What is it? Why do you bother? Why should I care? Geotagging or Geolocating is the practice of tagging or recording/assigning Global Positioning System (GPS) data to a photograph. That data can be latitude and longitude or Universal Trans Mercrator (UTM) coordinates. The practice of recording such data is called geocoding or geotagging. Since January 2011 we have been geotagging almost all of the new images being uploaded to As I Found It and when Western Canadian Images comes on line there too.
Two basic reasons for geolocating come to mind: One, it is easily do it and two, some of you have asked for this information. We admit that is a bit glib. People geotag for a variety of reason; the most prominent, as we understand it, is the ability to place images in a geographic and physiographic context. People who need or want some kind of journalistic reliability to their images often appreciate the geotags. As far as we know, As I Found It is the only stock service that makes a practice of geotagging as many images as possible. The philosophy of As I Found It is just that as found. It goes along that where found is just as important and often meaningful. Don’t misunderstand we are not geotagging flowers or rocks. We will geotag gardens or rock outcrops. Sometimes the geotags are rather general such as a mountain top or city center, not a street address or the exact coordinates of the photographer. It often depends on the scale of things.
We have not yet figured out a way to identify which images are geotagged and which are not. However our offer stands, if anyone inquires via the “contact us” form, we will reply with as much information as we have. When you purchase an image that is geotagged, this is the kind of data that comes with it.
Geotag or geolocation data looks like this.
GPS Latitude : 51 deg 14′ 13.20″
N GPS Longitude : 115 deg 24′ 10.80″
W GPS Position : 51 deg 14′ 13.20″ N, 115 deg 24′ 10.80″ W
The data are attached in the extended EXIF tag file for each image. The coordinates shown here references the image above.
One can record Lat/Long or UTM from a hand held GPS, by inspecting electronic maps, such as Google Earth, or from topographic maps. Any map that uses one of the standard coordinate systems will work to supply the base locational information. Note that the conversion between systems is not always simple but free easy to uses internet based utilities are readily available. Just a note here Apple’s iphone 4 has a map and compass GPS system APP built in. It works very well but does not provide the coordinates we are talking about. The GPS used to navigate in your automobile will not either.
Most of the images at As I Found It/Western Canadian Images have some locational information presented along with the description when the images are viewed. That data includes things like the place name or city and so on. Geotagging goes a long way beyond this to stating the latitude and longitude of the point of interest or the photographers position. We make that judgement based on what we think the viewer wants to know. Again if you truly want to know where we were standing when we snapped the shutter and the geotag is locating that mountain top, just ask. We almost always know within a few meters.
If the photographer is in a city, the street corner may be very important, if he/she photographing a mountain, which can be several kilometres away, it is the position of that peak which is most important.
The geotagging information is stored and placed in what is called an EXIF or Exchangeable Image File Format. Many “get Info” utilities and image processing packages can access and display this information. Do not be mislead by this or by Wikipedia’s informative but glib explanation of EXIF’s. We know this is more then you ever dreamed of and even the most dedicated photographer finds it both redundant and perhaps just a little much when viewed in its fullness.
GPS enabled cameras or GPS’ that are camera enabled are on the market. If you need such a device you probably already have it or are considering it. We at As I Found It and Western Canadian Images are far more concerned with the images then the GPS coordinates. That is us and probably the bulk of our customers. Dennis just keeps a small note pad in his camera bag along with a hand held GPS and writes down the coordinates he needs. For remote locations such as mountain tops or the centre of a lake, Google Maps works very well. Newer hand held GPS units can download way points to your computer. You do need to remember to enter them however. That works well if you have a long list. Just remember, a pencil and note book never run our of battery power.
Why you should care? You should only if it is important to you. You may for many reasons want to know more then the very general location of place name. What ever those reasons are they are yours and that is sufficient. Dennis know from his own experience, he has looked at someone else’s image and wondered where it was taken or at what time of day. Often we want to know more then what state or county. So satisfy that curiosity, read the EXIF’s of our images or ask.