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Monday, November 30, 2020

How to Use GoPros to get Great Underwater Fish Videos

Whether you're scuba diving or just snorkeling, shooting nice underwater footage of fish from a nearby lake has never been easier. Here's a few answers to questions I'm often asked by beginners:

Where can I go?
No matter where you live, there's probably a pond, lake or river nearby teeming with fish and other interesting underwater subjects. It's important to find the clearest body of water you can, since clarity is critical to underwater videography. Contact your state's fish and wildlife office. They're very familiar with the characteristics of local lakes and can point you in the right direction.

Which GoPro should I use?
Gopro seems to come out with a new camera every year.  Their latest, the Hero 9 is their best by far. Waterproof to 33 feet without a supplemental housing, it's video and stabilization capabilities are superb. If you can't afford the newest GoPro, the Hero 8 and Hero 7 are also good choices. I wouldn't suggest using anything older than the Hero 6. The earlier models (1 thru 5) just don't work as well.

Do I need to use a filter?
If you use strobes as I do, you won't need filters to correct for losses in the light spectrum which filters are designed to compensate for. The term "strobe" is a bit of a misnomer. Basically any powerful waterproof flashlight will work as well. If you use strobe lights, you'll also need a handle and tray that you can attach your camera and lights to. This keeps everything together and is easy to hold and swim with.  Strobe lighting is wonderful because it brings out colors and fills in dark shadows. 

How do I get close to the fish?
The best way is to let them come to you. If you remain relatively still and non threatening, fish will usually come right to you which makes your video of them much more interesting that than the "tail shots" you'll always get if you chase them.  Fish are naturally curious and if you're patient, you'll find that they'll swim directly into your lens on their own.

I don't want to get wet. Can't I just mount my GoPro on a pole and shoot video that way?
You can try, but you'll be frustrated. Using a pole cam seems like a good idea, because you won't have to get your head underwater. But because you're not able to see through the viewfinder, you'll never be sure your videos are being framed correctly. I've shot many videos using pole cams trying carefully to aim the camera at the fish. Many times I've been disappointed because I've guessed wrong and the fish was barely in frame. When you're underwater, the aiming is precise every time. Also, being underwater with the fish is half the fun!  

If you have any questions about using GoPros to film fish, please let me know. I'm happy to share what I've learned over the years. Filming fish underwater has never been easier, and most anyone can get great underwater video with a little patience. If you try it, let me know how it goes for you.
To see more of my underwater fish videos, visit my YouTube Channel.