Planning and Recording an Adventure

I’m using this post to document how I record the adventures that I post in this blog.  As an engineer, I enjoy technology.  I also enjoy history, and the history of technology.  Electronics is changing so fast these days, that it will be fun in the future to see how I recorded adventures back in 2011.  If anyone reads this blog, it may help them as they develop their own methods.

I follow three general steps:

  1. Plan the Adventure
  2. Record the Adventure
  3. Document the Adventure

Plan the Adventure

These days, my adventures are constrained to be close to home.  Fortunately, Albuquerque has a lot of opportunities for outdoor adventures, which are my preferred kind.  Together with my son Richard, we do a lot of hiking, and some canoeing.  Richard is not into biking, so I do those adventures solo or with other friends.

To help plan hikes, I bought two hiking guidebooks.

  • 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Albuquerque, including Santa Fe, Mount Taylor, and San Lorenzo Canyon, by Stephen Ausherman, 2008, Menasha Ridge Press.  www.menasharidge.com
  • Sandia Mountain Hiking Guide, by Mike Coltrin, 2005, University of New Mexico Press.  www.sandiahiking.com

There is no hint in the book, but Sandia Mountain Hiking Guide has a complementary web site, at which all the GPS waypoints and tracks mentioned in the book are available for download.  60 Hikes does not have a similar site, though Trails.com does feature hikes from the book.  However to access the GPS data (beta) requires a paid membership to Trails.com.

Because my GPS equipment is made by Garmin, I use the free application Garmin BaseCamp to plan outdoor adventures.  The first step is to locate some strategic waypoints along the planned route.  I select the Trailhead/Parking Area, a few turns along the path, and the end point.  SMHG makes it easy by downloading GPX files from the web site.  60 Hikes only includes the trailhead as written GPS coordinates in the book, and I have to key these in.

My setup of BaseCamp does include a topo map that I bought from Garmin.  This adds a lot more detail, including trails, than the free base map that comes with the application.

When the waypoints and route are to my satisfaction in BaseCamp, I connect my handheld GPS receivers and download the information to the units.  Richard usually carries the older GPSMap 76C and I clip the Oregon 400t to my belt during the hike.

Record the Adventure

Two questions need to be answered to record the adventure:

  1. Where did I go?
  2. What did I do?

My GPS receiver records where I went, and when.  I set it up to always record tracks, so there is no issue of forgetting to turn on tracking.  Recording is passive, so the only setup required is to ensure there are fresh batteries in the unit.

I use photographs to record what I did.  Mostly Penny, my Pentax K20D, but sometimes the iPhone.

I like to record where each photo was taken, and that means geotagging each photograph.  This happens during the Document phase, but the task is much easier if the clock in the camera is synchronized to GPS time.  So I check the camera time to ensure it is within 1 second of GPS time.

Document the Adventure

This is the most time-consuming part of the adventure.  I follow these steps:

  1. Retrieve GPS tracks and digital photos from the equipment and store as files on computer hard drive.
  2. Geotag the photos with the location they were taken.  This involves comparing the GPS track recorded by the GPS receiver with the time stamp on the photo image file.  The GPS location at the time closest to the image time is added to the image meta-data.  (This is why it is important for the camera time to by synchronized to GPS time.) BaseCamp does a good job of geotagging images, but it does have a limitation for my situation.  I’ve recently started taking all my photos in RAW format, and BaseCamp does not geotag RAW images.  It works fine for JPG and other common formats.  I use PhotoGPSEditor, which has a clunkier UI, but handles RAW image files.  There are a number of software applications available that can geotag images.
  3. Edit the images.  I use iPhoto.  I import the geotagged images into iPhoto, select the keepers, label them as appropriate, crop, and apply some simple enhancements.  Picasa is another app that is good at editing the images.
  4. Select images to be used in the blog post and export from iPhoto.  I construct the narrative of the blog post in my head and choose images that complement the story.  I export the selected images in a reduced resolution: 1100 pixels in the longest dimension.  This looks good on screen and minimizes time to load photos.  (My first blog post used full-size images, and took a long time to load, even on a cable broadband connection.)
  5. Watermark the images with a copyright notice.  I use iWatermark, after researching available software for the Mac.
  6. Write the blog post, inserting images where appropriate.
  7. Create a new trip at EveryTrail.com. This is how I get the Adventure Map.  I upload my GPS track and geotagged images.  I usually upload more than the images selected for the blog post, in order to create a comprehensive slide show.  This involves repeating the export and watermark steps for the larger set of images.  The images will be placed on a map at the location they were taken, along with the GPS track.  [Note: For a simple adventure, EveryTrail can be used can be used as a blog platform.  In addition to a map with track and images located on it, provision is made to label each image, and to provide a narrative of the trip.  EveryTrail will also geotag your images.]
  8. Paste the map link from EveryTrail into your blog.  EveryTrail provides snippets of HTML code that can be copied and pasted into web pages.  This will embed the map with track and images into the blog, and make available a slide show of the images uploaded to EveryTrail.
  9. Copy the elevation profile of the adventure from BaseCamp into your blog.  I take a screenshot of the elevation profile in BaseCamp and upload as an image to the blog.  This may not be interesting in Kansas, but in Albuquerque most adventures involve non-trivial elevation changes.

