Putting another tool in the toolbox

Every time I’d try to use a flat-headed screwdriver on a Phillips-head screw my father would preach to me that “you’ve got to have the right tool for the job.”

This applies to photography as well – you’ve got to have the right tool for the job. Our “tools” come in all sizes and shapes from a 400 mm f2.8 to a homemade mount for camera flash.

Sometimes the right tool for the job is a point-of-view video camera. Or a small, easy-to-mount remote camera.

So that’s why we just purchased a GoPro Hero2 video camera, a  small POV video camera that will expand our video and still capabilities.

The GoPros have been around for several years – they’re a favorite for those shooting adventure videos such as skiing, mountain biking, kayaking, etc.

The GoPro Hero2

With a little extra money in our photo budget at the end of last year we were able to jump on the GoPro bandwagon and buy the latest version of the camera.

My first assignment shot using the GoPro:

Ethan Hughes takes an afternoon flight in a Sport Cub airplane Jan. 11, 2012 over Yakima, Wash. (GORDON KING/Yakima Herald-Republic)

I mounted the camera on a wing strut of the aircraft and used the time-lapse mode to shoot one photo every 10 seconds.

I certainly could have achieved nearly the same results using a conventional digital single-lens-reflex camera mounted to the aircraft. However, doing that requires a much beefier attachment system paired with a remote triggering system. Lens availability is another problem; our widest-angle lens is a 16 mm. The Sport Cub is a fairly small aircraft with limited places to attach a remote camera so I doubt a 16 mm lens would have given me a wide-enough field of view for the photo.

In short, it’s a project to mount a camera to an aircraft. Certainly doable but a project nonetheless.

Between its small size, easy mounting, time-lapse feature and 170-degree field of view, the GoPro was the right tool in this situation.

This photo isn’t perfect. Because of the wide field-of-view relative to the aircraft there’s quite a bit of distortion in the photo (but I do like the curved horizon). I didn’t aim the camera exactly as I’d hoped.

And the GoPro isn’t perfect. The “no viewfinder” feature left me guessing exactly what’s included in the photo or video. It’s an auto-exposure camera so the exposure may not be exact (but there is a spot-metering feature which partly addresses the lack of manual control). But I have yet to use a perfect camera (though the Canon Mark IV is close).

Still, it’s a good tool to have in the tool box.

Accidental self-portrait while checking the positioning of the GoPro camera mounted to the wing strut of a Sport Cub aircraft. (GORDON KING/Yakima Herald-Republic)


–Gordon King


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