November 28, 2006
Geotagging hobbyists organize pictures using maps to create a new kind of digital photo album.
Source: StarTribune via NY Times
Written by Ian Austen
Kathleen Bennett recently bought a device that keeps track of her location with help from the satellites of the Global Positioning System. But the Seattle woman is not using it to find her way through the wilderness.
Instead, the gadget is for Bennett’s personal passion, photography. She is one of many people who have taken up “geotagging,” the practice of posting photos online that are linked to Web-based maps, showing just where in the world the shutter was pressed.
“It’s kind of a geek obsession,” said Bennett, who is a software engineer. “But it’s also a combination of the geek aspect, the community aspect and the love of good old-fashioned travel photography.”
Somewhat like geocaching, the GPS-based twist on treasure hunts, geotagging offers a new use for handheld satellite-based location finders. And advocates, like Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of the photo-sharing website Flickr, say the hobby gives a new dimension to photography. For one thing, it can help people make some sense of the mounds of photos accumulating on their hard drives.
“The value may not be immediately apparent. But 10 years from now, nobody who’s geotagging their photos is going to regret it,” Butterfield said. “Most people have just one or two or three iconic photos of their grandparents. Now people are going to have tens of thousands of photos, and when that happens, every little bit of context helps.”
While they may not realize it, most casual photographers already have a great deal of information attached to their photos. With every click of the shutter, digital cameras record data including the focal length of the lens used, the exposure mode, flash settings and of course the time and date.
All those data are attached in a file that uses an industry standard known as the exchangeable image file format, or, more commonly, EXIF. (Photo editing programs generally offer a way to view the data. In Adobe Photoshop, for example, it is available through a pull-down menu item labeled File Info.)