GoPro on-the-water battery solution

Many fishermen have really taken to using action cams to chronicle their adventures.  One look at my YouTube channel and you’ll see that I sit squarely in that category and rarely go on an outing without my GoPro Hero2.

I’ve been doing it since I began this kayak fishing adventure I’m on and have convinced many of my fishing friends to acquire their own GoPros.  One concern that always comes to the surface is the battery life.  For many who use these action cams, an hour and a half of battery life is generally sufficient.  However, for us fishermen, we need more.  We need to start the camera and let it run throughout the day.  Sure, remotes and apps are great, but if you’re waiting for the right time to turn the camera on, you’re going to be too late and miss that fish catch.  Additionally, enabling the wifi/bluetooth radios on these cameras will decrease the battery life.

Most of the time, we spend 5-8 hours at a time on the water.  When comparing the battery life of many of the action cams on the market right now, none of them will last that long on a single charge.  So, regardless of which camera you choose, you’re going to be changing the battery at some point, or devising an on-the-water charging solution.  The point is that battery life for a camera for this purpose should not really be a consideration unless purchasing additional batteries for a particular model is cost-prohibitive.

GoPro batteries on the waterHere’s the solution I use.  I use a small Plano waterproof box to store 4 spare batteries, a second memory card, and extra fog free inserts.  I’ve filled the box with a piece of foam that’s been plucked to hold all items snuggly.  You’ll also notice that I’ve placed a green dot on one side of each battery and a red dot on the other.  This is to visually indicate to me which batteries are charged and which aren’t.  When I pull a dead battery from the camera, I place it red dot up in the case.  Then when I’m at home and charging each battery, I’ll replace it in the case with the green dot up when completely charged.

More information

Gizmodo’s Spring 2014 Action Cam Review

Wasabi GoPro Battery Kits on Amazon

 

A lot of learning on White River

This weekend was a whirlwind of activity of which a small portion included some fishing.  I only fished for just shy of 5 hours, but it was packed with learning experience for me.

On Saturday, my daughter and her friend were going to GenCon in downtown Indianapolis, so rather than drop them off and make the round trip twice, I decided to pack up my fishing gear, load the kayak, and do some fishing on White River while I was in Indy.  Since there’s not a very good non-interstate route to downtown Indy from Muncie, and I’m not comfortable using my trailer on the interstate, I loaded the kayak onto the roof rack of my Trailblazer.  This detail becomes important later in the story.

On Friday, a good friend reached out to me and provided some good information on the area I was planning to fish.  I altered my gear a bit due to this information, mapped out the location I needed to reach, and planned my day on the water.

A gorgeous day on the White River

A gorgeous day on the White River

I dropped off the kids and headed towards Broad Ripple Park. This was my first time here and my first time fishing the river any further downstream than Yorktown.  I am still amazed at how much different the water is here versus Muncie and Yorktown, considering the relatively small distance between the two locations.  The river in Indy is MUCH bigger, deeper, and lined with docks and boats, something you’ll never see in Muncie.  I’ve never fished water like this before, so I was very thankful for the advice provided by my friend on Friday as it helped me get focused on particular water and patterns, something I struggle with in unfamiliar territory.

Talking kayak fishing, GoPro cameras, and politics with a gentleman at the boat ramp.

Talking kayak fishing, GoPro cameras, and politics with a gentleman at the boat ramp.

After unloading and gearing up the kayak, I spent 20 minutes or so chatting with a random stranger who was asking questions about my kayak and my GoPro.  Soon I was heading upstream, paddling to the location I had plotted out the night before, about 1.5 miles upstream.  Though I found it difficult to force myself to go straight to that location since all of the water looked good to me, I controlled myself and made my way there.  Paddling up the current wasn’t an issue, though the headwind did slow me down a bit.

A little fishing chat on the water.

A little fishing chat on the water.

