Fstoppers Original: Testing Camera Gear In The Bahamas

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.

Atlantis workshop

The Location:

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.

beach footage with gopro phantom helicopter

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:

gopro hero 3+ black edition underwater examplesThe 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.

underwater flashlight for gopro led

Canon Powershot G15 Camera and Ikelite 6146 Underwater Housing:

best underwater point and shoot camera
 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.

ikelite strobe for canon g15 underwater housing

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.

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steve carrillo's picture

hahahaha. what were you thinking patrick! taking that 60d into the ocean and using a wide lens?? great video, guys! I was rolling

Chet Meyerson's picture

B&H is pretty smart. I've had the DJI Phantom in my cart for months. After seeing this..I'm going to push the button!

Can you share the GoPro Black+ video settings you used for the footage? Especially the DJI shots.

Thanks and great video!

Lee Morris's picture

We shot everything at 60fps 1080

Chet Meyerson's picture

Lee, at Wide, Medium or Narrow?

Lee Morris's picture

i think medium

Jeffrey R Farmer's picture

You take a camera out on the open water, on a jet ski, without protection - and blame the driver! Sweet!

Jayson Carey's picture

The comedy must have been lost on you...

Jeffrey R Farmer's picture

Apparently, you missed my appreciation of the comedy.

Tim Furlong Jr.'s picture

Great video, looks like you guys had a hell of a time! I go to the Bahamas every year, may have to seriously consider making this workshop part of my visit.

I actually have a video of the Bahamas I made from our trip last year. It includes footage of swimming with pigs, Thunderball Grotto from the 007 movie, shark trying to swallow my GoPro, and a close call with a sting ray...check it out! vimeo.com/realtourcast/exuma

All the best, Tim Furlong Jr. | RealTourCast

Patrick Hall's picture

Ha swimming with pigs! Where was this?

Tim Furlong Jr.'s picture

It was unreal, Patrick! The island with the pigs is called Big Major Cay.

Patrick Hall's picture

I haven't looked into hopping from island to island. Is that more work than it is worth? I've only been on the Nassau island but those lagoons look pretty awesome too

Tim Furlong Jr.'s picture

It's well worth it. There are so many things to see in the Bahamas but, this is one excursion you must do once in your lifetime, especially if you have a group with you. Thunderball Grotto, is incredible. The fact that the 007 movie was filmed there is one thing but, you can actually climb to the top and jump through this hole into the grotto itself. It's a 40ft drop. You'll also stop at Nicholas Cage's island to hang with giant lizards. One thing is guaranteed, you'll be completely spent when you return. Our island of choice in the Bahamas is Great Exuma and we stay at February Point.

Tim Furlong Jr.'s picture

Again, island hopping is where it's at. Below is link to the images. Best of luck with the workshop!


Lee Morris's picture

Ok I'm setting up a pig swimming day during the workshop

Tim Furlong Jr.'s picture

You won't regret it. How many people do you know can say they swam with wild pigs? Exactly. The fact that it's in the Bahamas, too...even better.

Noam Galai's picture

The shark part is epic.

August Young's picture

Awesome video guys...

Jenn Bischof's picture

Being surrounded by all those sharks?!?!? So awesome!!!!

Glad you made it out unscathed. ;)

Jayce Ann's picture

Hi Patrick is the 60D can be used underwater? I thought you need underwater case/housing for that? What was the depth? Guys your videos are amazing!!!

Brandon Cawood's picture

it was a joke. Please don't try to shoot with your 60D underwater, haha

Zachary Philippon's picture

Okay so I loved the video. I thought it was awesome and all but I don't understand how he was able to use a canon 60D underwater, there not waterproof, can someone explain how that was possible?

Lee Morris's picture

The Canon gear was broken before we got down there. It was just a joke. Please don't try that and blame us


Nonsense, Mr. Morris - 60D works just fine underwater right out of the box. I did notice, however, that you weren't using the proper technique swapping out the lenses - the correct way is have the body facing down, otherwise you risk getting sand onto your sensor.

Zachary Philippon's picture

Thats a laugh, thanks guys.

Roberto Mettifogo's picture

what happened at the end is a normal problem that happens even with real helis when you dive vertically, because you're entering the air that your blades are pushing down, never descend vertically, always keep some horizonthal movement, and if it happens try to move out from your vortex by the sides, not by increasing the throttle.

Lee Morris's picture

We actually did research on this just the other day. This is how I broke the first phantom too. You give it throttle but nothing happens because its falling through its own chop.

Roberto Mettifogo's picture

yes but the reason is the one I mentioned before, the air under the blades is going down, if you enter that flow you go down with it, you increase the throttle and the air goes down faster and you go down with it. So just never descend vertical or doit very slow.

JP Vernier's picture

You guys are AWESOME

Marius Batman Viken's picture

To everyone who watch this video on a cold, grey and wet day. I feel yah...

Eric Lefebvre's picture

2 weeks and I hit Cuba ... watching this was torture!

Robert Feliciano's picture

I don't need classes, but now I want to go for the water rides and scuba certification.

Patrick Hall's picture

Take a short class like Pratik's photoshop class and come along!

Robert Feliciano's picture

I can't spend $200 on something I don't need. You should add an underwater shooting course. Or partner with a dive shop for SCUBA certification or some such.

Patrick Hall's picture

We wanted to offer underwater photography but it became a logistical nightmare getting an instructor who could team up with a dive company outside the resort and then offering underwater gear for everyone. As a diver myself, I would love this course but it wasn't in the cards for this year

Shannon Wimberly's picture

Just like a Warren Miller adventure!!! LOL! FUN!

Bjarki Vilmarsson's picture

Mike, your cover photo on facebook is taken in Iceland. Don't you think that fstoppers should do a workshop in Reykjavik?

Yuri Chaves's picture

The video is so awesome that I'm watching for the second time ahuah, wish I could go to the workshop, but tickets to Bahamas are a bit expensive if you live in Brazil... =/

Yuri Chaves's picture

I showed this video to my dad and now he is searching everything about he Phantom 2! It seems that BH made a sell with this video haha =]

Justin Walker's picture

"We currently have it drying out in a bag of rice, so it should be fine." That was hilarious!