A Computer Darkroom Review

A number of readers have contacted me via e-mail to ask why I've not included any information on Lightroom 1.1's ability to use embedded GPS data to link up with Google Earth. The reason is actually quite simple - it's not a new feature. Nevertheless, folk have asked that some reference be made to the feature, so who am I to argue.


Some months back Martin Evening had used a number of  images from my photo shoot in Antarctica to illustrate an article he wrote on the subject of GPS and Google Maps for LightroomNews.  Martin's excellent article should provide sufficient information on how Lightroom handles GPS data in photos, etc but I've included a couple of screenshots to whet your appetite for the possibilities this feature offers.

Before travelling to Antarctica I had borrowed a Sony GPS-1 GPS recording device. Other than basic setup info I had no idea as to how it worked or if it even would work where I was going. I also didn't make a fuss about having it with me because with my luck it would likely have failed. Anyway, I used it when we landed in the Falkland Islands and again on South Georgia.


Click image for larger view

It wasn't until I returned home that I was able to convert and embed the data into the XMP sidecar file for each photo file. The software I used for this was LoadMyTracks to convert the Sony data to GPX and  GPS PhotoLinker to write the track data into my files. I'm sure that there are many alternatives, and those more familiar with GPS tagging will no doubt know quicker and/or easier ways.

Tip: Lightroom does not allow direct input or in-line editing of GPS data, in fact the GPS fields only appear in the metadata panel when you've selected an image that has GPS data already embedded.

If GPS data is found during photo import Lightroom may display one or more fields (e.g. GPS, Altitude, etc) in the EXIF panel of some metadata panels. An action arrow is placed on the right side of the GPS Longitude & Latitude field, pressing the action arrow will automatically, subject to you being connected to the internet, open your web browser at the Google Maps page for this location. Use the Google Map controls to zoom and navigate your way around. Anyway, without boring you any more with details; I've included an example screenshot from Google Earth. This next screenshot shows a satellite view of Stromness Harbour, South Georgia, which is the same location depicted above.

Click image for larger view

My experience of GPS tagging of images is fairly limited but given how successful it was during the trip, especially on the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, I expect that it will eventually take over from the voice annotation feature on my Canon 1DM2 - Wow, hold on a minute...


Lightroom 1.1 supports voice annotations, that is to say it will import any ".wav" files that it finds on your flashcard, i.e. so long as their name matches with the photos, they will then appear in the "All" and "Location"  metadata panels against the field name "Audio File". I've known for along time that Lightroom would import such files as sidecars, but up until now they were ignored. To find that Lightroom 1.1 can also use them is very welcome, but how did I go through a complete beta cycle without being aware of this new feature?

It was certainly discussed, but I don't recall any explicit statement to say that audio file support was to be included. The following screenshot shows how the audio file appears in the metadata panel. Clicking on the action button (right pointing arrow) plays the wav file associated with the photo.


Audio File Support - voice annotations are in!

OK, I still haven't answered the question as to how I missed the inclusion of this feature in Lightroom 1.1 update...

 I normally only record very basic info along with the first photo at any particular location, this way I don't end up filling the flashcard with gibberish about where I am and what it is I'm shooting. My normal workflow is to convert my photos to DNG when importing them into Lightroom, at the same time copying  the CR2 files to a backup disk. Since Lightroom 1.0 could not use the ".wav" file my normal practice was to delete the ".wav" file that gets copied to the same folder as the DNG files (a copy still stays with the CR2 files). No ".wav" file means no audio file field in the metadata panel - that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it ;-) Today (30 June) I decided to re-import some CR2 raw files from the South Georgia segment of my photo shoot to the South Atlantic and Antarctica.  It was only whilst capturing the screenshots to illustrate above section on GPS tagging that I spotted the new field, clicked the button and the words  "11th February 07 Stromness whaling station" boomed out of my speakers.

I subsequently discovered that whilst DNG does not yet support embedding of audio files the sidecar wav files can coexist alongside the DNG and will be picked up by Lightroom.


Audio sidecar files can coexist with DNG

Tip: Some cameras that otherwise support voice annotation of photos do not use the same file name for both the photo and annotation (my Canon PowerShot Pro1 falls into this category). If you find that this is the case for your camera you'll have to manually copy all of the files (photos and .wav files) to your hard disk, rename the .wav files to match the photos (don't change the extension). Once this process is completed import the photos into Lightroom, the .wav files will be imported as sidecars .

Lightroom 1.1 just keeps getting better... I wonder what else I missed?

Remember Rule 5 - Enjoy!

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