Thursday, December 20, 2012

Showing Change in a Place(mark): Easily Updatable, Embeddable Slideshows in Google Earth

Updated April 11, 2013: See note about forwarding to Google Plus below the video. 

You can not only easily embed a slideshow into a Google Earth placemark to show how a location has changed or is changing, you can very easily and quickly update the contents of the slideshow. And, if there is cell phone coverage at your field site, you can update your slideshow instantly from the field!

If you already are familiar with Picasa Web Albums, you can set up a slideshow and embed it in a Google Earth placemark in about three minutes. Here's a video on how to do that.

Picasa Web Albums are very similar to albums on other photo-sharing sites, and the same process should work for those albums as well.

In 2013, Picasa Web Albums began to automatically forward to Google Plus, where the embed codes (at this writing in April of 2013) are not easy to find. However, if you go to, you should be able to work with your Picasa Albums. You may need to select that option from a pop-up at the top of the screen if you are forwarded to Google Plus.

Note that you can decide whether or not you would like captions to show within the slideshow. In many cases, showing captions of the time and date of the image is a good idea. 

The placemark created in the video is available here in a Google Earth file that includes a few other examples.

Remember too, that anything with an embed code can be embedded into a Google Earth placemark. There's more about that idea in an earlier blog post: Google Earth Embeddables. That not only shows how to do it, but gives some other examples. Of course, if you figured out how to do it for a slideshow from watching the video above, you already know what to do!

Why would I want to embed slideshows?

There are a range of interesting possibilities for using embedding slideshows in a virtual fieldwork experience (VFE) or other Google Earth file. You can show, as the example in the video highlights, an ecosystem's response to fire or another kind of disturbance. You can show seasonal changes, or construction or restoration. We expect to use this to monitor changes in the deer exclosure at Cayuga Nature Center, and using our carcass cam (a trail camera currently focused on a deer carcass) to see what critters are dining on the carcass, and to see that carcass change over time. 

There's a long history of using repeat photography for environmental monitoring, and you can easily plug historic imagery into Picasa Web Albums.

How do I update from the field?

The Web Albums App allows you to upload pictures taken on your smartphone or tablet to Picasa Web Albums. There are other apps available as well. 

In the Web Albums App, you can create a new album, by clicking the + button and simply typing in a name and clicking "done." You can also add to existing albums, by clicking on the album name, and then the upward pointing arrow (the upload button) to upload. Once you click the upload button, you are given the choice of selecting from the photo library on your device, or using the camera. 

If you're adding to an existing album, you can use the images already there to help you frame your new picture. Ideally, pictures in the slideshow will be taken from the exact same vantage point and the exact same zoom level. Being able to view the existing pictures in the album on the device that you'll be taking the next picture on makes this relatively simple. Simply view a picture in the album that you wish to repeat and flip back and forth to the camera until you've aligned the camera. Then, take your picture and upload it. 

As soon as you've added that new picture to the album, someone viewing the placemark will see it instantly appear in the slideshow!

If something is out of order or missing...

If the slideshow plays pictures in the wrong sequence, then go to the album view in Picasa, click "Organize" just above the top of the album, and you will be able to click and drag them into the correct order. See the picture below. If the picture set has a stretch of missing images, you can either duplicate images, or insert slides that note what's missing. A simple way to make those slides is to use PowerPoint and export the slides as images. Then, add them into the Picasa Web Album in the appropriate place. You might do this with a photo from the album as background on the slide. 

Please share your examples!

Use the comments to share with others any example you've created. You'll need to post your file to the web in order to share. You can upload Google Earth files to Google Drive (formerly Google Docs). If you choose to share with Google Drive, be sure to share the file so that it's either public or that anyone with the link can access it. 

Don Duggan-Haas

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