Moving in the Right Direction

ApertureGPS

For many years I’ve dreamed of having location data attached to my images so that I could see where I took my favorite pictures at my favorite places. Unfortunately none of my cameras have had GPS either built-in or as an attachment. My iPhone has the ability to do it but sadly it wasn’t until recently that I figured out how. I decided to take advantage of my recent renaissance and assigned myself the task of learning how to do it while visiting a super secret location over the Christmas break.

And so on a visit to Ridgefield (oh what a giveaway!) I fired up MotionX-GPS on the phone and had it keep a running tally of my travels around the refuge, then emailed the data file to my laptop. It took me a couple more weeks before I sat down to learn how to import that data into Aperture, and it’s a bit fussier than I hoped, so I also learned how to do it with a little command line utility called exiftool. Photo Mechanic can also do it, and did it quickly, but the locations weren’t right so I have a little more learning there.

I do wish my camera could do this natively, not just because of the extra steps required to add the data later, but because it requires that I remember to start and stop the GPS tracking. And anything that requires that I remember to do something, well …

This screenshot shows an example of how the GPS data looks when imported directly into Aperture, in this case it was my visit to Ridgefield on January 15th. The purple trace shows where I drove around the auto tour, the pins where I stopped and took pictures. Currently selected is a spot beside Rest Lake where I photographed a coyote hunting voles as the snow fell gently down.

On the map you can see the Columbia River running to the left of the refuge, and a little offshoot that comes by it on the right, plus the numerous sloughs that run through the refuge. Lewis & Clark visited Ridgefield but apparently Clark wasn’t quite as impressed with this blessed little place as I am, for he wrote,

“Opposit to our camp on a Small Sandy Island the brant & geese make Such a noise that it will be impossible for me to sleap.”

His prediction proved true, as the following morning he added,

“rained all the after part of the last night…I slept but verry little last night for the noise Kept up dureing the whole of the night by the Swans, Geese, white & Grey Brant Ducks & c. on a Small Sand Island they were emensely noumerous, and their noise horid…”

I’ve not seen brant at Ridgefield but the rain and swans and geese and ducks, those I know quite well, although in much smaller numbers it seems than William Clark once saw (and heard).

Captured

Our cat Sam sleeping in his heated bed

A long-standing but unfulfilled desire of mine is a small portable camera, an always-with-you camera, the camera that captures those quick fleeting moments that as pictures are more important than they are great, the slices that over time tell the little stories of your life. The iPhone 4 fills this roll for me at the moment, not because I think it’s well-suited to the task but because it’s what I have.

The four pictures from the previous two posts of a snuggling Sam on my lap were taken with my iPhone because I had it near at hand. My Canon 7D wasn’t that far away but out of arms reach and besides had the big lens attached, so I had to choose between getting the camera and getting the picture.

The two pictures here of a slumbering Sam were taken with the 7D. I started out photographing him with the iPhone but in this case I was able to get and setup the bigger camera, as instead of my lap he was snuggled up either in his warm bed or my chair. Much better image quality with the big camera, but the best camera is the camera you have with you, and thus I keep casting my eyes about for a small camera that strikes the right balance between portability and quality. And within the past few months a whole slew of interesting models have come to market.

I don’t know if I’ll get a smaller camera or make do with what I have, but perhaps I shouldn’t delay my decision too long. I’ve been watching this documentary that chronicles a traveling time lord who takes people on grand adventures across time and space. Maybe I’ll get to go back in time and photograph Templeton when he was a kitten!

I am beginning to despair that he will show up on my doorstep, however, as I’ve noticed that he prefers young English women as his companions, and I fail on all three counts.

Come on, Doctor!

Our cat Sam sleeps on my recliner