Platypod at Photoshop World 2018 - Orlando
Summer 2018, as late May bled into early June, Photoshop World 2018 was in full swing just blocks from a buzzing, tourist-filled Walt Disney World in Orlando. This particular weekend meant that Platypod, as a rather young startup – and already a proven disruptor in the photo-gear space – was in the midst of rubbing elbows with some of the world’s best photographers, including the man behind the KelbyOne and Photoshop World brands, Scott Kelby himself.
These are the events that we treasure most here at Platypod. Our team had flown in from New Jersey, thrilled to be planted in a convention center crawling with photographers and creatives from all over the world; many of them curious and equally fascinated by Platypod: What is it? What does it do? How can it help me as a photographer?
Those were the questions the team answered during the three-day, world-renowned Photoshop World conference. The Platypod team – our founder Larry Tiefenbrunn and wife Mina, alongside Platypod's Chief Marketing Officer Noah Christensen, spent two days fielding questions, demonstrating the product, and of course, selling Platypods.
A few floors above the convention buzz one morning, one of our favorite moments happened off the convention floor as our inventor Larry T. sat down with renowned Canon Explorer of Light photographer Rick Sammon alongside Photoshop World emcee Larry Becker (Larry B. for this article) to record a new “Picturing Success” podcast episode; the podcast includes Rick and Larry B. as co-hosts and features interviews with some of the world’s best photographers. It also highlights cutting-edge technology in photography.
On this morning, the podcast felt a little like good friends meeting over coffee. After listening to the newly posted podcast (listen here and sign up via iTunes), we wanted to share a little with you.
‘He's Actually Dr. T, Right?’
"This is that conversation, where we are just hanging out," Larry B. says, kicking off the segment. "And, by the way, Rick and I are fanboys of this invention -- the Platypod. So, Larry T. is the inventor of the Platypod that we talk about all the time, use it all the time."
"I carry two of them," Larry B. added.
“He’s actually Dr. T, right?” Rick asked.
Yes, Larry T. is actually Dr. Larry J. Tiefenbrunn, MD, full-time practicing pediatrician juggling a busy practice in East Brunswick, NJ, while building and growing the Platypod business, a disruptive startup that got off the ground by leveraging a successful KickStarter campaign just a few years ago.
“Larry, you came up with the Platypod, and you’ve made this incredible market penetration in the photography industry," Larry B. says. "By the way, we are at Photoshop World all together, that's how come we are all in the same room ... so it's really good to be in the same room."
‘How Did You Name the Platypod?’
“First of all, I have to ask you,” Rick asks Larry T. “How did you come up with the name for the Platypod?”
“Very, very simple,” Larry T. explains. “One thing you learn in medical school is how to talk in a way that no one else will understand you, so you learn all kinds of interesting words – mostly based in Greek and Latin roots – so platy means flat and pod means foot. I couldn’t think of a better way to describe our product than a flat foot to hold up your camera gear; and it’s kind of cute also because it’s reminiscent of the platypus, which is an animal poorly classified because it has features of so many different species ... so to show that our product is multipurpose as well. I think it reflects a lot about us."
What’s a Platypod? Meet Max & Ultra
So, what is a Platypod? That's a common question on trade-show floors. The short answer is: It's the world's most compact tripod base. Platypod features two versions of the product, the Platypod Max and the Platypod Ultra. "These are basically flat tripod supports, so think of them as your sticks, your tripod feet, with which you put on your own tripod Ball Head, and you're ready to shoot anywhere," Larry T. explains. "Very light, very compact, and goes in places where other tripods cannot go -- like the Empire State Building, where they don't allow tripods."
“Grand Central Station,” Rick added. (PS: We are making a "List of Places You Can't Take Ur Tripod But CAN Take Ur Platypod!" Leave a comment on this post if you want to add something to the list! We will credit you, of course! Please leave twitter/IG handles with comments so we can find you!)
“Max is for bigger cameras," Larry T. explains. "Ultra is for the smaller, mirrorless cameras; small- to medium-sized lenses; Max will handle anything. With Max, you could put Ansel Adams’ old 8x10 camera on there and it will hold it. With the Ultra, it’s very, very compact.”
"The Ultra could handle lots and lots of weight," Larry B. added. "It's a very sturdy product."
‘It’s Beyond Anything When It Comes to Carrying Around a Tripod’
"When people see it, there's just an a-ha moment where people go, that's genius, that makes perfect sense," Larry B. explains.
Not only does it make sense, it's incredibly strong and here's why:
“We received our patent on the way the bolts are inserted into the plate,” Larry T. explains. “It’s actually punched right through, counter sunk in and then welded over. The plate is made of aircraft-grade aluminum; the bolt is made out of titanium. You cannot dislodge it with any human force that you can apply. We tested the Ultra to 100 pounds torque off axis – no problem; no bending of the plate at all. With Max, we did up to 300 pounds and then gave up. We even ran over Max with a car and we couldn’t bend it at all."
The product fosters an ability for photographers to be more creative in all kinds of shoot situations, offering a certain flexibility that traditional tripods miss the mark on.
“I’ve strapped the Ultra to a vertical pole like a goal post on a basketball court, so now I’ve got a full vertical structure,” Larry B. says. “The great thing is I pulled it right out of my pocket! So, it’s beyond anything when it comes to carrying around a tripod."
"Photographers can actually take more creative pictures with this," adds Rick, author of Creative Visualization for Photographers, recalling a time he used the Platypod to shoot in a garden of tulips; the shot needed to be low because Rick was using his fish-eye lens and shooting straight up to get the F22 starburst-sun effect he was going for.
"In the old days, you could lie on your back in mud and get that same picture," Larry T. says, laughing.
Two Parts to the Story: One Major Frustration
Long before the idea for Platypod was conceived, on a trip to the Dominican Republic with his wife Mina, Larry T., with tripod in tow, was determined to bring home a couple of what he calls his "wall hangers." When he finally found his perfect shot -- what would have been the wall-hanger -- the travel tripod, no matter how he placed it, just wasn't working out. Not long afterward, Larry T. faced a similar situation that forced him to do a little digging for a solution.
“A year later, my wife Mina and I went to Bryce Canyon and I took my same travel tripod; that thing weighs about 6, 7 pounds," he recalls. "I had that hanging on my belt. I had my camera bag on me with a bunch of lenses. I set it up, took some beautiful pictures, but after walking in the heat 1,000 feet back up, we had to stop like three of four times along the way. I was just totally exhausted, and I said, this can't happen anymore. I need a better solution for this. So I went back home and said somebody must make a flat tripod!"
After combing through hundreds of traditional tripod solutions, he couldn't find one that solved his pain point. So he made one. But, after jerry-rigging a rickety, flat tripod, Larry T. knew he needed more. "I thought, this is just ridiculous, there has to be a better way to do this."
And as it often does, inspiration struck in the middle of the night.
“I got up one night, 2:30 in the morning, can't sleep," Larry T. recalls. "Take out a piece of graph paper, and I just started drawing up something that was a plate, a flat plate," Larry T. said. "I took this idea to a friend of mine, who is a metals manufacturer and he said, I can do this for you -- as a favor to me..."
You’re Really Saying ‘Follow Your Heart’
There's so much more to the story, but we wanted to share a little after listening to Rick and Larry B's Picturing Success Podcast. Tons of great content there! On a final note, are you following your heart?
"To be successful, you like to say shoot what you love,” Larry T. says during the podcast. “I think in life, it’s a matter of do what you love and love what you do. You find what really interests you and then you go after that."
"You're really saying, 'follow your heart,'" Rick added.