Monday, June 15, 2009

Ahhh... so this chapter has a happy ending after all

This winter and spring, I spent quite a little time researching some potential equipment upgrades. There are a couple of Nikon and Sony digital cameras out there which are capable of recording GPS waypoint information directly to the digital photo file at the instant a photo is taken. A Digital SLR camera would be ideal for this use, but they are very, very expensive. On the other hand, National Camera sells a Nikon compact that is GPS-enabled for right around $500. Another option is something called a Jobo GPS Tagger, which I think might connect to my current camera, and log the corresponding latitude and longitude as each shot is taken. I have more homework to do on that one, though.

I was excited about this idea. Right now, the process of Geo-Trashing can be rather cumbersome and time-consuming. When you find the debris field or dumped item, you must first snap a digital photo, then hunt-and-peck on the handheld GPS to create and label a waypoint, one letter at a time. Then, back at the office, you have to make sure you’re mating the right GPS waypoints to the corresponding photo. With a GPS-enabled camera, all of this would become a much faster one- or two-step process. If it works they way I’m thinking, I could cover many more river miles, and record more trash targets, all in less time.

But then, the break-in at our home happened. That basically nixed the new camera idea, forcing us to think about replacing original equipment and paying deductibles… instead of making the upgrades I had hoped for. As I’ve stated before, we are neither a non-profit organization nor a for-profit business; aside from the kayaks on loan to us from Joe's Sporting Goods, everything we do with this project is out-of-pocket.

But here’s the happy ending to this chapter of our story. The Heroes of Conservation recognition we’ll receive from Field and Stream next month comes with a $1,000 grant, courtesy of the program’s sponsor, Toyota. While perhaps not one of the fancier D-SLR models (they run two-thousand dollars or so), that puts a GPS-enabled camera back within our reach. (We can get started with the cheaper, compact version... and if it works well, I’ll save up for the more sophisticated D-SLR camera.) I think testing this equipment in the field is a wise use of the Heroes of Conservation grant money.

This summer, my goal is to hit some new, unfamiliar waterways, beyond our adopted segments of the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers. A quicker way of recording and merging GPS waypoints and digital photos would make those trips much more productive.

© 2009 Mike D. Anderson, St. Michael, MN. All rights reserved.

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