Organizing photos – geographically

Continuing the intermittent series on organization, today’s topic is geotagging.

As mentioned before, I tend to remember when and where I took a photo. Thus keeping a geographic record is an important part of my organizational strategy.

Ah, but how do we do this? In the days before asset managers such as Lightroom, I used notes, and tended to place said notes in the boxes with the photographs… or in text files in directories during the early digital era. With digital I often make it a point to snap a photo of a road intersection or sign (often both).

One of my cameras has support for automatic GPS tagging, and some of the time I use that (but not always since the GPS module sits in the hotshoe connector). But the other two cameras don’t support it at all.

If you have automatic systems available, use that – it’s far more accurate, and on the Pentax system you’ll even find out which direction the camera was facing. But if not, then it’s off to doing it manually… locating the position and tagging photos individually.

I’ve tried various add-on products which claim to help; several of which rely on smartphone GPS and timestamping and try to match the two up afterwards. But – this assumes the camera’s clock is truly accurate… and most aren’t really up to the task. Some of this is overkill on the part of a software designer (it’s idiotic to try to match diverse items down into the millisecond range without external synchronization), but some is also due to the differences in how various phones update position reports.

In Lightroom you can use the metadata filtering to quickly locate photos without coordinates; and the map subsystem allows you to save a handful of locations.

Pro tip: don’t let years pass by before geotagging. ‘Tis much more difficult to find locations when the roads have changed and the landmarks gone and buildings obliterated.



Getting Organized – photo edition!

Thus starts a series of posts on the topic of organizing photos.

There are lots of ways to organize photos, and I tend to use most of them. I use Adobe Lightroom as the principal asset manager. Lightroom is based on a catalog system. I have two principal catalogs, based on camera type – “Master” for the APS-C / scanned / Q photos, and “Phone” for the various cellphone photos. I also use a few special catalogs for book and calendar projects.

Back to the “Master” catalog. As of this writing (July 2016) there are about 20,000 items in the catalog… and how do I find anything in such a collection?

I organize this in several ways. The initial sort is done by date; with folders for each year, then each month in the year, and then by day within the month. Thus photos from today would land in “2016/2016-07-July/07-20-2016.” Note this is a physical organization (how the storage is laid out on disk).

Next up are the keywords, followed by geotagging. I tend to think in terms of time and location, thus I prioritize the geotagging ahead of keywording. Sometimes this leads to problems, especially if I didn’t take notes in the field (or a significant time has elapsed since shooting).

In addition to geotagging and keywords, there is the metadata recorded by the camera; ie. make/model of camera, lens type, and the usual exposure information. Also I use color coding in Lightroom – blue for items displayed on Facebook, green for items sent to SmugMug, yellow for special events, and purple for experimental stuff.

I’ll have separate posts on geotagging and keywords.


The Farm Journal Map

A persistent area of interest for me is cartography; the science of mapmaking. I have a substantial collection of maps (both printed and digital), including a few that I’ve made. However it’s historical maps which are often of the greatest interest, for those point out features which may be worth photographing (especially churches and railroad structures).

Rutgers University has an online resource for maps at the Rutgers Cartography Lab. One of the maps in the collection is a 1913 Farm Journal map of southern New Jersey.

1913 map south jersey from Rutgers
Clicking on map takes you to image source – which you can enlarge.

One quickly notices a proliferation of small red numbers labelling every road. What are these numbers?

To understand that, we have to think about the purpose of this map. It was published by the Farm Journal of Philadelphia, as a finder’s aid to go with their Directories. A directory was published for each county in the Farm Journal’s coverage region (which in 1913 comprised most of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland). For Gloucester County New Jersey, the corresponding directory is online in digital form at

Once you see the directory, it becomes clear what the numbers are – they’re road numbers, similar to a modern [printed] map’s row-column index. In 1913 few roads outside of a town had names; and if they did, it was to name the endpoints (Williamstown-Glassboro Road) or a prominent feature (Alms House Road). Thus for a directory and map to be of any use, the publisher had to impose some form of organization.

To understand how this works in practice, an example is in order.

From the directory for Deptford Township, I’ve extracted this fragment, and highlighted one entry in yellow, two in light orange. In yellow, Chas Alley is a shoe cutter located near Almonesson on H19 (a road marked on the map). The orange highlights are for H33 near Blackwood.


Looking on the map, road 19 is quite visible as a segment just northeast of Almonesson; and road 33 is the stretch between Fairview and Blackwood.


The roads are numbered starting in the northwest corner of each township and ending in the southeast corner… or from upper-left to lower-right.

A tale of two states – comparing food prices

Yes, this is a post about supermarkets.

Fresh Market is an upscale market, concentrating on fresh food (wow!), trading on the organic foods fad… it competes with Whole Foods and Trader Joes on a national level. In the Northeast, Wegmans is also a competitor. Fresh Market is the closest store to my home, thus I’m very familiar with its prices on my basic food items.

