#184 DIGTECH’s First Field Project

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The first field project for DIGTECH was only a couple days and my only crew member was my wife. It was fun and efficient, nonetheless. This was also the first time using the Samsung Galaxy Camera in the field.

The Project

This was a unique project. It’s an annual project and I’ve actually done it before. In fact, I was the last one to do it. It was the last project I did for my last company before they laid me off. Actually, they laid me off within 15 minutes of getting back to the office. I hadn't even unpacked my field gear yet. Luckily for them I’m supper efficient and had already completed the letter report. So, what is the project?

Figure: Arborglyph on one of the sites. Common amongst Basque sheepherders. 

There are three historic sites located on a mine’s property in northern Nevada. The sites are under the jurisdiction of one of the Forest Service offices here in Nevada. The Forest Service doesn’t want the sites damaged by mining activity or any other activity. So, to keep the mine honest they require an archaeologist to go out and take pictures of the sites on an annual basis.

When I did the project last year I was given a three-ring binder with the previous year’s letter report, the site records for the three sites, a map showing where the spots to take pictures were, and the photos from the year before. We walked around to each point, which were also on the GPS, matched up the photo orientation with the previous year’s photo, and took a picture. We also recorded the current GPS point coordinates.

It was somewhat frustrating trying to carry around that binder and having to flip through it and find the photos. It didn’t help that my company didn’t put the photos in order either. I’m not sure what order they decided to put them in but the photos, which were numbered P-1 through P-38, were in some sort of random order. That’s what happens when you have the office secretary do your photo pages. She doesn’t know what went on out there and just put them in in the order they are listed on the photo log. That was an on going problem at that company and no one seemed to care. I’d better not get off on that tangent or we’ll be here forever.

The Project - Digitally

This time out I had the information from last year and the year before, since they never bothered to check my personal computer where I had it stored. I created maps with the photo points in QGIS and then PDF’d them. I also had the previous photos as PDFs and the site records as PDFs.

As we approached each point on the GPS I would look at the photo on my iPad (caution: corporation being mentioned) and get the orientation just right. While I was doing that my wife was starting a new record in the photolog using the Momento App on the Samsung Galaxy Camera. She had already updated the form to reflect her initials and the site number so those were already entered. She didn’t have to do the date either because I had that set to automatically enter when you open a new record. After taking the picture right in the app she entered the description, orientation, coordinates, and photo number. It was easy to type on the back of the camera with her thumbs and she said that utilizing the words that the Android operating system automatically generates greatly increased her efficiency.

As we took photos I used iAnnotate on the iPad to check off the photos that we took both on the photo pages from last year and on the maps of the photo points for this year. It was a windy day but we didn’t have a single scrap of paper blow away, get dirty, or get ripped up in a binder. Awesome. Welcome to archaeology 2.0!

Importing Information

There are a number of ways to get the database out of the Momento App on the camera. You can export the database as a CSV file and then access that using a file manager app and by plugging the camera into the computer. You can also transfer that file to a micro SD card in the camera, pull out the card, and insert it into your computer. If you have an internet connection you can send the file and the photos to a Dropbox account, email, Evernote, an FTP server, or a variety of other services.

Figure: The merge form for photo pages. The page is a table and the lines are only there so you can see that. For the final form the lines are removed. Using a table ensures that everything is uniform and in its place.

Figure: The merge form for photo pages. The page is a table and the lines are only there so you can see that. For the final form the lines are removed. Using a table ensures that everything is uniform and in its place.

One problem with the Momento export is that it doesn’t export the photographs with the file. It just exports the file name it assigned to the photograph. The file name Momento asigns has nothing to do with the camera and includes the date and time. I had to get creative with my text import into the photopage word document I had set up.

I was using MS Word for the photopage. My template is essentially a table with a placeholder for the picture and cells down the right side with merge fields for the mail merge from the CSV file. In order to be able to insert the right picture I insert the photo name from the Momento database as well. I delete that after putting in the photo.

Since I use placeholders for the photos all I have to do is drag the photo in from the directory. The photos are already sized and have the appropriate outline. That’s the benefit of using a placeholder.

Lessons Learned

It looks like this method is going to work and saves a lot of time in the office. One advantage to merging from a CSV file is you can sort by any column first, then import. For example, you can sort by site number and move only one site at a time.

The camera is going to work out too. Probably any camera running the Android operating system will work. I chose the Samsung Galaxy Camera because of the large, easy to type on, screen on the back. Also, it takes amazing pictures.

Well, that’s it. If you use mail merge or have tried other Android cameras, let me know in the comments. If you think I’m an overstuffed jackass, let me know that too.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!