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March 14, 2008

GPS, Geotagging, Lightroom and Flickr

Filed under: Tanzania,Travels — stephane @ 12:56 am

I’m still in the process of reviewing pictures from Tanzania and have gone past the geotagging part. I have uploaded a few more on Flickr, and you can see what the result on it on the Flickr map.

The Yahoo! Satellite pictures are of terrible quality but still it’s pretty nice. If you want to be more fancy you can use Google Earth via the KML feed.

Burchell's zebra

I’ll give a bit more details on how I’m doing things. It’s far from optimal and there’s still and long way to go, but tools are getting there and my workflow will learn from this.

In January, in anticipation of the trip, I bought a Super Trackstick GPS data logger. The objective was to use it to log waypoints without having to bother much about batteries as it could supposedly last several weeks due to a motion sensor and configurable intervals and wobble. I had a bit of a trouble actually locking on GPS signals while in the Netherlands (which is not exactly known for its tall buildings and mountain-filled landscape) but I took it on the trip.

The Kilimanjaro hike can be classified as mostly a failure in term of waypoints collection. I could get GPS locks fairly easily, but due to my lack of use with the Trackstick and my fear it would suck a massive amount of batteries, what I did was actually to switch it on and off at interesting points and when taking pictures (and when I did not forget about it).

It was badly configured so there are no chance I could keep the bugger running for 7-days, the settings I had would have filled the 4MB memory in about 2 to 3 days.

The TrackStick eats batteries like popcorn in some occasion (ie: sometimes it seems to lock and drain batteries faster than you can blink). In any case, I got about 550 waypoints in 6 days and it died before reaching the summit so I got 0 waypoints on the last ascent. I was busy enough ascending and putting one foot after the other.

Problem with the TrackStick is also that once you’re in the wild, forget about changing the settings, you’re stuck with it as you need your laptop and the software to reconfigure it. (Well you could bring your laptop on the mountain and a solar panel, but I’m not yet in that camp)

When I got back to town and before going on a safari, I set it to saving mode and log every 15s and bought a set of new alkaline batteries. (I naively thought that 8 aaa 1000mAh rechargeable batteries would be enough so I did not bring the charger).

During the road trip and the whole safari, I had generally no problem getting a lock, I managed to get about 3500 GPS waypoints per day (that’s a lot of data and is actually too much) and most pictures do have an associated GPS waypoint within an acceptable range. I used a 300s maximum time difference with no interpolation (closest point).

The one that don’t actually have any match are when the GPS was not running (early morning, late evening) but those could be set manually as they are well-known location (camp or hotel location, etc..)

A bit of a warning when doing the geotagging though, timezone is not recorded on EXIF and I always set the camera to local time. GPS time is recorded on UTC so my pictures do have a +3 offset.

For geotagging, I googled around and tried GPicSync which is basic but did the job very well (like many similar tools, it’s using exiftool behind the hood, so forking a process per image is not exactly blazingly fast). I converted the trackstick logfiles to GPX format and applied the corresponding one to the appropriate folders (I classify pictures by day – so each folder is named ‘yyyy-mm-dd’).

When you need to geotag pictures one by one, though, it falls short. So what I did with the one that don’t have any waypoint was to use geosetter, save the GPS template for the known GPS coordinates and apply it to the ‘missing’ pictures.

I tried the LightRoom geotag plugin but it failed all over the place and was not consistent in its execution so I gave up for that.

March 4, 2008

Back from Tanzania. Summited Kilimanjaro

Filed under: Tanzania,Travels — stephane @ 1:40 pm

I’m just back from 2 excellent weeks of vacation in Tanzania, the first week was a Kilimanjaro climb on the Machame route for 7 days followed by a 7-day photo safari in Lake Manyara, Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater. We had incredible weather during our climb and it was quite something to be at the top for sunrise. The safari was awesome as well, we saw a lot and had a couple of nice picture opportunities. It was 2 weeks of vacation that felt like 2 months.

I should have something around 2000 pictures which I will try to process in the next few days. A

I posted 2 pictures on Flickr for starters:

The top of Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Peak around 6:30am

and a lion cub in the Serengeti.

