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Taking a GoPro in to the sea

I was prompted to buy a GoPro when I saw some fish trapped in a rock pool and thought to myself “it would be great if I could just put my camera in the water with them”. I found that taking pictures through the surface of the water (I didn’t have a polarizing filter on me) didn’t look great, but this wouldn’t have been an issue if the camera was below the surface.

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Of course I have not seen the fish again since buying the GoPro, but I’ve taken it in to the sea with me multiple times.  I wear a bum bag in the sea with the camera bungee chorded to it.  It gives me somewhere to put the camera when I’m swimming, and means that if it gets knocked from my hand by a wave I don’t lose it (which was a very good idea, as it turns out).

On my first try in the sea with the GoPro, we went for a still section (by a river mouth) in Fairbourne.  Despite the wetsuits, the sea was far too cold to enjoy and so it was a short trip.  Still, the GoPro held up well and the hard case was sufficient to not let in any water.

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We also found that it could take decent “scenery” photos due to the fish-eye lens.

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I tested the camera completely submerged, but I think that the sea is too cloudy here to get any good pictures (even where the water is near-still).

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Aberystwyth in the fog
I decided to take the GoPro in the sea on a foggy yet warm day in Aberystwyth.  I had also purchased wetsuit gloves/boots/flippers.  I would really recommend that people do so if they want to swim in the Welsh sea, as it really makes a big difference in how cold the water feels.

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The water was pretty still and felt a lot less cold, and so we spent quite a while in it.  It was quite cool when we swam out a bit, as you really couldn’t see the seafront that well any more.  I was also able to swim up to/sit on a rocky outcrop in the sea due to how still the water was.

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We had another attempt at taking pictures underwater, with no additional success.

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The Aberystwyth sea on a windy day
We were invited swimming one weekend by a triathlete.  We made it very clear to him that we are no-where near as fit as him, but he said to come along anyway.  As it turns out the weather was very bad that day.  The waves were bigger than us, and powerful enough to knock us over.

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Getting pushed over by a wave was a very unpleasant experience.  I found after the first time it happened that there’s absolutely no point in fighting it; the best technique seemed to be to hold my breath, curl up and wait for the wave to pass.  The power of these waves seems to additionally be a bit much for the GoPro.  I found that the GoPro would switch itself off when I was hit by a wave powerful enough to knock me over, I assume as some sort of self-defence mechanism.

Getting beyond the waves was a bit of a struggle, as they kept knocking me back to shore/underwater.  Diving through them is the best method I’m told, but I didn’t seem to be able to perfect it.  I swallowed quite a bit of sea water that day.  One we made it past the swell however, the sea was quite a bit calmer.  Large waves were still coming in but they just bobbed us up/down in the sea rather than pushing us under the water.  I found that I was able to tread water and take a video in these conditions.

Getting back to the shore however was awful.  The sea kept dragging me back out when I tried to swim in, and was drifting me along the coast.  It took me several minutes to swim the relatively short distance to the shore because of this, and I was exhausted by the time I made it back.  This swimming session really taught me how powerful and terrifying the tides can be, and I have made the sensible decision to never try swimming in the sea on a rough day again.  It was interesting to discover that the sea can be too rough for a GoPro however.  I did try and video getting hit by a wave, but the GoPro apparently did not save it’s in-progress footage when I was hit by the wave.  It seems that the sea was a bit rough for it’s inhabitants too, as we found a dead jellyfish on the shore.  I am glad that I did not encounter it while I was still in the water!

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