Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival

Songkran is the Thai New Year’s national holiday. The name comes from the Sanskrit word Sankranti, which translates to “Astrological Passage”, meaning transformation or change and is celebrated on the 13th of April every year, keeping in line with the Hindu and Buddhist calendars. Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival

The Thai Celebrate this festival by taking to the street to pour and shoot water at each other from buckets and pistols.

I was fortunate enough to experience this festival in Koh Tao, Thailand.

An event like this is a perfect example of where an action camera is ideal for documentation. With this much water, movement and energy, it could be dangerous for system cameras, especially those without weather-sealing.

This article is a short review of my experience using the GoPro 10 as a still camera to document the event.

Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image
Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image
Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image
Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image
Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image

1. Why I Chose The GoPro To Document This Event

The GoPro was not my first choice when deciding on the camera to shoot the day. However, it should’ve been.

Initially, I decided to use my Fujifilm XT4 combined with the 10-18 mm wide-angle lens.

I decided this because both the XT-4 and the wide-angle lens have weather-sealing. And while it is not advisable to go swimming with them, I believed they could handle the water.

Unfortunately, about an hour into the documentary, and with much water cover, the camera began to malfunction. Sensing it was time to quit, I rushed back to my room to leave the camera covered in rice.

After leaving the camera in a bag of magic rice, I picked up the entirely waterproof camera with a built-in wide-angle, the GoPro 10. Did I mention it is also shockproof? Discrete? Can photographs be in a RAW format at a 23mp resolution? This item should’ve been the clear choice from the start. But we all make mistakes.

Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image
Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image
Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image
Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image
Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image

2. Positive Observations

The GoPro is such an incredible little camera for an event like this. It can capture all the action with its wide-angle lens in a waterproof, bombproof body. So you can focus on capturing the drama without worrying about getting it wet or knocked out of your hand.

Although I didn’t use it to capture any video on this day, it does have the ability to function as a hybrid shooter. The GoPro 10 can shoot in 5.6k and has one of the most impressive mics of any action camera I have had experience using.

My favourite thing about using a GoPro as a stills device is the quirkiness it gives to the images. Everything it captures has an emphasised element of fun to it.

Even if you were to capture the most solemn depressing subjects with this device, it would render undertones of joy.

Another reason why I love this thing is because of its size. If I am at an event where I don’t want to be a photographer the entire time with a system slung under my arm, I don’t need to be. The GoPro can slip discreetly into a trouser pocket so you can forget about taking photographs when you’d rather be in the moment.

In my opinion, the camera is perfect for high energy, chaotic and fun events, such as beach parties, nightclubs, family events, and dates with friends.

Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image
Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image
Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image
Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image
Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image

3. Negative Observations

Listen, no camera with a 1/2.3 inch sensor can yield the sharpest or highest quality results. And the GoPro 10 is no different. By understanding this, you won’t end up disappointed with the results.

Despite this size, it can yield good results in bright light. However, as soon as the light starts diminishing, it is impossible to get satisfactory results. At Songkran, I shot to dusk, but as soon as the sun began to set, I had to stop because it was impossible to take a decent photograph.

Built to capture lots of action in a large frame, a GoPros large field of view means that you need to get close to capturing subjects like these. And when I say close, I mean only centimetres. When shooting these images, I would quickly point the camera at the person, take the shot and rapidly pull back again, performing the entire action in no more than a second or two.

The camera can’t take decent shots without aggressively invading people’s personal spaces. So to make sure you don’t find yourself starting any conflicts, I would only recommend using this camera in situations where people are focused on the event and won’t notice a camera being stuck in their face so much. Or in environments where you know the people, and they don’t mind having their space invaded by you.

Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image
Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image
Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image
Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image
Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image

4. Things To Do Differently

The best thing I could think of to get better results would be to use a light with the GoPro to light up the subjects enough to get sharper and less noisy images. Fortunately, there is a range of compact yet bright lights that can accompany the camera. Accessories I will certainly look at purchasing soon.

Another possible alternative to my method is attaching the camera to a selfie stick and using a Bluetooth remote to take the photo. This way, I could get the camera into some places further away from my body that I couldn’t reach in time. Furthermore, it could be placed in a higher range of positions and give more intriguing compositions.

Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image
Why I Used A GoPro To Document This Festival : Sample Image
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5. Image Quality

As mentioned, the 1/2.3 inch sensor is a bit naff. It is especially noticeable if you have experience using a camera other than your smartphone. The sharpness of the images leaves much to be desired.

The colour in the images is also way off the standard I am used to from my Fujifilm XT-4. Fortunately, the camera shoots in RAW, meaning they are somewhat salvageable.

One method to negate the GoPros poor image quality is to turn them black and white. Black and white are far more forgiving to motion blur and shoddy colour science. Furthermore, it tends to add a little more style to the shots.

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6. Conclusion

The GoPro 10 was a perfect shooter for the Songkran festival in Thailand. I didn’t need to worry about it, which meant I could focus more on enjoying myself there rather than thinking about protecting it. Sure, there is much to be desired from the image quality, but I was never planning on submitting these images to win any competitions.

If I ever find myself in a situation like this again, I won’t think twice about making it the camera for the job, leaving behind the more expensive equipment.

If you don’t already own a GoPro, I recommend having one as a backup camera. They fit comfortably in a pocket and can give your images a little something extra on specific occasions like events and parties.

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David Davis
David Davishttps://shuttergang.com
Hi, My name is Dave, and I am passionate about photography. I am currently travelling to document the world's most interesting people and places. I have started this blog to share these incredible sights and experiences with you, including all the knowledge I gain as a photographer/videographer along the way. If you share a passion for street, documentary, and travel photography, join the mailing list and stay up to date with the latest posts and resources direct from the field.

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