GoPro Street Photography - Classic VW

By Scott Umstattd

I've been working on a series of pictures over the last year or so. It started innocently enough with one photo but it soon took off and turned into a project that I add to every time I hit the sidewalks. 

After seeing the first picture I took of a VW Bug with my GoPro Hero2, I knew I was onto something. The GoPro's fish-eye lens, which causes pretty severe distortion on things close to the camera, aligns itself very nicely with the curves of the vintage Beetle.

It helps that I've been living in Central America for the past several years. I don't see as many classic Vw's in the United States and, let's face it, the streets aren't nearly as cool looking as the cobble stone roads of Mexico, Peru and Guatemala.

Well, let's get on with it. Here is a small collection of VW Bugs taken with my GoPro Hero2.

GoPro Street | Classic VW

ABOVE: Since the GoPro does not have a large sensor and it cannot (2015) shoot raw or native files you can expect to lose detail in blown out (overexposed) areas. In this shot, edited in Lightroom 5, parts of the clouds (at the top of the image) were saved but some parts were not. By "saved" I mean details (texture, color and contrast) were changed to improve the look of the picture.  Expect to lose some detail when using your GoPro if your scene has high contrast.

GoPro Street | Classic VW

ABOVE: Again, details are lost in parts of the clouds. Another reason you should expect this when using your GoPro is that the GoPro exposes your pictures for you. This is great in a sense that you never really have to worry about your settings. Not worrying about exposure settings (ISO, Shutter and Aperture) means you can focus more on what's in front of you. The bad side is that you can't control the exposure and you may not love what you get.

GoPro Street | Classic VW

ABOVE: This is a good example of how well the fish-eye lens of the GoPro uses the curves on the classic VW Beetle. By changing my perspective and getting on level ground with this bug I was able to make the green lights (bug eyes?) come front and center with the headlights falling slightly behind. But be careful when photographing when the sun is directly above as it is in this picture. You will get a lot of contrast and that will zap color and feeling from your picture. Or, use this contrasting, harsh light to your advantage and make something that stands out. 

GoPro Street | Classic VW

ABOVE: If you compare this picture with the shot above it you can see how light affects photography.  The angle of the shot is the same but notice the shadows under the VW. In the picture above this one you see shadows with a hard line. In the picture above you can't see any hard lines in the shadows. When the sun is behind clouds or lower on the horizon light is softer. Soft light creates soft shadows. There is no right or wrong here. You can make a good picture with either kind of light. The important thing is to be able to recognize how the light is behaving and adjust your outlook on the picture accordingly. 

GoPro Street | Classic VW

ABOVE:  All of these pictures demonstrate the GoPro's ability to bring in everything. For most of these shots I had to wait for people to walk past or get out of the frame. But that was my choice.  The GoPro is also great for parades filled with people too. Check out some GoPro parade photography tips if you want to make the most of your GoPro on the street.

GoPro Street | Classic VW

ABOVE: Alright. A little change of perspective. Notice the difference between this picture and the previous one. This was taken at eye level and the others were taken with me on one knee to get a lower perspective. Taking a lower perspective helps to create a sense of awe. Learn more about this in another article filled with fun photography ideas.

GoPro Street | Classic VW

ABOVE: Keeping your GoPro level is important. If the horizon line is above or below the center of the frame it will distort the more natural looking flat horizon line. This also works to your advantage. The fish-eye lens on the GoPro really helps to drive the viewer's eye's into the center of the frame. Notice the lines in the buildings on all of the pictures on this page.  The diagonal lines are very attractive to viewers. The lines force the viewer's eyes to the center of the picture. Like with so many aspects of photography your job is to take advantage of things you cannot control.

Quick gopro photo tips

  • As of 2015, the GoPro shoots JPEG images. While improvements are being made in resolution and exposure control, the GoPro falls way short in image quality when compared to DSLR pictures. But a DSLR does not fit in your pocket.
  • As with most photographs, a little (or a lot) of post production can make or break your picture. Even though the GoPro shoots JPEG and not raw images the pictures coming from a GoPro can be enhanced to produce a look that is specific to you or your conditions.
  • Imagine standing on a beach looking out at the ocean. The line where the ocean meets the sky is the horizon line. The fish-eye lens on your GoPro will curve this otherwise straight horizontal line if it is not in the center of the frame. Use this to your curvature to your advantage or keep the horizon line straight. It doesn't matter. What does matter is you knowing how your camera will affect your images.
  • When shooting in low light you may experience a larger number of blurry pictures. The best advice I can can give is to stay calm and stay off the coffee to prevent camera shake with produces blur. However, this method will do nothing to help you if you subject is moving. Learn How to Prevent Blurry GoPro Photos.

Hi there! I'm Scott. PTMY. Photography is a constant challenge and there is always something to learn - if you want to learn.  For those that do want to learn, I created Picture Power as a resource for you to sharpen your photography skills. If you don't find the answer you're looking for just let me know and together we'll find a way to ignite your inner superhero photography genius. Contact me

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