Sunday, June 21, 2015


After pondering the question for some time, I ordered a Sidekick Duo and a dive arm. It seemed like the best light that can easily be mounted on a selfie stick. If it proves to not be up to the task, I will get a dive tray and a second light. to make a rig similar to this one. For video that would produce far superior results.

There are plenty of smart people who say this is underpowered, for example this article claims you should have a minimum of two 1000 lumen bulbs or one 4000 lumen bulb. I have trouble believing the situation is that bad though. The Gopro often produces good photos free diving with no light at all. So it seems to me that going from no lights, to a 600 lumen light should increase the percentage of photos that I end up saving. Given how few photos I get which are decent, this is probably a move from perhaps 1% to 2% but that could still be a big difference given that I am shooting about 3000 photos a trip. There were many shots, such as the one shown below, which a little light could have gone a long way towards improving:

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Gopro Diving Rig

After doing a few dives with the Gopro, it is clear that it needs help to do the sort of underwater photography I have been trying. Most important, there just isn't enough light, so it needs lights.

The bulk of options for lights consist of lights connected to a tray. Examples include the Ikelite Tray with Phantom Underwater GoPro Lighting & Flex Arms Light Kit, BigBlue Underwater 350 Lumen LED Light System, BigBlue 11,600 Lumen Underwater LED Video Light System, SeaLife Sea Dragon 1200 Photo-Video Light and Fotodiox GT-Wedge-Only GoTough Wedge Black Metal Camera Diving Tray. For video, there is no question that this is the way to go. The large tray avoids the wobble which makes much underwater video hard to watch. For photos, I am less than certain. The wedge seems like it would be bulky and hard to get into the desired position.

Next there are options which mount to a selfie stick. Examples include the Knog [qudos] Action Video Light, Light and Motion Sidekick Flood Light, and the SeaLife Sea Dragon Mini 600 Underwater LED Light which can be mounted to a SeaLife AquaPod Underwater Camera Monopod (also sold together). The selfie sticks seem like they are cheaper and would allow closer shots than the trays. However they take worse video and may suffer from more backscatter.

Other possible improvements are filters and macro lenses. I am not sold on the idea that filters are really needed. They reduce the amount of light the Gopro sees and color can be adjusted in software fairly quickly. However macro lenses are an interesting idea. There is a +10 filter and macro lens for the Flip 3.1 filter system which look like they would work well. Unfortunately the manufacturer recommends 1200 lumen lights with them in daylight, which is higher than will easily work on a selfie stick.

Lastly, there is the option of just stopping messing with the Gopro and getting a camera optimized for underwater still images. The Gopro is made for full sun video, it lags much of the competition for taking still images. In the same price range, the Olympus TG-4 is probably a better choice.  An upgrade to a Sony DSC-RX100M III with an underwater housing would also blow away the Gopro.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Montage Underwater Photographs

In trying to reduce the number of blurry pictures, I turned the Gopro Hero 4 Black EV Comp setting to -1. The hope was that it would force quicker shutter times which would result in less blurry pictures. It worked, I got less blurry pictures. However while the average picture was less blurry, the very best pictures were not nearly as nice. In software I was able to make them brighter, but the lack of light was still noted.

I also experimented with 30 photos over 60 seconds. Unless I can get a selfie stick that can trigger the Gopro while it is five feet away from me, this is probably the best setting. It gives me time to get the stick where it needs to be, while taking 5 photos a second. The timelapse setting had problems since it was only taking 2 photos a second. I often missed things I was sure I caught.

The software editing is still the most impressive thing to me about Gopro. Here is a few before and after shots after just a few seconds of editing:

California Spiny Lobster

Schooling fish in a kelp forest


Here are a few other interesting things I found:

Spanish Shawl

Green Abalone

Sand Bass

Brown Gorgonian