos, then I could just do an image search instead.
I really hope for Google to show the correct location in all situations. At minimum, they could just show it for non-urban photos. However, in that hybrid approach, I can see them having some difficulty figuring out when to choose the POI and when to choose the true location.
2. Improve User Photos View
There really must be a better view of your own photos, and photos of others. Compare the view of a user’s photos in Google Maps (above) to what it is in Panoramio (below).
Right now in Maps, you only see a narrow vertical single-file sidebar on the left in a desktop web browser. The map and pinned locations for photos makes up most of the window to the right. That is very inefficient for viewing your own photos or those of another user to say the least.
In another inefficiency, infinite scroll is used. Often that works just fine, but here it’s very tedious and frustrating to find photos if you have many. You keep scrolling and scrolling, new images load slowly, and the more you scroll, the slower things become as it bogs down. Paged browsing would be much easier and faster since it would allow you to skip around. However, Flickr does a much better job at infinite scroll because the photos load so much faster, they show more than one wide, and they have a hybrid approach with paging after a certain number of items.
But back to the narrow view issue – we need a wider view to better show many photos. I definitely think Google can do this without too much trouble. There is a tab at the top right of the left sidebar that allows you to hide it and restore it. I envision this tab allowing the user to switch between 3 states instead of just the 2 it does now. You could use it to expand the sidebar right to take up most of the window so that photos can be viewed much more efficiently in a grid format – something like this image I created below. This could be a great help to desktop, laptop, and tablet users, anyone with a screen wider than a phone’s.
One other problem I’ve found with the current view is that initially the map shows a very limited number of pins for your photo locations. These correspond to only the small number of photos that are loaded on the left at first. When you scroll down, more photos are filled in after a few seconds and their pins are added on the map. This prevents you from having a nice map view of your photo locations, unless you want to do a whole lot of scrolling and waiting.
I saw one user’s contributions screen that initially showed 10 photos on the left, and just one pin on the map (since that bunch of photos were all “snapped-to” one point of interest). However, when I scrolled down, more photos appeared, and more pins as well. It turns out this user has 1,963 photos from many other places. The initial view is just a poor representation.
Google has functionality for groupings of pins. Maybe that could be used to prevent a zillion pins from appearing on the map at one time. There just needs to be a way to show all your (or another users’) locations.
3. Allow for Comments on Photos
Panoramio allowed you to comment below a photo, to favorite or like it, and to join a group and add your photos there. In Google Maps, this is not the case. I did find a way to comment, sort of.
If you open a photo from the photos layer of Google Maps (on a desktop or laptop), the photo opens to mostly fill your browser window. You can see a darkened box in the top left that shows minimal info for the photo and options for sharing. You can check whether the photo came from Panoramio or came from an upload to Google Maps by trying the links on the title or user’s name. The photos that came from Panoramio will have a link to the Panoramio photo page on the 2nd title, and a link to the Panoramio user page on their name. (Note: this will likely only be the case until Google turns off Panoramio for good.) The photos that came from Google Maps will link the title to a Google Plus location, and the user link will go to the user’s Contributions page. If you click to go to the Google Plus page, it shows an extremely similar photo page, but it does allow for commenting there.
This seems odd to me. Hopefully Google can link them together better to just allow commenting from the first photo page.
This is just one item among many that makes for a much diminished community aspect compared to Panoramio. Now of course Google+ allows for social networking activities. That’s what it’s for. It’s a whole new wild world compared to the Panoramio community, since Google+ is not just limited to like-minded geography and photography enthusiasts.
I have an open mind here. It can work through Google+. Google+ has commenting, Communities, etc. There is a community on Google+ for Google Map Maker with 98,000 members and there is another for Google Maps Views with 99,000. Views was the short-lived product in-between Panoramio and the current Google Maps & Local Guides. I can join a community and chat with people if I want to talk about something related to this or hiking. It’s not tightly linked to the photos as in Panoramio.
There is also the Local Guides program, and a site they built for that called Local Guides Connect. It’s an impressive community site meant for encouraging communication, participation, and sort of guiding the volunteer guides to help improve local Maps data.
So there are communication venues available but they are definitely different. I think ultimately it boils down to really just needing to have comments on the photos work better. I can adjust to the other changes.
