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Original Photo Capture Timestamp Hidden in the Import Window

PhotoJoseph's picture
December 28, 2010 - 8:48pm

A user recently asked about fixing time zones when you are importing photos that were shot in one time zone, possibly set accurately (possibly not), but while sitting in another time zone. If you find an accurate time stamp to be critical to your workflow (as many of us do), having this right is quite important.

It’s a pretty big discussion, and I will do an in-depth tip on that sooner or later, and with it include syncing GPS data (which is where things get really messy). But today while importing some photos I made while in Slovenia in October (yeah… I’m behind) I noticed something I’d never seen before.

Verifying Capture Time

The very first thing I did was to open a .CR2 file in Preview to check out the EXIF data and see what time it had set. I know for a fact that my camera was set correctly, so before I even went into Aperture (expecting to have some time zone confusion), I verified the time.

As you can see, the image was captured on October 12, 2010, at 17:51:48

Capture Time in the Import Dialog

Then I opened Aperture and the import window, to see what it said there. As expected, it was wrong. It’s wrong because my computer’s time zone is not set the same as where the image was captured. As you can see in the screenshot below, it shows the File Date as 22:51:48.

But here’s the thing I just realized… if you hover your mouse over this field, it will actually pop up a tooltip of the EXIF time!

Look at that… the original 17:51:48 is revealed. Interesting… OK so now we know that we can verify the real capture time from within the Aperture window. What else can we see here?

Reading the Rest of the File Date Display

If you look at the File Date display in the screenshot above, you’ll notice that it’s cut off. After the “22:51:48” we can see “G…”. What is that? If you click in that field, it almost displays the whole thing, but not quite.

So close! We got “22:51:48 GMT+”… but that’s it. Plus what?! PLUS WHAT?!?!

Ah… Command-C… switch to a text app… Command-V…

File Date: 2010/10/12 22:51:48 GMT+01:00

So Aperture is reading the GMT+01:00, which is the correct timezone that it was shot in. It’s trying to adjust for the inconsistent time zone between the computer, the the camera, and what’s currently set in the import window’s Time Zone : Camera Time.

Wait a minute… how the heck does Aperture know it was shot in GMT+1? My camera doesn’t have time zones; just time. I don’t think I even copied these files off the CF card to the desktop (where they’ve been sitting for two months) while in GMT+1. Maybe I did. Maybe that’s how it knows. Oh, my head hurts.

By the way, you can do the same thing with the changed (red) Version Name to verify that Aperture is entering it the way you expect. You can hover the mouse over Version Name to see a tooltip pop up, or you can select, copy, and paste the text into a text document.

Setting the Time Zone Right

Where does this leave us? My goal is to get the correct time showing up in the File Date field, so that it writes the correct time into the Version Name. If Aperture worked as expected, you’d open up the Time Zone import widget and set the Camera Time to the time zone that the camera was set to, and the Actual Time to the same. This makes sense, since the camera was set up accurately. However, this doesn’t work. Why not? Because your computer isn’t in that time zone any more (remember that’s what started this mess in the first place).

I’ve advised before that changing the time zone on the computer will solve this problem. It’s only temporary; just set the time zone in the System Preferences to the location where the photos were shot, and everything will line up fine. But that’s quite tedious, and frankly, a bit ridiculous. I found another solution, although I have to say this is almost as silly.

I set the Camera Time and Actual Time to the time zone I’m currently sitting in, which is GMT—4.

That got the time set right, although the time zone is wrong.

File Date: 2010/10/12 17:51:48 GMT-04:00

I’m less concerned with the time zone, because this isn’t written into the file name, and as long as my hour is correct, it will fall into order.

After Import

Once imported, the time and the filename are accurate… but there’s still the GMT—4 issue. Again for this need I’m not concerned with it, but if I was adding GPS I might be more interested in having this accurate. Although, Aperture does a fantastic job of syncing GPS data by simply dragging a pin onto the GPS path (more on that in a future post).

Wrap it up…

If this all seems a bit ridiculous, I’m inclined to agree. The fact that Aperture can fix time zones on import is a great feature, but I think it needs a little work when you add in a third time zone to the mix (time zone of the computer at the time of import).

Have you dealt with this problem before? What’s your solution?

App:
Apple Aperture
Platform:
macOS
Author:
PhotoJoseph
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