By Pat Ford
A year or so ago Capt Chris Sheeder from Casa Vieja Lodge in Guatemala sent me a photo of an angler holding a sailfish alongside the boat that looked like it was shot from the water. I didn’t think anyone was jumping out of the Rum Line to snap photos but I couldn’t believe the quality of the photo.
Fast forward to my next trip to Casa Vieja and this is what I learned. Chris has a 7’-8’ GoPro stick made from a fiberglass gaff handle. (You can now buy them at Bass Pro) Prior to this all the ‘selfie sticks’ I’d seen were under 4’ feet long which is too short to do Chris’ trick shot. Chris has a tripod mount for the stick and then attaches a ‘ball joint’ connection for the camera so that it’s facing back at an angle. The mate holds the GoPro out in front of the angler to get the shot, then Chris crops him out of the photo and winds up with a perfect self portrait. The challenge is to angle and hold the GoPro in the right position to get the angler and the mate holding the fish centered and this takes practice. It doesn’t matter if the GoPro is shooting upside down and actually the upside down position works better at times. It depends which side of the boat you are on, etc, but the most important thing is to have the sun shining on the subjects. If you are on the shaded side of the boat the colors will not be as vivid.
Now for the good stuff…you can’t see what the camera is seeing and you can’t snap the photo when the Go Pro is 8’ away from you. This is the key: Set the GoPro to the TIME-LAPSE mode and set it to take a photo every .5 seconds. Set the photo quality to the highest quality jpeg and to the WIDE format. When the angler/fish posing is ready, start the photos and stick out the GoPro. Since you cant see what you’re shooting, move the camera around to cover what look like the best angles. After about 20 – 30 seconds, bring it in and check your shots, make any necessary adjustments and then shoot another batch or two. Be sure to clean off the lens often – water drops ruin photos and there are always water drops! When you are finished you should have about 100 photos – a dozen of which will be great and the other 90% will suck. Delete the bad ones and edit the good ones. They are fine as shot for social media, but if you want to print one you have to convert it to 300 dpi in your editing program.
CHis’ brother Capt Mike Sheeder (Casa Vieja Lodge – INTENSITY) took the system a step further and made himself a giant stick – probably 15’ long . He shoots the hero shots in 4K video and then takes a still shot off the video. He gets fantastic results with jumping fish by freezing the video then taking a screen shot. His jumping behind the boat shots are fantastic. I haven’t tried that yet so stay tuned, but in the meantime check out Mike’s Face Book page.
I have used the Hero4 in it’s waterproof housing but recently got the Hero5 which is supposed to be waterproof. I only used to a few times and never really submerged it but condensation developed in the LED view screen on the front. I’m told that is the first stage of a terminal problem. GoPro replaced it promptly and I purchased the waterproof housing for the new Hero5 just to be safe. I don’t want my equipment failing on a trip even if it’s under warranty.
Always remember that the key to good photography is ‘Spray and Pray’ – shoot a lot and the dump the bad ones – actually dump everything that is not ‘outstanding’ and do some editing on those. Only show people your best shots and they will think you are an expert. If you waste their time showing them junk, that’s all they will remember.