Holland & Belgium – October, 2014

October 15, 2014 | by David | 0 comments

After a cold, but very enjoyable experience in France, we decided it was time to explore a bit more of Europe. This time, we went a bit earlier in the year to aim for slightly warmer weather while still missing the busier and more expensive peak travel times. We had the additional joy of visiting family who recently moved to Amsterdam for a new job. The cloudy weather proved to be a challenge for any vibrant or breathtaking photography, but the cities themselves were charming enough just to enjoy. Despite its reputation for seedier pursuits, I’m interested in returning to Amsterdam again for the wonderful small city feel and the abundance of canals, streets, and restaurants to explore.

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Spain – February, 2014

March 1, 2014 | by David | 0 comments

Spain turned out to be a bit of a surprise trip – an opportunity to combine business and pleasure. The weather turned out to be great for exploring – evenings had a bit of a chill, and the days were great for lots of walking and wandering. I previously hadn’t made Spain a priority for visiting, but I’m glad I went. The food, scenery, and architecture were all wonderful, and a nice contrast to the gloomier weather of France.

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France – November, 2013

November 30, 2013 | by David | 1 Comment

I finally gave in and agreed that a trip to continental Europe was overdue. Almost all of my previous travel has been to warmer (if not downright tropical) climes, so the early November chill in France was quite a shock for me. Luckily, I was prepared for the cold and managed to bring enough wool to keep me warm – even if I did have to steal a scarf from the wife for a few days. As always, I brought the camera gear and even managed to drag the tripod with me this time. In a return visit, I’d like to go when it is warmer and more conducive to sitting outside at night to capture the lights.

France Photos

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Finding a New Travel Day Pack

August 27, 2013 | by David | 0 comments


For years, I have carried a small lightweight day pack with me on every personal trip I have taken. The bag served me well as a place to carry my camera, rain jacket, books (or Kindle), snacks, and other travel odds and ends – all while being small and discrete. That bag was a Black Diamond BBEE. For the past few months, I have been searching for a replacement for the venerable BBEE with little luck. In the end, I decided to order a selection of top-rated bags and do a side-by-side comparison to finally pick a replacement. Please see the disclaimer on affiliate links and reviews.

The Contenders




Original Black Diamond BBEE 12L 360g
2013 Black Diamond BBEE 11L 360g
GORUCK GR Echo 16L 900g
GORUCK Radio Ruck 24L 1080g
Osprey Daylite 13L 440g
Tom Bihn Synapse 19 19L 695g

I decided to give the new version of the Black Diamond BBEE a chance because of how well the previous one worked for me. I also picked up the Osprey Daylite because of its cheap price point and relative similarity to the BBEE. The GORUCK bags and Tom Bihn bag both have an almost cult-like online following, so I figured they must be worth checking out despite their cost. I have looked at others over the course of the past year, but none were compelling enough to make the cut for my final decision.

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South Korea – April, 2013

May 3, 2013 | by David | 2 Comments

I always wondered if Korea would be dramatically different from the other places I’ve visited in Asia. In many ways it was, and in a few obvious ways it was exactly the same. The thing the first struck me about Seoul was its sheer size. I’ve been to London, New York City, Bangkok, and several other capital cities, but nothing prepared me for the sprawl that is Seoul. Traffic in the Washington, D.C. metro area and in Bangkok has nothing on Seoul. The fantastic subway really leaves no excuse to drive – unless you’re visiting family and they insist you ride with them. As far as what was similar to the rest of Asia – the awesome food, and the vibrancy of the cities.

The next time I go I’ll bring my tripod since the nighttime lights are the best opportunity for beautiful photos in such a large city. Some of the older parts of the city were photogenic during the day, but for the most part the city looked like most any other modern city. The well maintained traditional Korean folk village was interesting but not too easy to photograph because of the crowds. Just imagine (for those of you from the US east coast) a Korean version of historic Williamsburg with the summer crowds.

Seoul skyline looking north from Yeouido-dong.

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Generating Google Maps files from GPS data – Part 2

October 28, 2008 | by David | 0 comments

previously discussed my method for generating Google Maps files with a single click. Since then I have made some modifications to my GPSBabel XCSV style file. The best way to highlight these changes is to view a sample map generated with this process.

