Last week Lee, Mike, Lauren, and I headed down to the Bahamas to work out all of the details on the Fstoppers Photography Workshop taking place at the Atlantis Resort from May 28 - June 1st. B&H gave us a ton of gear for our trip and asked us to "test" all of it in as many different ways as possible. I believe we succeeded.
After exploring the entire Atlantis resort, we were able to film a lot of amazing footage with some relatively simple gear. Read more about how we filmed this video using a DJI Phantom II, GoPro HERO III+ Black Edition, and other underwater gear.
As mentioned above, Fstoppers is hosting our first ever Fstoppers Workshop in the Bahamas from May 28th - June 1st. We have teamed up with 10 of the top photographers in the industry who will be teaching seminars on every genre of photography. Our goal is to bring the Fstoppers community together in paradise while allowing everyone to learn from some of the hottest photographers in the teaching circuit. So if you are looking to learn more about product, portrait, fashion, advertising, wedding, or commercial photography or if you just want a vacation you can write off, the 2014 Fstoppers Workshop is definitely going to be something you don't want to miss.
The DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter:
One of the coolest photography toys out on the market right now is the DJI Phantom II remote control drone helicopter. You may recall Lee Morris destroying a Phantom 1 a few months ago. The upgraded Phantom 2 has a new battery pack which allows flying time to increase from 8 mins to over 24 minutes! It also has new 9" propellers that give it more lifting power for the GoPro cameras (apparently these propellers can be fitted to the older Phantom I which is currently on sale). Perhaps the most exciting upgrade is the ability to mount the Phantom II with the new H3-2D Zenmuse Gimbal which gives you amazing camera stabilization and tilt control.
We had a blast flying this remote copter around the beach and resort. The gimbal allows you to produce super smooth footage which can be difficult with many remote helicopters. The built in GPS tracking does a great job of keeping the Phantom steady and free from drifting. The beach was pretty windy, and we found it to be pretty difficult safely flying around without the GPS tracking turned on. At lower elevation the footage appeared almost like a steadicam or moving crane. Obviously though the Phantom excels in producing dramatic flying video from above. When paired with the GoPro (mentioned below) you can use your iPhone to control and monitor live view from the camera as the chopper flys. We should also mention that when the GoPros wifi is turned on (this is necessary for live view), it significantly lowered our choppers remote controls range.
The GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition:
The last GoPro I owned was the original Hero version. The footage was pretty good but it still never looked super professional. The footage captured by the newest Hero version left me speechless. The Hero 3+ Black Edition allows you to record in a variety of frame rates including 24fps, 48fps, and 60fps at 1080p and even 120fps at 720p. You can also change the field of view from ultra wide, to wide angle, and also to a slightly zoomed in focal length. Unlike GoPros from the past, it is nice being able to film tighter footage than the typical fisheye angle we have all associated with POV cameras. The "+" edition is also 20% smaller and lighter than previous versions which is great for pairing up with the Phantom II. The Black Edition varies from other editions by adding 4K video (only at 15 FPS), a 12 megapixel sensor, and a remote for controlling the unit with WiFi. Unfortunately the WiFi does not work under water and when paired with the Phantom, the range of the WiFi is pretty limited.
I've seen many of the extreme sport promo clips used to sell these GoPro cameras so I know what they are capable of capturing. What I didn't realize is how well they do in low light and underwater applications. The underwater footage from our shark encounter looks so good it almost seems fake. Obviously the lower underwater you descend, the less available light your camera will have, but even at 40' under, the GoPro Hero 3+ was able to capture amazingly clean video. Unfortunately we did not have the GoPro Red Filter Accessory for our dive which I've been told cleans up the color casts nicely so make sure you get one of those if you are going to use this for diving. As I mentioned above, the most impressive feature of this GoPro is the wireless control and live view. With the free GoPro app you can use your cell phone as the command station for this little camera. You can change settings, take pictures, start and stop video, watch a live feed, and you can surf through the memory card to see older pictures and videos. Now you can easily check your footage without having to have access to the micro SD card inside the camera.
Fantasea Blueray Underwater LED Flashlight and GoPro Rig:
If you really want to go all out with your GoPro footage, you are going to need some supplemental light. BH Photo sent us a few GoPro rigs that included a very bright Fantasea Blueray LED flashlight that was water proof. I configured this setup a little differently so we could have the most compact system while still providing the benefit of an external light source. This LED flash light was perfect for filming inside the water slide tunnels, at the bottom of the Atlantis Aquarium, and while scuba diving with the sharks. We even used these lights as key lights during interviews we filmed for future videos. BH has these systems for sale on their own but if you have not yet bought a GoPro Hero, you can purchase the entire package at a discount if you buy them all together. Although this looks like a standard flashlight I can assure you that this little light is shockingly bright.
Canon Powershot G15 Camera and Ikelite 6146 Underwater Housing:
For the past 4 years Lee and I have been trying to learn underwater photography. We've been to some incredible dive sites and we have used a range of waterproof photography gear. We've decided after much practice, and coaching from professional underwater shooters that the Canon G15 with the Ikelite G15 Underwater Housing and Ikelite Substrobe was our best option. On land, full frame DSLRs are great for incredible ISO performance and shallow depth of field. Once you get into the water the game changes. Most of the professional underwater photographers we met never go over ISO 400 because they are using strobe. Most of the pros also shoot around F8 to keep everything in focus because it's very difficult to remain totally still while you and your subject are floating in water. Looking through a viewfinder underwater also can be very tiring if not impossible and most DSLRs do not focus very quickly in live view. The G15 and cameras like it excel in every area where full sized DSLRs fail. Sure I don't look as cool because my camera isn't as big as yours but I bet my camera will snap an identical looking shot in a shorter amount of time.
We had an incredible 3 days in Atlantis filming this video and working out every detail of our photography workshop. If you'd like to learn more about this event head over to FstoppersWorkshops.com and watch the video below.