Google Latitude as GPS tracker for your images

Dur­ing my last hol­i­days I usu­al­ly used my Win­tec G-Rays GPS track­er to record my track. That allowed me to lat­er inject GPS data into my pho­tos tak­en with a reg­u­lar cam­era, thus giv­ing me addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion such as city, region and coun­try. I love hav­ing this stuff all auto­mat­ed and don’t want to have to care for it or man­u­al­ly adding it.

One stum­bling block I came across was the GPS tracker’s bat­tery. It has to be charged every night. Ok not that big a thing, but as that device is so small and eas­i­ly slid into any pock­et, I often for­got tak­ing it out in the evening and charg­ing it. Thus it didn’t work the oth­er day. That made me look out for some­thing else.

I researched many solu­tions that get attached direct­ly to your cam­era, like the Sol­meta Geo­t­ag­ger . Well, I don’t like those. They are bulky, need a sep­a­rate bat­tery, two and only on a Nikon can direct­ly inject the GPS data into the pho­tos inside the cam­era. Not my thing.

Then I came across LatiPics. It just uses the track­ing data you gen­er­ate be hav­ing Google Lat­i­tude run­ning on your smart­phone. I imme­di­ate­ly loved the idea! I always car­ry my smart­phone around and it sure­ly gets charged every night and I also had Google Lat­i­tude already run­ning on it. Long sto­ry short: It works like a charm!

As I’m using Adobe Light­room for all my pho­to relat­ed stuff, that solu­tion had one draw­back: The addi­tion­al step I had to take, to get that GPS data into Light­room. As of Ver­sion 4 Light­room fea­tures an inte­grat­ed GPS map­ping tool and can also ready GPS track data and tag pho­tos with that. Nice! You could just export your GPS tracks from Google Lat­i­tude (it’s called “loca­tion his­to­ry” there), import it into Light­room and have Light­room tag your pho­tos with it. Per­fect.

Well, far away from per­fect. Google Lat­i­tude exports your data as KML (Key­hole Map Data) files; Light­room only reads GPX files. You could eas­i­ly con­vert between those two for­mats using GPS Babel, but it seems like Google doesn’t write stan­dard KML files (if found dozens of ques­tions regard­ing that issue on the web), so GPS Babel only exports emp­ty tracks from those Lat­i­tude track logs.

After research­ing quite a while on that issue, I final­ly stum­bled upon a great free GPS track log con­ver­sion ser­vice: GPS Visu­al­iz­er. You can just upload you Lat­i­tude export­ed KML files there and get per­fect GPX files back. Those GPX files work per­fect­ly well in Light­room and allow you to tag your pho­tos and also dis­play as a track on the inte­grat­ed map. Nice!

Adobe has some nice infor­ma­tion and also a video avail­able on how to use GPS track logs in Light­room.

Any even bet­ter solu­tion would be a Light­room plu­g­in that con­nects direct­ly with Lat­i­tude via it’s API to fetch the GPS data from there with­out any export/import stuff. May be some time I find the time to do that…

When using this solu­tion please keep in mind, that Google Lat­i­tude uses com­bi­na­tions of Wifi, cell tow­er and GPS data to deter­mine your posi­tion. This method is gen­tle on your phone’s bat­tery, but also inac­cu­rate. You won’t get the same data as from a des­ig­nat­ed GPS track­er. On the oth­er hand, it’s that much more con­ve­nient. 🙂

42 days — a photo project

A col­league of mine one day sug­gest­ed that we start a pho­to com­pe­ti­tion. That com­pe­ti­tion would last 42 days and every con­tes­tant should add one pho­to a day to a pub­lic album. All pho­tos have to be tak­en on the exact day and must be uploaded until 12 a.m. the next day. Add any pho­to you like — just no offend­ing ones.

Easy!” I thought and signed in.

Tag 1 - Feuerwehr The first day start­ed with a total mess at the office and I just had time to do a snap­shot of a fire engine that I ran through Light­room to give it some kind of a light­ing set­up and col­or retuche. This snap­shot should some­what accom­pa­ny me for the rest of the week.
Tag 2 - Kicker The sec­ond day I had some more time. I thought it would be a good idea to grab the fire engine again (hon­est­ly I had the “great” idea of adding the fire engine to all of the remain­ing 41 pho­tos) and see, where I could place it to get a nice shot. Final­ly I came around our kick­er where I tried sev­er­al per­spec­tives before I came up with the final shot. It again ran through Light­room for bet­ter light­ing and col­ors. This was the first one I real­ly liked.
Tag 3 - Notorious Day three I had my cam­era and the fire engine with me when I went for lunch. I had the idea of putting the fire engine in front of a real car to uti­lize the dif­fer­ence in size for a good per­spec­tive. Long sto­ry short: it didn’t work out. I had to come up with anoth­er pic­ture set­up. I tried sev­er­al shots at the bistro I had lunch at. None of theme real­ly con­vinced me. But again some Light­room touch up did the trick.
Tag 4 - Lonely Speaker Day four. Busy at the office and not a sin­gle idea on what to shoot. I final­ly shot the fire engine on my notebook’s key­board and let Light­room do the rest.
Tag 5 - Hero On day five I want­ed to wait for the evening to take a pic­ture on my way home or at home. At home I tried sev­er­al still life setups using vas­es, can­dle­hold­ers and stuff like that. I also tried sev­er­al dif­fer­ent persepc­tives on the fire engine crawl­ing on the floor or stand­ing on a lad­der. It all looked some­what odd or even bor­ing. Final­ly I placed the fire engine on top of our din­ner table’s lamp. It is an alloy ring with frost­ed glas on top and bot­tom so the light shines in both direc­tions. That gave the fire engine a real­ly nice look. Light­ing is every­thing! Only small dig­i­tal enhance­ments need­ed this day.
Tag 6 - Disco Sat­ur­day, day six. Await­ing guests on Sun­day I had to pre­pare din­ner. Some time after 8 p.m. I final­ly man­aged to start shoot­ing. This day I want­ed to play around with light­ing a lit­tle bit more. So two pock­et torch­es were a must. And also a boom­box that has some blue lights to its sides should be placed on the pic­ture. I tried around in com­plete dark­ness using a tri­pod and self release. On the camera’s dis­play it looked great, espe­cial­ly the blue light (I usu­al­ly hate all those gad­gets with blue lights, but this time it helped). Sad­ly enough it looked poor when viewed on the screen. I start­ed all over and found a blue plas­tic trash can. The fire engine looked nice inside with the two torch­es light­ing the can from the out­side. Light­room and a radi­al blur did the rest.
Tag 7 - Essen ist fertig Sun­day, day sev­en. While cook­ing the din­ner we chat­ted about the 42 days project and came up with a sim­ple still life set­up in the kitchen. Nice and easy. And definit­ly the last shot with the fire engine in it!

What I learned from this first week is that it is real­ly hard to come up with new ideas every day. And that it is even hard­er to inte­grate the same item on every pho­to. But the most impor­tant learn­ing was that even this kind of work is much eas­i­er with peo­ple around brain­storm­ing togeth­er.