As I was relaxing, enjoying a nice meal with a friend, out of the blue he asked: “Would you really buy a Platypod?” Nipping any chances of a debate, I gave him five examples of times when I needed my Platypod but didn’t have it with me. Here’s why I answered “Yes!”
What Is a Platypod?
A Platypod is a versatile and compact base ideal for supporting cameras to capture below-angle shots and for situations where traditional tripods are cumbersome or impractical. It’s also a great tool for studio use. You can use it to hang a hair light or hide a big light in a small space.
Photographing the Chicago Skyline
Fellow Photofocus author Levi Sim used his charm to gain us access to a high-rise condo with a great view of Chicago. The trip was a last-minute plan and I didn’t pack my tripod along with some of my usual gear. As we reached the platform to take our photos, I noticed I didn’t have my Platypod—the price you pay for letting assistants borrow your gear. Levi mounted his ball head to his Platypod and strapped it to a railing. He was firing off long exposures and started bracketing for HDR shots. I struggled to hold the camera still on top of the rail. Seeing I was getting frustrated, he said I could use his Platypod. Well, as luck would have it, we were told our time ran out. Levi’s shots came out great. Mine? Lots of camera shake.
This time I was in South Dakota with fellow Photofocus author Jason Hahn. We spontaneously went out and photographed waterfalls. This time I had a tripod but my three Platypods appeared to have grown legs and disappeared—again, the price you pay for eager assistants who love your gear. He was teaching me how he captures low-angle landscapes. He composed a killer low-angle shot of the water leading to the waterfalls. Try as I may, I couldn’t get the tripod low enough to get the shot I wanted.
Dash Mounting a GoPro
I took my buddy Robert Wicker to the Black Hills Photo Shootout where I was invited to give a keynote address on “How to develop an efficient and creative photography workflow” sponsored by our friends at Athentech—makers of Perfectly Clear. He talked me into flying into Denver and driving with him 5 hours to the Black Hills. I figured I could write in the car and record several question-and-answer videos. This time I had my Platypod Ultra BUT I didn’t have the 4×6-inch, 2mm-thick silicone pad that came with it. I mounted the GoPro on the dash of the rental car with the adhesive strips—praying it wouldn’t ruin the dash. The first set of videos worked; but when we met up with another instructor to travel 3 more hours into the Badlands the next day, we didn’t dare mount adhesive stripes to his decked out $70,000 2017 YUKON 4WD DENALI. Lots of great conversations and knowledge were shared but not recorded.
The Assassin Series in an Alley with Puddles Everywhere
Fellow Photofocus author Rick Friedman came to stay with me for a week to collaborate on a few shoots and to jumpstart our creativity. I know you must be thinking, “Do you Photofocus author hang out together all the time?” I wish we did, but we are scattered across the country and we try to meet up when we can—which brings me to the Assassin Series. I’ve been working on my Assassin series for the past few years, usually in the studio. For a change of pace, Rick and I decided to find a cool alley where we planned on seeing how far down the wall we could light with gels. This particular day, the Florida rain lasted longer than usual. By nighttime, it stopped, but the alley was filled with puddles. We set our main lights on light stands but we needed a few speedlights low on the ground. I reached for my Platypods and realized they were in a different bag. We made do with the cheap base mounts that come with most speedlights. The wind down the alley kept moving the lights and a malfunction of a smoke bomb caused Rick to drop it fast as it rolled, then exploded. I’m sorry, Rick—I’m still laughing as I’m typing this. When the smoke cleared, we realized a speedlight was laying in a puddle. If we’d had them secured on a Platypod, they wouldn’t have moved.
Remotely capturing a Prairie Dog
Once again I was with fellow Photofocus author Jason Hahn as we photographed Prairie Dogs, Buffalos, Wild Horses, Cowboys and even the Northern Lights. Our first stop was the Prairie Dogs. We photographed them with a long telephoto lens. I wanted to get a low, wide-angle shot. I planned on writing how to use two Pocket Wizards, one connected to the camera as a receiver and the other as a trigger with me in the comfort of a warm car. I reached into my bag and realized I left my Platypod on the nightstand—I’d used it to hold my phone so I could watch a movie at night. I never got my low, wide-angle shot of a Prairie Dog.
So, as I told Wicker, with the experience I’ve had with the Platypod, I would definitely buy and recommend it!
Currently he is teaching workshops, writing for Photofocus and creating tutorials for various plug-in companies and for the Vanelli and Friends series.
You can find out more about Vanelli at www.VanelliandFriends.com
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