Travel, Shoot Photo's, Upload and Share - No Laptop Required!
4 Apr 2009
Imagine being able to travel and share your photographs on sites like Flickr using only a camera and WiFi SD card, no laptop required! As a keen amateur photographer and photo journalist I like to share my trips as I travel with my friends and family. However, carrying a laptop, no matter how light, is an extra hassle especially if you want to survive a short trip on hand luggage alone. So on a recent four day trip to New York I decided to test the flexibility and functionality of the Eye-Fi Explore WiFi Hotspot card and the Apple iPhone to support posting pictures to Flickr from my Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 camera. My key requirement was to post photographs to Flickr direct from the camera but choose which ones to share, and have the ability to edit titles and descriptions as I published, through the Flickr mobile web page accessed via my iPhone.
Eye-Fi Explore WiFi Hotspot Card
This incredibly clever SD card has been available since 2008 but is still only available within the USA and Canada at the time of writing. Eye-Fi cards store photographs like a traditional memory card and fit in most cameras. When you turn your camera on within range of a configured Wi-Fi network, it wirelessly transfers your photographs to a pre-determined location like Flickr via the Eye-Fi website. You can also automatically have your photographs sent to your home computer (PC or Mac) available the next time your turn on your computer and connect to the Internet. The Eye-Fi Explore card used for my New York trip has an additional feature that allows the card to upload from public WiFi hotspots provided by Waypoint who have 10,000 locations across the USA. Another useful feature is the ability to Geotag your photographs so you can also record the location they were taken on maps like those provided by Google.
My experience with the Eye-Fi Explore was excellent and although my photographs took sometime to reach my Flickr account this was more likely due to congestion on my hotel Wayport connection and that I was shooting at the highest resolution on my camera. Photographs arriving in my Flickr account were marked private (set up via your Eye-Fi account) allowing me the option to choose which ones to share through my iPhone connection to Flickr, so on to stage two.
My iPhone is the 3G 16Mb version on a UK O2 contract running the latest v2 operating system. Access to sites like Flickr was provided by Boingo WiFi through their iPhone application which helped avoid expensive data roaming costs. This is a paid for service (30 day free trial) but free public WiFi is also available throughout the USA, UK and other countries if you are prepared to have a look around. A useful application to help with this is the WiFiFoFum hotspot locator which I also use as part of my standard iPhone applications when travelling.
Using the iPhones Safari browser to access Flickr's mobile website allows you to see recently uploaded photographs from the Eye-Fi card. From this browser view I can change privacy settings therefore choosing which photographs to share as well as edit the selected photographs title and description before saving it. This free and native access to your Flicr account through a mobile browser is not just fast but also extremely flexible providing a similar experience, if not smaller, to the normal Flickr browser pages.
I'm not sure what black magic Eye-Fi are using for this part of the service but its pretty accurate considering there is no GPS signals used. However, this another great example of the Cloud computing tools available to photographer through services like Flickr and Google maps helping to bring alive your shared journey by showing the actual locations where your photographs were taken, automatically.
I first want to acknowledge that for a lot of readers the Eye-Fi technology is unavailable at the moment but the company do plan to expand into Europe but no date has been set yet. As for the technology and Cloud applications, they all worked seamlessly together confirming that in some situations a laptop is not required for shorter trips. Another key feature of the Eye-Fi Explorer card is that you are actually backing-up your photographs if you post to sites like Flickr that don't adjust the file uploaded, that alone is worth the purchase of the card. As for the iPhone, its flexibility, powerful applications availability and just simple ease of use makes it, in my view, a clear winner over netbooks and laptops if you don't need to do presentations or heavy editing of office type documents.
As well as assisting with uploads to Flickr I also used my iPhone applications to update this blog, post iPhone photographs and updates to Facebook, Twitter report (tweet) the news from the conference I was attending and order a book from Amazon UK that was waiting for me on my return. This was on top of the usual email checking, weather observing, news reading and general iPhone app surfing I normally do. Of course none of this would be possible without the services in the Cloud like Flickr and Google maps which mean I could share my trip as I travelled. It will be interesting to see what is coming in the future as today's Cloud tools and applications are already extremely powerful and provide a compelling experience for photographers willing to use them today.
You can view the photographs taken on the New York trip here on Flickr, as well as the Geotag feature by selecting map, all uploaded direct from the camera and edited on the iPhone Flickr mobile website before publishing at: