Friday, April 12, 2013

Scallop Dive

We recently acquired a Contour +2 high definition video camera. This camera is a top competitor to the GoPro cameras that all the snowboarders are wearing for Point of View video.

My parents approached me about two months ago about getting a video camera that we would be able to use to capture underwater video. Initially, the GoPro Hero 3 Black was my target. In it's third generation, the GoPro has instant name recognition and is very impressive on paper. However, as I began to do my homework I found a lot of very upset Hero 3 owners. The consensus seemed to be that GoPro rushed its latest model to the market without adequate quality testing. Customer complaints included short battery life (sometimes less than 15 minutes) and freezing up (and the only way to reboot is to take it our of its housing which is not an option underwater).

These little buggers are not cheap, so I opted to go for the lesser known Contour. While it had fewer reviews, it seemed to have much happier users. The overall specs were also very similar. 
The Contour +2 comes with the underwater housing. We bought an elastic strap to go with it, so that we could mount it to our heads as we were diving. 

The overall use of the camera is so simple even the Fish King is able to operate it. That is really saying something. I don't think he has ever even touched a computer, but he has been able to use it successfully. 

On the first dive with the camera, the video came out less than stellar, but at no fault to quality of the camera. There were two main issues with the first dive video:

1. The Fish King is scallop hungry. My mom and brother call him an addict. When he is on the hunt, you can not slow him down and that is his sole focus. This resulted in a jerky video in which no care is taken to show the viewer what is going on.

2. The head strap is too flexible. It does not secure the camera tightly to the head and causes the camera to flap around in the tide (or even worse above the surface). 
With this second video we attempted to correct these problems by introducing a dedicated cameraman (me) and mounting it on a GorillaPod to handhold the camera.

I think you will agree, after watching the video below, that the result is better but we still have some problems. 

The Fish King is still an addict and is difficult to keep up with. As I was trying to get close to a scallop, he would snatch it away. 

I also found that my hand kept reverting to a position that resulted in the camera being held sideways. We ended up with a lot of sideways footage. This is a great learning point for the future. The Contour gives you the ability to rotate the inner camera mechanics without changing the orientation of the actual camera. In future dives, I will rotate the lens 90 degrees so that I can hold the camera comfortably and still get a vertical image. 

Enough about the camera, here are the dive stats: 

Location: Land's End, Harpswell ME
Air Temp: 34 F when the day started, 50 F by the end of the trip
Water Temp: 38 F
Exposure Gear: We both wore neoprene dry suits with thermal underwear underneath
Average Depth: 60 feet
Visibility: 10-15 feet (that's considered good around here)
Bottom Time: 12 minutes

Overall, we have been pretty impressed with the little camera. It has been fun and easy to use. There is a learning curve, especially given the poor visibility and low light conditions found diving in Maine. I can't wait to play with it some more. When the water warms up and the shedders move up inside, I plan to get some lobster footage.