Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ayers Rock / Uluru

Wow! That's was my first impression when I saw the satellite photo from Ayers Rock / Uluru, a red sandstone rock formation from central Australia. The rock is 346 metres high and has a perimeter of 8 km.



Ayers Rock appears to change colour around the day and year, as you can see in the photos from the mini-panoramio above. That's because of minerals like feldspar reflect the red light of sunrise and sunset. The rock gets its rust colour from oxidation and during wet periods it changes to grey.

There is a lot of superstition around Ayers Rock. Aborigines do not climb Ayers Rock because of spiritual significance, there are restricted areas for photos and you are supposed to suffer misfortune if you take away stones from the area.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The unavoidable beauty of Lofoten archipelago

In Panoramio you can watch places through common people's photos, not only typical postcards that always look artificial because of its perfection.

That's impossible for Lofoten. Absolutely every single photo you take there looks unavoidably like a perfect post card. The nature there is so extremely beautiful there that you have no chance, but taking wonderful photos. Don't believe me? Take a look a this mini-panoramio or full size in Panoramio.



Lofoten is a group of islands in Norway located above the Arctic Circle, between the 67th and 68th degree parallels. Despite its location and because of the Gulf Stream, winter temperatures in Lofoten are very mild. The smallest islands (Værøy and Røst) are the World's most northern locations where average temperatures are above freezing all year.

There is a well marked biking route through Lofoten islands with a lots of tunnels, some of them under the sea. You also need to take some boats. I friend of mine did it and recommend it to me like the best approach to Lofoten.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Markers speed and other Usability issues

Until now the speed of showing markers (green pins) in Google Maps was very slow, so we were very happy to hear from Google Maps API Blog an speed improvement of 55%.

Until now we could not even think about showing simultaneously many markers in a map. You can see a clear example of the benefits from speed improvement at Revoluz (our Real State mash-up), where we could double the number of listing markers shown in the map from 75 to 150.

However there are still some Usability issues. Even if now you can display many markers fast enough, users can't select them with accuracy when there are too many together. In order to limit the number of markers you can separate them into pages. Unfortunately pagination is a metaphor that doesn't work very well with maps. It's very confusing when you see no markers where there are actually many of them. For example, the area of France can look empty, because its markers are shown in other pages, but not at the one you are watching.

Another issue are globes (aka infowindows). When globes are displayed the map moves, so you miss your location everytime you want to see a photo. That's extremely disappointing and the reason we don't have globes in Panoramio.

We have got some ideas about how to solve all these problems. You will see them working at Panoramio soon.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Geocoding photos using any GPS

Geocoded photos with coordinates in EXIF tags have advantages. You can create your own maps, KML files for Google Earth and geocoded photos are automatically located in Panoramio, so you don't need to find the rigth location manually in the map. But, how to get your photos geocoded?

The perfect solution would be cameras with built-in GPS, but so far only there are just some cameras with partial integration. Ricoh Caplio Pro G3 has a slot for a GPS card and Nikon D2X can connect to a GPS using a cable. Not very comfortable solutions. The industry doesn't seem very interested in GPS integration until now, but luckyly there are other alternatives.

Many people have already a GPS and a digital camera like separated devices that they are not able to communicate between them. The primitive solution is looking at your GPS, edit photo's EXIF tags and add manually geodata photo by photo. Of course, there is software to do this work for you that works with any GPS. The software matches the GPS track log and your photos in order to write coordinates in EXIF. You just need to synchronize the time in both devices for making matching possible.

Some software solutions:

- Jetphotoshop: Photo-organizer with geocoding. Full free version. Also for Mac.

- Gartrip: It works with GPS devices from Garming and Magellan GPS. The number of track points is limited to 500 in demo version.

- GPS Photo Linker: Just for Mac. Full free.

- OziPhotoTool: Demo version for only five images in a waypoint file.

- RoboGEO. Demo version distort coordinates up to one kilometer.

- GPS Photo Link Software from Geospatial Experts: No demo version.

