Google Earth, Maps, GPS tracks and geotagged photos

Google Earth is an amazing program that brings the world to you. It’s also an amazing tool that also puts you in the driving seat of geography! Not entirely a Geographic Information System (which most normal people don’t need in any case), it does make it easy for you to interpret and “map” your own life. You can put pins where you’ve been, and add lines and shapes to mark spaces and areas. An advanced feature even allows you to see historic satellite images on the same place! If you’re someone who owns or uses a GPS, this is also a program to see all your info in a pretty slick display. Then there’s Google Maps – the online map for everyone and for (pretty much) everywhere!

I wanted to see how I could use Google Earth to track two hikes we did in Chamonix, France and then share the route and photos online with my friends and family. Luckily I recently bought a Canon S100 which has a built in GPS to tag photos which helped a lot in automating the whole process. Check out the two maps below:

View Chamonix – Aiguilette in a larger map

View Chamonix – Brevent in a larger map

So what’s the verdict? It’s a little difficult to mash-up the GPS locations, tracks, and photos all together. Event though Adobe Lightroom, the program I use to manage my photos, has a way to view your geotagged photos it doesn’t seem like there’s a way to automatically share them online. Of course, mobile phone technology and other online programs are available to do this (i.e. Flickr, Picasa, etc.) – I think the Canon S100 even has a way to track the whole route even without taking photos.

Since I’m a Geography geek at heart, it was still a lot of fun to experiment and a great way to store and share the memories.  Also, knowing how to use a GPS while hiking or in unpopulated places with little mobile reception is always a good skill to have! I’ll probably find an easier way to do this in the future, but for the moment it’ll do – have you done this before? Add a comment and let me know!

No snow = no skiing

You can’t be in Switzerland without going skiing. That’s what I’ve been telling myself for the past few months, but when it hasn’t snowed for over 5 weeks, it’s hardly tempting to go up to the mountains. But then again there are other reasons to get out to the mountains… three things come to mind – fresh air, surreal scenery, and exercise. The weather has been fantastic – the sun has been shining for the last few weeks and the temperatures have been bearable for outdoor exploration. So a couple weeks back we decided to take advantage of the weather and go for a hike around Saint Cergues, about an hour by train away from Geneva. It was nice to experience mountain-life in Switzerland, but it’s still winter and most of our 4-hour walk was trying to maneuver around icy paths and slippery slopes.

It’s interesting to hear people going for hikes or roaming the mountains quite often (i.e. randonnée in French). With well-marked trails, books, and maps to help the beginner to advance hiker, it’s worth a trip to the countryside… a very different experience than in Canada where outdoor life is more untamed.

“Hiking” through Manhattan

The "urban hike"

Because we wanted to get out and do some walking – a great way to see NYC by the way – and to meet some new people, Muriel and I joined a walk, or as our guide Dorian told us, an “urban hike”. I’ve been on hikes through the countryside and around islands before, so what would be the big deal in “hiking” through New York’s urban environment, where the pavement is flat and where you can stop anytime for a smoothie. But I think all of us on the tour (only 4 of us made it up at 730am on a Saturday morning) underestimated the pain – we hiked from Times Square, up along the Upper West Side, crossing Harlem and Spanish Harlem in the north, down the Upper East Side, further down Lower Eastside and then to Battery Park, finally going back up to Tribeca… we almost made it back to Times Square, but by that time we were sitting down an enjoying a well-deserved meal when we decided it was better to call it a day. We started at 730am and we didn’t finish until around 3pm – other than a couple of brief breaks, we were walking for about 8 hours!