It's not all that easy getting photos saved away and presentable when I'm on a long hike away from home, but it can be done. This post is more a reminder to myself of how to get it all done.
What I'm after
When I'm hiking, I want to be able to upload pictures soon after I take them, choosing pictures that look acceptable with light editing at most. I also want to be able to title each photo them without needing a computer. I also anticipate uploading about 10 to 30 pictures a day, given that there isn't huge amounts of time when hiking, plus for people looking at the pictures it gets pretty boring to look at someone else's vacation snapshots. All of this should be able to be done on a mobile phone. I also want to prettify my blog with photos as I go,
Later, at home, I want to be able to edit the pictures as needed, add location data to each picture with a saved GPS track or manually, and also add additional descriptive data. These at-home edits should be updates, not replacements of my uploaded pictures.
What tools I use on the trail
For picture taking, I use a Sony RX-100M3. It has a two connectivity features I really like: it charges over a USB cable, and it can transfer pictures over wifi to my iPhone. It also has a flip-around screen for selfies, a wide-angle lens for landscapes, and a in-camera panorama mode to stitch together a lot of pictures into a wide image. The camera also takes full HD video, though I'm not planning on uploading any video from the trail.
My pictures are stored on Flickr, which I've used for 10 years. Flickr has a decent API so I can easily annotate my blog and bring in pictures.
I use my iPhone6, which I consider one of the ten modern essentials for backpacking. It has two apps, the Flickr app and the Sony PlayMemories app, to upload pictures, and I also use the iPhone's Photos app to do any quick edits, like cropping or adjusting highlights, shadows, and saturation.
To get a GPS track, I use a Garmin fenix3 watch. This watch syncs to the iPhone with the Garmin Connect app; the app uploads the GPS tracks to the Garmin Connect service if I'm in a place with cell service. The watch can save at least three weeks of GPS tracks, and probably more, which is handy for when I'm far away from cell service. It's a good watch for hiking, with a battery life of well over 12 hours. It also can receive temperature readings from a Garmin Tempe remote sensor and add them to the GPS log; not that I need that at all but it's kind of fun to have, especially when I wonder how cold it is at night, or how warm it is during the day. The sensor weighs 10 grams: the weight of two US nickels.
At the start of each day, I take a picture of the time, including seconds, on the watch. This is to compensate for drift in the camera's timestamp, so I can geotag pictures after getting home.
To upload the pictures from the camera to Flickr on the trail
I put the camera on "Play" to review pictures, mark the pictures I want to send, and then hit "send to smartphone". On the iPhone, I enable wifi, launch the PlayMemories app, and the pictures are downloaded to the phone's Camera Roll as JPGs (the camera converts them from RAW to JPG on the fly). I typically do this every night.
On the iPhone, I look through the pictures and do any quick edits in the Photos app.
If I'm in a place with cell service, I launch the Flickr app, and choose those pictures to upload, giving them all a generic caption like "PCT" or "Monday." Once the pictures are uploaded, I go back into the Flickr app and change the title of each picture to something better, and I also try to note what PCT mile the picture was taken in (at every Halfmile mile waypoint, I take a picture with my left hand signing the "ones" digit of the mile, so I can tell just by looking at the pics on the camera what mile a picture was taken in. I also take a picture of the trail northbound and southbound, I might make a timelapse movie of my journey someday, though without my mug in the frame like that other guy did. I'm not that pretty).
Once all the pictures on Flickr are correctly captioned, I can use them in my blog if I have cell service. I write my blog in about 30 minutes while dinner is cooking/rehydrating. To add pictures to the blog I use the Flickr iPhone app to get the the short Flickr url (which looks like http://flic.kr/p/sqE6HY and then insert that into the blog with a special tag. The blog is regenerated every day, usually in the early morning, Pacific time.
To edit and update pictures at home
This part is more complicated. I want to use the 'same' Flickr photos, adding some more information, while still preserving comments and views and favorites. I also sometimes want to replace the current picture, maybe after editing blown-out highlights or bad color balance: for instance, white and yellow wildflowers are tricky to get exposure right, and snow pictures are hard to get correct as well. I also want to geotag the picture so I know exactly where it was taken.
To do this, I use Lightroom 6, the jf Flickr plugin, and the jf Geoencoding plugin to do the heavy work. The plugins are available here: http://regex.info/blog/lightroom-goodies.
First steps: Get the pictures on the computer, and align them with Flickr
- Import the pictures from the camera SD cards into a Lightroom catalog. Do not change the image capture time, leave as it was when the camera took the picture.
- Select all the images, then in Lightroom choose File > Plug-in Extras > jf Flickr - Flickr Extras"
- Click the "Associate Images Automatically". This uses the image capture time to align pictures from the Lightroom photos with those up on Flickr.
- With the same set of images selected, choose "Import Image Metadata from Flickr". This brings in the photo titles I've added when on the trail into Lightroom as well (and GPS coordinates if the iPhone camera took the picture)
At this point, there'll be a lot of photos in the Lightroom catalog, but only some of those photos will be on Flickr.
Next: Change the capture time for the pictures
I do this with the pictures from a single day. This is needed to align the pictures with the GPS track.
- Open up a day's photographs in Lightroom, and select them all.
- Look for that picture of the watch, early in the day, and click on that one to select it. All the other photos should be selected as well.
- In Lightroom's menu, choose Metadata > Edit Capture Time, and enter the time shown on the watch.
All the pictures will now have the correct capture time.
Next: Geotag the pictures
- On the Garmin Connect site, find that day's GPS track (or tracks), and download the GPX track.
- In Lightroom, select all the pictures from the day if they're not already selected.
- Choose File > Plug-ins > jf Geoencoding Support
- Select the GPX track log with the Browse button
- Click the Geoencode Images button at the bottom of the dialog box.
- The plugin will associate a GPS location with the picture.
Some pictures won't get associated--maybe pictures after I stopped the GPS tracking on the watch. That's fine, if I want I can use Lightroom's Map module to add coordinates.
Next up is the fun part of editing pictures--deleting the bad ones, figuring out if I want any new pictures to be uploaded, replacing a picture on Flickr with one that's more in-focus or just better composed. This takes awhile.
Last: Republish to Flickr
To get them to Flickr, I've already created a Flickr Publish Service with the jf Flickr plugin to export and upload pictures to Flickr with certain settings, such as a max size of 1920 by 1280 pixels, and to the Flickr album "2015 PCT". When I'm done twiddling with a day's pictures, I drag the pictures I want onto that Lightroom Publish Service (in the Library module)to add them. I then click the Publish button to update Flickr.
That's it! Sounds complicated, but it takes maybe a couple of hours to revisit the pictures from a day, and often it's much faster. It's also just pleasurable to reminisce about the time on the trail, and to remember what things were like.