With GoPro and other POV (point of view) action cams readily available – some for very little cash – there’s an abundance of selfie obsessed types in your social media stream, posting pics willy-nilly, of their adventures on water, snow or in the air. For me, however, it’s slightly different. I’m not simply narcissistic, it’s part of my job! Testing watersports equipment necessitates the use of action cams. It’d be great to utilise the services of a fully-fledged photographer, but for now my trusty GoPro is it.
There’s more to nailing ‘the shot’ than you would think. Particularly GoPro, but with other action cams having a variety of settings, you’ll need to get yours sorted before going near the water. You then need to choose the correct mount for the shot in mind. Finally, learning to actually use your kit will be time well spent. A degree of trial and error will be needed first.
I usually require a number of shots – waves, flat water and jumping (with regards to windsurfing). The easiest images to capture are flat water SUP pics. Simply choose a sunny day, attach your GoPro to the paddle’s shaft and hold aloft with GoPro pointing down. This is signed and sealed within a few takes.
SUP in waves is slightly trickier. Again, I prefer to have my GoPro attached to the shaft of my paddle via a nifty gadget – Flymount. As a regular footer I have the cam perched on top, blade up. Then I offset slightly to the left. During the bottom turn I hold the paddle skyward. If it all comes together I’ll have snapped a dynamic looking image.
For windsurfing in waves, and/or jumping, my fixing choice is K4 Fins’ harness mount. This is basically a carbon pole that extends skyward and looks back at me and the kit. As you lay into a bottom turn the GoPro’s wide angle lens picks up the action and, if you’re lucky, board, sailor, rig and wave will be in view. It’s very rare, however, that I need the full setup in view. For gybing the setup is identical – after all a carve gybe is just a bottom turn. If I’m jumping then, again, I use the harness mount, but tend to have the cam rolled further forward on its bracket. This allows the board to come into view once airborne. Understanding your own riding style helps massively. Over the course of a few years, I’m hyper aware of my body movements. This ensures I can position my GoPro accordingly.
In terms of settings I have the cam wound up to 1080p. This gives the highest image resolution – essential for print mags (as the esteemed editor of this very publication will no doubt agree). I flick to time lapse mode and ensure my GoPro fires continuously at 0.5s. It may seem excessive but windsurf and SUP moves happen fast. Quick fire snaps allow the action to be captured.
There’ll (literally) be thousands of images to wade through. Out of the lot you’ll probably end up with a handful of good ones – at best! But when you nail THE shot you’ll be super stoked and quickly want to share it with the world!
GoPro POV images can also be a useful tool in terms of analysing technique – either photo or video. There’s no better way of measuring what hands, feet and body are up to. Suddenly, discovering that one flaw halting progression may be discovered. They can be a good teaching aid.
Shoot yourself action cam tips
- Over egg the pudding – if you really want a dynamic shot then up the ante. POV action cams ‘flatten’ everything so over accentuating movements is a good idea.
- Familiarise yourself with different mounting options and positions – a degree of initial experimentation will yield best results.
- Make sure you have a charged cam! There’s nothing worse than being ready to hit the water only to discover a dead battery. Same with your SD card. Ensure you have one in the slot.
- If you want good images you can utilise the video setting and screen grab stills later. Be aware these look rubbish when blown up to full size.
- Use a float and leash otherwise your cam could end up down in Davey Jones’ Locker – many a GoPro has suffered this fate.
- For a different view try attaching your cam to a solid object, such as marker pole, and sail/paddle past it. Just remember to get close and retrieve your GoPro when done!