Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A sense of where I was

This morning I took my camera, a new GPS receiver attached to its hot shoe, up to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois, one of my favorite spots for photography. My goal was to see how well the GPS works in embedding geographical latitude and longitude, altitude and compass direction data into the digital files of my photographs at the instant I take them.

I stopped on the footbridge between the Botanic Garden's main island and the visitor center and took a quick shot (above) of the frozen channel between lagoons just southeast of the bridge. Then I went home and loaded the photograph file into my computer and called it up with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 software.

Quickly I clicked a button that took me over the wi-fi to Google Maps, and the result (considerably enlarged) is shown in the screen-grab illustration below. The green arrow marks the spot where I was standing when I took the shot. The red "A" symbol marks the point where the camera was aimed. The arrow and the symbol are absolutely dead on. [Later: I was mistaken about the nature of that "A" symbol. It simply marks the mailing address nearest to the arrow—in this case, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL 60022. That's still useful.]

The point, of course, is that weeks, months and even years from now, I will be able to recover from the computer's memory, if not my own, the exact spot where the photograph was taken.

Soon I'll be riding the California Zephyr through winding canyons of the Colorado Rockies and twisting ridges of the Sierra Nevada, shooting madly out the train's windows in the service of gathering photographs for the upcoming e-edition of Zephyr: Tracking a Dream Across America. If all goes well, I'll be able to pinpoint (and describe) the location of every photograph with perfect accuracy rather than relying on my aging brain's ability to recall places and details.

Isn't that absolutely cool?


  1. ummm.... not to be too picky, but the first photo seems to cover the first graf of the post. I can see letters peaking out of the side of the photo, and the text starts in the middle of a word. Otherwise, neat gadget and very useful for your work. I'm impressed!

  2. I tweaked a bit . . . does it look OK now? Are you using IE on a PC? I'm using Firefox on a Mac and that seems to be a little more forgiving of misformatting.

  3. I am using IE on a PC. A couple of words appeared but the text starts with "GPS receiver attached to my hotshoe...." I still see many lines of text peaking out the right margin of the pic by a letter or two.

  4. Update: it may be only one line broken down letter by letter on the right margin rather then an overlay.

  5. Ah, I think the problem's solved. The HTML code said to make the photo 413 pixels wide instead of the proper 431 pixels. I'm gettin' dyxlesic in my old age. Thanks, Mike! Is it OK now?

  6. The mind is the second thing to go and I can't remember the first.... Getting old is not for the weak.
    Photo / text all good now. Looks like the first 8 or 9 words were on the margin and are now in the proper place.