 

Researching Watermarks

I’m looking for some software to put a watermark on the photos I publish in the blog.

Impression for iPhoto

The first watermarking software I looked at was Impression.  The attraction is that this is a plugin for iPhoto.  I assumed that this meant it would seamlessly integrate into my work flow.  Here are my impressions of Impression after using the evaluation version.

  • Impression is easy to install.  I downloaded the disk image, unzipped it, clicked on the install package, and that was it.  I did not like that there was no Readme or other instructions on the install disk.  I usually like to know what goes where before installing.  However, no harm done.  The web site provides installation and uninstall instructions.
  • Impression can use an image in PNG or PSD format, or a text file in RTF format for the watermark.  I used TextEdit to create a copyright notice in RTF format.  Interestingly, once I told Impression where to find the file, changes to the watermark file showed up automatically.  There was no need to do any setup to incorporate a changed watermark file.
  • Impression works in the file export window.  This window gains an Impression tab from which you can select the watermark file, manipulate it in various ways (rotation, margin, transparency, location, scale) (it remembers your selections from session to session), and save the watermarked photo.
  • The save button copies the original image to another one containing the watermark, then imports the watermarked image into iPhoto.  You end up with two images, one with a watermark and the other without.  My test image was a JPG sized at 3.9 MB.  The watermarked image was a JPG sized at 9.8 MB.  That is over twice the size, just for adding a watermark.  The watermarked image is saved to the original file name with “-WM” appended.  For example, IMGP0021.jpg becomes IMGP0021-WM.jpg.
  • Impression does not retain all the meta data from the original photo.  Using the Info window of iPhoto 11, I noticed that the following data is missing or changed.
    • Title was deleted.  It defaulted to the file name.
    • Description was deleted.
    • Location (GPS) was deleted.
    • Camera lens information was deleted.
    • Faces were deleted.
    • Keywords were deleted.
  • Deletion of meta data is pretty much a show stopper for me.  Impression does not seem to fit my work flow at this time.
    • I just want to export photos with a watermark.  Other than the addition of a watermark, the exported photos should be the same as the original in iPhoto.
    • I don’t see the need to store watermarked photos in iPhoto.  Yes, I could delete after exporting, but that is an extra step.
    • Actually, three extra steps …
      • Watermark photos with Impression
      • Export watermarked photos to files
      • Delete watermarked photos from iPhoto
    • When exporting, I use the photo title as the exported file name.  This is much more meaningful in my blog and other programs like EveryTrail than the file name assigned by the camera.  I don’t have to title the photos if the file name is the title.
    • Some web sites I use, such as EveryTrail, locate photos using the GPS location tags.  I don’t use Picasa but I understand it also locates photos based on GPS tags.  I want photos that are watermarked and geolocated, and Impression does not support that.
  • I think what would work for me is a checkbox on the export window that selects watermark or no watermark.  A button next to it would provide access to the watermark setup.
  • Impression retails for $14.90.

iWatermark

The second software I tested was iWatermark.  iWatermark is a stand-alone program, as opposed to a plug-in.  It does have some integration with iPhoto, in that you can select an iPhoto album as the input.  Here are my impressions of iWatermark after using the evaluation version.

