Groupama Yacht Race New Caledonia Leg1

The first leg of the 600 nautical mile round New Caledonia Groupama Yacht Race was a small loop from the starting line, past Sail Rock and the Baie Des Citrons, around a buoy and then off down the coast. As far as I can tell this was done to provide a spinnaker flying spectacle to the thousand or so spectators (and news cameras) gathered along the shoreline. It gave me the opportunity for one more sphere image in the relatively protected bay behind Sail Rock and Ile aux Canards.

After the hour-long delay of the start and racing around in my dinghy with the 1 kg nest of GoPro Hero2 cameras on the far end of a 4 meter long pole, I was happy to put away the rig and head back to our own yacht to check out the images. I took about 150 different shots, some of them only a few meters away from a yacht. The close-images would have the yacht showing on the camera pointed towards it as well as on the two adjacent cameras and the camera looking straight up.

Obviously this would only work if all the cameras fired at exactly the same moment. The cameras were also moving back and forth with the waves  and the yachts and my dinghy were also moving - often in opposite directions.

 That was the whole idea of trying to make a camera rig that could take action sphere images - one click to capture everything. The GoPros were light, had watertight housings (in case they got dunked in the ocean), had fish-eye lenses, and WiFi backpacs plus the remote WiFi trigger activated all 7 cameras at the same time. Or so I thought.

The first problem was that there were 152 images from two cameras, 148 from two others, and 150, 149 and 151 from the other cameras. Not good, because it meant that not all the cameras fired with every WiFi trigger so matching the images for any single sphere became a bit of a problem. But even worse - much worse - was the problem that the GoPro cameras did not fire in perfect synch. So even when I could figure out which images were taken as one set, they didn't match up because they did not fire at exactly the same time. In any one sphere set the horizon might be level in one camera but tilted at 25 to 30 degrees in the next camera. A yacht would be in the middle of one camera but the bow and stern would not be in the right place in the adjacent cameras - sometimes not even there at all. The reason, I believe, is that each camera has to calculate and set the aperture for any one shot and if one camera is pointed towards the sun it will not fire at the same time as a camera pointed away from the sun. Whatever the reason, I could only get three sphere images out the 150 sets that I took. 

All is not lost (yet) however. Because the GoPro Hero2 can take a burst of 10 images in one second. So next time I will use the burst mode and hope that all the cameras will fire within one second of each other. Then (in theory) there should be one set from each burst that will be within 0.1 seconds of the other cameras. Hopefully that will be close enough. I just have to figure out how to detect which of the 10 images from any one camera matches the images from the other cameras. Meanwhile the 7 GoPro rig does work for pole photography where the cameras are not moving and the object isn't moving - or not very close to the cameras if the object is moving.

But so far I'm sorry to report that the GoPro Hero 7 camera rig isn't a winning solution for action sphere photography.

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Copyright: Richard Chesher
Type: Spherical
Resolution: 10978x5489
Uploaded: 11/09/2012
Updated: 26/05/2014


Tags: yacht race; new caledonia; sailing; yachts; sail boats; groupama yacht race; water sports; gopro
  • Frank Taylor over 1 year ago
    This one certainly turned out well. I like the feeling of being there at the race as you turn around and see the various boats. Hopefully some crew in the race have a chance to see this photo and have a chance to relive the moment.
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    Noumea is the capital and vacation centre of the Islands of New Caledonia in the South Pacific. Noumea is a "French" city, but the 91,000 inhabitants are a very mixed cultural group with French, Melanesian, Polynesian, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and lots of mixtures of these. Over 60% of the population of New Caledonia lives in Noumea.Noumea is a peninsula on the southwestern end of Grande Terre and the central business district (Centre Ville) is next to one of the best natural harbours in the South Pacific. The lagoon side of the peninsula has two picturesque bays with white sand beaches and is called Anse Vata and Baie des Citrons. These twin bays are the international tourism capital of New Caledonia with hotels, restaurants and bars on the landward side of "La Promenade".First settled by the French in 1854, Noumea retains close political ties with France. It has excellent schools and public facilities - parks, recreation areas, exercise paths, schools and medical facilities. Today it is the fastest growing city in the South Pacific. There are 23 hotels in Noumea ranging from one to five stars and over 100 Restaurants.