My Hero

It’s a camera.

GoPro HeroAbout two weeks ago, I bought a GoPro Hero camera. This is a tiny, durable video camera designed for extreme sports. Real extreme sports. (The darn thing comes in a waterproof housing.) For the past two days, I’ve been testing it out.

I’ve been really dissatisfied lately with the quality of video coming out of my POV.1 camera, which I’ve had for about two and a half years. I wanted something smaller, easier to set up and use, and with better picture quality. The GoPro Hero has the POV.1 beat hands down.

I started playing around with the camera on Tuesday, in the car on the way to Phoenix. I wanted to get an idea of image quality. The Hero offers several resolutions, including true 1080p HD. I shot in a lower quality and was very impressed with the results.

But movies isn’t the only thing the Hero does. It can also be used to shoot individual snapshots, three consecutive snapshots, and snapshots a set number of seconds apart. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I enjoy time-lapse photography — this little camera has the timing built right in.

Yesterday, while stuck in Pendleton, OR waiting for weather to clear, I played around with it a bit more. I decided to try creating a time-lapse. So I set it up before departing the airport on my second attempt to get across the Blue Mountains. In this 38-second video, I travel nine miles from the airport, realize that I’m not going to get over the mountains, turn back, and land on the ramp again.

Salt Lake from the Air

Salt Lake City from the Air

Wahweap Hoodoos

Three shots from my Hero. (1) The last shot it took yesterday, as I was flying over the Great Salt Lake; the reflections of the clouds on the glassy lake surface were amazing. (2) Early this morning as I flew down I-15 near downtown Salt Lake City. (3) A shot from my E-ticket ride past the Wahweap Hoodoos.

Later in the day, I finally got out of there. I’d cleared the camera’s contents and set it up to take a shot every 5 seconds (instead of 2 seconds in the video here). It did this for nearly five hours — the time it took for me to fly from Pendleton to the Salt Lake City area. The battery died about 15 minutes from landing. I compiled the video and liked what I saw. It compresses a 5-hour flight through Oregon, Idaho, and Utah into only four minutes. This morning, I set up the camera again and captured shots for my 2-1/2 hour flight from Salt Lake City to Lake Powell, including a wild, low-level flight down Wahweap Creek past the Wahweap Hoodoos (see photo here). I’ll likely put the two long videos together and get the resulting video online once I’ve had a chance to add notations.

As you can see in these images, the quality of the photos is excellent. There’s great depth of field, making it possible not only to see perfectly out the helicopter’s cockpit windows but to read the instruments. It has no trouble dealing with exposure; it seems to get it right every single time. If I had the time to go through the 5000+ images shot over the past two days, I would find all kinds of neat views. The original images are 2592 × 1944 resolution — that’s better than HD — I just downsized them for this blog post. And with one shot every 5 seconds, the camera battery died before it filled the 16 GB SD card I bought for the camera.

What’s kind of unusual is the way I mounted the camera for these shots. I hung it upside down using a suction cup mount on the passenger side ceiling window. (You can see the front of the window in each shot; I hung the camera from the back side.) Because the camera has a very wide angle lens, there’s some distortion to the view. I think that just adds to the funkiness of the photo. The camera is smart enough to turn the image right side up when processing, so there’s no need to worry about upside down video if you’re shooting video.

As for video…if I can figure out a way to mount it in a good spot, I should be able to get some really fine video while flying. That’s the challenge. Believe me — if I succeed, you’ll see the results here.

3 thoughts on “My Hero

  1. Ok Maria,

    I am fairly certain you just put me over the edge in my purchasing decision for this camera. I have been thinking about buying one ever since the HD models came out. Your shots are simply stunning. It is such a smart little camera.

    Great work as always,

  2. @Adam
    I am amazed — a word I don’t often use to describe quality — at the images coming out of this camera. The interface is kludgy; likely even worse that you might think. But once you conquer it, it’s point and shoot. And the fact that this camera took 5000 hi-res photos during my flights from Pendleton to Lake Powell — all without me touching a thing — makes it very useful for my needs.

    I just have to figure out how to safely mount it on the outside of the aircraft.

    Don’t buy from GoPro. It’s cheaper on Amazon (and likely on other sites, as well).

What do you think?