@bytesnz

Jack Farley, Web Application Engineer

Travel Photos

I am currently travelling with my partner for at least two years. Being keen at taking pictures, we knew that we were going to have a battle on our hands organising, sharing and backing up our snaps while we were on the road. As such, I have done quite a bit to try and keep things organised and I thought I would should share some of the still that I have found.

Equipment and Initial Plan

We started off the journey equipped with two canon cameras - a G15 and a 450D, an 1TB external hard drive and some tablets (mine is a Asus Transofrmer TF300). The plan was to regularly sort through the photos on the transformer, then store the photos on the external hard drive and have an online back of them in the cloud somewhere. We are taking photos on the highest detail JPEG settings on the camera, which means each photo is about 4MB. Given that on our previous trip (to Laos and Cambodia), we created around 3000 images (still unsorted), we knew that we would have to be pretty on to it sorting photos and would need a bit of storage to backup the photos online.

We also are writing a blog, on which we want to be able to share our photos with our friends, families and anyone who is interested. The current chosen engine for the blog is Wordpress. I chose the Nexgen Gallery plugin for photos as the media library built-in didn’t have enough ways to keep the photos organised. Unfortunately, Nextgen has been a little difficult to deal with at the best of times, so I ended up creating my own plugin (Gallery Hierarchy), which is working well, if needing a few more features.

Online storage

I looked two main storage options in the cloud - Google Drive and Dropbox. The free accounts give you 15GB and 1GB respectively. For Drive, you can pay \$1.99US/month for 100Gb of storage. For Dropbox, you can pay $9.99US/month for 100GB of storage. My pick was Google Drive for the 15GB free, which I hoped would at least last us a while (after 3 months of travelling we are sitting at 10GB - uh oh). Google Drive is also well integrated into Android phones, so it was very easy to upload images to it. Unfortunately, they are not so switched on when it comes to Linux and have as yet not got around to making the Linux app, though it is in the pipeline. There is a app called Grive that is available for syncing folders using the Drive API. Though it is still in its infancy, it shows good potentional. Dropbox also has a Android app and has a Linux client, which is a bonus.

Another option I did slightly look at was Mega.co.nz, which offers a lot of storage (50GB) for free, though apps weren’t around at the time and the last project the guy ran went a little sour.

Photo Organisation

One of the toughest things has been figuring out how to keep all the photos organised. With plans to visit lots of places in different countries and different continents, it could get very messy. We initialy used the Android Gallery app for sorting though the photos. We quickly deviseda plan to help decide the photos we wanted to keep and the ones we wanted to delete by rating the ones wi we wanted to deletee 1 star. This meant one person could go through all the photos, mark the ones they wanted to delete. The second person could then go through and delete the ones they agreed with and remar the ones they wanted to save. A final go through by the first person removed any phtos they greedcould be deleted. The initial we had with it was that it took a long time to find new photos that were copied to the tablet (due to to its reliance on the media scanner and its database). There is an app that can force the media scanner to rescan for media, which can take a little while, but works ok (no status update, so you have to guess when it’s finished). Another issue was tht it didn’t have any abilities to add metadata to the photos, such as tags or a comments on what the photo was of, which I really wanted so that we didn’t forget.

After a look on the Google Play Store, I found F-Stop - a fantastic photo manager. It has its own builtin media scanner, which detects changes nearly instantly. It also has the ability to easily view metadata, add tags, which could be written to the photo (only in the pro version though :() add comments (though it wasn’t easy). It also made going through images slightly easier, in particular going to the next image while zoomed in. This wasn’t great, but it made dealing with the photos slightly easier.
Once I started oading photos onto the TF300, it quickly became unusable. With deciding to volunteer at an NGO doing web site development, I decided to buy a second-hand laptop instead of trying to use the TF300. Once bought and loaded with Linux, I had a search for photo management software and found DigiKam and haven’t ever looked back. DigiKam is absolutely packed with features and has absolutely everything I need including easy editing of tags, comments and titles, which it can write back to the image, hierarchical tags, if you wanted, and batch processors for things like resizing images (see below).

Putting it all together

So once the photos are downloaded from the cameras, arranged into folders, tagged and (still on the todo list) helpful titles and comments are put on the photos, using DigiKam, a copy is made to the external hard drive using rsync. This means that any photos that have been updated (for example if we put some more titles on some photos), they will be automatically updated on the hard drive. The photos are then synced with Google Drive using a in development Linux application called grive (still waiting for the Linux client Google!). Smaller, upload and web friendly, versions of the images are then created using some simple scripts and are then rsynced onto the web server. A rescan job is then started on Gallery Hierarchy and presto, images up on web to be included in blogs.

Improvements

I have gotten the process of handling the photos to a pretty good state. The only thing that I am wanting to change now is getting the original photos onto the web server. As such, one of the future features of Gallery Hierarchy will allow you to automatically keep folders of photos synced between Google Drive and your Gallery Hierarchy images folder (if a new image appears on Google Drive, it will be downloaded to the web server, resized and added to the gallery automagically. I just need some time to implement it.