I think people should get a little credit for their contributions, and I mean a little differently than they do now. This is related to the previous item in a way. Just as it is difficult to comment on a photo found on Google Maps, it’s quite difficult to find more about a user.
With Panoramio, each user could have a small text blurb and a link in their profile area that someone would see when they were browsing that person’s photos. It’s not much, but I appreciated it! If the user has a website, then interested people might take a look.
Right now in Google Maps, if I find a photo I’m interested in and I click on it, about all I can do is see the user’s icon and click their name to see their contributions page. As I said above, that page shows a few of their photos in a small left sidebar and pins on a map that takes up most of the browser. At the top there is the user’s icon again, this time a little bigger, and their Local Guide level. You can click on their icon, but all that does is show the details of their contributions (counts of reviews, places with photos, edited places, etc.) and their Local Guide level again but bigger. If you are looking for a little more info about the user, you are out of luck.
I can’t find a way to get to Google+ after looking at a photo on Maps. Each of these Local Guides has a Google+ profile so why can’t you get to it? If you won’t let the user have any info on their Google Maps contributions page, then at least link to their Google+ profile or page.
Now there are benefits for Local Guides that achieve the various levels by their Maps contributions.
“As a Local Guide, you’ll help others explore the world and get great benefits in return. It’s a win-win.”
Wow that sounds great. 🙂
But it seems to me that those rewards mostly serve to generate more interest in the Local Guides program. One interesting benefit is additional free Google Drive storage that comes at level 4. Of course the benefits page doesn’t say how much, but I learned it was reduced from 1TB to 100GB in July 2016 probably as the number of qualifying Local Guides grew.
The Local Guides levels aren’t limited to a certain number of users so I can understand that. I hope Google thought it through when they set that up. If they get more users, will they just keep lowering the free Drive benefit? And on top of this, the Drive storage gained isn’t permanent. It lasted 2 years back when the reward was 1TB, but now it’s just 1 year for the 100GB. As one user put it, “strange gift then”.
Once you have reached level 4, gained the free Drive storage, and then it expires, then what? Can you regain it if you contribute the same amount once again? Probably not.
If I am to dedicate part of my online life to generating content for Google Maps, then I would like some slightly better kind of attribution than what I see now. Now there is just a small icon, my username, and some Local Guides benefits. Panoramio did much better here. An adjustable link somewhere would be fantastic, but at least something more.
Late on Friday, Google announced in an email to users (and a page here) they would soon close down it’s geo-positioned photo sharing site Panoramio, removing access for its users to upload new photos on November 4th, 2016. Google had previously announced back in September 2014 that it would close Panoramio in favor of the now defunct Views. However, due to user feedback and probably evolving internal plans, Google announced in June of 2015 they would leave Panoramio running for the time being. So this new development was not unexpected as Panoramio had been in limbo before.
Panoramio users will still have access to their photos in Panoramio for a period of one year, so that means until November 4th, 2017. Also, Google says that their photos will be automatically copied to the “Google Album Archive” when Panoramio is closed, as long as the user’s Panoramio account is linked with a Google account. Furthermore, if that Google account is activated for Google+, eligible images and their view counts will be transferred into Google Maps and will show for the Google account holder if they visit the Contributions screen of Google Maps. There are also export options available at takeout.google.com.
With this change, Google intends to focus its efforts, and the efforts of its users, to imagery within Google Maps itself. In the email, Google promotes the adding of new photos to Google Maps and also promotes its Local Guides program, which provides some rewards for users who contribute in certain ways.
How do Panoramio Users Take This?
As you would expect, long time Panoramio users are not enthused about this major change.
As a long time user of Panoramio myself, I enjoyed its focus on geolocated photos, with photos uploaded there appearing in Google Earth and Google Maps. I enjoy geography and surfing around Earth and Maps sometimes is a really fun way to explore an unknown place, or even help plan a trip, especially with some photos to look at right there. I got great satisfaction in being able to upload my own photos someplace and having them help to fill in the empty spots on the globe! The community of people on Panoramio was also fantastic, with commenting on photos and user organized groups. However, I had been much less active there over the last couple of years due to these announcements.
What about Panoramio’s Replacement?