More pictures to come in the next couple of days and I will try to give more details of the trip and recommendations as well.

February 2, 2008

Vacation to Tanzania

Filed under: Software,Tanzania — stephane @ 8:18 pm

Finally, after multiple problems, it looks like I’m one step closer to vacation. I’ll be going to Tanzania for 2 weeks on Feb. 17. I’ll try to summit Kilimanjaro (5,895m) the first week and the second week will be a safari in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro. Living in the Netherlands at sea level (or below sea level) is not the best preparation and working in a startup is not either but fingers crossed…

My colleague @ Joost, Allan, is joining me for the trip, so we’ll be doing a private safari just to try to make the most out of it and have all the time we want photography-wise.

We’ll be joining a group for the Kili climb as it’s a bit more fun to be with people.

The preparation was a bit unfortunate as I was initially planning to go for 3 weeks through Nairobi and stay a third week by myself to do another safari in Kenya through Masai Mara and Lake Nakuru. I was in contact with the new owners of the Wildebeest Camp in Nairobi (which are actually taking over Nairobi Backpackers) and had everything sorted out…and the next day after the problems in Kenya started, communication went silent.

After waiting patiently 10 days, I had to restart from zero. So the best option for us was to fly to Moshi (JRO airport) directly. It is unfortunately much more expensive than NBO, especially when you book it so late, the flight price is now outrageously expensive.

I think I’ll try to do another trip to Kenya at the end of this year or next year. I’d like to cumulate that with Uganda to see gorillas.. I went about 20 years ago see them at the border of Congo (ex-Zaire) and Rwanda, while I was living in Burundi and this was an incredible moment. Now I’d like to take pictures of those incredible animals.

December 11, 2007

Kilimanjaro

Filed under: Kenya,Tanzania — stephane @ 6:19 pm

This came up recently as another thing to do for 2008 and probably a good way to start the first quarter.

Five years ago while on my round-the-world trip, I went to Mount Kenya (4,895m). For many reasons, this was one of the most dangerous thing I have done, partly due to a swedish guy screaming of pain from sickness the night before the final climb, his girlfriend that tried to get to a nearby hill to catch some mobile signal to call for rescue and was caught by the night without a lamp, my guide that realized he forgot his head lamp and both of us doing the final climb in the middle of the night pitch dark with just my head lamp to show us the way, escaping some small falling rocks and climbing just before sunrise the last couple meters of a ice and rock from a totally wrong route and….finally enjoying the massive ball of fire at sunrise.

I cannot believe it has been five years already.

I’m aiming to hopefully get to the summit of Kilimanjaro (5,895m) this year, and this while being totally out of shape and living under sea level.

I did not take a single day of vacation since last year and had some remaining from the previous year so I have a severe backlog to exhaust… By the time I leave this should probably account for more than 7 weeks.

Which would translate to more than I wanted to go to Namibia last year but I somehow decided to cancel it for work reasons (I should have stayed committed in the first place, staying for work reasons did not really serve any decent purpose).

So dream plan would be to spend 3 weeks in kenya/tanzania and 4 weeks in namibia/botswana and later take the scuba diving gear to dive somewhere to be determined.

Ah and some day I will need to train seriously for a marathon. If I manage to train somewhat half seriously this year I would definitely like to spice the year with a couple of running events. (which would really be a good motivation to lose some weight…).

Back to drawing board and see how I can get that happening.

May 4, 2003

Dar Es Salaam

Filed under: Tanzania — stephane @ 5:14 pm

I’m on my way to Nairobi. I took the ferry fron Stonetown to Dar Es Salaam at 1:30PM and ended up staying at the Safari Inn (7800Tsh single, 13200TSh double). After eating for about $1 a day in Stonetown for about a week due to Barclays Bank UK declining my VISA card for some day and preventing me to get any cash (For the record, as of now there is no ATM in Zanzibar so the only way is to use the cash advance service of Coastal Travels) I decided to treat myself and eat to in a luxury hotel. I wanted to eat real nice food (I am French, right ?)
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