Itineraries displayed in Lightroom
When preparing for our last vacation trip, I noticed that we would be spending a lot of time in the water. We would be going to New Orleans in early June (expecting temperatures to be high), staying in a hotel with a swimming pool, and the zoo there has a water park located inside. So then I started looking for a small and cheap waterproof camera that I could take for this trip. I have used my DSLR in the past close to the water (sometimes too close), but this time I wanted to have something small that would make easier for me to enjoy the moment while also still taking pictures.
Looking around, I decided for the Canon Powershot D20 ($299.95 at B&H). It is a waterproof and shockproof (that last part I did not test) small point-and-shoot camera that also does HD video. I saw also that it had GPS embedded in it. So ordered it just before leaving for vacation. Reading the manual, it was when I realized that the camera not only geotags each picture you take with the camera, but it can also work as a GPS Logger, even when the camera is turned of! That means I could synchronize later the GPS log with the pictures I took with my DSLR cameras, which don't have GPS, and add GPS coordinates to all of my pictures, disregarding which camera I used to snap the photo. That turned out to be the most interesting feature of this camera for me.
So this time I would be traveling with 3 cameras: my two DSLR's and the D20. As is always the case, make sure the timestamps in all of your cameras are the same. Not only for the geotagging I was planning on doing, but it just makes your life much easier when sorting and editing pictures.
Not as critical, but it is a good idea to make sure the timezones in all cameras are all the same also. 3:00 PM in New York is not the same as 3:00 PM in Tokyo. If the time zones are not the same, you can still adjust them later in Lightroom 4 and have your pictures synchronize correctly with your GPS logs (I will show how to do this later).
As I said, the D20 works as a GPS logger. The GPS option comes turned off by default. To enable it, go to "GPS Setting…" menu. Notice that you have a separate "GPS" and a "GPS Logger" option. The first, when enabled, will embed GPS coordinates into each picture taken with the camera. If you want the camera to also create a log of GPS coordinates you also have to enable the second option. So, the point is: make sure both the "GPS" and the "GPS Logger" options are turned on. You may want to keep these options turned off until you arrive at your destination, specially if you are flying, where the airlines ask you to turn off all of your electronic devices during take off and landing. Remember that even when the camera is turned off, the GPS in the camera is still active.
The camera also offers a "GPS Auto Time" option that will automatically set date and time in your camera when the GPS is turned on.
Accessing the GPS Menu on the Canon D20
GPS options on the Canon D20
During the trip
As soon as we arrived at our destination, I turned ON both GPS options in the camera. The camera then records at every minute your current location. The usual limitations with a GPS device also apply here: they don't work really well indoors and sometimes the coordinates might be a bit off. But overall I found it to be very accurate. Seeing the pictures I took on a map later, I found that all locations were pretty much where they were taken.
One thing I found a bit odd but it was no big deal, is that the actual recording of your coordinates to a file, so that you can extract them later, happens only when you explicitly turn off the camera. With that in mind, I just remembered to turn off the camera a couple of times a day, to ensure that I would not have too much unsaved GPS information, in case, for example, I dropped the camera on the floor and the battery would accidentally come out, thus losing all the GPS logs the camera was keeping in memory.
The camera creates one "LOG" file per day. These files are named using a "YYMMDD0.LOG" format. E.g.: "1206030.LOG" for 06/03/2012.
You can actually see in the camera what are your GPS coordinates at any time. Just go to the "Display Log Files" option under "GPS Setting…" (same place where you enabled the GPS options).
One advantage of using a dedicated GPS logger device over a cell phone is that, in my case, at the end of the day the cell phone's battery is pretty much dead. And since I did not take too many pictures with the D20, the battery lasted for days, even with the GPS tracking option turned on all the time.
I kept the camera in my pocket pretty much all the time and found no issues with the GPS reception. So the camera was always close at hand for when I actually wanted to use it as a camera. And speaking of that, taking pictures or recording a movie with it underwater is a lot of fun.
Another good idea is to frequently backup not only the pictures in the camera but also the "LOG" files created with GPS information. To access those files, just go to "CANON_DC > DCIM > CANONMSC > GPS" folder in your memory card.
After the Trip
The magic for me really happened when I arrived from vacation and finally got a chance to import the pictures and GPS information into Lightroom 4. But first, you need to convert the "LOG" files located on the memory card of the Canon D20 into a "GPX" file, which is the format required by Lightroom. To do that, I simply uploaded each "LOG" file to www.gpsvisualizer.com and had it converted into a "GPX" file for me, and saved it to my computer. To do that, on the main page, click on the "Browse…" button to select your "LOG" file. On the "Output format" option, make sure "GPX" is selected. Then click the "Convert" button. A second page will display offering you to download the GPX file to your computer (notice the "Click to download" link in green). Once downloaded, I then renamed the GPX file to have the same name as the original LOG file (keeping the GPX extension of course). This way, I knew that, e.g., "1206030.LOG" corresponded to "1206030.GPX". Do that for each of your "LOG" files. As a note, you may want to consider donating to the web site.
