Ok it’s been a few years now since I last covered the subject of photography with a (Keep It Simple Stupid) philosophy in hopes to help out anyone with questions. With the changes in gear and the new questions we get daily it seems like its time to cover some things again.
I don’t think we need to redo what we learned in the last writeup but i would like to address a few changes in equipment and cover some video specific items as well as some post shooting items while still keeping with the (KISS) format.
I will say right off it takes a fair amount of work to get the shots that you want. And all too often people on vacation forget that they will need to put in some work to get the shots they will be glad to have after the trip is over, so don’t pack the new camera away until the trip is half over. We don’t need to see every min of your vacation but keep it handy and use it from beginning to end at least a little to give yourself more options when you put together that great trip video to share and reminisce with.
As everyone knows you cant really keep up with changing electronics and really that’s what keeps it interesting always looking toward the future for the next great thing. As I expect you have noticed this is especially true for camera toys! With the ever growing options for equipment however I am still a believer in simple is good especially when it comes to shooting underwater. Keep in mind that when I say simple it is somewhat relative to you as what is simple for you may not be for the next guy but knowing what you would like to see in your end product and what your capable of handling will help you decide what setup is best suited for you. (ie if you want great underwater still pics to show off, a gopro is probably not the best option for you) Perhaps you should look into a still camera that also shoots video clips.
With that in mind lets cover something we deal with on a daily basis. The Gopro cameras! This is still hands down one of the best most versatile cameras I have ever owned. It is a well made fairly simple catch the moment camera. and when used correctly can produce some amazing results. Many of you have heard me say (The best camera there is is the one you have when you need one) Thats why phones have done such leaps and bounds to make taking pics so integrated into something you carry every day. However my phone is rarely available while on a motorcycle ride or in the middle of the sand dunes on the atvs and never while on a dive (Thank God). The Gopro on the other hand almost always is. This is one small well accessorized camera that we love to use for underwater video. We do however highly recommend you set them up correctly to get the full enjoyment from them. This en-tales picking the best model from the start.
There are multiple models of this camera that all have slightly different capabilities and features that can be confusing at times. As of now there are five main models we deal with until I get done with this article and then they will be outdated I’m sure.
Has larger lens and locking latch. Slightly increased depth rating. This housing is also what they call the standard housing or dive housing.
Hero 3+ Black/Silver
Has smaller lens larger buttons but no locking latch.
Hero 4 Black/Silver
Is same size as hero3+ housings
I will leave it to you to go to the GoPro website for all of the specific differences or come by and see us and we can give you the low down but I will try and address the main questions we handle.
First thing is any of these cameras will work out of the box underwater to normal dive depths. There are a few physical differences and different cameras will fit in different housings. most notable is the size of the housing lens as it will determine what filter size you will need. No matter the model we like to recommend setting them up with a few accessories so you will really enjoy the final product you get.
The LCD Touch Back
This will fit on the back of the camera so you can frame your shots better and use your menus more easily.
LCD back now comes built onto the Hero 4 Silver only.
High speed high quality memory cards
We suggest having a couple just in case one is lost, broken, or even full.
Extra battery and wall charger
This way you can charge your batteries while you use your camera, and have spares as power is your most limiting factor typically.
We have built these customizable handles to give you a simple base to get a more stable shot and can be expanded as you see fit. With small cameras we have moved away from unnecessary bases and arms for mounting in most cases.
With this on you can let go of your camera if needed. Simple and effective.
This works the same as we covered before, brings out the color in your footage, and is well worth a few extra bucks to double your video quality. I very rarely do not use a filter in the ocean.
This is an item that will make vast improvements in your video quality by making the color pop and is well worth it if you don’t mind spending some extra coin.
If your going to make the effort to get some good video you need to be able to view what you have shot on something other than the LCD back to make adjustments as needed. And if you want to shoot with some of the new HD and ultra HD settings you will almost definitely need a fair amount of storage space for the file sizes. Plus if you try and leave files on cards you risk loosing tiny cards or even flooding and loosing all your shots. So make room in your bag for your laptop and a decent hard drive.
So our most popular underwater setup will look something like this.
Shooting video with SLR cameras or a nice Point & Shoot camera like the Sealife that is capable of shooting HD video is a good way to go as well plus you can get your still shots at the same time. The basics still apply you just need to learn your rig, view your footage, and work on improving for the next dive.
One of the hardest things to do with a small video camera while diving in an always moving environment underwater is to get a stable shot. So it will take some effort to get at least a short clip of something worth using. I tell people to try to get 10-30 seconds or more of smooth video of something interesting so that by the time you edit down here and there you should have a little left to use. This is easier said than done in many cases but with practice it will come.
This is also one reason i am not a huge fan of stick cams. As they may let you get a bit closer to critters, they will generally be very bouncy shots. We also discourage the use of head mount cameras as they will only serve to make you nauseous when watching footage if they even stay on your head. If you see someone with head strap underwater follow them and get yourself a new camera or at worst a reward for finding one.
Do yourself a favor and do not just turn your camera on and run it the whole dive. All this is doing is causing you tons more work. You will have to sift through all that footage to find the good shots and you are burning up card space and battery power for when that mermaid swims by and you get nada. There are buttons on your camera for a reason just learn what they do and use them.
Follow most of the same techniques from the last article in regards to planning ahead for your shots framing and subjects. Just keep in mind you now need to go with the flow and keep it smooth as you can.
So now you have all those great shots from your trip whats next?
This is where we seem to lose most of you as it does take a fair amount of time and effort to go through your footage and put something together. I have found that if you don’t carve out some time soon after your home to sit down and edit out the best shots and put them together it will not get done. And nobody will get to enjoy your great shots you worked so hard to obtain.
As far as software for editing there are a lot out there and it all seems to do ok. Its more a matter of getting to know how to use it and learn what it can and can’t do. Also keep in mind if you did all your shots in ultraHD it will take a decent computer to process and use up a fair amount of hard drive space as well, so keep that in mind when you make your camera settings.
When I just need some simple edits and short videos made iphoto, iMovie, or GoPro studio work ok. When I need more detailed work or have a longer project I prefer Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Pro to do my editing as they can accomplish just about anything I want to do creatively.
Remember when putting together something for others to view “short and sweet is neat”. I find that anything over about 5min and people will start to drift away unless they where on the trip or you have some killer footage.
Bottom line is you do have to put in some work to get the shots you are proud to show off that help make the trip memorable So take your camera with you and lets see those shots.