Sometimes the mystery of an image is in not knowing – above is place tropical, tranquil, and totally lost in the imagination.
More often knowing exactly where it is becomes critical – 29° 59’55” N at 85° 32’09” W – for charting the pre-birth kicks and wiggles of an emerging sand cay.
I remember the first time exactness of place became critical. In desperation I turned to a newly emerged web technology, Google Earth, to find a photo location. My photo agent had a client wishing to use an image I had created above the Caribbean years early. The helicopter view not 2-D mapable.
After a couple of hours of spinning Google Earth around on its head (axis actually – it was our heads that were spinning) we (it took a few of the staff) confirmed from which angle in the Grenadines Islands it was created – whew!!
Since then I have struggled with shooting from the air and tracking the photo locations. On the Gulf for example a typical flight last several hours and usually sees me create 700-1000 images. I generally have a pretty good memory for my photos, but lets face it, after a few dozen maze-like marsh shots they begin to blur. The solution? A direct link to Google Earth? Just about – GPS every image.
So with the help of Canon’s Mike Gurley we sorted out a super simple and elegant solution using the Canon wireless unit WFT-E5A on the 7D body, linked by Bluetooth from the WFT’s USB port to a GPS unit (for the test Mike loaned me his OnCourse GB737 the critical issue here is output data compatibility – it must be NMEA 0183 Ver. 3.0 or higher to sync) This week I will be testing the same set up with a variety of Garmin GPS units, more on that after the test.
While using the set up is simple you need to get the initial ‘pairing’ right – here is the step-by-step run through for the 7D:
1. Install Bluetooth (BT) dongle in USB port on WFT unit.
2. Turn On Camera
3.Press Menu -> navigate to Wrench1 Icon
4. Curser down to WFT- Press Set button “SB “(round button in dial)
Menu down to USB Device Connec.
5. SB-> Category-Bluetooth SB
6. Menu Down to Connect
Pop Up says Connect-Select OK Press SB
PopUp says connecting to USB
PopUp Says USB device is connected – Press SB for OK
7. Menu says- USB device connec.- Select
Bluetooth device Connection
GPS Not Connected
Turn on GPS unit and prepare to “Pair”
Pres SB and it will try to connect to the GPS.
To collect the GPS information on the above berm photo just download the image and I search either in PhotoShop info or in Lightroom’s Metadata field (example below.)
Is there any image that doesn’t need coordinates? Not really. I have a box of historic photos I’ve collected from around the world during my travels – I so wish I could click, or scan, or open some magical device and know that place – and then begin the exploration in earnest.
What I didn’t test was the use of multiple Canon 7Ds linked to the single GPS unit. That is another test I will be doing over the coming week. Obviously if several cameras can be linked it simplifies the set up enormously. Theoretically it should be fine as Canon literature states up to 10 cameras can be linked wirelessly.
The whole package is very small and simple – only three parts. Plan to spend around $700-$900 (depending on GPS) – but the results for me are priceless. Here are some issues you need to be aware of – look at them as challenges to a great end result.
1. It is critical that you mount the GPS unit in a place that avoids obstruction to the satellites.
2. This device requires an extra battery for itself. You still need a battery in the camera. The power source is not being shared/pooled, so you NEED TWO SEPARATE BATTERIES (same model as the one that goes into the 7D body). This part is very different from battery grip BG-Ex series. Then, as you may realize, you have to take this wifi grip off to take the battery from the camera itself for charging. It’s quite cumbersome. Canon – we need a better design, or at least an external charger that I can plug into this whole setup and charge both batteries simultaneously.
3. The Bluetooth toggle pokes out and can get snapped off. Fortunately the USB mount for the Bluetooth is out of the base of the WFT on the left – the way I hold the camera body helps prevent damage to the Bluetooth, but I see issues. For my tests I have ordered a very tiny ‘nub’ of a Bluetooth, the “IOGear USB 2.1 Bluetooth Micro Adapter GBU421”. I trust Canon will come up with a future WFT model that is Bluetooth enabled – heck, maybe even the GPS built-in and avoid the whole issue.
Update to this article posted: Geo Tracking with Canon 7D