GoPro is Perfect for Travel

Photography has always been a fun hobby to me for both documenting and recalling events and telling stories.

While I definitely don’t consider myself a “photographer,” I feel comfortable enough with my experience around the GoPro to throw out some pointers for anyone looking to get started using a GoPro for travel or is just looking for some photography and videography inspiration.

Here, I will get into some of the equipment I use on my adventures and how, and then I’ll get into a few things I’ve learned over the hours of GoPro video that you’ll want to keep in mind when using your GoPro for travel.

GoPro cameras have without a doubt revolutionized the way we take photos of our travels. Whether you’re doing a walking tour of Paris, hiking to the top of Mt. Marathon in Alaska, or diving the Pinnacles in Saba, there’s no denying that GoPros are the future of travel photography.

I bought my first GoPro in 2012.  It was the Original Hero, version 1.  At the time I had just started diving and was looking for a great way to document my dives and get some great photos of the world below the surface.  I was by no means an expert, and it took me a few dives to “get it right.” 

Last year, I upgraded to the GoPro Hero 4 Silver Edition. I chose this over the Black Edition since it has an LCD screen and the Black did not.  This is also the time where I decided I no longer needed to carry an actual camera.  I was armed with my iPhone and my GoPro Hero 4 Silver. 

Getting Started

Here’s a few key pieces of advice to get you started, with more GoPro tips coming throughout the year as I vow to capture more of life’s adventures on my GoPro Hero 4.

1. Invest in Mounts Suitable for your needs

The GoPro grab bag of mounts is a great place to start to ensure you’ve got something to get you going – however there are some really exceptional mounts you should consider investing in, depending on your needs.

Before my last trip, I purchased a telescoping selfie stick for my GoPro.  Typically when I travel, there aren’t ton of people around so selfies are often my game.  The GoPro already has the perfect wide angle shot to get more than a selfie on your phone.  By adding the pole to my list of accessories, I was now able to get a better angle on these already perfect wide angle shot. 

The GoPro head strap is also great if you want to capture your own perspective and show people what you see through your eyes as the lens can be tilted to show just that.  The quick clip mount gives this perspective as well, just strap it to your hat or backpack and your good to go!

I’d also recommend the GoPro wrist mount if you’re into adventure sports and want to capture those moments without the worry of holding onto the stick.

For diving, I initially created a dive mount out of PVC pipes so I could create steady shots.  I now use a Dive Monkey light hand mount and secured my GoPro clip to the mount.  This works great for getting some perspective shots.

2. Save Battery Life

Battery life is improving with each release – but the camera batteries for GoPro are still likely to run out if you’re out on an adventure for the entire day. On average my GoPro Hero 4 Silver goes for about 2 hours 45 minutes before it runs out of battery.  The easiest way to save battery life is to take short videos, and be sure to power down your GoPro between videos.  The newer models have wifi that you can connect to, so if you are connected, be sure to turn off wifi – and keep it off!

Its also a good idea to carry multiple charged batteries with you.  On my most recent trip, I was on board a boat and my GoPro battery decided to die.  This was strange since I had charged the batter the night before and we had only completed one dive.  Thankfully, one of my new friends on the boat had a spare battery to save the day!  I won’t make this mistake again.

3. Know How to Prevent Fogging

Fogging occurs in the camera housing when there are drastic changes in weather or the air is humid. Fear not, anti-fog strips will save the day! 

I learned this the hard way as well.  I was in Hawaii diving the amazing island of Ni’ihau, and took some amazing footage of monk seals fighting.  This was straight out of National Geographic!  It wasn’t until I got back to my hotel and was reviewing the footage and found that the camera had fogged a bit.  The footage was still usable, but I was a bit disappointed. 

Image at Ni’ihau of Monk Seals Fuzzy from Fog.

 

From that point on, I make sure my travel pack always has the anti-fog strips.

4. Framing

Aim it low. Shooting in Wide or SuperView on the GoPro means you’re getting a lot of information into the shot. Aim the GoPro a little lower than normal, which allows  for the super wide angle it captures by default. One of the worst feelings as a GoPro user is looking back through GoPro footage you were excited about only to see you were mainly cut out of your shot and there’s way too much exposure of clouds and sun.  It’s cool when you want it, but if it’s not what you wanted it can be extremely disappointing.

Saba Hiking

Hiking Windward Side of Saba island.

View of salt piles in Bonaire.

5. Hold the Camera Steady

The camera is small and videos can be shaky because of this, so be aware, and make an effort to hold the camera stead to create a smooth, crisp shot.  Also, hold the shot longer than you think you need to.  This will create a smoother shot and give you more opportunities to edit it down.  You can always edit a clip to make it shorter, but it’s much harder to make the clip longer other than slowing the speed way down, which doesn’t always give you the vibe you are looking for.