I spent the next 3 hours or so working the rocky shoreline without a single good bite.  I even resorted to some other lures that have been successful in Muncie recently, but had no luck with those, either.  While frustrating, I was enjoying the beautiful day, talking to other fisherman in big boats about the area, their history, and answering their questions regarding my kayak setup.  Additionally, the White River Yacht Club nearby was having a public open house party, so I was treated to some music and got to observe many flights from the helicopter giving tours over the river.

The chopper taking off for another tour.

The chopper taking off for another tour.

I finally decided I wanted to fish some of the docks on the opposite side of the river on my way back to the ramp, so I made my way downstream a bit and crossed over.  I threw everything I had setup to no avail.  Frustrated, I cut off my wacky-rigged Senko and tied on my old school, tried-and-true fallback rig, a Yamamoto Double-Tail Hula Grub on a 1/8 oz. jig head.  This was a case where I wanted to catch fish so bad that I didn’t trust my OWN judgement.  It only took a few pitches to the dock before I landed my first solid smallmouth.  Over the next 30 minutes, I caught one slightly bigger than the first, and lost one to a giant leap at the kayak. At that point, time was up, and I had to pack up and head in.  Though it’s always hard for me to get off the water, at least I ended it on a good note.

Here are some non-fishing things I learned on this day:

  • My kayak, while only being an entry-level sit-on-top, is amazingly stable.  While many of the boaters on the water were kind and courteous, there were also many that weren’t.  I must say I’m MUCH more comfortable in busy water after the trials of this day.  I took water over the sides from wakes more than once, including one particular instance where not only was I unsure if the driver of the pontoon saw me sitting a mere 5 feet from the end of the docks, but when she finally did (thanks to me waving my white paddle in the air) she didn’t bother to slow down before veering just a few feet to her left to miss me.  My kayak took it all in stride and I never once felt unstable.  However, methinks I need to save my pennies for a YakAttack Visicarbon Pro.
  • I need to be more vigilant in ensuring my GoPro hasn’t shut down due to a dead battery.  I carry plenty of fresh batteries, but sometimes I don’t hear the audible shutdown alert.  On this particular day, it was likely due to the frequent percussion of the Huey overhead.  I failed to capture any of my catches or my kayak vs pontoon chicken victory.
  • I LOVE my new Buff. This was my first trip in a while that didn’t end in slight sunburn on my neck and ears.  I’m glad I spent some birthday money on it.
  • If you want superb parking in a downtown Indy parking garage, drive an SUV and strap a kayak to the top.  When picking up the kids, I decided to park and go inside to get them though I hadn’t considered the height restrictions in the parking garages.  I drove slowly under the hanging gauge tubes, clearing it by mere inches.  The kind attendant told me to back into a spot reserved for employees, right there by the booth, so that I didn’t have to make my way through the entire garage that was nearly full.

DIY monopod hack – the next level

I’ve posted previously about converting an inexpensive monopod into a GoPro pole with kayak mounting capabilities. I decided I wanted to add additional flexibility to the camera angles available when mounting this system to my kayak.  To do this, I needed to be able to adjust the angle at the base of the monopod where it is mounted to the kayak.  I chose to use two 1.5″ YakAttack Screwballs, one to attach to the base of the monopod and one to retain the track bolt to be used to mount to my Mighty Mount.  To connect the two balls, I’m using a RAM short double socket arm.

Bolt inside cap

Bolt inside cap

Screwball attached to cap attached to monopod

Screwball attached to cap attached to monopod

The Screwball is essentially a RAM ball mount, except there is no base attached, only a socket threaded to 1/4-20.  When YakAttack ships these, they’ve got a Mighty Bolt threaded into that socket so that the Screwball can be used on nearly any track-mounting system.  I left one of these in place on one of the Screwballs since I will using it as the base, threaded into my Mighty Mount.  I removed the Mighty Bolt from the other one, exposing the threaded socket.  I lined this socket up with the hole in the bottom of my PVC cap (which happens to be tapped for 1/4-20, but that’s not necessary for this application) then attached it to the cap using a 1/4-20 bolt.  I reattached the cap to the monopod, essentially completing this project.  Very simple.

