When photographing very distant organisms, what should I mark the location as?

When I am photographing Very distant organisms (eg. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/21876969), I’m often not sure whether to mark the location as where the camera was, or where the organism was. My camera does not automatically geotag photos, so I am manually adding the locations. Until now I have been putting a broader location which encompasses both, but it would be nice to be able to make the location more accurate.
Thanks in advance for the help,

I added a poll to see what other people do

  • I mark the location of the organism
  • I mark the location of the observer
  • I mark a location in between
  • I do whichever one I feel like

0 voters

If there is anything else you think I should add, please tell me.


Also, maybe someone can help come up with a better name?

Mark where the organism was. And Ferruginous Duck seems like the correct name; it’s Research Grade, I see. :grin:


Yes, I try to mark where the organism was, not where I am standing when I take the photo.

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I have often wondered this same question. I’m glad you asked and I’m glad there is a forum to ask.

Thanks for the help!
I’ll try and mark as close as I can to where the organism was.

I too mark where the organism was. you can use an uncertainty circle to enclose where it may be if you aren’t sure.


i tend to mark the location of where the organism was, if i can. but i bet most people are recording the location of where the observation occurred (where the camera says it was), if simply because it’s too much work to go in and manually change the location. you might want to edit your original post here to add a poll to find out whether people (1) mark the location of the organism, (2) mark the location of the observer, (3) mark a location in between, or (4) it just depends based on laziness and other factors.


Good idea!
I’ll do that.

An accidental finger brushing the mouse trackpad put my vote down as the first option, but I intended to vote for the last one, which is usually the case. The organisms that I photograph that are distant are either trees or birds. Birds are highly mobile, so the location I observe from is likely to be within the range of that bird’s likely travel. For trees, usually at least one of the photos in the set is taken right at the base, especially for individually notable trees, but if I’m just trying to tally species present in the immediate area from a trail, I’m not going to go through and try to manually guesstimate the location pin over to where the tree might have actually been located.

I do wish that in the upload process there was a way to specify which photo the observation’s location data should sync to (since the one taken at the base is usually not the one I want to be the primary view).

As a more pie-in-the-sky thing, I wish that gps-enabled cameras would use the focus distance and orientation data embedded in the exif to calculate the location of the object being photographed, not just the location of the camera itself. At longer distances at wider focal lengths (like for trees) it wouldn’t be terribly accurate, but probably still realistic to 30m accuracy. With long telephotos shooting birds it could probably be pretty accurate. It would really be an easy feature to implement, just a little extra code in the firmware, just not one for which there’s much demand. I can currently get the same result with any old camera if I take the bearing and a distance reading with a rangefinder from the spot where I take the picture (probably with much greater accuracy), but that means bringing two additional instruments into the equation when one would have sufficed.

you can change your vote. just click the hide results button, and that will take you back to where you can make a different selection.

One workaround on the desktop upload screen is to have a copy of the tree base that you use as the main image for its GPS coordinates then add all the other images in order and delete the first (tree base) image. That should keep the location data while allowing you to use the next photo in order as the main observation image.

You may already know this, but another way to handle this after an observation has been uploaded is from the individual observation page -> [ Edit ] -> [ Re-order photos ].

For me it is situational. When I am making ad-hoc observations, I usually just let the camera pick up it’s GPS and it’s pretty close most of the time. For birds, if it’s just as likely to be here as there, then I let it slide, but if it is unlikely to be here than there, then I edit and place it better. But for projects like Hackfalls or the Botanic Gardens, especially where I intend to return and make subsequent observations at other times in the year, then I go to the effort of printing out google maps so that I can use those to help geo-locate to +/- 1m.

As always, strive to make it as accurate as practicably possible when making the observations, and be aware of the limitations when using the data!