Using TPE Desktop Web App, Part 5: Locations

This tutorial outlines the locations features in the TPE web app.

In TPE, a location is defined as a map coordinate: latitude and longitude.

When saving a location, TPE records the red pin position along with the map zoom level. The elevation and time zone of the location are also stored as reference data.

Searching for locations

Search for a location by typing the name in the search text field above the map, then click the search button or hit Return. If Google’s geocoding service can find it, the red pin moves to the location with the map centred on the red pin position.

If you enter coordinates into the search field, Google will return the nearest known place. You can then reposition the red pin, keeping an eye on the co-ordinates at the top right of the map. Elevation, latitude and longitude are always given for the red pin position. (UPDATE: please see this post for limitations on this function due to changes in Google's pricing. Coordinates can be entered via the URL, as described here.)

It may be necessary to use the map buttons to zoom in or out. If you have zoomed to where your red pin is no longer in view, use the centre red pin button to move the red pin to the centre of the map; alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut C.

Sometimes after positioning the red pin, you might move the map until the red pin is out of view. To centre the map on the red pin, use Shiftand the centre red pin button, or use the keyboard shortcut Shift-C.

To save the current red pin position as a location in your saved locations list, click the bookmark button, or use the keyboard shortcut B.
To access the locations page, without saving a new location, click on “Locations” at the top of the page, or use the keyboard shortcut L.


  1. Search text field
  2. Search button
  3. Drag and drop the red pin to adjust its position
  4. Elevation, latitude and longitude are shown for the red pin position
  5. Use the Google maps zoom function to zoom in and out
  6. The centre red pin button centres the red pin on the map, or use the keyboard shortcut: C. Clicking the centre red pin button while holding down Shift centres the map on the red pin or use the keyboard shortcut Shift-C
  7. Use the bookmark button to save a location or use keyboard shortcut B
  8. Click on “Locations” to go to the locations page or use the keyboard shortcut L

Saving locations and the Locations page

Once you have clicked the bookmark button or used the keyboard shortcut B, the locations page opens with the new saved location shown at the top of the saved locations list.

TPE automatically uses the name suggested by Google. You can edit the name of a saved location by clicking once on the name. When you have changed the name in the name field, click the tick to save, or press Return.

Delete a location from the saved locations list by clicking on the trash button. A dialogue opens and asks you if you are certain you want to delete the location. Click “yes” and the location is deleted from your list.

You can add notes to a saved location by clicking in the notes field next to the location name. Click the tick to save the notes.

To travel to a saved location, click the red pin button in the “Actions” column next to the location name. This takes you back to the map centred on the red pin at the selected location.

Alternatively you can click the grey pin button in the “Actions” column next to the location in the saved locations list. This enables the geodetics function in TPE (see Tutorial Part 3 for more details) and returns to the map with the grey pin at that location. You may have to zoom out on the map to see the grey pin. This function is most useful when setting up shots with both the camera and subject position i.e. saved locations that are reasonably close together.

You can fine-tune the position of a saved location by updating it. If you have previously positioned the red pin at a saved location, as described above, and then subsequently moved the red pin, if you then click the bookmark button (or use the keyboard shortcut B) a dialogue is presented asking whether you want to update the saved location:
• Click “yes” to update the current saved location to the new pin coordinate
• Click “no” to create a new saved location

To return to the map from the locations page click “Ephemeris” at the top of the page or use the keyboard shortcut E.


  1. The locations page opens with the newly saved location at the top of the saved locations list
  2. Location name field – click once on the name to edit
  3. Delete location
  4. Notes field
  5. Return to map with red pin at this location
  6. Return to map with grey pin at this location
  7. When in the locations page click “Ephemeris” to return to the map, or use the keyboard shortcut E

Filtering, naming and re-ordering your saved locations

Your saved locations list is searchable by name. To filter the saved locations in your list, click into the filter field and begin typing the name.

The search results are filtered by the letters or numbers you type. If I use the search term “Australia” it filters to just these two saved locations in my list:
a) “Tarros Ladder, Blue Mountains National Park, NSW 2780, Australia”
b) “Summit Road, Kosciuszko National Park, Kosciuszko National Park NSW 2642, Australia”

To remove the filter, and return to your full saved locations list, just delete the text in the saved locations search field.

It is a good idea to set up a naming convention for your locations from the start.