This two Screwball, one socket arm setup, combined with the extendibility of the monopod, should provide countless new shooting angles for my GoPro adventures.

My GoPro video creation workflow

Ever since I purchased my GoPro Hero2 I’ve loved taking it with me everywhere, especially on my fishing excursions.  As you can down the left-hand side of this site, I’ve compiled a decent collection of fishing footage and made some short highlight videos to share with everyone.  Now I’d like to share how I create them.

Filesystem SetupMy current home computer consists of a Mac Mini.  It’s nothing special and no powerhouse, but does the trick pretty well.  For storing my video footage, I’m utilizing a 2TB Firewire 800 drive from Western Digital.  I use this drive for storing the original footage copied from the SD card as well as the clips I end up using to compile the final footage.  I keep folders for each event within parent folders called “GoPro Originals” and “GoPro Converted”.

Naturally, the first step for these videos is to get out and shoot some footage!  The first step once I’m home is to simply create the event folder in “GoPro Originals” and copy each video file from the SD Card to this new folder.

NotesVLCOne thing about using a GoPro (or any camera, really) for fishing is that you’ll generally have the camera rolling for long periods of time since you’ll never know when that next hero shot will occur.  Unless you’re having the fishing trip of a lifetime, this means you’ll have a lot of footage to sort through with very little of that will actually be used for a highlight video.  For the purpose of scanning this footage, I simply open each GoPro original file in VLC Media Player and make my way through it relatively quickly.  You can do this by clicking through the time bar or adjusting the playback speed.  Once I find a section of footage I want to utilize, I write down both the start and end times on a piece of paper (I know, real geeky, right?).  After just a short period, I can make my way through 4-5 hours worth of footage.  Converting all footage instead of just the clips I need would take a few hours and clutter up the board in iMovie when actually editing.

CineformReadyToConvertNow that I’ve identified the clips I wish to use, it’s time to open the files in GoPro Cineform Studio which is free conversion and editing software provided by GoPro.  With this software, my goal is to convert the footage from the format used by the camera to a format that works better with my editing software.  The software is relatively simple.  First, I choose the video files in “GoPro Originals” that I need clips from.  For each file, I then use the time slider to find the beginning time for clip according to my paper notes.  I set this is my “In” location by clicking “In” on the screen or simply using the “i” on the keyboard.  I then click Play (or spacebar on the keyboard) to start the playback.  Once I reach the location that I noted to end the clip,  I set the “Out” location by clicking “Out” on screen or “o” on the keyboard.  I could use the slider to get to my noted out location for the clip, but sometimes I like to verify what I’ve written down and may adjust it a bit on the fly.  I then set the filename for this particular clip and the location I want to save it to, which will be an event-specific folder in “GoPro Converted”.  Additionally, I’ll click the “Advanced Settings” button and choose high quality from the settings menu.  Once that is complete, click “Add clip to conversion list”. Repeat these steps for each clip needed.  Once that is done, I simply click the “Convert” button and let my computer do its thing.

So far, everything I’ve done is essentially platform-independent, working in a similar fashion for both Macs and Windows-based PCs.  From there, I use a basic, consumer-grade video editing program, iMovie, which is only available for the Mac.  Many Windows users seem to have good luck with both Windows Live Movie Maker, a free application provided by Microsoft for consumer video editing.  Once I add the converted clips to the iMovie event, I create a new project and edit the video.  I won’t get into much detail on that, as there are plenty of tutorials for it.  I just wanted to detail the steps I take to get my GoPro footage ready for iMovie.

My first kayak tournament…almost

You can imagine how excited I was when I read this post on IndianaAngler.com that informed me of the first kayak bass tournament within a few hour drive of my home!  Planning began almost immediately, including when I could get some practice time in on the lake I’d never even seen before.

One of the nicer fish I caught while practice fishing on Morse Reservoir.