Some of the changes include:

  • Date and time for start and end points for each day
  • Altitude for start and end points for each day
  • Maximum () and minimum () altitude for each day
  • Distance traveled in a given day – shown in the end marker balloon
  • Total trip distance traveled for all days – shown in info panel
  • Button to show/hide the track lines – in case you want to see the name of a road, for example
  • Button to show/hide an info panel in the lower right corner with total trip distance and coordinates of mouse/last click

Initially, the Google Maps HTML files I was getting from multi-day tracks were way too big and were basically grinding my browser to a halt. I used the GPSBabel simplify filter to remove extra data points which greatly reduced the resulting file size and increased performance significantly. The filter was applied as shown below:

gpsbabel.exe -i gpx -f infile.gpx -x simplify,crosstrack,error=3.0m -o xcsv,style=google_maps.style -F outfile.html

Finding the total distance across multiple days ended up being a lot easier than I expected, thanks to a function in the Google Maps API, which resulted in this code:

var total_miles = 0;
var miles = poly[z].getLength() * 0.000621371192;
total_miles = total_miles + miles;

All of the changes are available in the updated zip file available here. I’m having additional discussions about this GPS datalogger and my workflow over on the GpsPasSion forums (starting on page two).

Generating Google Maps files from GPS data

October 7, 2008 | by David | 0 comments

After a trip I like to generate a Google Maps file showing the track I took during that trip. In the past this could be a tedious process, as it required me to run my GPX file that I generate with GPSBabel through yet another application (DGManager.NET), and even then, there was some HTML editing required to get things just right.

I finally automated the process with the help of trusty GPSBabel, their XCSV style files, and some JavaScript. The hard part stemmed from the fact that GPSBabel does not have a way to pass the GPX ‘bounds’ element into the HTML file. This data is important to define the boundaries of the Google Map and the appropriate zoom level for your data. I finally wrote some JavaScript that handles this. My XCSV file can be downloaded here and used with your own Google Maps API key (see the comments in the file for the correct location).

I added the following line to my original batch script to create the Google Maps file in addition to the GPX file:

"C:\Program Files\GPSbabel\gpsbabel.exe" -i gpx -f ..\%OUTPUT_FILENAME%.gpx -o xcsv,style="C:\Program Files\GPSbabel\google_maps.style" -F ..\%OUTPUT_FILENAME%.html

With this updated script, I now have a very short workflow to take a bunch of NMEA input files and create an optimized GPX file and corresponding Google Maps HTML file for posting online.

Geotagging Workflow

September 25, 2008 | by David | 0 comments

I have recently switched GPS data loggers from my trusty GlobalSat DG-100 to a Locosys BGT-31. The main reason for the switch was so that I could use external memory cards to store the data on long trips. I am very impressed with the BGT-31, but it isn’t without its challenges. The main issue I have with it is that it either creates a binary file that you must read with their software, or you get NMEA text files. In order to minimize losses in the event of file corruption, I keep the log files to a maximum of 128KB. This can result in many files over the course of a long trip.

In order to geotag my photos from a trip I prefer to use GPicSync, which is easier to use with a single GPX input file. In order to create that single GPX file from the many individual NMEA text files, I use GPSBabel. GPSBabel is great, but there is no native way that I have found to easily select a bunch of input files from the command line, so I wanted something to automate it for me. I finally gave up finding an existing tool to do this, so I wrote a little batch script to do it for me. You can download a zip file containing the script here. Basically, here’s how I use it:

Place the batch file into your GPSbabel directory (I assumed C:\Program Files\GPSbabel\). Add the registry key to your registry at HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Folder\shell\Process GPS Files\command. You will now have a right-click context menu option titled “Process GPS Files” when you right-click on a folder. Right-click on the folder containing your NMEA GPS files, select the “Process GPS Files” menu option, enter your desired output filename, and hit enter. This will produce a GPX file in the parent directory of the folder you selected. Use the GPX file as input into GPicSync, and as a single backup file. You can also use the GPX file to create Google Earth KML files, or Google Maps files.