The Qstarz travel recorder in use
As I mentioned earlier the Qstarz travel recorder is not just hardware, but an entire workflow system. As there is no GPS embedded in the digital camera there is no capability to record the position where a picture was taken.
The Qstarz travel recorder system allows any digital picture to be "Geo-referenced". Each picture produced by a digital camera is typically in a .jpg format. The file data not only has the image but also a number of attributes associated with the picture. This adheres to a specification known as EXIF data, and typically includes such information as Camera Type, Image Taken date and time, Exposure, Flash, and other details.
Although digital cameras rarely have GPS connectivity part of the EXIF specification is to save the position of the image. Now if you have an EXIF editor you could work out exactly where you took the picture and then edit the file manually. I doubt if that would work with more than a few pictures. I don't know about you but I will often take hundreds of pictures on a photo trip. I could never remember where they were all taken.
This is where the Qstarz Travel Recorder comes into play. The Qstarz BT-Q1000 records your track as you move around saving a position point ever second. This has a time stamp plus the Latitude and Longitude.
When you take a picture on your camera the camera writes the EXIF data including the timestamp of when the picture was taken. To accurately match your photo to the datalogger's track recording the data and time on the camera need to be set reasonably accurately. It is impossible to synchronise them exactly, but you should be able to get them to within a few seconds.
When I take photos I always spend some time setting up and composing my images. This has the effect of allowing the position to settle down and the GPS to get a good fix before I start to take a picture. Any discrepancies in the time of the camera will then be eliminated. As a habit I generally have my camera's date and time set to GMT. This also is the time zone that the GPS satellites use, but you can use any time setting as long as it is consistent.
So your pictures have been taken and you have got back home (or like me to the hotel) and want to quickly process the images. The first step is to download the TravelRecorder application.
To do this you have to connect the BT-Q1000 datalogger to the PC (sorry no Mac compatibility) via the supplied USB cable and switch the datalogger to LOG. Although the Datalogger is bluetooth the BT interface is only used for navigation, not for data download. The application is configured for comports 1 to 30. My device connected at Com44. I had to get round this by forcing it to Com2 using the Device Manager in the Control Panel. Note that the Baud rate must be set to 115200 or the application will not see the GPS datalogger.
When you have made the connection select the data log list option and quickly click the "Stop Log" button. If you are lucky you will do this before the GPS gets a fix and logs a trackpoint at your current location. There are no facilities to to edit or truncate the log file.
The next action is to hit Download. This may take a while if you have a large track stored. When the device was about 65% full it took over 5 minutes to download. Don't worry though you get a progress meter so you can see it working.
I always save the data now. You can save it in a number of formats: CSV, KML (for Google Earth) or NMA. I always save it in CSV and NMA formats. If you want to reload it into the TravelRecorder application it must be saved as CSV.
The position data will be displayed in the spreadsheet style panel where you can scroll down and examine the data. The data can now be displayed in Google Earth using the "Draw Map" button, but the selection criteria and display options are not user friendly. I find it easier to save the data as a KLM file and use that to launch Google Earth.
If you are happy that you have adequate copies of the tracklog you can now hit the erase button and clear the GPS Datalogger memory. This can take a little while as well but once again you get a progress meter showing you it is working away...
The next step in the process is to match your pictures and the just saved tracklog. This is done using another application called Locr. Locr is (currently) a free to use community site which provides an interface for you to upload you images to the website, and to set location details for them as well. This is further enhanced by the locr GPS Photo application which matches a GPS track log with the image files.
The locr GPS Photo application is bundled with the Qstarz Travel Recorder, but can be downloaded and used without a GPS track.
One of the important panels here is the time adjust. This allows you to tune the difference in time between the camera setting and your computer. If this is wrong then it will not match up the image to the track log correctly. I found this out when trying to upload and locate my pictures in Dubai. The hotel PC I was using was obviously set for Dubai time. It took me quite a while to work out what was wrong.
Anyway once that was sorted I was able to check that the pictures were in the correct locations simply by adding the photos from the cameras (yes I did take more than one) and then loading in the Qstarz track log. Pictures that had a matching location were highlighted in green. You can go and verify these picture locations simply by clicking on them. You need to be connected to the internet for this as it uses Google Maps to display the location. I like to use the hybrid option as this shows the road map overlaying satellite imagery.
When you are happy with the positioning click on the "Automatic geotagging" button to add the location data to image file.
Warning. This action changes the data in your picture files. It is advised that you perform this on copies of your pictures rather than the originals. I have had 2 occasions when the files have been corrupted during my testing.
Now the location is embedded within the picture file you can use it in any application that uses the Location in the EXIF data. One such application is the locr website. When you upload the image it recognises that the location has been set and displays both the image and a map of the location.
There have been a couple of occasions when for some unknown reason a track was not recorded correctly and didn't match my photos up. I was certain that I had waited until I had a GPS fix before taking the pictures. I also managed to get the locr to fail when reading some image files, I never managed to identify what the cause was as the image files all displayed fine on the PC.
Click here see a selection of my images that were geo-referenced using this system.