Examples of possible naming conventions include:
a) Country, province, location name: a search for “Mali” or “Lichtenstein” will display just the saved locations in those places
b) A “project” name added to a location

A project name can help you distinguish between saved locations. In Colorado there are a number of mountains over 14,000ft that are known as “fourteeners”. If I filter my locations list using the search term “14er” (a common shorthand form), this would bring up any saved location with the word “14er” in the title. By adding the term “14er” to a saved location name, I can distinguish these particular Colorado mountains from other locations in my list.

You don’t have to use a naming convention: you can just rely on the default name given to the location when it is created. However, after using TPE for a while, you may end up with a long list of saved locations. Remember the most important consideration when naming a saved location is that it is easy to find again: don’t get too cryptic!

You can re-order your saved locations list by clicking on the column headings. A second click on the column heading reverses the order of the list:

  • Clicking on “Name” orders them alphabetically by name or in reverse alphabetical order
  • Clicking on “Latitude” orders them by latitude from south to north or from north to south
  • Clicking on “Longitude” orders them by longitude from east to west or from west to east
  • Clicking on “Time zone” orders them alphabetically by time zone name or in reverse alphabetical order
  • Clicking on “Elevation” orders them from lowest to highest or from highest to lowest.


  1. Filter field – my saved locations list has been filtered by the search term “14er”. The filtered list contains any entry in my saved locations list that includes this word
  2. Order your locations list by clicking on the column headings
  3. In this example I clicked on the “Elevation” heading, the filtered list is ordered by elevation from lowest to highest

Importing and exporting locations

In TPE you can easily import and export locations using the “.kml” file format for 2D and 3D map-based data. Google Earth uses the same file format. You can view exported TPE locations in Google Earth and vice versa.

Export a KML file from TPE

By default, TPE exports all locations on view in the locations page. Thus, on clicking the export button without filtering a list, TPE will automatically export all of your saved locations. To export just one location, or a small selection, use the filter field to restrict the list to only the locations you wish to export. Once filtered, TPE will only export the visible, filtered locations.

a) If you want to export a filtered list, filter the locations first
b) Click the “Export” button
c) The KML file is generated and can be found in your browser’s default download folder.

Import a KML file to TPE

First, make sure the KML file you wish to import is saved somewhere easy to find, such as your desktop.

a) Go to the locations page, click “Import” and then “choose file”. Find the “.kml” file you saved and click “choose”
b) A dialogue appears telling you about the KML file. It details how many “placemarks” were found and asks if you would like to import them
c) Clicking “yes” imports all of the placemarks from the KML file as separate locations to your saved locations list. Duplicate placemarks (i.e. those with identical latitude/longitude to an existing saved location in your list) will not be imported. Clicking “no” returns you to the locations page


a) Importing some KML files adds text to your notes field for those locations. It’s a simple matter to click in the notes field and delete or update the text.
b) Not all KML files contain data that can be imported. Some KML files may contain no placemarks at all.


  1. Export button
  2. Import button
  3. Three locations that I imported into my saved locations list. There is now some text in the notes field that I can delete or edit

For Safari users only

Once you hit “Export”, a dialogue with the following message is presented:


Click “Yes” and the file named “Unknown” will be added to your download folder. This file has no file extension.

Click on the file name until a cursor appears, you can now change the name of the file. Rename it as desired, but ensure you append “.kml” to the end of the file name. Click away from the name or hit Return and a dialogue is presented:

“Are you sure you want to add the extension “.kml” to the end of the name? If you make this change, your document may open in a different application.”

Click the “Add” button. The file is now ready to use.

This does not affect other browsers.

Sharing locations

It is easy to share locations using the import and export options in the locations page: you simply email the exported KML file.

Another great way to share a location is to use the generated URL in your browser.

Choose a location from your saved locations list and click on the red pin in the “Actions” column next to the location. You will be taken back to the map with the red pin centred on the location.

To share this location using the URL:
a) Highlight all of the text in the URL address bar at the top of your browser window.
b) Copy the text
c) Paste this text into an email or a chat window and send
d) The recipient just needs to click on the URL

The best thing about this method of sharing is that when the recipient opens the URL they open it in TPE! They may never have heard of TPE, but since the web app is a browser-based application the URL of the location you share opens the app in their default browser. They can immediately save the location themselves and start using TPE.