  • iWatermark is easy to install.  It comes on a disk image (.dmg) file with the application, a Readme, and instructions for purchasing.  Actually, there are no installation instructions in the Readme; I just dragged the application to my Applications folder and double clicked it to open.
  • iWatermark can process files in PICT, BMP, TIFF, PNG, JPEG, and GIF formats.  It can open even more formats by using Quicktime, according to the documentation.  I tested the JPEG capability because that fits my workflow, and tried DNG format because I was investigating RAW formats at the time.  iWatermark did not process an image in DNG format, though it did not produce an error and did produce an output file that was blank except for the watermark itself.
  • iWatermark includes a watermark editor.  Text is entered directly in the editor, and images can be imported.  The included Help did not list the types of files that could be used for watermarks.  I scanned a folder containing different types of files; .jpg, .gif, and .png files were available, while other types that were clearly not images, such as .pdf and .html were grayed out.
  • iWatermark claims to maintain meta data, and this appears to be the case.  I exported images from iPhoto to JPG format files.  I batch processed the files through iWatermark, creating thumbnails in the process.  Meta Data was preserved in the watermarked files as follows:
    • General, Exif, GPS, and TIFF groups were unchanged.
    • JFIF group added the Progressive tag.
    • IPTC group added the Copyright Notice tag.
    • Meta data was not preserved in the thumbnail images.
  • iWatermark provides the capability to insert IPTC meta data.  I told it to insert the Copyright Notice tag.  It did so without destroying existing IPTC tags.
  • Side observation: iPhoto evidently does not preserve IPTC meta data upon importing images.  I imported images that contained the City, Country, and Province/State tags in the IPTC group.  Exported images contained only Caption/Description and Title tags, to which iWatermark added Copyright Notice.
  • iWatermark can create dynamic watermarks based on meta data, and also create IPTC tags based on meta data.  I did not test this capability.
  • iWatermark retails for $18.00. $20.00 (price increased between when I did the review and when I bought it.)

DropWaterMark

The third software I tested was DropWaterMark.  DropWaterMark is a stand-alone program, as opposed to a plug-in.  It does not have any integration with iPhoto.  Here are my impressions of iWatermark after using the evaluation version.

  • DropWaterMark is easy to install.  On the install disk image drag the DropWaterMark folder to the Applications folder.  First time opening the application presents a configuration screen.  There is a ReadMe, but I did not need to refer to it.  I only opened the ReadMe when I wanted to delete the developer’s logo from the watermark.  However, that cannot be done in the evaluation version.
  • DropWaterMark outputs files only in JPG format.  It will accept files in other formats, but does not list them.  I tried a DNG file but it was not accepted.
  • DropWaterMark allows for two lines of text and an image as watermarks.  Each can be independently positioned, so you could have a watermark in three places, such as a line of text in two corners and an image in the center.
  • Text watermarks are created in DropWaterMark.  Image watermark is imported and then edited within the application.
  • Meta data is preserved as follows:
    • General, JFIF, TIFF groups are unchanged.
    • Exif group added the Color Space tag with value Uncalibrated.  I’m not sure where the value for this tag comes from.
    • GPS group added the GPS Version tag.  Value is set to 2.2.  I found this interesting as there did not seem to any way DropWaterMark could have gotten the value for this tag.  It seems to have been made up.
    • IPTC group added the Keywords tag with no values.  I could find no way to specify keywords to be added.  Also, no way to specify IPTC tags to be added.
  • No capability to create dynamic watermarks or IPTC tags based on meta data.
  • DropWaterMark can change nonvisual data such as creation date, modification date, and file comment.  It can do this as part of watermarking the image, or separately without changing the image.
  • I tried dropping a file on the application icon.  This opened the app and loaded the image, but there were manual steps involved in completing the watermark process.  I was hoping drag-and-drop would work completely automatically.
  • DropWaterMark retails for $16.50.

ImageWell

Finally I tested ImageWell.  ImageWell is more than just watermarking software.  It also has the capability to edit photos, including a simple method of annotation.  This immediately got my attention as my current method of annotating images takes a lot of steps.  Here are my impressions of ImageWell using the evaluation version.

  • ImageWell is easy to install.  Just drag the app to the Applications folder.
  • Running ImageWell is easy as well.  A little window sits on the desktop to which you drag images.  It took me a few minutes to get used to the interface, but after that everything worked intuitively.
  • Surprisingly, ImageWell accepted an image in .DNG format.  This is an archival file format for RAW images.  Output is only in .JPG, .TIFF, or .PNG.
  • I tried a few simple annotations, arrow and text box.  It was easy and worked as expected.
  • The watermark text had to be retyped every time I worked on a new image.  I’m sure there is a way to make it stick, and ImageWell advertises a batch mode, but I did not test that feature.
  • I was getting ready to really like this product, when I looked at the meta data in the output images.  Meta Data is not preserved.  Bummer!
    • In the General group, the Orientation, Pixel Width, and Profile Name tags were deleted.
    • In the Exif group, all tags except Pixel X Dimension and Pixel Y Dimension were deleted.
    • The GPS, IPTC, and TIFF groups were deleted entirely.
    • The JFIF group had some interesting changes.
      • Density Unit changed from 1 to 0.
      • X Density and Y Density changed from 72 to 1.
  • I like the user interface and annotation capabilities of ImageWell, and the user interface is pretty good.  However, not preserving the meta data is a showstopper for me.  I at least need to have position (GPS) information preserved.
  • ImageWell retails for $19.95.