One of the nicer fish I caught while practice fishing on Morse Reservoir.

On the Wednesday prior to the tournament, I took the morning off from work and headed out to Morse.  I had gathered a little local knowledge and studied some maps so I felt relatively prepared for the fishing. However, this was my first time in a kayak on such a big body of water loaded with giant pleasure boats, so I was a bit concerned about how I and my kayak would handle the large wakes.  The first run-in made me especially nervous, but I soon realized that it was a non-issue, and I just had to pay attention and roll with it.  I was also caught a bit off guard by the extreme drops of this reservoir.  My Lowrance X-4 unit was reading depths of 30+ feet when I was sitting only feet from the ends of docks.  So much for using docks for shallow water structure!  No matter, I had a few other ideas, so I headed across the water for those spots.  Time was short, as I had to head into the office in Carmel for the afternoon, but I was able to locate a few fish and identify a few locations I’d like to hit during the tournament.  After finally packing up the trailer at Morse Park (I had two multiple long conversations with random strangers, one asking me about my trailer, and and another asking about fishing from a kayak and my kayak modifications) I headed into the office, totally geeked about the upcoming tournament.

Then Saturday rolls around.  I spent a few hours Friday night narrowing down the tackle I wanted to use, preparing my rods and other gear, and packing up the Trailblazer and trailer to allow me to leave home around 4:30 with minimal lead time in the morning.  The weather predictions for the morning weren’t looking promising, but I held some faith that I would be able to participate in my first event and only have to deal with some rain.  However, once I woke up at 4:00, I was extremely disappointed in both the current conditions and the predicted morning conditions for the reservoir.  I pondered for a bit, then made the decision to stay home, not wanting to battle lightning and possible hail from a small plastic boat on a large body of water.  I kept in touch with Portside Marine, the host of the tournament, via Facebook, to see how things were progressing as they’d decided to continue on with the tournament.  None of the weather predictions were true, with only some rain passing through in the early hours, but fishing was safe and commenced as planned.

Around 11:00, I decided to make the hour drive to Morse Park, the launch and check-in location for the tournament, just to see how things went.  Through my communications on Facebook and IndianaAngler.com, I was recognized by Jim, the owner of Portside Marine, and another angler, Keenan from the IndianaAngler.com message boards.  They were beyond hospitable, welcoming me as if I’d known them forever and even requiring me to be in the group shot, even though I battled out the rain in my recliner instead of the kayak.  This brief interaction affirmed my belief that the kayak fishing community was one I wanted to not only be a part of but to contribute to in any way that I could.  I spent nearly an hour shooting the breeze with Keenan and look forward to trading fish stories with him in the future.

One other takeaway from this event was the absolutely phenomenal kayak made by Hobie, the Mirage Pro Angler.  I spend a lot of time reading forums and watching videos of kayak fishing, many including the Pro Angler, but nothing prepared me for actually seeing one in person.  All of the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed on this boat.  Whole E. Cow.  From the rod management setup, to the tackle box management, to the amazing seats, to the feat of engineering in the Mirage Drive System, these things are UNREAL.  Basically all of the things that require some hacking on normal sit-on-top kayaks and add to some frustration on the water have been addressed and solved on these kayaks.  I’m pretty sure I left some drool on Keenan’s 14 footer and Dan’s 12 footer.  Sorry, guys.

The day wasn’t totally lost from fishing for me.  A friend that lives on a private lake in Anderson, IN called me as I was leaving Noblesville to ask for some help with his boat.  After determining that we didn’t have all of the parts needed, we decided to just do some fishing instead.  We were able to put some nice fish in the boat and didn’t get rained on.  Hey, weatherman, I’m sure you’re used to hearing this, but you were WRONG.  Again.

Went 4 pounds on my scales.  I think she would have been a bit heavier last week.  It appeared she had just recently dropped all of her eggs.

Went 4 pounds on my scales. I think she would have been a bit heavier last week. It appeared she had just recently dropped all of her eggs.

