#FeatureFriday: Photographer Dan Bretz Visits Art Institute of Chicago, But No Tripods Allowed!

We are back with another #FeatureFriday, where we feature the work of one of our Platypod Users! Chicago-based designer and photographer Dan Bretz recently posted this image below, taken at the Art Institute of Chicago, on his Instagram page and tagged us. (Here's the post.) The image captured our attention for a couple reasons. First -- cool, low-angle shot of "Woman with Dog" display (2004) by German sculptor Katharina Fritsche. We love how this image captures Chicago as its backdrop and how the lines on the wood-grain flooring draw your eye right up to the main subject. 

  Pictured: "Woman with Dog" sculpture (Katharina Fritsche, 2004) on display at the Art Institute of Chicago; the piece, made up of polyester, wood and paint, is edition two of just three. Photo Credit: Dan Bretz

Pictured: "Woman with Dog" sculpture (Katharina Fritsche, 2004) on display at the Art Institute of Chicago; the piece, made up of polyester, wood and paint, is edition two of just three. Photo Credit: Dan Bretz

But, we also happen to know that the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the largest and oldest museums in the U.S. with 1 million+ visitors each year, makes the list of Places You Can't Take A Tripod! In fact, here is the actual list of things you can't take with you if you are visiting the iconic museum: 

  • Art materials other than pencil (including ink pens)
  • Backpacks and backpack baby carriers
  • Bags, camera bags, or purses larger than 13 x 17 x 4 inches
  • Shopping bags
  • Flowers or balloons
  • Food or drink
  • Toys
  • Tripods, flash attachments, video cameras, or "selfie sticks"
  • Umbrellas (small umbrellas can be stowed in bags)
  • Wrapped packages (gifts)
  • Tricycles, carts, hoverboards, Segways, and other mobility devices

So, we wanted to know more about how Dan navigated the "No Tripods Allowed" rule in place at the Institute, and at many museums and landmarks across the country. It was quite simple, really; while tripods are always turned away at the Institute, that certainly didn't stress Dan, because he brought his Platypod Max along and had no problems capturing some really cool images that would have been a little tricky hand-held. We recently got the chance to find out more about Dan's visit to the Institute and we got to learn more about Dan's journey into the world of photography: 

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get your start in photography? My career jump-started with a cat-herding assignment. Yes, actual cat herding! With a BFA from Missouri State, I immediately landed an agency art director position, where I was sent to art direct a cat photo shoot for a national brand of pet food. I really had no clue what to do and neither did the cats, but the experience sparked an appreciation for lifelong learning and photography.

I’ve moved on since then, as an award-winning creative enjoying life in the Greater Chicago area. After a decade of freelancing, I wanted to move beyond helping consumers spend on “wants,” so I got into healthcare and eventually landed at Optum, where what I do helps others. The challenges are hard to beat! When I’m not working or shooting, I enjoy spending time with my wife, Sandra, exploring Chicago, and cooking and traveling to keep my eye fresh and my mind open. I also love the outdoors and yes – I’ll admit to having a serious LEGO addiction. 

Where can we connect with you? My website is in transition from a purely graphic design site to one that incorporates my photography as my career has evolved. I’m currently working on the wireframe, with the new brand identity completed. On social media, I am most active on Instagram; LinkedIn and Facebook. 

What was your gear set-up for your visit to the Institute? Nikon D500 with a NIKKOR 10-24mm 3.5/4.G ED lens mounted on a Platypod Max via a Sirui ball head. I also used the Nikon WR-T10, WR-R10 and WR-A10 wireless remote system. (PS: You can find all of that gear over at B&H)

What were your biggest challenges when shooting at the Art Institute? The biggest challenge I faced -- besides no tripods allowed and masses of museum goers -- was the security system directly behind where I set up. I breached it a few times by accident. Thankfully, I asked permission before shooting, so security knew what was happening.

I wanted to include the leading lines of the floor, so I needed to get as close as possible to the opposing wall in a long, but narrow room. I failed trying to get it handheld as it was extremely awkward and uncomfortable to achieve what I saw in my mind’s eye. Out came the Platypod and wireless remote! I switched the camera to live view to compose, used the touch-screen focus feature and the remote to expose.

  Pictured: Low-angle shot taken at the Art Institute of Chicago; Photo Credit: Dan Bretz

Pictured: Low-angle shot taken at the Art Institute of Chicago; Photo Credit: Dan Bretz

What's your favorite lesson learned or takeaway from your Art Institute shoot? I always carry my Platypod. It’s like insurance, since you never know when you’ll need it.

I always carry my Platypod. It’s like insurance, since you never know when you’ll need it.

Are you working on any cool projects you'd like to share with us? I’m currently working on a few photography/illustration series. One involves the architectural details of Chicago and the other, in-camera multiple exposures to show movement. I’m also working on a custom LEGO design that will remain secret until complete! 

A huge thanks to Dan for letting us feature his work and his story! We are so grateful for every picture that Platypod helps make possible, and we love getting to know our community of Platypod Users! If you are interested in being featured, please email ajna@platypod.com. 

Ajna Adams