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A new point of view: GoPro cameras can capture new angles and stories

BY JOSEPH DITS
I am a three-eyed monster. But, somehow, people don’t flinch when I come close. That little box strapped to my forehead with the shiny round eye — the GoPro camera — doesn’t seem odd to them. I’ve gotten way more stares and questions about the big red mirror that I used to wear on my bike helmet.
The GoPro is so common, people barely glance at it. It’s also a sleek tool to tell narratives, beyond an extreme sports video. I’ve shot my share of those, providing video to go with my weekly adventure sports column in the South Bend (Indiana) Tribune: biking across the Mackinaw Bridge with other cyclists at sunrise; shooting down the luge run (one of only four in the United States) in Muskegon, Michigan; and whitewater rafting in Tennessee while at the OWAA conference in 2015.
But I’ve also used the GoPro to make a cute video of a middle school teacher’s after-school bike club where, as they rode drills and hit the riverside trails, you could overhear a kid say, “I wanna be in this (video)” and what every fitness teacher wants to hear: “I gave her a Pop-Tart.”
I also used the GoPro to capture emotions as hundreds of people lined the roads near Kalamazoo, Michigan, for a huge bike ride one week after five cyclists were killed by an allegedly doped-up driver.
I’ve documented thousands of cyclists who converge every Monday for the Slow Roll through Detroit’s streets of burned out homes and neighborhoods starting to come back to life. My footage showed the fun, tricked-out urban cruisers and the creeping carpet of cyclists who filled the streets. For narration, I also used the GoPro to record one of the ride’s organizers as he spoke. When doing this, I always get closer than usual to the person speaking, since the lens has such a wide angle.
The GoPro also has a great capacity for macro video. I’ve taken the GoPro down low for a tour of spring wildflowers at my feet, moving slowly enough to let it record clear video.
I used the GoPro to give a tour of a weeping beech tree, a bizarre, droopy cultivar at the University of Notre Dame. With the camera on my forehead, I ducked under its canopy to view decades of student graffiti on the trunk.
I shoot all my stuff, then take it back to photographers at the Tribune, who edit my footage and piece it together using the Apple software Final Cut Pro. They sometimes speed up my biking videos for effect. It makes for a wild — albeit sometimes dizzying — ride, but it’s also a quick way to show an entire trail. At the Tribune, we aim for videos under three minutes.
Tribune photographer Robert Franklin placed a GoPro camera on an egg timer to take a series of still photos, using the time lapse function, as football fans filled Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend as the sun set.
He laid the cheap egg timer flat, removed the timer’s faceplate and fixed the GoPro so that it panned across the stadium.
Franklin also took a cool still shot, looking up at a fully submerged kid in a swimming pool. Franklin stayed dry as he plunged the GoPro, in waterproof case with a monopod, and used his iPhone to snap the shutter.
For B-roll footage, Tribune photographer Michael Caterina advises shooting an extra four to five seconds of video after I’m satisfied with a shot. That adds a little buffer to be trimmed, just in case a part of the video is shaky or has an intrusive sound.
Our photo editor reminds me to always keep the lens clean for clearer shots. It’s hard to avoid the smudge of a finger when you’re out playing, reaching for buttons in the snow or stream.
I was glad when, on Chicago’s Bike the Drive with 30,000 cyclists on Lake Shore Drive, I still had the GoPro on my head as I rolled up to a lady with a little pup, Cocoa, in her basket. I shot as we rode and chatted. But neither she nor cute Cocoa was bashful of this three-eyed monster and I soon made them Facebook stars. ♦

Joseph Dits writes his weekly Outdoor Adventures column for the South Bend Tribune. South Bend, on Indiana’s border with Michigan, is just a couple of hours drive from this year’s OWAA conference in Fort Wayne. To see his columns and “Joe on the GoPro” videos, visit southbendtribune.com/outdooradventures.

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