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Some Questions On Submitting Photos To The Ngs

Black Dog Trackers

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Here is a quote from Deb Brown from March 30, 2004 (this is not an exact quote; I fixed it just a bit because of the problem with smileys):

9) At present, we are working on adding the options of photo submissions and hand held gps positions to the online recovery form. It's not available yet. Until it is you can send me photos via email of stations if they meet the following criteria:


a ) The file size must be a meg or less.


b ) The name of the file MUST be





c ) I need 2 photos of each marker, one area (_A) with a background

reference object and one close-up (_C) showing the stamping.


d ) Photos cannot contain images of anything inappropriate or people/pets.

I have a couple of questions that pertain to the future time when the NGS allows this. The reason that I ask these questions now is that people are taking pictures of marks now that they might wish to submit to the NGS in the future.


I am looking at pictures submitted to the Geocaching site and am wondering about what would be the minimum acceptable on the NGS site in the future.


1. Regarding item c, I notice that several people are submitting ONLY a disk close-up photograph and no area photograph. Will submitting only one photo be acceptable?


2. Regarding item d, I notice that several people are submitting a close-up picture with their GPS receiver in the view (and sometimes in the area view). Will this be acceptable?


3. Regarding in particular "with a background reference object", I often fail to include in the photo one of the reference objects specifically mentioned in the 'to-reach' description, and instead just show where the marker is in relation to something, like the edge of a road or a fence. Would this be acceptable?


4. Quite often in an area view picture, the disk's position is rather unclear without putting an arrow in the picture. Would arrows in pictures be acceptable?


5. If, for instance, next Wednesday is the day that the NGS changes their Mark Recovery page to one that allows picture uploads, will it be acceptable for us to upload pictures taken, for example, 10 months ago in a new mark recovery submitted with a recovery date 10 months ago, provided no recovery note had been submitted since then?

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That a lot of questions.




These are questions that I don't have answers to. I will see if I can find the right people who can answer some of these questions, because I agree that they should be answered. But you have to understand that policy stuff like this is not something that somebody just makes up, so this might take some time. I will see what I can do.




edit: I will include a brief log of what I am doing to answer this, just so you know it has not fallen though the cracks. I know this is a big question that has been around for some time.


Action 1: Sent e-mail to NGS folks looking for appropriate person to address the issue.

Action 2: Found the right person, and the 10 page document describing the process. It is a new document, and I am going to need some time to weigh through it.

Edited by caseyb
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I have started over from Recovery # 1.

I am getting only pictures of the marks and reference points,and from the reference points back to the station on the Triangulation Stations and have tried to get all the written documentation into picture form.


On single disc's I have started doing a N,S,E,W OVER THE MARK.

I am using the "powder" which really brings out the detail.

Most of the one's I recovered I was the first to recover and dig out and the disc's at that time were all full of moisture and dirt,it is now easier to find them again,I am glad I cleared the brush and brambles from around most of them.

Now they have had time to dry out and it makes for better photo's.

I am trying or have been looking at the details set forth and everyone's opinions as well.


At first it was also a game,That is why my photo's have travel bugs,Henchmark the Benchmark Hunter and various other oddities.


Now It has become a little more serious and I need to be as professional as I can with these next set of photo's.

And it never hurts to double check and keep up with the marks in your local area's.

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The latest "official" photo standard is posted at page 352 of the 472 page Contracting Scope of Work. Talk about a picture being worth 1,000,000 words! When we do post photo guidelines for mark recoveries, they may look something like this DRAFT


Regarding your formatting questions, keep in mind our goal; to express the mark's location and condition to busy surveyors. They aren't interested in vacation photos, just the facts: where can I find it, is the sky above clear for good GPS reception, does the monument look damaged? If you can bend a few rules to answer those questions in fewer photos, that's poetry!

1...Will submitting only one photo be acceptable?

Sure. Only submit unique and valuable images.

2...submitting a close-up picture with their GPS receiver in the view (and sometimes in the area view). Will this be acceptable?

