Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

GeoPic II Geotagging for Nikon DSLRs

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

In preparation for upcoming travels to exotic locales, including the Canadian Maritimes, Ecuador, and Peru, I figured it might be nice to automatically geo-tag the photos I take along the way. Geotagging refers to applying positional information to a data source, in this case the photos themselves. Such positional information can include the GPS coordinates, altitude, and even orientation from which the photo was taken.

While it’s certainly possible to record this sort of information manually using a separate GPS and then use a program like Lightroom or a site like Yahoo!’s Flickr to geotag your photos, it’s a real hassle to do it that way. Some cameras (and camera phones, of course) have GPS capabilities built in, but for higher end cameras, like the Nikon D300 DSLR I presently shoot, there is no built in GPS feature.

Enter the GeoPic II from Custom Idea.

I ordered mine from B&H Photo for just under $300 and have been playing with it a bit for the last week in New York City and have some pros and cons to share.

First and foremost, using a GPS geotagging device in the canyons of New York City is a bad idea. It just doesn’t work very well because the GeoPic II has a very difficult time getting a GPS lock with all those tall buildings around. And of course, don’t even bother trying to start it up indoors.

The couple of times I managed to find some open space, it did lock to the GPS satellites pretty quickly, and stayed locked until sky visibility became adverse again. I have now resolved myself to using the GeoPic II on my non-urban jungle expeditions – that should be fine with trips to Costa Rica, the Canadian Maritimes, and South America all coming up in the next few months.

The next thing to realize is that the GeoPic II is dependent on the power supply of the camera. For normal use this will reduce the number of photos you can take off a full-charged battery by about half. This design decision to use the camera’s battery creates a very compact geotagging device, but if things go awry with your camera (like leaving it on, in a backpack where there may be pressure on the GeoPic II’s sole button control), it can drain the camera’s battery to nothing. Fortunately, when it happened to me (being the anal retentive king of redundancy that I am), I had a spare battery available, which saved my day. My suggestion – disconnect the GeoPic II when not in use for a while.

That brings me to another point – the GeoPic II, at least on the Nikon DSLRs, connects through the 10-pin control port on the front of the camera. It’s a bit of a trick to be able to smoothly and quickly plug the device in, especially as you need to then rotate the screw-on base for a secure connection. That’s not easy with my big fingers, but I found I got better at it over time. However, one issue I do have is that if I use a remote trigger like the Nikon MC-36 it means I cannot use the GeoPic II at the same time, since the remote cords require the exclusive use of the 10-pin control port too. And the times when I want to use a remote trigger are the same ones (big lens, tripod, no shake – night time and/or nature photo) for which I would love to know where I was when I took the photo. I will have to work something out to juggle between the two uses of the 10-pin port – and once I do, I will probably post something here.

The final annoyance, a minor one, is that the user interface for setting the various operational features of the GeoPic II is rather clunky. It involves counting the number of blinks and color of a single LED, all whilst holding the shutter release on the camera half way down. I would have happily paid another $50 for a few more buttons (the GeoPic II has one button on it) and a small LCD display to give a real status of the device and far easier and better control.

All those things, however, don’t change the fact that the GeoPic II does do what it is supposed to (local conditions permitting), namely adding a GPS location and altitude to your photos. When you combine that with a program like Adobe Lightroom (my absolutely favorite photo management software), you can see where you took your photo from, since Lightroom allows you to go to Google Maps with a single click of the mouse on a geotagged photo (you need to click on the little arrow next to the GPS position in the photo’s metadata in Library mode).

If any of my opinions change in the coming months as I use the GeoPic II in the great outdoors I will add some notes here. However, for now, I give the Geo Pic II a 6.0 on The Richter Scale. That score could be improved significantly by better (more) controls and feedback from the device via an LCD or other read out, as well as some way to use the GeoPic II with with a remote cord.

Diving with the Nikon D200

Saturday, November 11th, 2006

Back in August I had picked up a Subal housing with a pair of Sea & Sea YS-90 strobes so I could take my Nikon D200 underwater. As fate would have it, travel and a general lack of time kept me out of the water here on Bonaire, until yesterday.

I finally got a chance to both take the hour or more that it took to unwrap the housing and accessories and rig up my D200 DSLR, without leaks, and then take a nice leisurely hour-plus dive with friends Martin de Weger and Sebastian Schulherr. Martin is Dutch, Seb is from New York City, and both are long time repeat Bonaire visitors as well as moderators of BonaireTalk.

This was to be Martin’s 600th logged dive, and it was a nice one. We also did a thorough cleaning of the Bonaire ReefCam, one of the many WebCams on Bonaire that I am responsible for maintain and operating.

In any event, it had been perhaps five years since I last dove with a camera housed in a metal case, and I had forgotten about the 4-5 pounds of additional weight, so I had to work a bit harder to stay buoyant than I otherwise would.

The housed D200 is a pleasure to work with, though, especially as I get to use my strobes in TTL thanks to a little gadget from Sea & Sea which allows the YS-90s to sync properly to the iTTL of the Nikon D200. I never liked manual strobe twiddling and this gadget gives me yet another excuse to not need to bother with that.

