Since I started this adventure that is Glass Duffle last year, photography has been a regular tool on my belt for recalling events, telling stories and just for something to do when I don’t feel like writing. It’s also helped bring in some cash flow through video work along the way.
While I definitely don’t consider myself a “photographer”, I feel comfortable enough with my experience around the GoPro to throw out some pointers for anyone looking to get started using a GoPro for travel or is just looking for some inspiration. These days, I’ve upgraded myself to the GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition. Some of the greatest improvements I noticed with this model include longer battery life (a common complaint with earlier models) and an improved user interface that’s also relatively easy to control through the GoPro iPhone app.
In this blog, I’ll get into some of the equipment I use and how. And then I’ll get into a few things I’ve learned over tens of thousands miles with a Hero that you’ll want to keep in mind when using your GoPro for travel, as well as some of the cooky settings you can mess around with!
GD-Approved GoPro Equipment for Travel
There are a few things you might want to cop if you’re interested in getting pictures or video with your GoPro whilst traveling. Here’s the equipment I’ve found most useful with examples of how I’ve used each (and one I’m plotting on**).
–GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition: This is the third iteration of the GoPro I’ve owned and the fourth I’ve worked with. And it’s by far the best. As mentioned above, it has a longer battery, an improved UI and it has a ton of settings that I either never noticed before or are new to the 3+. The Black Edition comes with a waterproof casing, a few assorted mounts and a WiFi remote to wirelessly control your GoPro. Though, the GoPro app is way better than the remote. More on that later…
-GoPro Hero 4: What comes after 3? 4! The 4th edition of the popular GoPro Hero action video camera has officially come out and yeah, I wants it. The biggest improvement: full 1080 HD resolution at 120fps extra slow motion. To give you some context as to why that’s awesome, my $2,000+ Canon 5D Mark III shoots at 60fps slow mo and only in 720 HD. I’ll update this entry when I eventually get my hands on one.
–Suction Cup Mount: Close to 50% of the visual content I’ve produced since starting Glass Duffle has literally been supported by the suction cup mount. This is a must for anyone looking to travel with a GoPro. It mounts great on the inside of windows pointing back in:
and on the outside of moving cars:
Basically, this thing is versatile and the only rig you really need if you’re traveling with your GoPro. It’s also trustworthy at pretty high speeds: I’ve tested it in my car up to 95 mph.
–Grab Bag of Mounts: The various mounts, stickers and screws in the grab bag are useful for extending existing rigs like the suction cup mount and setting up the GoPro on clean, smooth surfaces that a sticker will safely adhere to.
–Jaws Flex Clamp Mount**: I don’t have this guy yet, but it’s in my crosshairs. The clamp would be awesome for putting the GoPro in places where suction isn’t an option, like poles and edges. On this last road trip, I would have loved to have the clamp mount to put on my license plate for a few cool shots. Plus, the flexible neck looks way easier to work with than the sometimes clunky suction cup mount.
UPDATE: The jaws flex clamp mount is dope! Unlike the suction cup mount, the jaws flex clamp mount can be used on poles, ledges and edges. So far, I’ve had the mount and my GoPro on my car bumper, clamped to a shoulder rig and attached to an open window. The clamp is a little small and can sometimes cause frustration when it won’t open wide enough or stay stable enough… but it’s been a welcome addition to my GoPro for travel arsenal for sure.
Tips on Using a GoPro for Travel
Messing around with the settings on my GoPro or trying a new angle is a lot of the fun of owning one. I’ve found it extremely useful for capturing photos while traveling at high speeds or for getting b-roll for videos. The trick is getting comfortable with the interface of it, how it looks on screen and the many settings it offers. Here are a few pointers I can share from my experiences with the GoPro and travel.
-Let it run. I can’t count the times I’ve set up the GoPro, had it running, then shut it off to save battery or memory. And then, inevitably, the coolest part of why I set the GoPro up in the first place comes and goes and I’m still waiting for it to turn back on. Unless you’re changing the angle of your GoPro while traveling, might as well just let it ride. It’ll be less of a distraction trying to turn it off and on and you won’t miss things. But, do beware that GoPro battery life is notoriously short, especially if you’re using the WiFi.
-Use the Wifi. Yeah, it drains your battery a bit but it’s so useful. Not only does it give you a slightly delayed preview of what your GoPro is capturing, but it makes navigating the GoPros deep settings way easier. And when I say way easier, I mean wayyyyyyyyyyyy easier. Do yourself a favor and set up the WiFi. It’ll help you set up shots and set up your GoPro to the perfect settings.
-Learn the settings. The GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition has a ton of different settings that I’m still discovering. Some of the things I’ve loved most are the 1080 SuperView setting and the ability to take video and photo simultaneously. The SuperView is just that: a super wide fisheye view. Having it at this setting does turn off other settings, such as the aforementioned photo + video setting, but it’s worth using… often. The GoPro can also do some incredible things with slow motion. Generally, I shoot at 24 fps with the GoPro since slow motion travel footage isn’t super appealing, but for more dynamic shots, jacking up the frame rate on the GoPro can make a video. The GoPro can shoot full 1080p at 60 fps, something some DSLRs can’t even do, and is able to shoot 4k. All in that tiny little thing too, damn! Science.
-Download GoPro Studio. I used to import and compress my GoPro footage with the same programs (Image Capture and Compressor) that I use for my DSLR footage. For the past 6 months though, I’ve been on GoPro Studio and I’ll never go back. Uploading and selecting sections of GoPro footage is extremely simple in Studio and they even allow for some editing after you import. The greatest benefit to Studio for me has been data management and effortless timelapse assembly.
-Aim it low. Shooting in Wide or SuperView on the GoPro means you’re getting a lot of information into the shot. 9 times out of 10, you’ll want to aim the GoPro a little lower than normal to allow for the super wide angle it captures by default. One of the worst feelings as a GoProist is looking back through GoPro footage you were excited about only to see clouds and the sun. Womp, womp…
-Try anything new. If you think something could look cool from the GoPro, do it. Stop where you have to and setup the shot! The GoPro is the most versatile camera available, so there’s no limit to how you can use it. Be weird!
The GoPro is definitely my favorite camera in my bag at any given moment. It’s easy to use, captures high quality images and is the most versatile gadget I own.
Now, what GoPro tips or equipment do you have for ME? Share your GoPro knowledge with me in the comments!