Saturday, 25 April 2009

Otago Central Railway (phew:)

I have just finished creating my new Otago Central Railway album on pjrdunford Picasa Web Albums. This is an update of an older album on my old railfan website and has nearly 400 photos – the number is not settled as several will be removed tomorrow when I check for duplications. This has been a huge effort, and purely for the general community, not the railfan community; that effort will not be repeated with any of my older photographs. It has only been done this time because of the addition of the large number of new photos from the Taieri Gorge Railway excursion to Middlemarch I rode upon two weeks ago. The preparation of the album has taken around 10 days, which even allowing for the working only of evenings during the week, is a lot of work. For this new album, every picture has been geotagged, all the slides have been rescanned, and the correct dates inserted, all pictures are batch resampled to a width of 1600 pixels which is around three times the size of photos that I normally put into my Picasa albums or more recent websites. By keeping JPEG compression at 50, the entire album takes less than 100 MB of space whilst allowing reasonable picture quality. Just to give you some idea, here are all the steps followed to get the album together:
  • Select the source images
          • Scan slides
          • Copy negative scans from CD
          • Copy digital photos from source
    • Geotag source images
            • Use EasyGPS to synchronise recent photos with GPS tracks obtained on board the train.
            • Using either Google Earth/Picasa or Geosetter, geotag all other photos. Google Earth 5 proved troublesome at times and the last 50 photos had to be tagged with Geosetter, which is more work.
    • Date source images
            • This step only applies to scanned images – digitals have the date inserted in the Exif tags. Using Geosetter to set the EXIF date fields.
    • Caption source images
            • Use Picasa to add captions to all images.
    • Batch convert source images
            • Using IrfanView batch processing, resample all images at a width of 1600 pixels and add the overlay text.
And if this sounds like a lot of work, it is. The only steps which can be automated across a group of images are GPS based geotagging, and batch conversion. Every other step is being done one image at a time. However, you see clearly the advantage of using a digital camera, and using GPS. The images don’t have to be scanned, all the date information is already in them, and the GPS can add the positional information in a simple batch process using EasyGPS. Then only captions have to be added individually, and another batch process using IrfanView for resample.
This isn’t an album for my erstwhile railfan associates. It’s an album for friends, family and the general public. Otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered – and the captions don’t contain all the technical data about the railway, they just refer to the location and occasion. These photos cover a spread of over 20 years and the first of them was taken around 22 years ago.