Tag Archives: tracks

New Gear : Tracks Sherlock Travel Staff

Last week’s hike in slightly sloppy conditions pointed two things out to me. There was beauty to be found in the mud, and I needed a hiking staff of some kind. Late in the hike, I slipped in some mud and almost went down with my camera and backpack of lenses. That wouldn’t have been good.

I did some research this week to find out more about staffs. I knew I didn’t want trekking poles (pairs, used like snow skiers use their poles). I’d seen a ton of wooden ones while we were out west a couple of years ago. Those looked nice and would make a good home for the hiking medallions I’ve been picking up during our travels, but I wasn’t sure that that would be the right answer for something versatile in the field.

The more I looked, the more I realized that there weren’t great differences from one staff to the next. My needs were pretty simple — adjustable height, spike on the bottom for sloppy conditions, and a basket to keep from sinking up too far. With that in mind, Becky and I went to the Alpine Shop in our neighborhood to look for a staff. We were helped by Andy, who made me feel right at home, and frankly, was built like me, so I figured he could give me some real world advice about what I was getting into. He did, and I ended up walking away with a Tracks Sherlock Travel Staff.

This is a pretty slick tool with some nice features above what I was looking for. First off, it breaks down into three component pieces, and comes with a sack to carry them around. For the long haul trips I’m used to, that’s a great feature. A wood hiking staff wouldn’t be collapsible, meaning I’d have to find some way of carrying this long pole in the Jeep. With the Sherlock, no problemo.

The Sherlock sports a walnut knob for gripping the top of the staff. While that’s nice, what’s nicer is that it screws off, revealing a kinda long 1/4″-20 screw for mounting a camera atop the staff for use as a monopod. My only complaint here is that the screw thread is long, perhaps by as much as a quarter inch. That length is probably needed for the knob, but seems a little dangerous for a camera. I’d hate to keep up with it, but it might make sense to carry a little washer as a spacer when using the staff as a monopod.

The Sherlock also has a removable foot, revealing the spike I was looking for. The foot’s kinda neat, leaving a paw print behind as you move along, and seems useful for hard surfaces. The spike is ginormous, and appears to be quite useful as a weapon should your need to stab something or for picking up trash along the trail.

This thing really seems to hit all my design points, and then some, and I believe it’ll be quite a nice addition to my hiking!

First Geotaggings

While on The Mountain this weekend, I schlepped my Garmin GPSmap 60CSx with me wherever I drove. My intent was to take a bunch of images at Prentice Cooper, and figure out how to get them tagged from the tracks on the GPS. I played with it some while I was on The Mountain, saved my tracks, and then came home.

However, there was an important fact I wasn’t aware of. When you save a track on the Garmin, the timestamps disappear, making the data virtually useless for geotagging!! Fortunately, my MacBook Pro had one of the tracks I used while on The Mountain, so not all was lost. However, I got trapped by another anomaly.

I tried to set my camera to the same time as the GPS. Of course, the GPS time was perfect, but the camera time needed some adjustment, so I set it against a known good time source. What I neglected to do was check the timezones for the two devices. My camera was still on Central Time, but my GPS was on Mountain Time (probably from the Big Drive last year). And my geotagging software wanted to use the system time (Central Time) to line everything up. Combine all that, and you have photos that didn’t tag in the right place, and some images that had no data whatsoever.

Now that I have the times lined up, and using the track from my MBP, I now have some images geotagged correctly. Pretty cool stuff. I didn’t know it, but if you look at an image in Preview on the Mac, you can get additional data about it, some of which is the GPS data. From there, you get a “Where’s Waldo” look at the globe to see where the photo is from, and a button to send you to Google Maps to see the detailed location. That’s pretty cool.

I can tell there’s some goodness in the data from the geotagging effort that I haven’t yet begun to tap. I kinda feel like I’m getting to the party late on this technology, but I think I’m becoming a quick study.

So which software am I using? Right now, GPSPhotoLinker seems to be getting me the most mileage, but I suspect HoudahGeo will buy me more usefulness for images for which I have no data. The batch processing from GPSPhotoLinker is slick, and really hums right along. HoudahGeo is integrated with GoogleEarth, and I suspect that’ll make it pretty easy to tag the old trips.

Watch for more fun and games as I figure out how to exploit this new technology! (Well, new to me, anyway.)