I was always pretty envious of those people who took such cool looking over-under/split water shots in perfectly clear water with tropical fish below and an empty, tropical, pristine beach above. Foolishly, while in St. Thomas, I attempted to capture such images with just my GoPro. The results left a lot to be desired (something about the curvature of the water I forgot about). At any rate, I quickly learned about waterproof GoPro domes.
After a lot of research, I decided to go with the best – the 6″ Knekt dome port. Expensive as it was, I was heading to the Galapagos and Thailand and needed something new to add to my arsenal.
Table of Contents
The Basics – What’s a Dome and How Do I Assemble It?
Obviously, you need a GoPro to start with. I use the Hero4 Silver, which does everything I need it to do (I don’t ask much from it). Next, while in the GoPro housing, you simply pop the GoPro housing into the back of the Knekt dome, secure it evenly into place, and screw the camera down securely with a metal plate. Sounds simple enough, but strangely I’ve always had problems with the simple things. For me, getting the rectangular viewer on the GoPro housing to fit perfectly into the dome is a problem without it tilting slightly up or down (and therefore cropping a bit of my shot since the corners of the frame turned a little clack). And for the life of me I can’t get the metal plate on easily with the screw. It’s a tight fit and the screw will only screw in cockeyed for some reason. Sigh. An o-ring seal keeps water out of the dome and I’m sure I’ll mess that up somehow in the future.
The dome, itself, is made of glass. As I found out the hard way, it’s easily scratched. You need to keep it clean (inside and out) and I recommend getting a better cover than the one provided to store it in.
Next you need something to mount the dome on. I use the Knekt Trigger, which is just what it sounds like. You can hold the GoPro in the dome like a gun, and just pull the trigger when you want to start/stop a video or take a picture. It’s simply and awesome. You can use it with or without the dome. It always gets a lot of attention from people passing by. Plus, it allows you to toggle between shooting modes without using the GoPro app, an expensive smart remote, or needing to take the camera out of the dome.
Finally, with all this expensive gear, I don’t suggest you take it into the ocean without a wrist strap/tether.
GoPro Housing (Comes with your GoPro)
The Challenge – Getting a Useable Shot
There are many variables to take into account that can ruin what could have been a great shot.
First – water droplets. Water obviously can and will gather on the dome. The problem is, a lot of time this renders the shot unusable. I find myself constantly spitting on the dome to clean it and blowing off any loose water droplets. Sometimes I’ll towel dry it off. This is all very easy in a pool, but in the open sea it’s obviously much more difficult.
Second – dust, dirtiness, dried water. Remember, you’ll be shooting through two objects – your GoPro case and the dome. Either one of these could be dirty and affect your shot.
Third – wrong angles. You typically need the water to come halfway up the dome. This vertical challenge isn’t too difficult. The problem is, if you tilt the dome up or down, the objects won’t be the same size above and below, meaning it’ll distort the split. Best results occur when the dome is exactly perpendicular to the water. Any slight angle up or down ruins pretty good shots.
Fourth – choppy water. Again, in a pool this isn’t a problem. But in open water you’ll be struggling to get that water even across the dome. Sometimes it’ll look better at an angle, but most times the unevenness of the water will ruin a shot. It’s best to shoot on burst mode, therefore, which is something I always seem to forget to do.
The Results – Why You Buy It
When done correctly, it’s simply magic.