Recording Photography Locations

Recording Photography Locations

Recording Photography locations is an issue for many landscape and travel photographers. We know that GPS data can be recorded by the camera, but what about those times when the light is wrong or even when you don’t have a camera to hand?

Landscape Photography is both a rewarding and frustrating occupation. Hours spent waiting for the light to be just so, or for clouds to move into the right position. It’s no wonder the sky replacement tools in Photoshop and Luminar are so popular!

Many Landscape photographers (and I’m very guilty of this) will visit the same location over and over until everything falls into place. Good preparation with weather forecasts and tools such as the Photographers Ephemeris and a recent entry into the market PhotoPills help us at least to ensure that the sun is in the right place, but there is still a huge element of chance in the process. And what happens if we forget the exact spot where the composition worked but we didn’t take a photograph?

Recording Photography Locations

GPS & Map Data

Let’s have a look at the way that location data is stored in a modern camera, the process is called geotagging. Typically the tags will be in the form of three items of data, two to define the GPS coordinates and one to define the height. This data can be viewed in Adobe Lightroom and DxO Photolab.

In Lightroom, the Maps module will show you where you were when you took the shot. Mobile Phones do this as a matter of course, the Canon 5D Mk IV that I use also does this automatically, for older cameras I have a GPS receiver that attaches to the hot shoe and writes the data into the image metadata.

However, this isn’t the use case that matters most – I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve been driving or out for a walk without my camera and spotted a decent shot. I may not return for in some cases months, by which time I can’t be sure of where I was standing when I saw the opportunity.

Recording potential photography locations

The problem becomes less about recording photography locations and more about how to record a geographical location for the purpose of photography.

The options for recording photography locations are:

  1. Take the photograph with GPS data, check it out on Lightroom and record the location in the Maps module.
  2. Take the photograph on an iPhone or equivalent and extract the GPS data using Lightroom. (Facebook will simply give you a choice of the nearest known locations).
  3. Find an App that stores location data in a usable form.

One app I’ve found for recording photography locations is a clever (and free) app called What3Words. The idea is that the whole world can be divided into squares measuring 3 metres, each square is identified by a permanent combination of three words. The really excellent thing about this idea is that a location doesn’t have to be already mapped to be used – if I find my spot and record it in the App then those three words become the permanent identifier. so I can identify a location and share it with fellow photographers easily.

The App is already used by emergency services in the Uk to convey locations. The UK is pretty densely populated but there are still locations that are sufficiently far from the beaten path to be difficult to convey. The classic use case is an injury sustained out hiking – “a mile past the boulder resembling a giants head” doesn’t really cut it in the same way as a 3m square precisely identified and shared does.

There are actually dozens of good reasons to use this app – you’re in a strange town and have to park the car in a street half a mile from your intended location. The street turns out to be a mile long and you’re meeting your partner there in half an hour. You want a catchy way of describing where your shop is other than a postcode. Or you might just be wanting to share the spot you were standing when you took an ace photograph! Recording Photography locations is suddenly simple.


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