GoPro Mounts, Tips and Tricks for Kiteboarding
User-mounted waterproof cameras have become the standard in kiteboarding cinema and photography, due to their performance quality, gear-mountable versatility, and ease of use. GOPRO reinforced their foothold on the industry with the new HERO 3 released last October, incorporating wifi connectability and remote control support – it is their smallest, lightest and fastest offering to date.
Strut Mount photo from Rick Iossi
Initial problems can arise however, concerning image quality and overall satisfaction – especially for new users. Many GOPRO owners are not professional photographers. Indeed, that is one of the strongest selling points of the product. The camera is 100% automatic and its components are specifically tuned for action sport photography, enabling even novice users to produce professional quality media with little thought or effort. But why do so many of the images turn out foggy? How is it that two-hours-worth of attempted self-shot footage is shaky, and aimed at seemingly nothing at all? You’ve seen it before, that kind of footage can be nauseating to watch. Before you start wondering what exactly you signed up for, it’s important to recognize the GOPRO learning curve. Techniques and applications of GOPRO cameras area almost endless, and it’s important to know what tools are out there. Understanding what works best for you can greatly improve your production quality, and help make the most of your opportunities.
One of the biggest GOPRO-gripes is fog. Introducing the camera into a wet environment with varying levels of humidity and temperature can cause problems. Additionally, it is not always possible to attend to your camera while on the water. Ideally, you’d like to have the camera 100% dialed before you even leave the beach. Regardless of what you’re shooting, if there is moisture on the lens, the footage is wasted. To remedy this, it’s important to realize what is happening within the GOPRO housing when you’re on the water.
Once the unit gets splashed for the first time, the plastic housing will begin to cool off. However, the air within the case will maintain the same moisture properties as it was sealed in. At some point, the air inside the unit will be cooler than the outside environment, and moisture will begin to condense on the lens.
Solution? Seal your camera in its case in a cool environment, such as with the fridge door open or under the air conditioning. Once sealed, do not expose the camera to the outside environment. Additionally, silica desiccants can be used inside the housing to soak up moisture. GOPRO has their own dry strips for this purpose as well.
Let’s briefly touch on a subject that has been the demise of many cameras on the water – the GOPRO Float Pack. While this accessory is a great idea, it doesn't exactly work as advertised. The Float Pack will not float anything other than the camera and its housing. Remember, adding even a small suction mount to the side of the unit, and the camera will sink into the abyss like a rock. Always use a leash or a secured mounting application. (http://www.kiteforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=2380838)
Once you’ve taken care of the moisture problem, it’s time to choose your application. There are more than a dozen methods/devices for mounting your GOPRO for kiteboarding, some of which work better than others. Trial and error is the best method to find out what works for your style, and what you want to achieve with your footage.
GOPROs are highly specialized cameras. They have a fixed focal length, and are designed for medium-range to close-up action shots. The wide angle lens will cover quite a bit of real estate, but sharp focus is limited. Their versatility is not great, but when applied correctly, the results can be astounding.
Probably the most popular application for kiteboarding is the line mount by CamRig. Mounting the camera above the rider on the lines makes the most of GOPRO’s wide angle lens, but also offers user versatility. You can also mount the camera closer to the bar for point-of-view shots. By sitting the camera in between the lines, CamRig is able to achieve improved video quality by cutting down on those abrubpt and shaky interruptions. The camera is user-controlled through the wifi remote. There are some concerns with the flag line safety when using the CamRig, so it may not be the best to use it in combat kiting conditions. http://camrig.com/line-mount/gopro-hd3-line-mount
Photos by Jim Stringfellow
Another similar application is the strut mount, also by CamRig. The durable mount attaches directly to one of the kite’s struts, offering overhead shots of the rider. Camera movement depends directly on the motion of the kite, and is generally smoother than footage from line mounts. Once again, this mount makes nice use of the wide-angle lens, but it can be difficult to keep the rider in frame. Again, control is achieved through the wifi remote. http://camrig.com/strut-mount-camrig/strut-mount
Photy By I KITE IT
Photo by Jim Stringfellow
Specific rider-focused mounts include board and helmet applications. Dialing in the correct angle will take practice, but adjustments are possible while on the water (even though you can’t view your footage until you get home). For board mounts, always make sure to use a leash, attached securely to either a fin screw or footpad. Helmet mounts offer a true point-of-view perspective, but do not show what the rider is doing. These mounts perform well, and can produce some incredible sequences.
Helmet Mount, photo by Rick Iossi
Board Mount by Dave
Pole mounts have become increasingly popular for rider-framed self shots. The angles are endless with this mount but riders rarely have a free hand to point the camera.
Photy By I KITE IT
Finally, utilizing your own personal quadcopter is without a doubt the ultimate application. It is essentially your own personal airborne photographer. Dialing this device will certainly take time, but if you have a quadcopter, then that’s probably not an issue. The limits of this application are nearly endless, and the results can be amazing. They are also fun to fly, whether you’re kiting or not.
GOPRO camera technology continues to improve, but for the most part, these units perform exceptionally well. Most problems are due to user error combined with various accessory/application methods. It takes time to figure out how your camera will behave under certain conditions, and what setup will work best for what you like to shoot. Remember, you’re likely to come up with quite a bit of bad footage before your camera starts putting out what you’re looking for.
Additionally, it never hurts to follow some of the more basic guidelines for shooting. Always keep the lens free of fingerprints/dust/debris in addition to deeper scratches/dings on the housing. Morning/early evening light will offer the best contrast for your photos and video, although there are exceptions. Remember, GOPROs do not perform well in extreme low-light or if pointed directly at the sun. However the best tip is to keep getting out on the water and putting time in with your camera. From there, it won’t take long to unleash the full potential of your equipment and start sharing your passion with the kiting community.