This new image mapping website could be an invaluable tool for location and landscape photographers

Jan 11, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

This new image mapping website could be an invaluable tool for location and landscape photographers

Jan 11, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Panoramio was an invaluable location scouting tool for me. I could zoom into an area I wanted to scout, and all these little blips would appear on the map. Each showing me the location from a different view. If I happened to notice a particular cluster in a given area, I could zoom in tighter, and quickly see a bunch of different angles. Quickly determine if it was a tourist spot, or somewhere a little more out of the way.

Now that it’s been merged into Google Maps, that functionality no longer really exists. Sure, it has a strip of images along the bottom of the map and mousing over them shows you where they were shot, but it doesn’t really tell the whole story any more. Photographer Mike Wong must’ve felt this too. He is the creator of a new photo mapping website which shows where all of the images on 500px were created around the globe. At least, the ones with GPS information.

As it’s based off Google maps, you can also see a satellite view as well as the typical outline. This can make it much easier to find certain locations and see the hotspots. And while it offers the the sort of functionality I’ve missed since Panoramio was killed off, it does offer it in a slightly different way.

Instead of thumbnails spread across the map, it uses a sort of “heatmap” to show concentration of images. It ranges from yellow, for few photos, through orange, to red, for lots of photos. Personally, I think this makes it much easier to find things. With Panoramio, the thumbnails just kind of squished on top of each other when you zoomed out. You couldn’t tell if that little icon was 5 images or 500.

The map is currently limited to only using images uploaded to 500px, but something immediately struck me. That is the number of geotagged images in the UK & Europe vs the rest of the world. Across the USA, for example, there’s very little outside of California and New York. And there’s virtually none in Canada, where 500px is based.

Another neat feature of this site is that it allows you to see when photographs were shot. Very handy if you’re trying to find how places look at a certain time of year. For somebody who shoots on location, especially in rural locations that grow up and die off each year, that information can be vital.

Clicking on one of the thumbnails across the bottom brings up that images page on 500px. All of the thumbnails are shown in accordance with 500px’s API, too, so there’s no copyright issues.

The only problem I have with this website at the moment, is that there’s no way to categorise a search. Or even a search at all, really. You can’t even type in a location, you just have to drag and zoom around the map until you find what you’re looking for.

While many locations naturally extend themselves well to landscapes, I see a lot of portraits and obscure images popping up. A lot of this will, of course, depend on how well images are tagged. But, it would be a very neat feature to see in the future. Mike does say he’s working on it, though. Tying into other image hosting sites that offer a public API, like Flickr, would also be amazing. The more images, the better, right?

You can check out the website here, and test it out for yourself.

Did you use Panoramio for location scouting from home? Have you found something else to replace it? Or could this be your new go-to tool for checking out locations before you visit? What features would you like to see Mike add? Let us know in the comments.

[via Reddit]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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15 responses to “This new image mapping website could be an invaluable tool for location and landscape photographers”

  1. Isbill Photography Avatar
    Isbill Photography

    cool idea and still sad that @Google has killed of useful apps like panarmio and My Tracks without first replacing them.

  2. Nuno Caldeira Avatar
    Nuno Caldeira

    Mapillary looks way better than than this to be honest. Also using OpenStreetMap is significantly better than Google maps as its croedsourced and features hiking trails and information is constantly updated by the community.

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      The problem with Mapillary, though, is the same problem as with Google Streetview. It rarely takes you off-road. :)

      1. Nuno Caldeira Avatar
        Nuno Caldeira

        That’s not true at all. There’s is a lot of off road sequences. Here’s a example https://www.mapillary.com/app/?pKey=mi_yQmFuhbns6TkGN4jazQ&focus=photo

        1. Kaouthia Avatar
          Kaouthia

          Well, looking at The Lake District National Park, in the UK, it found roads and only a handful of popular tourist trails amongst 2,363 square kilometres of land. So, I still stand behind my qualifier of “rarely” – at least compared to how Panoramio was.

          1. ext237 Avatar
            ext237

            mapillary.com is insane frustrating to use. You zoom in and click to view a location, and suddenly it shifts you to the other side of the planet, viewing some other image. And the Houston, Texas area coverage is limited to a single highway.

  3. Hector Macias Avatar
    Hector Macias

    Ye olde Google maps

  4. Lord Bokeh Avatar
    Lord Bokeh

    As I use several resources for my research before heading to the field, I see this as another good tool to keep in the resource box.

    1. Owen Avatar
      Owen

      Can I ask what other resources you use?

  5. PaciBPhoto Avatar
    PaciBPhoto

    This could have been a really great tool but…. It clearly ignores the most part of the 500px images. I don’t know what are the criterias of selection but you can’t seriously believe that people in Switzerland and Germany take more pictures than any other people in any other countries. So it sure that this tool selects pictures taken in these places… may be the swiss author only takes care of pictures taken by him and is “friends” or followers on 500px and ignores any other photographers… anyway, as soon as there is a selection of what is shown it can’t be a useful tool… For now I rather prefer https://500px.com/maps

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      It probably ignores them because they don’t contain geotagging information. If an image is not tagged, there’s no way to know where it was shot. So, it’s more likely that those in the USA are simply less likely to geotag their photographs. In fact, the 500px map you linked looks pretty much identical in coverage.

    2. Mike Wong Avatar
      Mike Wong

      Hello. I’m the author of the application. My website indexes the most recently uploaded photos on 500px, because there is no way to get photos from a specific date range. More than 10’000 photos every day, 60% of which don’t even have geolocation added. There are no selection criteria other than it has to have a geolocation added. If my website shows more photos in europe than in america, then that’s because more people upload photos from there or geotagging is more commonly done in europe.

      1. PaciBPhoto Avatar
        PaciBPhoto

        Ok the “most recently uploaded” criteria probably explains the huge difference I see on very very famous places… As an example, taking a look over the Grand Canyon Visitor Center in 500px.com/maps will show you hundreds of pictures but your application just shows a few. I supposed we can’t talk about geotagging because if it’s in the 500px map then it is geotagged isn’t it ?
        I can’t believe geotagging is more common in a place or another, photography hardware here in Europe is the same than in every country, but from the criterias you explained the fact that much more pictures are uploaded from Switzerland, Austria or Germany is easily explained in this season because, at this moment, a lot of people are going skiing in these places and because there is not enough snow this year in other mountains in Europe… We will see at spring if things change.

        1. Mike Wong Avatar
          Mike Wong

          Yes, the 500px map shows more photos because it has access to the entire database. I started my website a few weeks ago and only started to index large amounts of data last week. So basically all the data you see on the website has been uploaded at most a week ago. I assume that currently the data is a bit skewed due to that fact, but will grow more accurate the more data is available

          1. Chris Avatar
            Chris

            Mike, fantastic creation! I’m from Austin, TX, USA and was looking to see what photos were in the area. It looks like all the photos point as if they’re taken downtown with an exclamation point on the thumbnail. Being from the area I can tell you for sure that they were not all taken downtown.

            Is this a limitation of the geo-tagging? Are these just tagged at city level and not GPS level? If so maybe you can stop letting city level images in? I don’t even know if that’s an option with the 500px API. If you can it would speed up your data mining.

            Or, if not, and I know it’s probably more work for you, but when (yes when :P ) you add an option for filtering by category, if you could add an option for filtering by GPS accuracy level that would be great.

            Again, fantastic work!

            Thanks,
            Chris