DIY monopod hacked for kayak mounting

One of the first DIY projects I completed once obtaining my GoPro Hero2 was this monopod hack.  It takes a standard, inexpensive monopod and morphs it into an extendable GoPro boom pole.  It works great!

Recently I’ve been working on my rigging to get the boat ready for some warmer weather and the 2013 season.  On this list of things to do was another way to mount my GoPro to the kayak that doesn’t require the sometimes unstable mount of using the milk crate.  I’m really intrigued by the YakAttack GearTrac and MightyMounts, so I thought I’d give them a try.  I picked up a MightyMount and a few MightyBolts, hoping I could use them to build some DIY things for these fantastic mounts.

Rubber chair tip removed, PVC cap screwed into place, MightyBolt threaded in.

Rubber chair tip removed, PVC cap screwed into place, MightyBolt threaded in.

On a whim yesterday, I removed the rubber chair tip cap from the monopod and tried to slide on a 3/4″ PVC cap that I had laying on my desk.  It was a perfect fit!  Very snug, maybe even more snug than when slid onto 3/4″ PVC pipe.  So, I drilled and tapped the cap for 1/4-20 threads and screwed one of the MightyBolts into it.  The result is an extendable boom pole that mounts into GearTrac, MightyMounts, and most other track mount systems on kayaks.  To ensure that the cap doesn’t slip, I chose to screw the cap into the monopod rather than glue it to make it easier to remove later should I decide to.

I hope to test this soon. I haven’t even mounted my MightyMount yet!  But when I do, this will be the first thing I try!

ADDED 3-5-2013:

Yesterday I finally installed my YakAttack MightMount with FullBack.  After figuring out where I wanted the mount to be located and verifying that I could reach the area on the inside of the kayak to get the FullBack in place, I began by drilling a small pilot hole in one corner of the mount.  After drilling it out to the size I needed, I placed a bolt in that hole, then began drilling the other three holes one at a time, placing a bolt in each completed hole.  Everything went together well, though I did have clearance issues for the FullBack based upon the tight location I chose.  I was able to make it work, though.

The pictures below show the MightyMount in place with the hacked monopod camera mount in place.  I think it’s going to rock!

New modification to fishing crate GoPro rig

Today I made a quick modification to the fishing crate GoPro rig to allow for greater flexibility on mounting options.

2 mounting options for the GoPro. Left – Quick Release mount, Right – Tripod mount

Previously, I had a threaded male adapter on the end of the extension arm that attached to the frame mounted to the crate.  Today, I decided to add an additional threaded male adapter to the opposite end and create two new camera mounts using threaded (female) caps.  One uses a curved adhesive mount from GoPro to create a quick-release base for the camera, as I was previously using.  The second cap has been drilled and tapped for 1/4″-20 and a 1/2″ long 1/4″-20 bolt inserted to use with the GoPro tripod mount or, most likely, the Pedco UltraMount Ball & Socket Head.  This head should give me the flexibility I need to quickly adjust the GoPro for the angle needed.

November Smallmouth Fishing + GoPro Mounts

This weekend I was able to go do some fishing with my dad on a small northern Indiana lake that’s been hot for smallmouth lately.  Unfortunately, the bite has slowed, possibly due to the lake turning over from the cold snap of late.  We were still able to catch some, though not the quantity and quality that he’s been catching there in the past weeks.

Along with the fishing, I was able to test out some mounts that I’ve been building.  All of them are highlighted in this video:

Best viewed in 720p.

The beginning of the video was a boat-loading time lapse I attempted using the GoPro Suction Cup Mount.  I learned about 52 seconds into the 1 shot per second time lapse that you really should clean off the surface before mounting.  It fell.

Breakdown of the mounts used:

Suction cup mount on inside of boat

DIY backpack mount (Instructions here)

DIY chest mount

Kayak fishing crate GoPro mounting rig

View from my GoPro Hero2 utilizing a side mounting location on the base frame.

