Thursday, August 26, 2010

Identifying your travel photos when you return home - Part I

Just where is this place - In Paris?It's the classic problem of the vacation traveler. After two weeks away, you begin to review your travel photos, a few days or weeks later, and you can't remember where you took many of them, and what the buildings and scenes in them are.

While traveling, you can ensure you will be able to identify your photographs through easy to use, inexpensive, low-tech techniques. While high-tech methods, can also help handle image identification, even these can sometimes get a needed boost from more down to earth methods.

High-tech identification methods, while great, can sometimes fail, so every photographer, even a casual vacation photographer, should be familiar with the low-tech, failsafe photo identification methods I discuss below. During my recent trip to the Baltic region of Europe, my GPS, attached to my DSLR, died in Stockholm. I reverted to the low-tech techniques, which worked beautifully for me.

Journal Identification:

Writing a journal of one's photographs is the “tried and true” method of keeping track of your photographic journey away from home. I still have my Moleskine pocket notebooks with a listing of the locations, times and critical details of my photographic treks.

You can key your information to the photo number in your camera. For me, it's easy to do so because the file number of each photograph is displayed on the LCD screen of my DSLR when I review the photos.
TIP: On virtually every digital camera I've owned or reviewed there are two options for the camera to assign file name numbers to the photographs' files. The camera will either reset the number to “1” for each memory card as your format them, or will number all the photographs consecutively from photo to photo, irrespective of your memory cards, starting at 0001, and typically continuing to 9999, when it restarts at 0001.
I suggest turning the format number reset off, and letting the camera assign consecutive numbers regardless of the memory card. This has two main advantages.
First, it makes it easier to track your photographs with your journal or other record keeping methods.
Second, when you copy your photographs to your computer, if you have filled more than one memory card with photos taken of the same general location, you can put all the images together in a single folder as none will have the same file name.
An upside of using a Journal is you can easily insert comments and supplementary information about your photographs in its pages. That can make your journal more useful than just a list of photographs. The downside is that it's time consuming, and can sometimes become incomplete when one becomes frustrated with the process.

Map Identification:

Map of Central Stockholm, SwedenWhen I was regularly keeping a photographic journal as my main photo identification tool while traveling, I coupled its use with map identification. When photographing in cities I still use map identification as part of my routine of tracking my images.

Map Identification consists of marking your position on a map when you make your photographs periodically with the number of image. By the time you're done, you have a series of breadcrumbs showing your path of travel and where you made your photographs.
TIP: If you're staying in an area or city for a number of days, either use a different copy of your map for each day, or use a different colored pencil for each day. I always use a pencil on the maps not a pen, to prevent smearing, especially if the map gets wet. Make sure you have a bag or something else to protect the map in case of rain.
Identifier Photos:
Identifier PhotographThis is one of the easiest methods to use to locate your photos. Using this method you intersperse photos of street signs, building or park signs, well known, easily identified landmarks, etc. I often take pictures like this, even when using my GPS on my DSLR, as it really helps you zero into your photos.
TIP: along with identifier photos, while traveling, collect brochures, pamphlets, cards, and other materials from places you are visiting. They will help you identify your photos.
Once home, with your identifying information in hand, a fantastic tool for you to use is the Internet to help you accurately identify your photos utilizing your information and the photos themselves.

Use Google Maps and Google Earth to help, along with tourism sites for the locations you've visited. Online maps often have the museums, government buildings and important buildings, locales, and works of art, named right on the maps, plus you'll often see photos of them attached to the maps.
The tourism sites will refresh your memory and have resources and photos to help you identify your own photos.

Another resource I've used is Flickr advanced search. You can do searches there, especially in their Creative Commons area and turn up photos similar to your own with detailed photo captions which are helpful.

Next week I'll discuss using GPS technology and other high-tech methods to help you identify your travel photographs.


Irv in San Francisco said...

Ned, somehow you constantly come up with articles and suggestions, which are easy, practical, and somehow we never think of them, but you do. This is one of them.

Great ideas.


Zoe in DC said...

It's interesting Ned, that virtually everything you've written in this article seems absolutely obvious, after you said it, but except for the idea of a journal, I certainly never thought of any these ideas.

Thanks. I'm looking forward to Part II.

Stephen said...

Breadcrumbs on a map. Now why didn't I think of that years ago?

Jan said...

When my ex was taking photos of signs I always thought he was just wasting film. Now I know what he was doing.

Bill Straube said...

All great ideas. I have found that I am now much more aggressive taking pictures of signs as I go. That was reinforced by a pro rodeo photographer. While all the other pro's dropped their cameras, reached for their back pockets and the notebook, brought it up to write the image number on it, then reversed the process, this pro just turned around and took a picture of the scoreboard. It's quicker, simpler, and much more accurate.

I find that we return with brochures, souvenir tickets, maps, etc. I just scan those and file them in the stacks of images from those places. It has cut down on the amount of clutter around the house.

Archie - Houston Texas said...

Ned, hi from Edinburgh. We arrived today and have already gotten a map for each day to keep track of our photos. Thanks for the wonderful column.

Stef - LA said...

Hi Ned. I just changed my camera to consecutive photo numbering. It's a great idea. I've had the problem with multiple folders, just as you described in the article.


Post a Comment