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. 🙂

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