As an example of sharing a URL from TPE, here’s one from our backyard:,-106.103620&center=39.3971,-106.1036&dt=20140815160200-0600&z=15&spn=0.02,0.08

Attention! Attention! Attention!

Now for some important information about locations:

Back up your locations

Once imported, the web app saves your locations in your browser’s local storage. Going forward, it is important to keep this in mind when organising your locations.

You should assume that clearing cookies from your browser will delete your saved locations. For some browsers this may not be the case, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

You should treat your saved locations like your photos, and back them up regularly. Just export the locations as a KML file from time-to-time, and store it somewhere safe.

Importing from the old TPE for desktop

If you have yet to import your saved locations from the old TPE for Desktop into the new TPE web app, please see our tutorial Part 6: Moving from legacy TPE for Desktop to the Web App.

When you import a list of locations from the old TPE for desktop, the locations are imported without time zone or elevation data. The same is typically true of KML files from other sources. (KML exports from TPE for iOS or our sister app, The Photographer’s Transit, do include this data.)

To add the time zone or elevation data to a saved location:

a) Click on the red pin, in the Actions column, next to the saved location. The map opens with the red pin at the location
b) Click the bookmark icon or use the keyboard shortcut B. This opens a dialogue that asks whether you want to update the saved location
c) Click yes. You are returned to the locations page and the elevation and time zone data is now updated for that location

Settings that affect locations

The settings page can be accessed by clicking the Settings link at the top of the window. There are a couple of settings that can affect your locations in TPE.

1) Units

Make sure you are reading the correct data by setting this to your chosen format: metric or English/Imperial.

2) Never show 45° map imagery

In some city locations, at close zoom levels, Google maps satellite imagery automatically switches to a 45° angle view. If you want to retain an overhead view, enable this option.

3) Elevation

Google’s elevation service measures elevations from mean sea level. In addition to providing elevations above sea level, it also shows depth measurements at sea (bathymetry).

Depth measurements aren’t so useful for land-based photographers (or even boat-based photographers). Enable this option to force the minimum elevation measurement to 0 ft or m. When checked, TPE will never use a negative elevation.

This setting has no significant effect for the majority of users. However, there are a couple of scenarios where having it checked on or off will make a difference, for example:

a) Ensure this setting is off if you visit any land-based location where the elevation is below sea level. Try it for yourself. To see the correct elevation for Death Valley in California go to this location, then click this setting on and off to see the difference.,-116.897447&center=36.3742,-116.8865&dt=20140815150200-0700&z=11&spn=0.22,0.62

Try it at this location too – not many photos to be had here; but see what a difference turning this setting on and off makes!,-49.965821&center=41.7287,-49.9658&dt=20140815190200-0300&z=5&spn=0.22,0.62

b) Check the setting to on to measure the apparent altitude from a boat anchored offshore of the island of Kauai to the top of the Nā Pali cliffs. (Good luck with photographing in a moving boat, by the way!),-159.663310&center=22.1805,-159.6383&dt=20140815160700-1000&z=14&spn=0.04,0.10&sll=22.176375,-159.630954


  1. Finding the apparent altitude to the top of the Nā Pali cliffs from a boat on the ocean. It’s important that the cliffs are measured from sea level rather than the depth of the ocean floor at this point

4) Delete saved locations

It’s orange. It displays a trashcan! Should you accidentally click this button a dialogue pops up asking if you want to do this. Click No!

If you really do want to delete all of your saved locations, this is the button for you :)

But please note, this action cannot be undone. When they’re gone, they’re gone! It is always best to make a back up of your saved locations by exporting a KML file and saving that first…just in case.

Location sync

At the time of writing we are working on location syncing for TPE across all versions: web app, iOS and Android.

Until that is complete, an important thing to note about the web app is that if you open it in different browsers, your saved locations will be unique to each distinct browser. Until the location sync feature is available, you will have to import and export locations to sync across versions in different browsers.

We advise that you choose one browser in which to view the web app and stick to it.

We hope this has helped: now you know as much as we do about how locations work in TPE!

If you’ve enjoyed this tutorial, you might also enjoy “Understanding Light with The Photographer’s Ephemeris” co-authored with renowned landscape photographer Bruce Percy. It’s available through Bruce’s web-site.

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