Sure. Gives a good sense of scale, as would a ruler. Don't block any stamping!

3...fail to include objects mentioned ... acceptable?

Sure. You've basically written a new description with a picture.

4...position unclear without an arrow in the picture...acceptable?

Sure. I prefer using a tripod or traffic cone on-site, or composing the photo so that it is really obvious.

5...upload pictures taken 10 months ago

Hmmm. Really depends on how the new recovery form develops. Perhaps safer to archive them at geocaching.com, maybe NGS can find a way to mine that database someday.

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I was reviewing the link called "thisDRAFT" above (it's the same as the one caseyb referenced). It prompted some questions in my mind:


1. Are any of you taking the 3 kinds of pictures that are specified in the draft specifications? I usually take type 1 and type 3, but have never taken type 2.


2. Are any of you sending pictures to the NGS with your reports with all the filenames and captions as specified in the draft specification? (I'm not meaning pictures to document a Destroyed claim; just ordinary find pictures.) Did you ever get any feedback or requests to fix the filename or captions?


3. I'm wondering if the NGS will make the pictures available via the web when one 'looks up' a PID on their site.


---- the rest is just some whining and nagging about the specs. ---- :D


4. The specifications for picture filename are surprising to me. First, the beginning of the name is the Designation, not the PID. That seems like a less-than-optimal idea for sorting filenames of pictures, if sorting ever was required.


5. Second, the requirement to include the Designation will mean that some of them will be cut off at 11 characters (I'm counting backward from the maximum of 30 characters). Many Designations are way bigger than 11 characters (like CHARLESTOWN OLD NAG GLUE FACTORY STACK) and they have embedded spaces, which I guess are supposed to be replaced by _ characters.


6. The required fancy filenames of the pictures makes me consider the idea of making a DOS batch file (yes, I'm old-fashioned) or something to re-name my pictures.


7. The paper sign thing seems really weird. There's already a requirement to have a digital caption that includes the Designation and PID. Adding the Designation in another sign seems overblown. I prefer a digital arrow to indicate where the disk is. The paper sign (who'd really use that instead of a digital sign?) seems like it would needlessly obliterate some of the scene.

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I'm generally taking the right sort of pictures, and would take the approved views 100% of the time if I thought I was going to send them to the NGS. But I don't, and the why is very simple.


I'm spoiled.


Geocaching.com makes pictures too easy. Put the file name in your web browser, it will resize, rename, and let you caption and describe. I can rip through a set of marks in no time.


While I'd love to submit pictures to the NGS, I highly doubt I will until I can upload them on their web page much like I do now with geocaching.com. They can construct the name for instance, I should just plug in the right photo in the right box.


Just my spoiled $0.02.

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I have submitted photos following the guidelines in the pinned threads over on the general benchmark forum. Two photos: area and closeup, file names starting with PID and containing date. I usually overlay digitally the PID and designator and if it helps an arrow to the mark on the jpg before I send it. Cheryl has responded acknowledging these with no complaints.

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Well, my plan is to submit the pictures just like they say, but I'm gonna wait.


I must agree with bicknell. As I was saying earlier, I could make some kind of batch file to re-name pictures, but such software should be on the NGS side. I'm certain that they have considered making a mark recovery page that accepts pictures and I imagine the software behind such a page would do the re-naming of the picture.


I offered my comments on the specifications since the instructions were referred to as a draft. :D They are certainly free to flatly ignore me. :D


I'm imagining that the NGS is politely accepting any pictures at this point until the picture submitting software is made and the instructions are no longer a draft.

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BDT and all,


Yup, The NGS is accepting these photos. I have sent in a bunch, Taken as per NGS requested specifications, and formatted with both the file size and naming conventions they asked for.


Anyone is welcome to step up and just do it if they feel so inclined! :-) Please send them to deb.brown@noaa.gov after you have them properly formatted. She will take it from there as her workload permits.


Remember, there is a lot of good we can still contribute while we wait for other aspects of this work to evolve.


