The GoPro series of cameras are superb, small robust and not too expensive. It is now so easy to knock together a short video or 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.
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 use the lens cap when ever the camera is not in use. 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 Oakleys 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.
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.
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 GoPros owns anti fog strips. They are a stupid price for what they are but they do work.
Camera angle is also worth considereing. Personally if using a helmet mount I dont 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. Really I should be using the inbuilt Wifi and the GoPro app to preview the shot but I often forget.
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.
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, or you can simply switch on/off the camera when required. Reducing the volume level and the flashing LEDs as well as switching off WiFi will also help conserve power. This seems to be especially important with the new black series which is very power hungry. I have also found that it takes a few charging cycles before the GoPro batteries start to break in.
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 HD 2s and older, 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 etc.
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.