6. Adequate Lighting and Filters

To me, lighting is everything.  As a scuba diver, we lose a lot of the color spectrum immediately.  When I add light to the subject, it brings back all the colors we lost.  There is such a thing as too much lighting though.  Overexposure is like glaring into the sun, it will blow out any image you have and you will most likely be disappointed when you view your footage.  That being said, be aware of how you light your subject, but also that the light is positioned properly when used. 

Filters for underwater videos and pictures will really help you when it comes time to edit.  For diving, I always use my Backscatter Flex Green filter.  It’s a filter I mounted to my factory GoPro mount.  This ensures that the greens and reds are automatically put back into my shot.  There are several other filters you can add to the GoPro, but I found the green and/or red filters are a good place to start.

View of Webbed Burrfish at 80ft. with Sola light.

View of Saba Windwardside Town from Maskerhorne Hill with sun glare through clouds.

7. Practice Makes Perfect!

As with any new piece of technology, practice makes perfect. Through trial and error, I have found that rather than using the photo option, I’ll take a quick video and then grab a screen shot from that video.  Then as an added bonus, I can always choose to use the video.  It’s perfect. 

Another great feature on the GoPro that is often overlooked by beginners is the time-lapse mode. With time-lapse, you can set the camera to take a photo every half a second or second or more, and continue to adjust your position while your camera clicks away and takes a number of options for you.  I use the time-lapse for sunsets, road trips, and even at night when filming the aurora borealis in Alaska last year.  It’s amazing and creates a very artistically fun video.

Screen grab from GoPro of Rx Bandits concert at Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles.

Screen grab of Baracuda at Salt Pier Bonaire.

8. Reduce File Size

GoPro video footage is inherently big in size, so its a great idea to compress your files to save space on your laptop or hard drive. There are a range of programs you can use, many of them for free, just run a quick internet search for these programs.

9. The Final Edit

Editing will take time.  Be patient and take the time to tell the story you want to tell. Many people do not take enough time in the editing process.  While you see a picture perfect edit at the end of the project, it is important to remember they too had tons of unwanted footage that didn’t make the cut and have used a variety of tools to edit their final product.

For videos, speed of footage, both slow and fast, can be incredibly effective. Be mindful of the colors in your videos and photos as well.  Play around with the colors, exposures, crop/zoom and other basics you most likely are already doing on your phone when you’re posting to social media.  Take your time, it will be noticed.

10.  HAVE FUN!!!

Last but definitely not least, remember that we are the makers and creators of this generation.  We may not all have the most expensive cameras available to us, but we are able to create fantastic footage with what we have.  It’s not the size of the production that matters, or how you do it.  In the end, all that matters is that you are creative and you have fun!

What are your top tricks for using your GoPro that you’d like to share with other readers?

Check out more by subscribing to my YouTube channel:   https://www.youtube.com/user/northwestbysw

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8 Comments

  • Reply Isadora Koller March 8, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Really useful post, I’m thinking about buying a GoPro for my next trips and as I’m totally newbie to GoPro this post gave me a really good idea of how to work with it

    • Reply westbyswtravels@gmail.com March 20, 2017 at 3:13 am

      Awesome! Happy to help. GoPro’s are really easy to work with, but just like anything, practice makes perfect. There was so much I learned from using it. I went through many hours of not so great footage in order to learn what works and what doesn’t.

  • Reply Adrenaline Romance March 9, 2017 at 4:49 am

    These tips are spot on! We also bring our GoPro Hero Plus Silver 3 Plus whenever we go adventuring. However, we only take videos using the unit; GoPro photos are not really up to par with our FujiFilm and Nikon.

    Filters are invaluable, especially when diving. We actually bought a filter set. 🙂

    • Reply westbyswtravels@gmail.com March 20, 2017 at 3:35 am

      I would definitely agree on the photos from the GoPro. I find typically I will take video and then when I’m on my computer, I will take a screen shot. It works out perfectly. I don’t use an actual camera, but my iPhone 7 plus works great! I can’t wait for the next GoPro since the Hero 5 didn’t really change all that much. Hoping for raw video!

  • Reply Suzanne March 10, 2017 at 2:42 am

    Great tips! I definitely got to work on the fogging and battery life! Something that I find helpful sometime to get the perfect shot, is to just simply film, and then withdraw the photo from the video. This way you can get the best timing.

    • Reply westbyswtravels@gmail.com March 20, 2017 at 3:37 am

      I agree! That’s what I usually do myself as well. Plus, there are options for my YouTube video summary. I find for some nice perspective shots underwater I will take still shots, but for marine life, video is the way to go!

  • Reply Caitlin Stewart March 11, 2017 at 3:10 am

    These are some great tips! I have a go pro but rarely use it because I just feel like I don’t know how to! I’m going to try harder to play with it!

    • Reply westbyswtravels@gmail.com March 20, 2017 at 3:28 am

      Practice makes perfect! This is one thing I firmly stand behind. The more you use it the more comfortable you will be with it. I take most of my photos with either my iPhone 7 Plus or my GoPro. It’s perfect.

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