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Identifying the Subject or Location

Have any of these applied to you:-

  • You have been out, taken a photograph, and moved on, perhaps over a day or a week taking many more. Now the question comes up where was a specific photograph you have taken, can you be sure.

  • When you have spent a day out photographing a number of abbeys or other ruins for example, where does one stop and the next begin.

  • The estate agent (realtor) out photographing a number of houses, gets back with many photographs, notes sketches and measurements, he has a photo of a garden, was that the garden of the second house he photographed or the one on arrival at the third.

  • You are on a country walk and photograph many things, then 6 months later decide to write a magazine article, can you be sure you have the right view from the right point.

  • You come across one of your photos and can't remember where you took it.

One of these, several or something similar is likely to have happened to you.

So how do we overcome this problem arising?

One answer would be to Geotag each photograph when it was taken, this adds the longitude and latitude plus height above sea level and possibly the direction you are pointing to the images metadata. It may also include a very accurate time stamp as well. There are a number of ways to Geotag images, and we have another article on geoatagging specifically explaining a number of ways to do this, including a device on the camera, or a  separate GPS unit and some software, plus some other means.

While we are at a location we could add a description or note to the image, and attach this to the metadata, we also have an article on how to do this and where this might be helpful. You could put in a name or something like a map grid reference if you wanted.

If all the images are of the same place you could also do this when the images are being uploaded from the card to your computer.

Another solution that may prove useful is to get into the habit of always taking an opening shot, some like to take a photo of the name board or signpost to places, some others always start by taking a wide shot of the overall place on arrival. Many people, who shoot video, get into a habit of taking opening shots on arrival, often both a name plate and a wide general shot. Often later this proves useful in editing, but in any event its a good record of where you were at that time.

Another solution that many find helpful, when visiting only two or three places in a day, is to change cards when they get to each place, giving them a separate set of photographs for each place.

When out photographing a number of similar places its often helpful to have a separator between one place and the next. I often do this, if I am not Geotagging images, and I use a photo of the car park ground as my separator, usually a specific road marking. Of course I could use my grey target or anything else, but the car park ground is conveniently available, and putting in a separator as I get out of the car means it does not get overlooked.

Most cameras have the ability to separate their cards into folders, allowing you to file images into separate areas as you might set a file structure on a computer. Historically this slowed down the cameras writing to the card considerably, but I haven't run any comparative tests recently. If you use this method you then have to upload these in a way that retains the folders as separate areas, or you will end up with them all getting added back together again. This might be a way worth considering for those with defined batches of work, for example the estate agent (realtor). A simpler solution might be to have a larger number of small capacity cards and change the card between locations.

Some cameras, for example the Nikon D2X, has the ability to record a voice tag, you press the microphone button and can record a short voice label that is used with the photo. It is however a separate file and can and will most likely, get lost along the way.

Overcoming the lack of information

On many occasions in the past, before I had a Geotag device I have not done any of these, thinking at the time the places were sufficiently different, but perhaps a year or so later coming back to them the break point is not always as clear. Luckily with digital we have the date and time when each photo was taken. Looking at the sequence of times in the shots on either side usually shows a pattern, a number of shots quite close together then a gap while we were travelling and then another close sequence, from this you can usually work out where the break point is with some confidence.

Confirming where you were at the time of the photograph is a little harder to overcome.

There are several possible ways to overcome this:-

  • It may be that you have one location in the background of another photograph.

  • It may be that you have some sign or identifying feature in the background when you magnify the image.

  • You may be able to look at an aerial photograph using Google,  Multimap or some other system and use this to confirm the location.

  • You may be able to see images for possible locations on the internet. Perhaps our location pages, perhaps on Geograph, or flickr.

You do however have to be careful relying on other systems, we often identify photographs labelled incorrectly on the internet, presumably others have had exactly the same problem we are looking to overcome here.

What I do now

I now routinely use a Geotag device I have attached to my camera strap all the time. It is usually permanently attached to the flash bracket on the top of the camera, but as it uses the battery power of the camera I do disconnect it when it is not absolutely necessary, or when I am in a location that it will not work anyway such as in a cave, or obviously when I need to use the flash.

If I am at a location or going to be at a series of locations that I can see may be difficult later to identify, or where the location might become important, then I make sure the Geotagger is switched on, it is attached to my camera strap all the time anyway.

Where I am spending the day in a small number of easily identified places, I don't routinely then geotag all images, but put a separator between places to make the break point clear, if there could be some later confusion. On occasions I will change cards.  On very rare occasions I have used the in camera labels, but I find this too slow.

I have tried using the voice labelling on the D2X, but its not something that I find instinctive and I quickly forget to put them on. Afterwards I don't find them a lot of help.

See Also:

How to Find Locations


By: Keith Park  Section: Photography Section Key:
Page Ref: identifying_the_location Topic: Landscape Photography  Last Updated: 08/2010

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