What exactly is a location?

I know - sounds like a terrible question, but wait. I hope this is easily solvable, but I have not been able to find an answer:
For the location on an observation, should the location be where I was standing or where the organism(s) actually is? This is relevant for photographing anything at a distance (particularly birds and mammals). What I do now is almost certainly wrong - place the pin where I was standing and adjust the accuracy circle to roughly encompass the actual location of the subjects.

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It should be centered on where the organism was.

In practice, if it’s centered on where you were instead, that’s generally just fine, especially for animals as they move around.

The accuracy circle can best be thought of as measure of how confident you are that the organism was at the location you dropped the pin.


You might be interested in this topic from a couple of years ago: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/when-photographing-very-distant-organisms-what-should-i-mark-the-location-as/2120/2. It includes a poll.


As already was said, it should be where the organism was.


The process you outlined:

is actually correct enough! As long as the circle contains the organism, it’s fine. But centering the circle on the location of the organism is the most ideal.


Since we aren’t photo’ing distant topographic features or planets, in almost no case would the subject be so far away from you that the location you choose (where you’re standing vs. where the organism is) that it would make a significant difference. I’ve seen this question come up where the organism is in one jurisdiction (e.g., a state or county) that is different from where the observer is standing. In that case, it might be more important to narrow your location circle to the jurisdiction where the organism actually was.


I offer Exhibit A: Bristly Oxtongue (Helminthotheca echioides) from American Canyon, CA . This street not only crosses from American Canyon to Vallejo, but in so doing, it also crosses from Napa County to Solano County. The back fences of the yards follow the city limit/county line. This picture was taken just a few inches from the line, on the Napa County side. Had I been standing on the other side of the specimen, I would have been in Solano County photographing a plant in Napa County. The circle of accuracy, small as it is, is partially in one county and partially in another.

Wanna know what’s really funny? The “American Canyon” location label was assigned by the system; I didn’t alter it. The system knew which side of the line the plant was on.

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To be clear there isn’t any specific guidance in iNat’s definitions. Since I geotag my photos, if I’m birding I use the location of where I was when I photographed the bird, which I know others disagree with.

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For birds it can easily be 1-2 km away from where you’re standing, but even 100 metres can be a huge difference “field vs. forest”, “house vs wilderness”.

Which from a bird’s perspective is no difference at all.

It is, it matters if you see a raptor near human buildings or in the woods, if passerine that is afraid of humans comes close to you or is actually far away. It’s a niche data, but it shows what exactly you saw.

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