Walkthrough — Hacktoria: Geolocation 02

(Click here to watch and listen to the video version of this blog entry)

Note: The Hacktoria website no longer has geolocation challenges therefore all the links have been removed. This blog entry is for legacy purposes only. Free feel to give it a go by attempting to geolocate the image before reading the walkthrough.

After having so much fun solving Hacktoria’s Geolocation — 01 challenge, I have decided to keep going and solve the second one as well. Here you can find how I reached the correct answer and what steps I took in order to do so.

Geolocation – 02

Question: “What is the name of the town this picture was taken in?”

First thing we need to do is to open the image in a new tab and save it. Once we have it on the desktop it is much easier to zoom in and out and navigate around to get all the details.

So what do we already know?
From the presented question we already know out we are looking for a town, as oppose to an island like before, or a bigger city for example. We can spot on the left of the image a word on the building. That will be very useful and we will check it better using GIMP but first we want to know a bit more about the rest of the picture.

The road signs, although lacking useful detail, can help us a bit already from their positioning. If you were in a car driving on the road closer to where the photograph was taken, wanting to go to the road closer to the building, you would have to go through that bump on the ground. But which side of the road would you use? We know that traffic signs are positioned closer to where the driver would be sitting in the car.
For example, let’s look at this picture I got from google maps of a parking area somewhere in Wales.

The triangle sign indicating a zebra crossing is on the left side of the road. This tells me that the cars would go towards the parking area using the left lane, and exit the parking space using the right lane.
Looking at our geolocation 02 challenge image, we can see it’s actually the other way around.

This tells us that, where this picture was taken, the vehicles circulate on the right side of the road therefore excluding all the countries below in blue.

This is helpful but does not narrow it down that much.
However, I was very curious about the trees. We can easily see the trunk (shape, colour, some texture), the branch dispersion and the canopy. This would be very useful in order to identify it so I cropped it and took a screenshot of the tree on the right as it looked more mature than the one on the left and more likely to help us find the correct species.

We can use the image above on the plant.id website to help us identify the tree species.

And we immediately have a winner: Acer pseudoplatanus, also known as sycamore.
Quick note: I am very aware that you can have non-native flora anywhere in the world but, in general, being able to identify trees, wild flowers and general ecosystems is quite useful when trying to geolocate an image or video.

Now that we know the tree species, we can check out where they grow in the wild using Wikipedia.

Distribution map of Acer pseudoplatanus (sycamore)

Now we definitely narrowed it down a lot more. The image was probably taken somewhere in Central to Eastern Europe.

I think it’s time we start looking at that building. Using GIMP we can change the colour levels of the word in the building in order to read it a bit better.

It seems to say “PERRON” with the “E” being just three horizontal lines. I tried to just google “Perron” but get no useful leads. My next attempt was to isolate the building and do an image reverse search using Yandex, Bing and Google.

Although none of the results was helpful, the fact that google identified it as a secondary school is quite interesting. I already had the feeling that this was an educational setting such as a school or an institute of some kind and now we can be even more certain.

When searching for “perron secondary school” using google images I did not get anything interesting but when I searched for “perron school” I started to get a few familiar looking buildings.

Scrolling down the search results showed several other similar building, all located in the Netherlands. This would match the other information we got so far. The Netherlands is located in Central Europe, Dutch people drive on the right side of the road and sycamores (Acer pseudoplatanus) have been introduced and naturalised to the country.

Now that we can start focusing somewhere on the world map we can use google maps to help us each our destination. I searched for “perron school” specifically in the Netherlands and got three results, two of each together and one further apart.

In order to help us quickly find the correct location, we can observe the original image again to see if we can spot any interesting landmarks such as rivers, train tracks, mountains, buildings in the distance. We can see a railway just behind the building, a detail I had missed the first time I inspected the picture.

Now that we know what the area must look like it’s fairly easy to find the location where the photograph was taken. Zooming in on the “Het Perron” school in the North of Netherlands using the satellite option in google maps, we can easily spot a train line.

Although this seems to clearly be our target, we still need to confirm it visually. There is no streetview on the school road so we need to be a bit creative and maybe check from a bit far away but zoomed in on the building.

If we position ourselves at the De Morinel street facing the Het Perron school, we can zoom in enough to check out the building.

It looks very similar. Now we can compare it with the original picture.

On the left we have the image from the hacktoria’s geolocation 02 challenge and on the right we have the screenshot of the zoomed in building taken from the closest street with google street view.
We can see how the name “Perron” matches exactly, the building’s shape, colour and design is identical with white stairs, an orange wall with four (numbered) columns and a top floor with a row of consecutive square shaped windows. We can even spot the railway in the distance behind the school with the row of small trees just in front of it.

We cannot spot the big trees we identified in the original image, instead we see much smaller ones. However, checking when google street view’s data was collected lets us know it was done in August 2020, plenty of time for a healthy tree to grow a few metres, assuming the photograph was taken recently.

Now that we are completely certain that we have the correct location we can attempt to answer the challenge question. So what is the name of the town where this school named “Het Perron” is located? The answer lies once again in google maps.

“What is the name of the town this picture was taken in?”

I hope that was informative and helpful in case you were stuck.
If you reached the same conclusion using a different method feel free to share it as I would be very happy to learn new techniques and/or tools.
Thank you for reading!

~ Sofia.

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