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Dispatches : Photography

South Island Van Life

Our two-week road trip around New Zealand involved hitting up the South Island's best trails and surf breaks. With bikes on the backs and surf boards on the roofs of our 1970 VW Kombi Camper vans, we were prepared for anything.

One night, we chose to bed down at Meat Works, one of the country's most loved surf spots just outside Kaikoura. After cooking dinner over the fire, we drank cold beer under the stars, talked rubbish, and soaked in the serenity. Much to our delight, the moon began to rise from the ocean and cast the most amazing light around us. We truly felt like we were in the best place in the world.

TOOLS: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 14mm, 15 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 400 

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Single POV Action Cameras Are Dead

Single point-of-view shots are so old school. The future of adventure filmmaking lies in full-on 360-degree video, or at least that’s what Bill Banta believes. The pilot and avid skier is the CEO of CENTR Camera, one of a handful of 360-degree cameras due out in the next nine months that promise to revolutionize how we capture video.

“Over time, people have gotten to a point where they want to go back to living in the moment and experience things first-person,” says Banta, who was previously a part of Apple’s iPhone camera team. Because 360-degree cameras capture everything, “you’ll have the ability to relive those memories and share different pieces of them with different people.”

Perhaps even more important for adventure junkies is the camera’s versatility. “It allows you to much more easily capture the perfect shot,” Banta says. With some 360-degree cameras capturing up to 240-degrees of vertical as well, botched shots will be a thing of the past, and stories won’t be limited to what the people holding the camera see in front of them. “I can go flying and give you a video of what’s going on out the front of the plane, a picture of myself flying, and a picture of the passenger sitting next to me,” Banta says. “I can do all of that with one single shot.

The new crop of 360-degree cameras all work similarly, stitching together video from several small cameras. The CENTR, in particular, is a palm-sized disc that houses four high-definition cameras. The device patches all of the shots together in real time, so the video will be ready to share on a smart phone or computer immediately. No special viewing or video editing software required. And should you decide you want a single POV, CENTR lets you enable just one camera, so you don’t have to shoot in 360 all of the time.

The only drawback we've heard of so far? Battery life on some 360-degree cameras may be limited. Yahoo Tech reports that Giroptic’s 360cam battery lasts only an hour, though some may argue that’s more than long enough to capture what you want. (On the highest-power consumption setting, average battery life on GoPro’s HERO3 Black Edition is just an hour, too.) 

Many 360 cameras promise to be as easy to use as a GoPro, and might even change the way we watch video, making entertainment a more immersive experience. The Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, for example, could allow viewers to look around as if they were actually in the video itself.

For now, we’ll take the expanded field of view on our normal screens—and the promise that every shot will be epic. “We’ve had beta tester videos of BASE jumping, wingsuit flying in Africa, paragliding, fighter jets, race cars,” Banta says. “The flexibility and ability to retell stories in creative ways is going to make 360-degree cameras a really powerful tool going forward.”

Excited for 360? Check out the cameras coming soon:

CENTR Camera 

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With its sleek design, the camera slides easily into a pocket. CENTR recently raised $607,628 on Kickstarter, falling short of its $900,000 goal. But Banta says he got valuable user feedback from the campaign that will influence the final design. CENTR’s currently working on widening the device’s vertical field of view from 56 degrees. As for battery life, the CENTR lasts "two hours with all four cameras recording at 720p HD resolution" on one charge, according to Banta. Expect to see the final product debut in early 2015 for $399.

360Fly 

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The 360Fly looks like a geodesic dome that can capture 240-degrees of vertical, making it “the widest viewing camera in the world.” Poised to debut this fall for about $400.

Geonaute 

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Marketed as “the first 360-degree action camera,” the Geonaute is about the size of a baseball and at 255 grams, it’s more than twice the weight of the 360Fly. But tech pundits declare it’s the most market ready considering it was supposed to hit shelves this spring. It’s currently on sale for $499 as part of a “pre-launch offer,” with no official sale date listed.

Giroptic 

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The designers of this egg-shaped camera are currently raising funds through Kickstarter. (They’ve already blasted through their $150,000 goal, with backers pledging $776,568 with 31 days still to go.) The current starting price for the French camera is $329, with an estimated delivery of November.

Bubl Cam 

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A tetrahedral design, this camera boasts 190-degrees of vertical view with shipping set to start in August. It carries the heftiest price tag at $579.

 

Eager to see what these 360-degree cameras can do? Check out this CENTR Cam video of heliskiing in Alaska:

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The Insanely Subtle Beauty of Bristol Bay

The beauty of set net-fishing is that the work is simple, hands on. There are no hydraulics or fancy electronics. We set out in small skiffs manned by two or three people and pull nets by hand. We carefully place every Sockeye salmon in the brailer bags on board. For six weeks every summer, Bristol Bay is our home and our paradise away from the bustle of the lower 48 states.

As a photographer and fisherman, I love capturing these uncomplicated moments on the water. Here Conor Kelly and Marty Machado work a net during high tide shortly after sunrise near the Kvichak River. 

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