Back before everybody and their brother had small, waterproof GoPro cameras strapped to their head, film makers had to get creative and build their own camera rigging if they wanted to get that unique shot while on the water.
Here is a photo of filmmaker and instruction video pioneer, Bill Mason using a home-made rigging to get overhead footage for his 1977 film and companion book, Path of the Paddle.
I tried to find evidence that Bill used the rigging for overhead footage for his whitewater instructional segments but it doesn’t look like he did. Imagine how awesome it would be to see that monster going down the river back in the day.
Instead of overhead shots for the whitewater elements in his films, Bill borrowed this head mounted camera which was originally designed for skydiving. Apparently the camera was really heavy due to the lead counter weight and could only shoot a maximum of 90 seconds before the film ran out. There is a story in Ken Bucks book, Bill Mason: Wilderness Artist: From Heart to Hand that talked about the time Bill nearly drowned the first time he jumped in the water with the camera. From then on they had to put two or three life jackets on him to provide enough flotation for the camera to stay above water.
Today, filming on the water is considerably easier with any of the small waterproof cameras that have flooded the market like GoPro, Contour or Drift over the past couple of years.
But even with the right camera, getting that unique shot angle can still take some thinking but thank goodness there are more commercial options now then before. One affordable option involves getting an adjustable pole from kayalu.com. Prices range from $89-$249 and can fit most cameras on the market. Kayalu has a good reputation for their well-built equipment that holds up in both fresh and salt water.
If you are working with a higher budget and looking to get more dynamic footage, then a camera mounted cable built by Sea to Sky Cable Cam is the only way to go.
For approximately $36,000 you can get the equipment needed to shoot footage similar to below:
Looking at the demo reel you might recognize some of the footage. That’s because this equipment was designed by sea kayaker,BryanSmith of Eastern Horizons fame and Matt Maddaloni who has been a sponsored rock climber for the past 15 years.
Bill Mason Photo Credits: BIll Mason Productions