I recently returned from a two week vacation in Glacier Park and Canada. I went on several decent size hikes and managed to take a whole ton of pictures. I wanted a cool way to show others the hike as well as all the pictures taken. I have gone through the tedious and error-prone process of manually geotagging pictures before using picasa and google earth – there had to be an easier way. Using the combination of a handheld GPS, digital camera and various free programs I was able to produce the map seen above. The remainder of this post is an attempt to outline how I was able to accomplish this.
Handheld GPS capable of collecting track data and a means to transfer to computer
Standard Windows Desktop
I loaded my Magellan Sportrak Handheld GPS with fresh batteries and turned off the electric compass (electric compass really uses a lot of power). I ensured my digital camera’s clock was in sync with the clock on the GPS. Right before I started the trail I reset the backtrack log so that I would only have data from this particular hike. I hooked the GPS to exterior of my backpack so it would always have a good strong signal. Now I hiked and took pictures for the next 8 hours with my GPS on the entire time. At the conclusion of the hike I turned off the GPS so it didn’t track the car ride home.
Now I have GPS track data and hundreds of pictures that don’t know where they were taken.
1. Pull down the track data from the GPS using Easy GPS and save as a GPX file
2. Using GPX Editor clean up any erroneous or undesirable datapoints (for example I had data from the parking lot that I didn’t care to map). Sometimes you have edit GPX file manually using a basic text editor.
3. Open Microsoft Pro Photo Tools and drag all the photos you want to geotag into the thumbnail section.
4. In Microsoft Pro Photo Tools click “Load from file” in the Track route section and find the clean GPX file containing the corresponding track data.
5. Now select all the thumbnails and click “Place Images” – this will match the “Date Taken” time stamp of the picture with a location timestamp in the GPX file. Under the “Map Browse” tab you can shift the pictures timestamp if per chance GPS and Camera times were out of sync. At this point if you click done it will geotag the photos for this session. You must go File->Save all images with new data to persist the geotag. The pictures are now geotagged.
6. Load up the geotagged pictures in Google Picasa and create an album with only the pictures you want to appear on the map. Highlight the album and goto Tools->Geotag->Export to Google Earth File. You’ve now created a KMZ file containing all the geotagged photos.
7. Open up the created KMZ file and the GPX file in Google Earth. Using google earth you can add folders under “My Places” create a folder to represent your trip and drag the photos and GPX file in there. Organize as desired. Now you can simply right click the newly created folder and “Save Place as”. This will create a KMZ file containing the pictures AND the GPX track data.
8. You can now reference this data in google earth anytime you want and turn on/off entire tracks/trips.
9. If you want to share this with others I would recommend uploading the KMZ file to a public location accessible via HTTP (I found anything much over 3000 kb wouldn’t display through google maps so you may have to trim some pictures out). I chose to upload mine to sites.google.com. You can then simply type the URL of the KMZ file into Google maps and it will display it for you and you now have a nice URL to distribute to friends and family.