My wife bought me a GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition video camera for my birthday last month. I’m excited to try it out in a number of different environments, including the racetrack, or attached to a SeaDoo, or even while being beat up in karate class. But what I am most excited about is recording underwater video.
After reading online about a lot of different ways to use a GoPro underwater, I decided to mount it to a SCUBA mask, turn it on before I get in the water, and then just forget about it during my dive. I don’t want to be fumbling with it, or tethering it to my BCD, or even thinking about it. Like pitch man Ron Propeil always says, I want to “Set It, and Forget It.”
For this mounting method, the first thing you’ll need is a SCUBA mask with a solid section above the nose that is outside the silicone skirt of the mask. I chose the Italian-made Cressi Super Occhio Plus in classic black (just under $50 on Amazon). Technically, it’s a free diving mask, but a lot of SCUBA instructor buddies I know dive with them, and love them. They are very low volume masks that are easy to clear and have good visibility. I chose black because (in addition to looking like an old-skool Frog Man) black is what’s generally recommended for underwater photography.
The next thing you’ll need is a GoPro tripod mount (about $6 on Amazon), as well as one of the mounting screws from your GoPro “bits” box (all GoPro owners need a box of random mounting bits).
Finally, you’ll need to drop by the local hardware store to pick up a 1/4 inch stainless steel bolt (1/2 to 5/8 inches in length is ideal), a stainless lock washer, and an optional stainless flat washer (if you want to include one between the mount and the camera housing). You’ll also need a drill, a 1/4″ drill bit, and a Phillips screwdriver.
If you have a GoPro Hero 3, what you don’t need is the GoPro dive housing (which is shown in this photo). This dive housing only fits earlier GoPro cameras. The housing included with the Hero 3 has a flat-front (like the optional dive housing made for the Hero 1 and Hero 2), and it works fine up to 200 feet underwater. Live and learn… and Amazon return.
Start your project by peeling back the silicone skirt on the back side of the mask. You’ll see that the solid nose bridge has plenty of room, as long as you pull the skirt out of the way while you drill. You may want to consider using a zip-tie to keep it out of the drill area, but I simply held it back with my left thumb while using the drill with my right hand.
If you’re cautious, you may want to use a smaller drill bit to drill a pilot hole first, but I just loaded the 1/4″ bit in my drill and went for it. You’ll want to drill the hole for your tripod mount as high on the mask as possible, while still being firmly attached. If you use the same Cressi mask, don’t drill in the middle of the triangle logo (it’s tempting, but don’t). Instead, drill in the top part of the triangle, where the outer edge of the drill hole will just barely extend to the edge of the sides of the triangle, as shown in this photo:
Drill slowly (to avoid cracking), and rest the mask on something disposable as you drill (I used the Cressi mask storage case). I held the mask up in the air for the final bit of drilling and didn’t damage the case. Clean out the hole with some high speed drill spins, making sure no plastic bits are still attached.
If you drilled slightly high on the triangle like you were supposed to, flip the mask over to see that the hole is perfectly centered in the back:
Put the lock washer on the 1/4 stainless bolt, and insert it in the hole.
The head of the bolt looks big, but don’t worry – it doesn’t touch your forehead when you wear the mask. If your bolt is long enough, you can use a flat washer on the front side, too.
Using the Phillips screwdriver, mount the tripod mount to the front of the mask, so that the mount curves upward. Align the mount so that it’s straight, then secure as tightly as you can. If you’re not strong enough to hold on to the mount while you tighten, use a towel and some pliers to hold it in place without marring it.
Next, grab your GoPro housing and attach it to the mask with a GoPro mounting knob:
The final step is to put the mask on, snap a photo of yourself, then go freak out your puppy.
I’m planning on using this setup in Cozumel in two weeks, and will post my first underwater videos here when I’m back.
UPDATE: Used the mask-mounted cam for the first time and it worked great! Looking at the footage, there’s lots I’d do differently (like move my head more slowly), but I’m still happy with how it turned out. Bubbles aren’t visible with my face down, but since I was keeping my eye on my daughter for most of the dive, my face was up.