How I Use My GoPro Cameras for Landscape and Travel Photography

Photography Gear

As a landscape and travel photographer with more than a decade of experience, I always found myself carrying a ton of gear. With huge wide-angle and telephoto lenses, multiple DSLR camera bodies, heavy-duty tripods, and occasionally drones in my backpack, my mobility while trekking to locations was often limited. However, things changed dramatically in 2016 when I started working at GoPro and discovered its amazing cameras.

Some of the key features which I love about the cameras are the ability to shoot in RAW format for photos, super wide-angle lenses, foolproof infinite focus, very short hyperfocal distance, pre-stitched 360 photos, super-stabilized TimeWarps (aka hyperlapse) and, most importantly for me, the unbelievably smooth transition for Time Lapse photos videos which are discussed in detail below.

RAW Format

General Purpose RAW, available in the HERO cameras, is a great option to have on top of traditional JPGs. The power of RAW’s uncompressed DNG-style format allows one to capture a high dynamic range scene and post-process it to extract highlights and shadow details. It is also useful for low-light night photos captured with a high ISO, which enables efficient post-processing for good detail and comparatively low noise.

Tip: RAW format can be enabled under presets on all photo and Time Lapse modes.

Super Wide-Angle Lens

The super wide-angle lens with infinite focus and a short hyperfocal distance is a game-changer, especially when shooting a close foreground. It allows me to get fine details and, at the same time, not worry about focus or aperture values when shooting in a hurry. It also enables the capture of interesting perspectives which may be hard to obtain using a regular camera, like photos close to wet environments and 50/50 split water shots.

Tip: Keep EV Comp to -1 to get maximum dynamic range and preserve highlights.

Burst Mode with Raw Capture

The new Burst Mode with RAW capture on HERO8 is another amazing feature, which lets me capture images that have high contrast. For example, when shooting against light or underwater, this mode lets me shoot and edit with confidence. I can extract details in post to enhance shadows and highlights, which makes for a more balanced image.

Tip: Keep your EV Comp to -1 so that you don’t overexpose highlights, especially when shooting 50/50 split water shots. Also, pick the burst speed in a manner dependent on the speed of the subject you are capturing. For example: a person jumping would only require a couple of seconds whereas trying to capture a split shot might require a 10-second shot. Be aware that, since the camera is capturing in RAW, it will take a longer amount of time for the camera to write the files to the memory card.

Smooth Night Lapse Mode

Night Lapse Photo is my go-to mode for shooting a time-lapse. The smooth transitions between light to dark exposure that I get out of these night lapses are stunning. The sunrise and sunset transitions match some high-end DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Also, with the new addition of video being rendered automatically the user now has the option to easily create a compiled night lapse video when using HERO8 Black.

Tip: I prefer to let the camera do its job by using Auto Shutter, Auto Interval, Auto White Balance, ISO Min 100, and ISO Max 800 when performing night-to-day or day-to-night transitions, which allows the camera to ramp up the exposure to 10s durations and ISO 800.

And, when shooting sunrise or sunset, I use ISO Min and Max set to 100. When shooting high contrast scenes, I set EV Comp of -.5 or -1 to preserve highlights.

Long Exposure Photos Using 3rd-party ND Filters

I also use ND filters to shoot smoothed water with automatic long exposures up to 10s, depending on lighting conditions and the filter’s ND rating. The greater the number of stops on the filter, the more it will cut the light, allowing the camera to automatically capture a much longer exposure, which compensates for the loss of light coming through the filter.

Tip: Shooting long exposure is as easy as installing the filter and putting the camera on Auto shutter with Min and Max ISO as low as 100.

Stabilized TimeWarps for both HERO8 and MAX

TimeWarps have become much easier and unbelievably stable on both HERO8 and MAX. Also with MAX, reframing these creatively has become much easier with the GoPro App. I use this often, and I find it is a great tool for creating stories during landscape photography sessions.

Tip: Auto TimeWarp is available on HERO8 and in the MAX HERO mode, which allows you to make things in real-time with just a screen tap and then speed things up again when not needed. When using MAX, try to keep your speeds based on the amount of time you plan on shooting to get an optimal result. Longer the amount of time you plan to shoot, faster should be the speed.

360 Stitched Photo in MAX

With the new MAX camera, all 360 footage is stitched onboard the camera which saves time in post-processing. It has become much easier to shoot photos with a good quality JPG.

Tip: Always try to keep your ISO at 100 and EV Comp at -1 to get maximum image quality when dealing with high contrast scenes.

Ruggedness Personified

I’ve learned through experience that GoPro cameras are built to take a beating in extreme environments. Whether I’m shooting in hot deserts or under raging waterfalls or a heavy downpour or frozen lakes, they enable the capture of stunning scenes without worrying if the camera will survive.


Full disclosure: I work with GoPro in product development in testing/providing feedback for products, and I also work with the company’s training/communications team. As a freelance photographer, I collaborate with other organizations as well.


About the author: Shreenivasan Manievannan is a photographer, educator, writer, and dark sky advocate. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram.

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