In New Jersey, Fresh Market is definitely competitive with Kings, marginally competitive with the artisan products and meat counter at Wegmans, and radically out of line in any comparison to Shoprite, Stop-n-Shop, Acme, Walmart… (Can’t compare to Trader Joe or Whole Foods; don’t have them available at a reasonable distance).

But this is just in New Jersey. Recently I spent three weeks on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, and boy howdy was that an eye-opener! One afternoon I stopped in to the Fresh Market in Wilmington NC and found that many of the prices I’d complained about in NJ were the same in NC. And in North Carolina, Fresh Market is competitive – in many cases cheaper. I find it amazing that meat-counter bacon is lower-priced than prepackaged national brands, but that was the case in almost all comparisons.

At first, I thought this was just the usual “stick it to the beach tourists” markup so common in the area from May through October. So I checked some inland stores as well. Food Lion was the only real competitor price-wise, and the prices were consistent across all five stores I checked. Lowes Food is an oxymoron; it may be food but it’s certainly not Low(e) – the prices in two stores were higher than any price I’ve encountered in NJ. Harris-Teeter (three locations) were consistently higher; Piggly-Wiggly (three stores) is lower on staples but astronomical on meats.

Note that in New Jersey almost all foods are non-taxable (candy being the big exception in my experience) whereas North Carolina has the philosophy of “tax everything!”


(The market basket for comparisons: pint half-and-half, eight ounce hard cheese (Cabot), sixteen ounce cottage cheese (Daisy or Breakstone), pound bacon, pound ground chuck, salad package, pound fresh-ground peanut butter, pound lima beans (frozen), pound green beans (frozen), broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts).

Getting your system back (The Win10 blues, part 1)

Microsoft has decided to force-feed Windows 10 updates, as a “recommended update” which will not only automatically download, but also actually upgrade your system to the new OS. I think this is a mistake, but since there is no longer any adult supervision in Redmond, it will probably continue.

If you’re caught by the Windows 10 forced-upgrade, here is how to get Windows 7 (or 8.1 if that’s your flavor) back.

Go to Start -> Settings -> Update & Security -> Recovery and you should see an entry on the right for “Go back to Windows 7” (or “Go back to Windows 8.1”). Click “Get Started” and follow the directions for “Keep my files.”

Figure it will take at least an hour, maybe two or three, and when it’s done you should be back, but you’ll have lost somewhere between 5 and 25 GB of disk space (which can be purged later).


Now – if you have a laptop machine, you may just want to play for a bit with Windows 10; I’ve found it to be a noticeable improvement over Windows 7, especially as far as managing battery life. But depending on your system’s age it may take a week to get all the necessary updates so that everything is working.

Otherwise, if you want to stay on Win7 (or 8.1) for a while longer, go get GWX Control Panel and make the headache go away.

Fixing a problem

So here I am, getting four or more emails a day for various Nissan vehicles I don’t own, from a dealership which  doesn’t read email, and now it escalates.

It’s not just the dealer sending email, now it’s Nissan USA itself, wanting a quality-control survey filled out. And blocking Nissan USA isn’t particularly viable because they use an anti-spam service which is fairly popular (thus blocking them blocks many other emails which I do want). And  while Nissan USA will eventually (takes 10 days, jerks!) unsubscribe the address from one vehicle, their system won’t scrub it from other vehicles.

This is getting out of hand. And no one at that dealership apparently reads email.

Thus it is  necessary to take the battle to them.


Those surveys affect a bit more than just the commission structure of the service adviser. The manufacturers base a lot of discounts and media buys and other spifffs based on dealer satisfaction ratings.

Let’s see if this dealer pays attention to his rating surveys.

I pick one, and rate everything as low as it can go, and use every available text block to complain about getting spammed and neither the dealer nor Nissan USA being competent to handle basic email management (so why would I ever buy a car from them?).

Got his attention… and an email to “whoever you are we took your email off the vehicle  and checked our files and took it off some others and won’t use it again.”

Congratulations on finally getting a clue.

But I still don’t expect to ever buy a Nissan.

When it isn’t spam, but isn’t wanted

About six weeks ago, I got an email reminding me of an appointment to have my Nissan Altima serviced.

I don’t have a Nissan Altima – figured it was some sort of scam (something new every day), and punted it into the trash.

Then I got another, this time for a Nissan Pathfinder. And more, for other Nissans (but mostly Altimas, Pathfinders and Sentras) – none of which I have.

The names on the accounts change, but the dealer is always the same – Robbie Woodall Nissan in Danville VA.

I suspect I know what’s happening; poorly-designed software at the dealership service desk demands an email address and the advisor is just using without bothering to think that it might be a real address (In the 1980s pharmacy software demanded a date of birth even for cash customers so 11/11/11 became the popular birthdate).

But it is a real address – it’s my address – and the volume is growing. I forward a couple of the emails to the service manager down there but apparently he doesn’t read his email.