Scuba Diving With My New GoPro Hero 4K

As my username scubagal may have alluded, I am a certified open water scuba diver.  I also volunteer my time with an organization called Project Aware, which for one thing, tries to clean the bottom of the ocean from human debris.  So, when I purchased my GoPro Hero Black, I couldn’t wait to try it out!  What I discovered, was a bit surprising, not just from the GoPro Hero4 Black, but also from photographing underwater.

Choosing the Right Mounting Accessory

Boyancy and Coral
Boyancy and Coral

Getting your buoyancy right when scuba diving and photographing coral is challenging because you don’t want to damage the aquatic life.  So, I knew right from the start, that I needed some kind of mount to help me stabilize the camera and free me up to keep my buoyancy right. I quickly discovered that for kicking around on the beach, or for above water activities, the GoPro Head Strap Mount really works well.  But for diving, it was never going to work. You simply cannot have goggles and a camera mount on your head at the same time.  As you can see from this featured article photo, I don’t have that much space on my head!

Spongy Ties, Making it Work
Spongy Ties, Making it Work

So, I was left to devising my own mount made of spongy ties.  When I investigated, there were many third party providers for accessories, but honestly, I knew I would not be able to get them in time, and I didn’t want to necessarily hold anything in my hands.  Well, that is exactly what ended up happening.   After my spongy ties failed as a mount, and I dropped my brand new GoPro to the bottom of the ocean floor, I decided I would use the spongy ties as a wrist band.  It worked.  But overall, I was disappointed by the lack of support offered up for scuba divers in this area.  I am still stuck on what would be the proper mount for scuba diving with a GoPro.

Sharpness and Clarity

Smiling Dory
Smiling Dory

For sharpness and clarity, I’m very happy with the the GoPro Hero4 Black’s resolution underwater.  As a scuba diver, I discovered it is really hard to shoot a clear image in the ocean.  Its simply grainy, due to the millions of plankton and debris floating around.  Even though the clarity can seem to be good through goggles, I learned it isn’t likely to translate in the same manner to the sensor of a camera.  But with the GoPro, I was really happy with the photos I took.  After looking at all my images, the one consistent factor was its clarity and resolution.  I give GoPro Hero4 Black a big thumbs up for this magnificent accomplishment and helping to make my photos clearer with its high definition sensor.

Battery Life

Surface Level, Ready to Dive
Surface Level, Ready to Dive

Battery life is a big concern for a diver.  It is simply impossible to open up the waterproof housing and change the battery during a dive.  This left me with a difficult choice.  I would have loved to get the GoPro Hero Silver because it has an amazing LCD screen that can help you frame what you are shooting. However, I had a sneaking suspicion that the GoPro Silver`s battery life would be short-lived because of this, so I opted for the GoPro Hero 4 Black.

What surprised me was that even with the GoPro Hero4 Black, the battery life lasted only two dives (approximately 1.5 hours) without using either the video or Wi-Fi options.  Everything I have read indicated that it would last for at least 2 hours.  My best guess is that temperature variations above and below water may have had an effect on the battery life. My second guess would be the actual pressure on the camera at 100 feet below.  Could these conditions combined, cause strain on the battery?  I wondered.

I will be talking about temperature in two upcoming articles,  7 Survivor Tips for Photographing  on the Beach and in 7 Survivor Tips for Photographing in Exteme Cold,  but for now, imagine putting both hot and cold temperatures on your batteries on the same day, and then applying pressure?  Well,  that’s the only explanation I have for why my GoPro lost its juice a little quicker than expected.  I am happy to hear any feedback that my fellow divers have to offer.

Colors Fade as You Go Deeper

The Deeper You Go, The Colours Fade
The Deeper You Go, The Colours Fade

When I first went through my photos, I was startled by the lack of colour that the images had picked up underwater.  I thought maybe my sensor was off in the GoPro.  What I forgot was the simple science that the deeper you go, colors fade.  The first to vanish are the reds, and that happens after 15 feet.  Considering this photo was taken at 80 feet, you can see why there is not a single red hue in the coral of this photo.  Blue hues are the last to disappear, and that is why this photo has an amazing blue tone. There are no filters in this picture.  I kept it as a pure shot to show you what I was seeing.  This isn`t the fault of the GoPro, it is simply the lack of sunlight.

You can always color correct during post-production by playing with the histogram and adjusting for any of the red tones in your photo.  If there are none, you can also borrow some pixels from the green hues, and add them to make red.  It isn’t really difficult to do, but certainly you may want to make sure that you aren’t adding too much, otherwise the water will look purple!  I was just really glad that it wasn’t my new camera, but the lack of sunlight in the water causing the dulling of the color.

Conclusion

Colour Corrected, 90 feet below surface level
Colour Corrected, 90 feet below surface level

Overall, I am thrilled to take my GoPro scuba diving because of the quality of the pictures underwater.  For sure, there are things I have learned that I will revisit on my next diving excursion, like how to stabilize the camera better.  But overall, I can certainly play with the color on the image to bring it back to its natural lustre, as long as my picture is clear and has good resolution to start. The clarity of this camera really does make up for both the battery life and mounting concerns for this scubagal!

I may be hitting the shorelines of Costa Rica within the next year, but I am totally open for suggestions on where to practice diving with my new Hero4. It definitely has proven to be one of my newest favourite things to do!  I would also love to hear from any of my fellow divers on how your experiences with this snazzy camera plays out.  Feel free to send me pictures, too!

à bientôt,

scubagal

Follow me at: scubagal’s Instagram, Facebook or Twitter accounts 🙂

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