I can tell however, that I will definitely need a fair number of additional dives with this rig in order to have it feel as comfortable as my old Nikon 8008s, which I had in a Subal housing as well, back five or more years ago.

I am pleased, though, that the D200 handles much more as did the old film SLRs underwater than do the present generation (and earlier) digital point and shoots. Fast focusing, great light balance, and the ability to immediately determine if my subject was in focus.

For those wanting to see my initial results (these all shot with the standard Nikon 18-70mm DX zoom lens), take a look at my visual dive log.

Queen Beatrix Visits Bonaire

Friday, November 10th, 2006

Outsiders often don’t quite understand the relation of Bonaire to Holland. Some assume our island is part of Holland, but it isn’t at present. But it will be next year as the Netherlands Antilles get dissolved.

What Bonaire is at present is one of five islands in the country of the Netherlands Antilles (the other four being Curacao, Sint Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius), and the Netherlands Antilles are in turn part of the Dutch kingdom (or more appropriately, Queendom).

And our monarch here is Her Royal Majesty, Queen Beatrix of the Royal House of Oranje (hope I got that all right).

Queen Beatrix is paying Aruba (another country under the Dutch kingdom) and the Netherlands Antilles a visit this week.

A couple of days ago she arrived with much fanfare on Bonaire – her first stop in the Netherlands Antilles. She was greeted by members of the Antillean government as well as Bonaire’s own Lt. Governor. Because of my work on Bonaire Insider, my partner Susan Davis and I were granted a press pass and were able to take a fair number of pictures (see here and here) and trail along with her entourage for several of her stops on the island. And then yesterday, I met the Queen personally as one of the artists whose works were on display at the exhibition she opened at Kas di Arte.


That’s me handing the Queen a small token of appreciation from Linda and myself (photo by Herman Leeuwen).

What struck me the most about the Queen’s visit is the genuine love, admiration, and enthusiasm her subjects on Bonaire have for her. There was regular cheering whereever she showed up, and a real sense of pride among all the people that yes, this was their Queen.

I must say that Queen Beatrix certainly exuded an amazing amount of charm and friendliness. One look at her and her warm smile, and you just sensed that she was a nice person. Or at least that was my first gut reaction. But our Dutch house guests (one of whom is a big fan of the Queen) say that perception is very true. What also amazed our house guests and us alike was how freely she mingled with the crowds. While there were body guards in evidence, they were typically at a distance, giving the Queen free reign (pun intended).


My daugter Krystyana (holding the flag) was one of many of the local school children greeting the Queen at the airport when she arrived. The Queen just walked out of the airport luggage area by herself before Krystyana had time to register who it was, apparently (photo by Susan Davis).

Certainly Queen Beatrix does not have the power of someone like my (as an American) president, George W. Bush, but she does seem to have nearly universal approval, something Bush does not, and for me that was a very stark contrast.

Queen Beatrix left Bonaire for Sint Maarten this morning and life is returning to normal here on Bonaire once again.

Unknown Box Jellyfish Species?

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

A friend of mine in the U.S. is a professional amateur jellyfishologist (as best I can describe him), and for some years he has been trying to track down a particularly rare type of box jellyfish which he believes has not yet actually been properly IDed and classified. And I’ve been trying to help him here on Bonaire. It started with a promotional video someone here on Bonaire shot some years ago, that just happened to have a scene where the videographer was swimming with the particular box (cubazoid) jellyfish my friend Bud was looking for.

That was several years ago. Since then, there have been a few rare sightings of this critter – identified by four long tentacles which are brown/white banded – similar to a sea wasp, but a lot more toxic. But in recent weeks there have been several reports of people seeing this box jelly.

And on Sunday, a teen aged girl a few minute walk from my house was unfortunate enough to have found out how dangerous the sting could be. She’s apparently doing well now, but did end up going to the hospital. Through a combination of efforts described on a thread on the BonaireTalk web site, I ended up with the jellyfish in question, and in the image above you can see my wife Linda holding the still live jellyfish down with her finger in a rubber glove so I could take a picture to send to Bud for him to forward to the various scientists he works with.

More pictures can be found here, along with information on how the pictures were taken.

The next step will be to get the jellyfish – which I now have preserved in formalin – a watered down version of formaldehyde (that nasty smelling carcinogenic liquid you may recall from biology class, as it was what the frogs we had to dissect were stored in) – to the U.S. for DNA analysis.

And one final D200 image from Times Square

Thursday, February 16th, 2006

And here’s one final image from my test shoot around Times Square a couple of weeks ago.

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I saw a few of these around. Basically six additional people can hop on these contraptions and bicycle their way down Broadway. No idea how much the guy charges, nor why someone would want to risk life and limb peddling backwards in chaotic traffic in freezing weather, but hey, it takes all sorts.

Times Square with the D200

Thursday, February 16th, 2006

Here’s another image from my test shoot around Times Square a couple of weeks ago, showing some of the more prurient aspects of Times Square.

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As this post is being sent from e-mail, the image is cropped to 320×240 – the original portrait mode image has much better compositional elements. But again, this is all natural lighting.