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Preparing to lead a winter photo tour for tour operator Walk Japan, I filled my camera bag with two Nikon SLR cameras and a variety of lenses. Among them were my 300 mm f2.8, good for photographing the “tsuru” (Japanese cranes) we would see in Hokkaido, and a short zoom lens, ideal for capturing the majesty of a Japanese tea ceremony.
What my workshop participants didn’t expect to see me pull out of my bag was the diminutive but incredibly powerful 3.1-ounce GoPro Hero4 Black camera.
GoPros are the go-to image capturing devices for the action-sports world, yielding incredible point-of-view (POV) and reverse-angle images. A lesser-explored benefit of the camera is its ability to create dramatic travel videos and still imagery. Following are GoPro’s three main modes and how I used them on my trip to Japan.
Photo ModeThe Hero4 Black captures photos at 12 megapixels (MP), 7 MP or 5 MP. The camera’s field of view can be changed from ultra wide — which I used to digitally capture a friendly duck in the extreme foreground — to medium and narrow fields of view, perfect if Mount Fuji was the solo star of the shot.
Time-Lapse and Capturing a Series of Photos With BurstsI mounted the Hero4 to the wall of a Japanese teahouse with a GoPro clamp in order to document tea master Soka Haneishi’s ceremony in Ueno Park. I was able to remain unobtrusive by controlling the camera from outside the historic structure with the GoPro App on my iPhone.
To do time-lapse, the camera’s built-in intervalometer can be set to take images at fixed intervals between the default of 0.5 seconds and 60 seconds.
Video ModePeople are not the only creatures who enjoy a good soak in a hot spring. The snow monkeys of Jigokudani spend a lot of their winter days enjoying Japan’s magical waters.
Using the GoPro 3-Way arm accessory allowed me to get the camera up-close and personal with our distant cousins. This ultra-versatile mount, which extends to 20 inches and collapses down to 7.5 inches, can be used as a camera grip, an extension arm or a mini-tripod.
The Hero4 Black also features high-performance video modes. Shooting fast action at 120 frames per second can yield dramatic slow-motion video.
GoPro AccessoriesFor finely-tuned image composition: Splurge for an attachable LCD touch screen. Or, be sure to download the GoPro App, which allows for wireless viewing on a smartphone or tablet.
For POV action shots that put the viewer inside the action: Check out special mounts. Mounts are available for an array of sporting equipment, ranging from kayaks and surfboards to bicycle handles and helmets. GoPro makes accessories to mount cameras to virtually any surface or device.
A number of manufacturers make notable accessories for the GoPro, ranging from Tiffen’s Steadicam Curve to SP-Gadgets POV 36-inch camera pole. SP-Gadgets also makes a very useful POV carrying case for a GoPro camera with accessories.
For shooting with the GoPro around water or underwater: Look into waterproof housing, which can greatly expand photographic opportunities as far as 131 feet deep.