GPS Visualizer Browse and Convert options
GPS Visualizer Download area
I did my business as usual in Lightroom: edited, tagged, and selected the pictures I wanted to keep. After I was finished with that, it was time to add the GPS information. The pictures taken with the Canon D20 already had that information, but it was missing from the ones taken with my DSLR's.
I then went to the "Map" module in Lightroom 4. For the "Map" module to work correctly, make sure your computer has an internet connection. Maps are downloaded on the fly depending on your GPS coordinates and how you use the zoom on the map. The integration with "Google Maps" works really well. I also suggest that you only filter images for a particular day only. This way you just load the GPX file that corresponds to that day and it is easier to see if all images were synchronized correctly or not. If the Map module is not showing any map, just close and restart Lightroom.
Now it is time to load into Lightroom the GPX file(s) that were generated. On the "Map" module, go to the "Map -> Tracklog -> Load Tracklog…" menu and select the GPX file that corresponds to the same date of the pictures on the filmstrip. Once the "Tracklog" is loaded, Lightroom will show on the map all your itineraries corresponding to that tracklog. Really cool.
The Load Tracklog option can also be accessed from the tool bar
There might be more than one "track" per "Tracklog". To make sure all of them are visible, on the Lightroom tool bar (press the "T" key if the tool bar is not visible), select "All Tracks" in the "Track" option.
Make sure all the tracks are displayed on the map
Now here is where having the timestamps in the cameras synchronized is important. Lightroom will match the timestamps on each image with their corresponding GPS coordinates on the Tracklog. A difference in time zones on the Canon D20 (or whatever GPS Logger you use) and other cameras is more forgiving. Lightroom offers a "Set Time Zone Offset…" option under the "Map -> Tracklog" menu. In my case, the GPS in the Canon D20 automatically set the time zone corresponding to New Orleans, while my other cameras were set to New York. That corresponds to a "-1 Hour" difference which I set using this option.
The "Set Time Zone Offset…" option can also be accessed from the tool bar
The "Time Zone Offset" Dialog
The last step is to select all images you want to add GPS information from the filmstrip and go to the "Map -> Tracklog -> Auto-Tag # Selected Photos". Then, Lightroom will tell how many pictures were successfully tagged. If that number does not correspond to the total of images you have selected, it means one or more images did not get the GPS information. That could be because the tracklog selected did not cover the time the picture was taken. Check the pictures that were tagged successfully and see if they correspond to where they were taken. If all look off from their correct location, you might have set the wrong time zone offset. Notice the little balloon icon Lightroom places on each image with GPS information.
Select the images on the filmstrip and select the Auto Tag command
A Balloon icon representing GPS information has been added to the image
I then repeated this process for each day of my trip. But remember that you can also drag and drop your images onto the map to have GPS coordinates added corresponding to where you placed your image. One night I forgot the D20 at the hotel and did not have an accurate GPS information for that period. I just placed the images I took that night over the map where they were taken and they were automatically tagged.
Look for the GPS coordinates on each image's metadata
When you export your images from Lightroom, make sure you don't have the "Remove Location Info" option checked. Otherwise the GPS information will be missing from your final files.
To finalize, the good thing is that many imaging hosting web sites support GPS information embedded in pictures. I uploaded my images to Smugmug and it automatically displayed a "Map This" option so I could see images displayed on a map and share it with anyone. One day in our trip we went on a swamp tour to see crocodiles. Kids loved it but we had no idea where we were. Looking at the pictures on a map later, it was really cool to see all the places where our boat had been. I will be looking forward to do this again on our next trip.
Lightroom showing the boat itinerary we did on the swamp tour
The Smugmug link with the map and pictures is here. A screenshot is displayed below:
Smugmug showing images on a map
Just for reference, below is what the contents of the "LOG" file look like:
@CanonGPS/ver1.0/wgs-84/Canon PowerShot D20/a36ad61c6aea4d419fbe61baaa20b11d/fed4
And what the contents of the "GPX" file look like:
<gpx creator="GPS Visualizer http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/" version="1.0" xmlns="http://www.topografix.com/GPX/1/0" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance" xsi:schemaLocation="http://www.topografix.com/GPX/1/0 http://www.topografix.com/GPX/1/0/gpx.xsd">
<trkpt lat="29.954381667" lon="-90.069758333">
<trkpt lat="29.954475" lon="-90.069448333">
<trkpt lat="29.954113333" lon="-90.069905">
<trkpt lat="29.95441" lon="-90.068976667">