Updated: May 17, 2021
Almost every dive trip that you go on these days, you will see at least one GoPro in the water. You know the type – the diver with the floater stick, GoPro logo and its deeper underwater housing. Perhaps to you, it is the most obnoxious thing you have ever experienced while diving, but I am proud to say that I am that guy. This blog is for everyone who wants to be that guy, in order for their underwater videos and photos to be as good as possible. I will provide you with a list of tips, tricks and, in my opinion, must haves for the serious underwater GoPro-er.
So, there you are on Christmas Day, and Ol’ St. Nick just got you the newest GoPro – an expensive toy, no doubt. The first thing you want to do is take it to the depths, right? Wrong! Although all GoPro’s are waterproof, it is only water resistant to 33 feet. Trust me, even on a shallow Key Largo dive to 25 feet, you are pushing the limit and will more than likely experience some malfunctioning, whether it be during the dive or once back on the surface. The first thing you will need to be a successful videographer or photographer is a deep underwater housing. This add on is usually priced around $20, and worth every penny to protect your new GoPro and have the capability to descend as deep as most sport divers will ever want to go with the typical rating of about 192 feet.
Do not forget, you will need some reusable anti-fog inserts for the housing to make sure your lens does not fog during your beautiful dive. There is nothing worse than getting an entire dive’s worth of footage, only to realize that all of it is fogged due to the temperature change from air to water. They are completely necessary and very inexpensive, ranging from $3 to $20, depending on how many you would want to keep on hand.
Now, you need to think about how you will hold the camera under water, whether it be the floater stick, a camera tray, a wrist strap mount, etc. The mounting options are endless, and almost all of them are sea water friendly. I personally like the tray mounting option – it gives divers essentially a double handle assembly to hold steadily, therefore achieving extremely stable filming. It also does not affect buoyancy, because both hands are extended, holding the handles, versus one arm stuck out with a floater stick. Depending on how many accessories you will want to use during the dive or on the surface (i.e. lighting, microphones, etc.) the price will vary. For a simple camera only tray, you can spend as little as $25; however, if you want the quality enhancing options like me, plan on spending around $100 for a good, optioned tray.
Once you have your camera and mounting system figured out, that is fantastic. However, if you are like me and love diving reefs, and appreciating under ledge formations, you will quickly find out that the more lighting you have, the better your videos and photos will turn out. Too often, especially on morning dives, I have regretted not having a light, and therefore not being able to capture the beautiful lime colors of a moray eel at the opening of its den, due to the ledge blocking the sunlight. Investing in a light, to add to your tray, is something worth considering. I will spare you the ridiculous amount of speculation over how many lumens you will need, what features different lights provide and everything else that comes with lighting. The only thing I will say is that you definitely get what you pay for, and please be mindful of how deep the light can go. My personal rig has a 300-lumen light with a depth rating of 98 feet. I have pushed this light to its limit at Blue Grotto in Florida at 97 feet, and it worked just fine. On night dives, I will keep the light on, and my dive light handles any extra illuminating I may need.
Your GoPro camera, housing and light all mounted on a tray makes for a cool “rig,” which usually ends up as a conversation starter and receives compliments while on the dive boat from non-GoPro-ers and GoPro-ers alike. There is one last thing your “rig” is missing – a filter. You know how your phone has filters, or how every Instagram picture has a filter applied, unless there is a “#nofilter” caption? That is exactly what I mean. There are different filters for different scenarios. For instance, a red filter, my most used, is perfect for blue water, especially at depths greater than 20 feet, while the amber/orange filter is best for blue water shallower than 20 feet; the magenta filter is used for greener water conditions at any depth. Another filter is a “macro” lens, or a magnifier lens, because the wide view of a GoPro camera will often make your close-range shots not as crisp as you would like. The macro filter will be a great addition when you know you will be doing some close-up shots of stationary creatures. Because I like to dive in all sorts of environments, I have purchased the three-filter bundle, along with a macro lens. Now I have everything necessary to be successful in any type of environment. From there, I will wrap a small lanyard around each filter and the tray, so I can easily interchange or remove. This is another item that you can spend a little or a lot of money on, depending on brand – I will let you decide on this one. When you are using filters, try to keep the sun at your back – or if the sun is overhead, do not raise the camera towards the surface, as this will make the filter dominate the contrast as more light is pushed through the filter, leaving you with a very color flushed image of the respective filter.
The last thing I will mention, because I recently picked one up, is a 6” dome port for the time I spend snorkeling. These dome ports add space in between the lens and the surface water, leaving you with much more focused half-in/half-out videos and photos. You may wonder why you would want this, but when you are spending a decent amount of time on the surface, a picture of what is simultaneously above and below the surface
is a photo worth plenty of compliments. Just imagine, you are diving off of a sailboat and want to capture the beauty of the water, while showing the “ride” that got you there – a dome port gives you the opportunity to accomplish just that. Not to mention, these dome ports are affordable starting around $40. A tip for the dome port is to accompany it with plenty of Rain-X, so the water comes off the dome as you surface, instead of droplets remaining and ruining what could be high quality, print worthy photos.
How to Make the Most of Your GoPro Under the Water
I became interested in Scuba when I started dating my, now, wife in 2017. I knew that the main concept was to breathe under water, but I had no idea what it entailed. I especially did not know how much passion and effort it really took to be in this sport. When I was in the ocean for the first time and started seeing all these amazing things I had never seen before, I thought to myself, “Man, other people have to see this too!” After tons of research and late-night store visits after work, I finally came to the conclusion that the GoPro was the camera for me- The camera that will help me show others what creatures and life lie below the surface; to get them interested in it too, or at least, for them to see what they are missing out on.
There are several new generations that have come out since I purchased my GoPro Hero 6. Now, the Hero 9 is the newest and greatest. However, even with 3 newer generations of pixels, resolutions and camera modules, my Hero 6 is a camera that I can guarantee the quality of my videos and photos for several years to come.
The set-up is quick and easy. The mount selection has a great variety of chest, hand, wrist, head, and (my personal favorite) the floating hand grip. Unfortunately, sometimes the floating grip works a little too well, and my wife has to jump off the back of dive boats to try to retrieve it...but that is a story for another time.
My advice to everyone reading this is to have fun, focus on the dive and be in the moment – let the camera do the work.
Until next time,