It seems the quest never ends for finding that perfect mounting location for the GoPro camera (or any other action cam, for that matter).  I’m constantly researching mounts and angles, which usually means watching awesome videos on Youtube and Vimeo.  It’s no secret that most of these videos are of kayak fishing.

One item that nearly all kayak fishermen utilize is a milk crate, usually located in the stern of the kayak, to organize tackle, gear, and necessities when on the water.  I’ve used a tube mounted within the crate along with a hacked monopod to hold my GoPro Hero2, but I decided to try to design and build something more purpose-driven for handling my camera-holding duties.

From Version 1 of my crate mount, this is utilizing the extension arm as a pole mount for shots. GoPro Hero2 baby!

The first version, visible in the picture at right, utilized 1″ PVC and was situated on top of the crate.  It was fastened to the crate via some short bungee ball tie downs.  The connection between the extension pole and the base mounted to the crate was via slip-on connections.  While this connection is strong and sturdy for this application without gluing the joints, it creates problems when attempting to remove and replace the pole, especially when on the water.  The force required to do so was wreaking havoc with the base mount frame and its position on the crate.

Version 2 of this rig changed a few things.  First, I’m using 3/4″ PVC instead of 1″.  The main reason for this decision was that 3/4″ PVC is plenty strong enough and is more comfortable in my hands than 1″ PVC when using the extension arm as a pole for filming.  Second, I built the frame to go around the top edge of the crate rather than sitting on top of it.  The frame is then bolted in place with 3/4″ PVC conduit clamps purchased at Menard’s.  Lastly, rather than using slip-on connections at the tees in the frame for mounting the extension pole, I chose to use a threaded connection to allow simple screw-on and screw-off mounting, eliminating the need to apply force to the frame.  This requires tees to be a combination of slip-on and threaded as well as a male thread adapter for the extension arm.

Base frame mounted to crate with extension arm attached.

None of the joints are glued.  The mounting brackets should hold the frame in place and keep it from disassembling itself.  Additionally, since the tees are not glued into place, you can rotate them to adjust the angle of the extension arm, providing additional flexibility in camera positioning.  This rotation is made easy by utilizing the extension arm once screwed securely into the tee.

On the business end of the extension arm, you have multiple options.  I chose to one of the stick-on flat adhesive mounts that uses the GoPro quick-release adapter.  This decision was based upon the fact that I also have a Scotty Portable Camera Mount that I use for forward filming duty and it, too, uses this quick-release mount.  You could also drill and tap a PVC cap and insert a 1/4″-20 bolt to hold any standard camera with a tripod mount or the GoPro tripod adapter.

Fabrication of the rig

My crate is a standard square crate formerly used by a certain local dairy.  Your dimensions may vary, but the concept is the same and slight modifications may be needed for your application.

Parts needed

  • 3/4″ PVC pipe (QTY: 10′)
  • 90 degree elbows (3/4″, QTY: 4)
  • Tees (3/4″, QTY: 4, Female threaded output)
  • Male PVC Adapter (3/4″, QTY: 1)
  • PVC Cap (3/4″, QTY: 1)
  • Conduit Support Snap Strap (3/4″, QTY: 8)
  • #8-32 machine screws w/ nuts (1 1/2″ or 1 3/4″, QTY: 8)

Build

Cut 8 pieces of pipe 6″ in length.  Piece the frame together with a 6″ pipe between each elbow and tee.  Squeeze connections tightly to seat the pipes as deep as possible.  Place a snap strap around each pipe section.  Test fit and make note of approximate location of the mounting holes of the straps.  Using a 9/64″ or similar drill bit to drill 8 holes in the crate for each of the snap straps.  Mount the frame using the machine screws and nuts.

For the extension arm, take your pick on length.  I am using a 3′ length.  Once cut to length, place the male adapter on one end and the cap (already prepped to your specs for your camera) on the other.  Press firmly into place, glue if you wish to.

More examples of shots from this rig are available in my flickr feed to the right.