Where Was That Photo Taken?

I’ve written before about how I like to geocode all my photographs with the exact latitude and longitude where the picture was taken.

That’s different from the keywords I apply in Lightroom which concern what the picture is of. For example, I have an excellent view of the tallest building in Thailand – Baiyoke Tower 2 – from my apartment. The geocode I apply is the position of the apartment. But the keywords tell me that it is of Baiyoke Tower.

The main reason I like my Nikon Coolpix P6000 camera is that it has integrated GPS. So on a good day, if the conditions are right, it places an eerily exact position in the EXIF metadata of every photo I take. (Sometimes it is amusingly inaccurate – see here – but that’s another story.)

Jeff Fridel has an excellent plugin for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom that allows you to geocode your pictures in a multitude of ways. I use two methods:

  1. Locate my position in Google Earth, import the lat/long and apply it to the picture.
  2. Copy the position from a photo that has been geocoded to others that are not. That works well for me when I use the P6000 with my Canon EOS-30D on the same trip. (It helps if the two cameras’ clocks show about the same time.)

If you have a stand alone GPS unit (I don’t) you can get it to produce a “track log” file – a series of time, lat, long records. Jeff’s plugin will work out how best to apply those values to your pictures. In this case it is vital that the GPS unit’s clock is the same as you camera’s.

Of course most photographers don’t have a GPS enabled camera and they are too busy to geocode their pictures manually. Sometimes I set myself a puzzle to find the exact location a photo was taken.

Here’s an example: a sample photo from Dpreview.com.

Where was this taken?

Where was this taken?

It’s pretty boring: a van parked outside a couple of shops. But I was able to find out exactly where it was. Here’s how:

  • I know that Dpreview is based in England, so the photo was most likely taken there. (Some aren’t – they threw in some from a trip to the USA a while ago.)
  • The telephone numbers on the two shops start 020 which I happen to know is the current dialing code for London. (When I last lived there all London numbers started 01- which definitely dates me.)
  • If I could see an entire number I could type it into a search engine and maybe it would come up with a business name and address. But in this case neither number is visible in full.
  • However, the name about the shop on the right looks like “Walter Purkis & Son”. I’d never heard of them, but Yahoo UK instantly told me they are a traditional fishmonger in North London. The web site at http://www.walterpurkisandsons.com/ solved the puzzle instantly. On the home page they have photos of their two branches. One is in Muswell Hill, N10: that wasn’t it. But the second branch in Crouch End, N8 looked precisely correct. The telephone number matched too.
  • So I copied the postal address, 17 The Broadway, Crouch End, London N8 8DU into Google Earth and it flew in seconds from Bangkok to North London (quite close, incidentally, to where I lived 30 years ago). I just wish airlines could traverse the globe as fast as Google Earth.
  • The view from 1,000m up is not very informative. Much of London looks pretty identical from that height. BUT – they had a Google Street View of that neighbourhood. I was able to click on a photo taken at approximately that location and see the Purkis’s shop and see that the shop to the left is “Broadway Fruiterers”.

Here are the Google Earth Street and Satellite Views plus a screen shot of the Purkis web site:

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2 Responses to “Where Was That Photo Taken?”

  1. Canon EOS-7D Review on Dpreview.com « Bkkphotographer's Blog Says:

    […] like their gallery of sample pictures. As always I try to work out where they took the pictures. Some are obvious, others are […]

  2. Geotagging My Posts « Bkkphotographer's Blog Says:

    […] a fan of geotagging all the pictures I take and even trying to geotag other interesting pictures I find so this is a natural […]

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