82: Trapped Flickr geotag data

I joined Flickr in 2005, when it was young enough that, like many fledgling internet services, you could refresh the global timeline and keep tabs on everyone's activity. In the past 11 years, I've uploaded over 9000 photos to Flickr and geotagged 7500 of them. And now I have a problem.

Flickr was the first piece of software, native or on the web, that let me add location data to my photos. It was all done by hand, as this was before my first iPhone or any other device that added geolocation automatically. I painstakingly dragged and dropped photos onto the map, often — because of Yahoo's crummy map data — with Google Earth side by side, especially for places that a street map considers the middle of nowhere, like archaeological sites in Sicily. Later, apps like iPhoto added geotagging capabilities (and removed them, and added them back), but I kept on with Flickr because it was my central photo hub.

Some of my fine-grained Flickr geotags in the Forum Romanum.

Some of my fine-grained Flickr geotags in the Forum Romanum.

Flickr is still alive and kicking despite several apparent death knells in the past. But this week's news that Verizon is buying Yahoo gave me another push to liberate my geodata and keep it stored in my local Lightroom photo library. There's only one problem: I don't know how to do it. Flickr allows bulk downloads of photos, but it doesn't alter the original EXIF data, so that means the geotags aren't baked in. And the native map view on the Flickr site has barely changed since its introduction almost 10 years ago, including limiting you to viewing less than 100 geotagged photos at a time.

Perhaps I'm missing something, but there is no direct or even indirect conduit for my 7500 pairs of latitudes and longitudes to get matched to photos in the Finder or Lightroom. The closest answer I've gotten is "use the API to write something yourself", but that's far from a simple or complete solution. But unless an alternative presents itself, that's likely the route I'll take. Hopefully it won't be a race against the clock, facing an API shutdown date. (None has been announced, but it's hard to be optimistic about Flickr's bright future.)

When I get my geolocation data out, I'll know better than to lock it into a new proprietary system — especially one that I don't control. I was way more lax about my data in 2007 or 2008, when I started geotagging. I didn't even have regular backups, so Flickr actually saved my bacon when I had a catastrophic hard drive failure and would have otherwise lost about 2500 photos for good. I treat my data much more carefully today, or at least I will once I can get my hands on it.