It is amazing how far technology has evolved in a relatively short period of time. It doesn’t seem that long ago we were shooting on 35mm film, and then along came the digital era which revolutionised the way we take and share images. Everything became instant and seemingly infinite.
Action cameras have been a big media development in recent years. For a camera that can physically fit into the palm of your hand, they are amazing in what they can achieve, and the ease in which you can shoot and share material. Just browsing through YouTube will prove the popularity of these cameras, with everything from head-mount footage of fishing, surfing, motocross and skydiving to name just a few.
The fact that these cameras have a waterproof housing, yet are small and lightweight has meant they can be mounted to a helmet, boat, surfboard, handlebars, dashboard or just about any other object without becoming an interference to the operator.
I have a couple of action cameras that I use for my fishing, and to be honest the quest to snapshot that perfect video clip or sequence of underwater images is starting to dictate what we fish for and where we fish. It is very cool to sit down with a couple of mates at the end of a days fishing and review footage – laughing at each other for monumental bust-offs, slip-ups, but also for landing some great fish.
I’m certainly no expert with action camera’s, but I’ve been shooting enough footage over the past couple of years to offer a bit of advice for those looking to kick-start some action footage or underwater images using these versatile and relatively inexpensive cameras.
With my two action cameras, I have one mounted on the canopy crossbar on my boat at eye level, and the other on a pole mount. As these cameras shoot at a super wide angle of around 170o, this can make everything look much further away that what it actually is. It took me a while to play around with camera placement in my boat to determine the best angle for capturing action. Try to angle the camera so that it will clearly shoot at fish coming up to the side of the boat, as this is the ‘money shot’ of fishing action in my opinion.
We always try to fight bigger fish on the same side of the boat as the camera, just to ensure we capture as much of the action as possible. When filming this type of action I have my camera set on the highest resolution of 1920 x 1080, even though you will use more space on your SD card, it’s better to capture the highest quality footage. A 32GB card will store 4 hours of footage at this setting, and so long as you sift through and delete the dud clips at the end of the day the storage space shouldn’t be an issue.
I usually leave the camera powered off, and then if we are expecting a hook-up, or if we have seen some fish around the boat then I will turn the camera on standby ready to hit record should one of us hook-up. Leaving the camera on standby for long periods of time does chew up valuable battery life, but you can counteract this by purchasing a second battery or a larger battery pack. Batteries are rechargeable dedicated Li-ion batteries.
When filming footage above water you have the option of using a vented skeleton door to allow sound recording. I have found you need to be pretty close to the camera to record reasonable sound, as wind does play havoc as there is no foam buffer. Be careful if you do put the skeleton door on the back as the camera housing is no longer waterproof.
There are multiple ways of mounting a camera for action recording. There is the option of using a helmet mount, head strap, chest strap, roll bar mount, suction cap or surface adhesive mounts. I have a suction cap mount on the dash of my boat, a couple of surface adhesive mounts on the back of my boat, and then the aforementioned bar mount on the canopy. Having multiple filming points allows for easy changing between views and offers variety in filming angles.
As well as recording fantastic footage, action cameras actually take pretty good still frame images as well, provided they’re mounted in the right housing. To take better still images (to remove the concave distortion and create in-focus underwater images) you will need to invest in a flat-lens dive housing. I couldn’t work out why my images were blurry underwater until I started using a dedicated dive housing and the images have come a long way since.
When taking still frame images I set the camera on the highest resolution, which is 11MP for my camera which produces images of around 5MB. I mount my camera to a dedicated 3ft pole, which comes complete with floatation in case the pole slips from someone’s grip. When shooting still frame images there are a few photo settings you can choose.
The first is a single image like any other camera – push the button and one image is taken. This is okay for images of people, but if I’m taking photo’s of fish moving underwater, then I select the image time lapse. Most action cameras will allow time lapse of 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30 or 60 seconds, meaning repeated photos will be taken at the selected interval until the shutter button is pressed again.
I usually select 2 second intervals, and have found this to be a good time frame for capturing moving fish. This is really handy for taking pics of hooked fish as they near the boat, as you needn’t worry about pressing the shutter button, you press it once, put the camera underwater and follow the fish trying to keep it infront of the camera. It is hard to take good underwater images, but if you follow the fish at the same speed with the camera then you should get a handful of pics in focus.
When taking underwater still frame images with an action camera, make sure the sun is behind you, as these cameras don’t illuminate dark objects. Hence it is pointless taking underwater images early or late in the day, or when it’s heavily overcast, as the images will simply be too dark. Also, taking images in silted or cloudy water is a waste of time. But if the water is clear and the sun is out, then expect some fantastic shots.
Take plenty of pics too – especially if you’re taking photos of moving objects. At the end of the day, the more you play around with your action camera and review the footage and images, the more you will learn.