As an aside to Casey, Does NGS have a timeline for when a user friendly photo input page will become part of the NGS website? Can you get back to the forum on that? Thanks.



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As you all have correctly suggested, NGS does welcome photos but is lacking a proper formatting program, thus the onerous requirements for the contributor (filename spec, sign in photo) and the unseen hassle on the NGS side (slow, manual process for loading photos.)


Casey, NGS should take up a collection and pay the geocaching webmaster to come over and show us how to ingest photos automatically; or link our datasheets to his photo archive:


HV9698 Photos of this station have been posted at geocaching.com


Until that hopeful day, please continue to send Deb photos you feel are particularly valuable, cognizant of the added burden for yourselves and NGS; and store the bulk at geocaching.com. Thanks!

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Casey, NGS should take up a collection and pay the geocaching webmaster to come over and show us how to ingest photos automatically; or link our datasheets to his photo archive:

I will pass the hat around at the next ESC and Staff meetings.




Seriously though, I really hope that this gets taken care of someday. I do regularly check with the folks working on it. I wish I could give youa date, but I would be just making one up.



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What would be wrong with just submitting things in the methods and formats they ask us for?


Nothing more or less, Just follow direction.


Do we always have to resist these things? How is that constructive?


Any Takers?

I'm not paid.


I feel I'm doing a public service reporting to the NGS, but it's volunteer baised. I will follow their instructions while I do it, but leaving out the pictures is ok per the instructions, so I am choosing that path. Based on my work flow I think even the extra work of renaming the pictures would add 15-30 minutes to my log entry time after a benchmarking weekend, time I'd rather spend with other hobbies.


Setting to NAD 83, or even writing descriptions in "NGS Speak" have a very small learning curve, and take no additional time when done right. However, right now I do 0 image manipulation with geocaching.com, so any I do for the NGS is added time. I'll take the time to take the one extra snapshot in the field without a person in it, but I'm not gonna resize / rename images.


It may be spoiled, it may be lazy, but it's also just a hobby, and this is my particular line in the sand. :( I suspect if they had a more user friendly web page that many more people would log many more marks. If someone made a tool that would submit to the NGS and geocaching.com all in one step, well, that would be amazing.

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bicknell -


I presently use a handy webpage I made to research and log PIDs on both Geocaching and NGS.

This webpage resides on my hard drive, not on the web, although someone could put it in a webpage.


For a PID, it will connect you to:

Geocaching Datasheet

NGS Datasheet

NGS Mark Recovery Page

Log the PID on Geocaching

Log the PID on NGS


To make one yourself, copy the stuff between the rows of ========= below into notepad and then save it somewhere on your hard drive with some htm name like PIDS.HTM In your browser, click on File then Open (file) and browse to where you put the PIDS.HTM file, open it, and then put it in favorites or bookmarks.


To use it, run your mouse over a PID like AA1234, copy and then paste it into the boxes on the webpage you want to use (or just type the PIDs in by hand).


It isn't automated like you wanted, but at least you can use it to go back and forth fairly quickly between the Geocaching and NGS websites, look at their PID pages, and initiate logs on them.





<form method="get" action="http://www.geocaching.com/mark/details.aspx"

target="_blank"> <input name="PID" size="6" maxlength="6" type="text">

<input value="Geocaching Datasheet" type="submit"> <input

value="clear" type="reset"> </form>

<form method="get" action="http://www.ngs.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/ds_mark.prl"

target="_blank"> <input name="PidBox" size="6" maxlength="6"

type="text"> <input value="NGS Datasheet" type="submit"> <input

value="clear" type="reset"> </form>

<a href="http://www.ngs.noaa.gov/FORMS_PROCESSING-cgi-bin/recvy_entry_www.prl"

target="_blank">NGS Mark Recovery Page</a><br>


<form method="get" action="http://www.geocaching.com/mark/log.aspx"

target="_blank"> <input name="WP" size="6" maxlength="6" type="text">

<input value="Log this PID on the Geocaching Site" type="submit"> <input

value="clear" type="reset"> </form>

<form method="get"

action="http://www.geocaching.com/mark/datasheet.aspx" target="_blank">

<input name="PID" size="6" maxlength="6" type="text"> <input

value="Geocaching's Original Datasheet" type="submit"> <input

value="clear" type="reset"> </form>




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Seems Resistive, But I'll Bite. You are not the only Rebel in the world. Seems easier to be a rebel but not draw attention to it though. In any case should you have a change of heart, Photoshop and other programs can almost Batch Manage most of the heavy lifting though.