I have also uploaded some photos to Google Maps, including photospheres like this one. However, I noticed the community interaction aspect is nearly nonexistent in Google Maps. You can’t comment on a photo while viewing it in Maps. You have to open it in its Google+ version by clicking the place name for the photo in the small gray box in the top left, and then it opens the Google+ version of the same photo in a new tab, where then Google+ comments are allowed. There is also hardly any recognition or attribution to the photographer relating to your uploaded photos. You can view someone’s photo after finding it on Google Maps, and you can see their user name and small icon, but there is no way for you to find more info about the person besides just looking at their other photos on Maps when you click their name. I couldn’t even find a way to navigate to their Google+ profile. There is also no way for the uploader to include a caption or a title on their photo, and it’s difficult for one to even view their own photos with just a vertical single-file display. With Panoramio, you had all of those things – title, caption, comments, and a profile that let you have a little blurb and a link somewhere. And of course there was a much better way to view your own and other user’s photos. With Google Maps, it feels more like I’m providing Google with photo content for nothing in return instead of sharing geotagged photos with others.
And that was all on a desktop web browser. With the Google Maps mobile app and mobile website, I don’t actually see any way at all to view photos. That’s understandable due to what Maps is mostly used for, but any photo sharing site would never purposely leave out mobile functionality like that. Thankfully they do allow you to see these photos on mobile another way – by using Google’s Street View app. That is the same way they allow for contributing new photos via mobile as well. I created and uploaded my photospheres using the Street View mobile app. Photospheres are definitely cool by the way.
One major deficiency I see right now is that, so far from my experience, uploaded photos only show in Google Maps; they don’t show in Google Earth. My photos at Panoramio received many more views from Google Earth users than Maps users so that seems like a problem. When Panoramio is gone, where will photos in Google Earth’s Photos layer come from?
Perhaps photos in Maps will show in Earth in the future, but if so, Google will need to be careful not to allow a flood of poor quality photos into Google Earth. Panoramio had guidelines and a review process that ensured that only useful photos showed up on the globe in Google Earth, not to mention the great community of photographers there and the site were completely geared for that purpose.
Now I like the idea for the tiered incentives they give for Local Guides based on contributions. But that new incentive comes at the expense of a lot of other things. I love sharing my photos on the map, but it’s not as fun without interaction. There is certainly a lot of potential there with the tight integration into Maps. I will follow Google’s process and maybe upload to Maps a little more, but I will definitely miss the mix of functionality that Panoramio provided. I can only hope that Google adjusts their system with Maps over time to somehow make up for the poor community features, lack of attribution, and missing connection to Google Earth.
US Olympians including Katie Zaferes and Margaux Isaksen have spoken out advocating continued protection of our public lands. This comes as some circles have pushed for privatizing significant amounts of public land, while in others fear has grown about the possible selling off of some federal and state lands for private use. The uses of these lands’ natural resources could include a spectrum of different, possibly damaging, and less sustainable activities.
There are benefits from both private and public land, and each situation is different, but it should come as no surprise that athletes (and hikers) would usually favor public lands. In fact, public lands such as National Forest lands are often used for many purposes including responsible* use of natural resources, and in my opinion it’s great to have the oversight and backstop protections that a federal steward can provide. And of course it’s worth mentioning that once privatized, it would be very difficult for it to go the other way back to being public land.
*often not-so-responsible in the past, but it is getting more so
I love how Isaksen described how tramping around the outdoors and public lands was a big part of her childhood and ultimately led her to become the person and athlete she is today.
“Growing up next to the Ozark National Forest shaped me as an athlete and pushed me to become an Olympian. More importantly, growing up alongside public lands formed who I am as a person. “
And Katie Zaferes described how important training in public lands is to her as an Olympic triathelete, and how important they are to everyone.
In the face of this threat, I’m determined to raise my voice in support of America’s lands — for future athletes and for future generations… These lands aren’t just available for elite athletes though; they belong to all Americans… Let’s not get tempted by elected officials looking to make a quick buck off our shared lands; let’s make sure this resource is protected forever.
The National Park Service was created on August 25, 100 years ago in 1916. A tremendous reason to be thankful.
It brings a tear to my eye 🙂