I love the spontaneity of road trips; taking the long way because there might be something cool to see and photograph, but also just because. Driving along the interstate at 70 miles per hour, however, sights will be missed and roads won’t be traveled. And, the same goes for cities – it’s easy to find the main tourist attractions, but sometimes the obscure is better than the crowded.
Planning and exploring your trip before you go can be a really good thing.
I’ve geotagged almost every photo I’ve taken, and now with GPS chips embedded in phones and cameras, photos tagged with precise coordinate data is becoming the norm. As travelers upload images to Flickr, Instagram, and Wikimedia Commons, those coordinates are saved into databases.
Wikimedia Commons contains about 30 million public domain and Creative Commons-licensed media files, including photographs. The Wikimedia Foundation has a project called WIWOSM (Wikipedia Where in OSM), which shows Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons objects in OpenStreetMap. When viewing a geotagged image on Wikimedia Commons, you’ll see a link to view nearby images – here’s an example in Manhattan.
WIWOSM doesn’t have any advanced search capabilities, and it has a handful of bugs and areas ripe for improvement, but if you’re planning a cross-country road trip, navigate to the beginning of your road trip and repeatedly move the map along your planned route. You’ll be surprised at the cool sights – interesting views, abandoned mills, friendly little towns – perhaps just minutes off the main interstate, that you otherwise wouldn’t have seen.
Flickr has over four billion photos in its library, and its ‘Map’ page is simultaneously more advanced but also a bit more frustrating than Wikimedia Commons. More photos tend to be geotagged on Flickr, thanks to its easy-to-use geotagging interface for photo uploaders.
The next time you’re planning a trip or wandering around a new city, do a little wandering around on a map in advance. And, be sure to geotag your photos for posterity and for others to find.