Edited by evenfall
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Yesterday I went BM hunting and took 3 pics of all the marks. It took me forever to log everything in. I only went to the eighth grade, I type slow and I know very little about computers so this is hard on me.

When I started ironworking a oldtimer gave me some advice. He said survey the situation, analysis it throughly, make a dision, abide by said dision, and keep it simple, stupid.

Whats wrong with just two pictures, one a closeup and one from five feet or so? As it is now they like what we do without any photos, so why complicate everything with signs and all the infomation that is already on the data sheets.



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Yesterday, while hunting, I was remembering the 3 views. I don't feel the 'eye-level' picture is very informative in most instances. I could see its usefulness when the mark is in heavy cover, etc. but usually the distant shot tells it all. As joegeodesist said, if 2 shots will tell it all, that's poetry. I did change one thing, though, and that is to try to shoot it in a particular 'compass direction', although I previously would always say the direction when a road or river was in view.


I must say, however, that except for the first few benchmarks I did, I always shoot a 'distant shot' from 20 or 30 feet away. I consider this type of shot at least 10 times as important as a closeup picture of the disk. A picture is worth a thousand words, and the 'distant shot' concept is a good example of it. So often, the to-reach surveyspeak has caused quite a puzzle that a picture would've solved in a second. It's tedious to log more than one picture, but a disk pic alone doesn't help anything except confirm that you weren't making an error like confusing a reference mark with a triangulation station or something. The real contribution is in the 'distant shot'.

Edited by Black Dog Trackers
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I've found that three photos tell a nice story about the location of the mark. The closeup verifies that you've found that correct mark. The area view orients you to the surroundings, which is very helpful to someone looking for the mark. The eye level is useful for showing exactly what to look for, which sometimes is not obvious even when you are standing nearby. I usually take all three now. I think these examples show the usefulness of all three:






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All they ask for is two photos.


One Close up which they ask to be labeled C


One Area shot they asked be labeled A


The naming convention makes sense when you understand it.


Going forth, based on discussions I've had with contacts in NGS, I think this is an evolving idea they have at NGS. It has not quite arrived where they would like it to be yet. They want to improve the Data they have in the various ways that they can. Data is just about the numbers alone though. It also has to have usability in a physical way. Finding a station is part of what makes Data usable. I am not sure there really needs to be more photos than two if they are well thought out by the photographer, but send them in either way. Try to avoid people in the photos if it is possible. If the NGS decides to put all of the photos you submit in with the datasheet, then fine, but be advised that if more than two are sent, someone else may edit you. They will choose the Two photos from you for the datasheet. If you only send two, you will have edited yourself. At least you will have made the choice. Just 2 photos per PID keeps the data under control and easy to use. It keeps the Database free to accept more photos too. As someone just said. Keeping it simple


To answer Dave, I think the thought is that in the future, when things are working as the NGS hopes, and a datasheet is pulled from the database, the person looking at the data will have photos which will speak a thousand words. So the close up will speak to what the Station Disc looks like, and the area photo with the Mark showing will orient the person to look in the same direction, and orient area landmarks and details to walk right to the station. So If on your photo you were to tell people you were looking North when you took the Pic, the hunter using your photo would try to orient themselves to a North looking position and hunt for the "look" your photo has.


It could be a help, and that is the hope they have.


Here is a nice test, Take someone's photos off geocaching and go see if they help in finding a few marks, then after that, think of how you would fine tune the way you photograph things? People look with their eyes while standing. Can we make those photos mean more?


Good Luck,



Edited by evenfall
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