Underwater Photography with a GoPro

I love my GoPro!  I have had a ton of fun with it!  This image below was shot with my GoPro:

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To get the most out of shooting with your GoPro – here are some Tips and Tricks.

Batteries

GoPro’s are notorious for eating up your batteries very quickly.  If you are Scuba Diving, bring a fresh battery for each dive.  I often find that while doing video in cold circumstances I get around 40 mins on a used GoPro battery.  For that reason if I do a 3-tank dive in cold water, I will bring 3 GoPro batteries and switch the battery out between each dive.  The battery may only be half used when I switch it out – but I want to start each dive with a fresh battery.  Of course if you are not doing video then you will not drain your battery as quickly – but when in doubt, I like to play it safe.

Rinse Your GoPro Case

Your dive boat will most likely have a tub or bucket of water with rinse solution in it for your mask to make your view as clear possible.  With your captains approval let your GoPro take a bath in this solution so that it is as clean and clear as possible.  Make sure that the inside of the GoPro case has been adequately cleaned as well and that no gunk or crap is on the inside.

Red/Magenta Filter

Depending on your depth you may want to get your hands on a red filter to go over your GoPro housing.  These are relatively inexpensive.  A full discussion of filters can’t be accomplished here — but for the cliff notes version, use a Red filter in dark blue water, use a magenta filter in green water.

Lighting

Since the GoPro does not have any lighting options, we should discuss this topic a little bit.  You will want to consider something for lighting.   You may already have a dive light in your dive bag.  This will work if you have nothing else.  Although my favorite rig is my Fantasea bottom plate that my GoPro mounts to.  I then have two flexible arms that I attach two dive lights to.  My rig utilizes constant light and not flash – but that choice is up to you.

GoPro Lighting Rig

Memorize the Menu

If you plan on switching between taking photos and taking videos, be sure to spend a lot of time practically memorizing the GoPro menu.  For example, how many times do you push the selection button to go from Video mode to Photo mode.  This will help you context switch underwater as quickly as possible and with little effort.  After all you want to spend time diving and not messing with your cameras settings.

Setup settings on the Boat

While you are prepping for your dive on the boat, spend a few mins and confirm your settings.  What quality picture are you capturing?  What video settings are you using.  It is highly unlikely that you will be adjusting these underwater and there is little sense in using your precious dive time on this task.

Wide Angle with GoPro

Since the GoPro takes its shots in a wider angle then other underwater cameras, this gives you a particular challenge to the “Get in, Get Close and Fill it with Light” rule of underwater photography.  You get in too close and you end up spooking your subjects.  Keep in mind while using your GoPro, you will typically need to get even closer then you might often think because of the wider angle.  Don’t hurt the subjects, but get in as close as you can to them.

No Extension pole

A lot of people have different opinions on using poles.  I often use them when I am snorkeling and want to get under a subject that is below me.  While Scuba Diving an extension pool is most likely not needed and I don’t advise it.  If you do end up using an extension pole just keep in mind that light refracts differently underwater causing a different sense of depth perception.  This can cause issues trying to get a balanced shot while your GoPro is on an extension pole.  If you are holding the extension pole beneath you to get it lower in the water, you may think you are holding your camera level, but in reality you are probably tilting it upward a little too much.  This may cause you to have lots of images or video with your subjects half cut off.

Attach your Gear to BCD

Have a way to connect your gear to your BCD or somewhere that it is out of your way.  This is especially important during your initial decent and post dive ascent.  You want to focus on your safety and breathing first.  If you are holding onto your camera and have some issues with your scuba gear, you may lose your GoPro trying to adjust your scuba equipment.  or worse – you may end up putting yourself in serious danger if you start to lose your camera gear and try to recover it in an unsafe manner.

Ditch the Floatable

You may have a wrist attachment or a floatable piece to your GoPro.  A small floatable on the back of the camera may not have much impact, but a strong floatable may actually cause you to have issues managing your gear while underwater.  It may also make it awkward during your descent and ascent to have a piece of gear bobbing above your head somewhere.

Breath First

This is a general piece of advice regardless of the camera equipment being used.  Photographing of taking videos underwater is a ton of fun.  However don’t let it distract you from normalized breathing and vigilance about your safety.

Final Thoughts

Ok – that was a lot…  Let me recap some of the most critical ones.  First – don’t ever jeopardize your safety.  Second – bring a light source.  Third – bring plenty of fresh batteries.

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