The GoPro series of cameras are superb, they are small, robust and not too expensive. It is now so easy to knock together a short video of your paddling and share it with the world. Anyone can do it and quite alot do. That is where the problem starts. It is really easy to get a video that looks like all the other kayaking videos that end up on Youtube, Vimeo and Facebook early each week or even worse end up with compromised footage that cannot be used.
Although we are big GoPro fans here at Unsponsored HQ the principles that follow will also work very well with the Contour, Drift and all other action cameras.
To be fair it is super easy to mess up your footage without even trying too hard and I have ruined more than my fair share of footage over the years. Hopefully following the few guidelines below will help you avoid some of the mistakes I have made.
Line of sight:
Camera angle is also worth considering. Personally if using a helmet mount I don’t like to see the peak of the helmet in the video. I usually use line of sight to try and get the angle correct. This is sometimes a little hit and miss but over time I have found that I can now line up the camera the way I want it without much hassle.
The release of the App and the LCD screens do make lining your camera up much easier than trial and error.
Keeping your GoPro in good order will always help you get better video. Scratches or dinks on the lens will spoil even the best whitewater pros video. In the past I used a MYOG fleece stuff sack to carry my GoPro around in whilst it was in my kit bag, you could use any small stuff sack or even a sock. Since getting the GoPro 3 I have always used a lens cap when ever the camera is not in use. GoPro do make them but you also pick up cheaper and more colourful versions online.
A soft glasses cleaning cloth is also worth its weight in gold to get rid of any smears or finger prints from the lens.
Another sure way of spoiling a shot is water droplets on the lens. Many paddlers simply lick the lens and this certainly does help. RainX or similar also works but my favourite to date is Oakley’s own hydrophobic solution. I have had a small bottle for years and its still going strong. It’s worth getting a paddling mate to check the lens now and gain for water droplets. A quick dunk in the water will usually clear the lens.
Different Angles – Mix It Up:
Due to its size the GoPro is perfect for getting shots from different perspectives, ie not just facing forward or on top of your helmet. This is key. Mix things up a little. I have a mount on my boat and helmet. Most of the guys I paddle with have the same, so the camera can be moved around and be faced both forwards or backwards on helmets/boats.
Using the extenders to raise the camera a little higher can also make a huge difference to the perspective in the video.
Some paddlers have made some stern mounts that hold the GoPro 1-2ft above the back of the boat. Getting this kind of perspective is superb but the system can interfere with your roll.
Sometimes the best shots are those that rely on the camera being on the bank. Small tripods are super useful as are mounts such as these from Mount Star. The camera can be clipped in and out quickly without having to mess around with the nut/bolt. GoPro make a tripod mount but its does require you to loosen the quick release system, which can be pain.
The mount can be used on a tripod, strapped to a tree/post and can even be rigged up on a paddle. They aren’t cheap, but they have multiple uses are well made and totally bomber.
Mounting a camera on your paddle has become quite popular. Personally I think that this works really well for still shots but is limited when it comes to shooting video. It also impact on the use of the paddle to some degree, which you must be aware of. Try it on flat water first before trying to get the shot when free wheeling off a waterfall.
I have ruined video when my GoPro has fogged up. It occurs when the camera is subjected to a sudden temperature change, e.g on a warm day being dunked in cold water. I have tried a number of Internet suggestions without luck and have now relied upon GoPro’s own anti fog strips. They are a stupid price for what they are but they do work.
Conserving your battery is also worth while. There is nothing worse than getting to the best part of the river for the big action shot and you find the battery has died. You can carry spares with you for the GoPro 2, 3, 3+ or 4 series of cameras but some cameras do not have access to the battery compartment.
Reducing the volume level and the flashing LEDs as well as switching off WiFi and Bluetooth will also help conserve power.
I also like to have a way of charging the camera batteries I have in the car. My car has a few 12V sockets making it easy to charge a few cameras at any one time. Most cameras use a Mini USB connection but the new Session 4 uses Micro USB. Rather than depend on the GoPro cables I use ones produced by Anker. They are longer (I use the 3ft versions) and can be bought in various colours making identification much easier.
For such a small/tough unit the the GoPro can handle most conditions pretty well. The newer GoPros can cope with bright light or dark conditions better than the earlier models, but do sometimes suffer from either under or over exposure. Sometimes you can’t really do much about it but it helps to be aware, especially if using the camera from the bank.
Be selective and only take video when something interesting is going on. There is little point shooting lots of flat water paddling between rapids unless you intend to use it. You’ll save battery, card memory and time when you get around to editing the footage.
Mounts break free, it’s as simple as that. Tether your camera for extra security.