Blackberry + GPSed + Lightroom + Lightroom Plugin = Awesome!

July 24th, 2010

For those of us using older digital cameras that do not have GPS capabilities (like my trusted D70), there is a way to use a Blackberry to capture the GPS coordinates and use a Lightroom plugin to put the GPS coordinates into the EXIF Metadata.  Once the metadata is written, sites like Panoramio and Flickr will recognize the location.

The first step to this is to have a Blackberry.  I'm sure there is a way to do this with an Android based phone or an iPhone, but I haven't used them, so I don't know how to do this on those.

On your Blackberry, open App World and search for, download, and install GPSed.  This program can be used to track your location.  BIG IMPORTANT NOTE: this will use much more battery than normal.  The amount of battery is used WAY MORE if you go into an area with no service.

Before you go 'Shooting'

First off, set the time on your camera.  It will make your life easier down the road.

Then, at the start of your shoot/photowalk, open GPSed and select New Track... in the menu:

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And give it a name:

Start shooting!  While you are shooting, the GPSed free version log a GPS point roughly every 2 seconds.  This can be affected by a number of things,like tall buildings, clouds, trees, and having your Blackberry in your pocket or a case.  While those do create problems, leaving my Blackberry in its case while I walk through downtown is pretty good, but will sometimes miss points.

When you are done...

When you are done, open the menu ans select Finish Track.  On the following screen, it will ask you if you want to share or upload the track.  I tend to use "Do Nothing".

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After the track is saved (and uploaded or shared if you did that), you will need to convert the track to GPX format.

The next steps on the Blackberry can be done now or at home.  I tend to do this part at home, since it goes hand-in-hand with the rest of the process.

At Home...

In GPSed, click the menu and select Pages > Track List.  You will want to select your track, click the menu, and select Convert to GPX...

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It will take a few to process.  My ~2 hour, 3 mile photowalk around 15-30 seconds.  Make sure you remember where it tells you it put the file!

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After this, you can close GPSed.  You will want to locate that file and transfer it to your computer.  I used email.

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On Your Computer...

At this point, all of the Blackberry steps are completed.  You should be able to open your email and get the GPX file to process in Lightroom.  Save this somewhere.  I use /Users/andrew/Pictures/Geoencoding on my Mac.

For this part, you will need Jeffrey Friedl's GPS Plugin.  If you have a lot of pictures, you will want to donate to him to remove the 10-pic-at-a-time block.  Also, if you do this more than once or twice in your life, you should donate to him 🙂

To set the GPS coordinates on the actual pictures, open Lightroom and import your pictures.  Also, use the Lightroom Plugin Manager to open the GPS plugin.

Select all the images you want to set GPS coordinates to (CMD-A on Mac, Cntrl-A on PC, if you have them in the same folder).  Then, go to File-Plugin Extras - Geoencode...

There are several important things on the resulting window...

The important stuff here:

  • Make sure the tracklog tab is selected.
  • Make sure you've selected the GPX file that you emailed to yourself.
  • Select UTC as the timezone - this is because the times from the GPS satellites are in UTC.
  • I've had the most luck with a 30 second fuzzyness.  Increase if you are in a downtown, decrease if you are not and you were running.
  • If your camera doesn't have the correct time, correct it!  You really shouldn't have to use much in the camera time correction.

Once you click Geoencode, the GPS information will be added to all the pictures it can.  Congratulations, your pictures are mappable!  Now, if you use Jeffery Friedl's Flicker plugin, Flickr will know where to place them on the map!