I first decided that I wanted a GoPro when I was exploring Finland in the summer of 2016.
I was kayaking in the Åland Islands, and I was cameraless. My DSLR had been left back at the shore for safety. I didn’t trust that it would stay dry in the boat.
I circumnavigated a small island and admired the scenery around me. The natural surroundings were 100% gorgeous. At that moment, all I could thing about was how I wished I could capture this experience on camera.
Soon after my return to New York, I ordered myself a new GoPro action cam. This miniature camera would be perfect for those situations when I was doing something adventurous and didn’t want to risk damaging my DSLR.
Here are the reasons that we think the GoPro is an awesome choice of camera for travel videos:
- It’s basically indestructible. You could probably throw it against a brick wall and it would be fine.
- It’s compact. You can tuck it in your pocket and take it anywhere. It’s also discreet, so you don’t look like a dorky tourist every time you pull it out.
- It’s waterproof. You can take it underwater (up to 9 metres/30 ft) and don’t have to worry about water damage.
- The video quality is superb. I usually shoot in 1080p at 60 fps. The footage always looks impressive considering how small the camera is. It also has image stabilisation, meaning the video is fairly smooth even when you’re not holding the camera steady.
- It has 5 different shooting modes from super wide angle to narrow, so you have some flexibility in shooting different situations.
- No front-facing screen, so can’t see yourself while you’re filming.
- The photo quality isn’t great. I can honestly get better photos with my smartphone.
- Audio quality could be improved, though it’s good enough.
- It’s not particularly good in low-light situations, so you have to do your filming while the sun is still up.
- The battery life is not fantastic. Carry a spare battery if you’ll be doing a big day of shooting.
All in all, GoPro does have some downfalls but I don’t think they’re deal-breakers. At $400 USD for the Hero5 Black or $300 USD for the Hero5 Session, I think it’s great value and better than most other action cams on the market.
Here are my tips for getting mind-blowing GoPro travel videos!
1. Do adventurous activities
I’ve found that the best footage comes from doing something fun or exciting. Riding a bike along the boardwalk in Miami, snowmobiling through Yellowstone, and swimming at the beach in Australia are all videos that are exciting to watch.
Footage of these activities is appealing because it’s more difficult to capture, so my advice is to go out and do something adventurous (as long as it’s safe, of course!). Think Zip Lining, Skateboarding, Diving, or Kayaking.
Make sure you get footage of your face as well as your surroundings, as capturing facial expressions while you’re doing something exciting will make for some great video. This is exactly why the GoPro is defined as an ‘action camera’ – its purpose is to capture you in those crazy moments!
2. Go hands-free
When I took my GoPro skiing in Montana, I managed to fall, twice, while trying to capture myself skiing (you can see this happen in my YouTube vid! It’s rather funny to watch me get a face full of snow).
So in June when I travelled upstate to go whitewater rafting and cycling in the Adirondacks, I went and bought a head strap. This meant that I could attach the GoPro to my helmet so that it was filming what I was seeing, and my concentration wasn’t distracted by anything except turning the camera on.
GoPro has a huge range of accessories, and while I don’t recommend purchasing all of them as your wallet will be significantly lighter afterwards, there are some hands-free accessories that might help you get some great videos.
Aside from a head strap, you can get a surfboard mount, suction cup mount, or chest harness. Any accessory that will allow you to attach the camera to yourself or your vehicle should result in some good footage.
3. Get multiple shots from different angles
When I went whitewater rafting, we had a GoPro mounted to our raft. This meant that we were getting footage looking inwards from the front of the raft, as well as from my personal perspective (as I had my GoPro attached to my helmet).
As I was stitching these two perspectives together afterwards, I realised that having two different angles of the same activity made it a much more interesting video.
If you only have one GoPro to use, don’t worry – you can do a few different takes with your GoPro looking in different directions. Try one shot looking forward so that the camera is seeing what you’re seeing, and another with it facing backwards or towards your face.
Stitch these shots together later, and you might find that your footage looks more like a professional video!
4. Get plenty of filler footage
Most people will get videos of themselves talking to the camera or doing adventurous activities. These videos are great, however, adding in filler footage will make your videos even more engaging.
What is filler footage? This is the kind of video that usually doesn’t have you in it, and can be inserted over shots of you talking or in between shots of you doing activities. For example, a pan of your environment, close-ups of objects, or shots of the people walking around you, could be considered filler footage.
One great way to get filler footage with a GoPro is to take timelapses. A timelapse is a video where the frame rate is slowed down from 30 or 60 frames per second to 1 or less frames per second. Those frames are then sped up afterwards to make a fast-motion clip, like the opening shot in my JFK-SYD flight video.
To get a timelapse, set up your GoPro on a flat surface or use a tripod, then go into timelapse mode and film until you have 10 or so seconds of footage that you can later add into your video.
The timelapse settings will depend on your situation. If you’re looking at people moving about, then a short frame interval (0.5-1 seconds) will be appropriate. If the scene is changing very slowly in front of you, like clouds moving through the sky or a sunset, then a longer frame interval (5-10 seconds) would work better.