If have not a GPS and you just need one for geocoding your photos, you don't need a GPS that includes maps, screen or many functionalities. You just need a GPS that stores track points. Sony just released a specific device, the Sony GPS-CS1, small, light and specially designed for carrying it with you while you make photos. Another option for a similar price is a very simple GPS like Garmin Geko 201.

Reference: "Geocoding photos" by Richard Akerman.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Willkommen bei Panoramio! Benvinguts a Panoramio!

Mapping photos has three main ingredients: photos, places and people from all around the world. That's why Panoramio should be available in as many languages as possible. The good news are that from today German and Catalan versions are available for localized browsers. Thanks to the kind people that help us, eSHa with the German translation and Ricardo Jaume and César López with the Catalan one. Now there are 4 avaible languages: English, German, Spanish and Catalan. More volunteers are helping us, so I hope Chinese, Norwegian and Bask versions are soon ready. If you feel like helping with translations, contact us.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Hey! That's my car!

Sooner or later this was going to happen, after all that's what geolocation is about.

car in Edinburgh

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mecca

You have seen often on TV thousands of pilgrims around the Kaaba, the small cubical building located in the center of The Sacred Mosque of Mecca. A pilgrimage to it is required of all Muslims at least once in their lifetime, but are you interested in visiting the place? Sorry, but if you are not Muslim forget about visiting Mecca. Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the holly city, but absolutely everyone can take a look at Mecca through Google Maps and the photos uploaded to Panoramio.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Trans-Alp biking tour

From Oberstdorf to Tirano, over 300 kilometres of trails through up to 2.500 high mountains of Germany, Austria and Italy. A really hard route where you often have to carry your bike. Only the strongest arrive. Thanks eSHa.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Amazing photos from a 17 year old photographer

Csongor Böröczky is just 17 years old, but he makes wonderful photos. My favourite is this one from Nordpark in Tirol (Austria), but the rest of his photos are also worth to take a look. He has been in many places as you can see below in his World map:

Monday, September 4, 2006

Merzouga and Erg Chebbi, Morocco

Merzouga is the most known location close to Erg Chebbi, a dune field located in South West Morocoo. Erg is the perfect kind of desert, a lots of sand making never-ending waves. In Erg Chebbi, dunes are specially tall, the highest one is 884 m.

Because there are no roads, just tracks (pistes), the only safe way for finding places there is through coordinates, so instead of standard address the hostels and touristic attractions in Erg Chebbi include coordinates for drivers using GPS devices.

When I was in Morocco in 2001 our local guide didn't need GPS. He drove 140 km/h our small rented car through tracks full of big stones and poteholes. We had a lot of baraka (luck, in Arabic) to arrive safely to our hostel.

Morocco is a very affordable and safe destination. In a couple of hours of flight from Europe you run completely away from the Western World, enjoy the delicious tagine and Berber hospitality.

As you can see in the mini-panoramio below, the landscape in Erg Chebbi is amazing.

Friday, September 1, 2006

The Eiffel Tower from any perspective

I'm sure you have seen photos from Eiffel Tower hundreds of times, but did you see the tower from any perspective? The wonderful people at Panoramio have taken photos from everywhere there, from the ground, from the top, from the platforms, from the Champ de Mars, from the river Seine...



I like this photo of a pillar, where the small size of the people give you an idea of how big it is. I also like this unusual perspective very much.

The tower stands 300 m (1000 ft) high, but depending on the temperature the top may "grow" up to 8 cm (3.25 inches), due to expansion of the metal when facing the sun. At the beginning the parisiennes didn't like the tower at all. The writer Guy de Maupassant ate at a restaurant at the tower regularly, because it was the one place in Paris he was sure he wouldn't see it. Comparing the different measures of radiant energy at the top and the bottom of the tower, father Theodor Wulf in 1910 discovered the cosmic rays. There are many copies of Eiffel Tower around the world, but I would say the most perfect one is in Las Vegas, of course.