October, 2006

Oct 06

Geotagging my Flickr photos

Tonight I finally got round to adding my photos to the Flickr mapping feature. I guess I got inspired by taking and uploading my first photo using Zonetags with my phone (Nokia 6680) and my Holux bluetooth GPS receiver.


Zonetags is a trivially easy-to-use beta-ish application for Series 60 Nokia smartphones that acts as a wrapper for the standard camera software. It can record the cell id (I think it uses the last known value if you’re not in reception) and attach it to each photo you take. You can also connect an external GPS device to add much more accurate longitude and latitude information to the photo. Once you have taken a photo you’re asked if you want to upload it to Flickr. If you do, Zonetags can optionally add action tags to do things like rotate your photos as well as suggestting extra tags based on your location and the tags that other people have given to nearby photos.

For example, when I uploaded a photo coming down from Snowdown at the weekend, “Caernarfon” and “United Kingdom” tags were added along with the geotagging and celltagging ones. Over time, this could get really smart.

Unfortunately, my camera can’t use my bluetooth GPS. I think as a workaround way of geotagging those photos, I might also take one with my phone and upload it with private permissions via Zonetags (to get the geotags into Flickr) and just replace the photo with the better camera shot when I get back to a computer. We’ll need to wait and see if that is too much of a pain in the arse to be practical when out in the hills though.

Flickr map

I’ve wanted something like this for a while now – being able to browse photos by location is nifty stuff. It’s super easy to get photos on the map (if you’re using a supported browser, of course…), but I find it is limited by the poor quality of the maps, at least for most of Scotland. Of course, Flickr can’t help this and it will improve given time, but it would all be so much cooler if the maps I use most were worth looking at! There are 3rd party apps that are more accurate or you can hand geotag the photos with the lat/longs yourself and import them instead, but I haven’t bothered looking at any of those options yet since my priority was to just get them all geotagged.

In some crazy alternate reality where I actually have some spare time, I will use the Flickr API in my desktop mapping software to give the same functionality in a faster and much more detailed environment. That’s after re-writing it so that it’s not just a prototype, adding in GPS tracklogging and a million other neat things… sigh.

The good

  • Flickr map is very cool, I like it
  • Zonetags is very cool, I like it

The bad

  • Yahoo! Maps isn’t as good as Google Maps
  • Yahoo! Maps is vastly inferior to Google Maps
  • Scotland has pish quality maps – ces’t la vie
  • Zonetags doesn’t allow you to change your mind and upload a photo you previously took with it – pretty poor
  • My phone/bluetooth/software combination only allows one phone -> bluetooth connection at a time

The ugly

  • The admin map interface doesn’t work in Opera – boo

From that list it looks like I’m not too positive about this stuff, but that couldn’t be further from the truth – it’s excellent and is going to keep getting better.

Update (26/10/2006)

I forgot to mention that I was a little annoyed that Flickr didn’t add geotag tags to my photos when I added them to the map. Last night I found this excellent bookmarklet which embeds Google Maps into Flickr, giving you much more accuracy. It totally rocks. Or, it will totally rock if it starts to work in Opera. For now it just rocks. It adds the geotags as well as giving your photos a link to Google Maps (you can see the singletrack!). There is a little discrepancy between Yahoo! and Google Maps (about 100-200m), but it is definitely preferable for me to use Google Maps for the forseeable future. Now I need to go back through my photos again…