Or a clamp, or a stand. All those things we routinely use that support our gear, and therefore, us. I confess to being guilty of a common thing–not understanding exactly how complex someone else’s endeavor might actually be. The making of a tripod–how tough could it be?
Of course it’s not easy, when you stop and think about it. Imagine how much abuse the average photog metes out to his or her tripod during the lifetime of the stalwart, unheralded, three legged beast? My tripods have ended up at various times at the bottom of a river, in freezing salt water, clamped to huge boom cranes, used as set weights, and logged hundreds and hundreds of thousands of miles in the bellies of various aircraft. It’s surprising I don’t actually hear them weep at night, out in the garage.
Annie and I recently had a wonderful opportunity to visit the birthplace of thousands and thousands of tripods–Bassano, Italy, home base of the Manfrotto Corp. They of course make Manfrotto tripods, and the elite Gitzo brand tripods, as well as all other manner of clamps, stands and widgets, large and small, which we, as photogs, rely upon to support our gear.
The place abounds in patterns and pieces, which is truly fun to shoot, and of course to watch as those pieces come to a final staging point and coalesce into a tripod. I found myself wondering what cameras these thousands of tripods will help stabilize all over the world and what those cameras might produce. Maybe some will end up in a closet most of the time, and just come out for the holidays when the camera goes on self timer and the family snap is done. Others might depart to rolling vistas and exquisite savannas in the hands of a landscape shooter. Others might head for the Olympics. Adventures await!
Had to admit, it was a fascinating window into the merging of what the market demands, what people will actually buy, and the precision needed to hone metal, carbon fiber and other compounds into something that will withstand wind, weight and weather. Above I am holding a rough of the tried and true super clamp, which I’ve been hooking cameras and lights to since I first started working many years ago. I’ve used them on planes in flight, telescopes, and sides of buildings. They’ve enabled me to turn many a mundane household item, such as a table or chair, into a light stand. They literally go on every assignment that even slightly goes beyond straight up, camera in hand, run and gun mode.
Below is good example, shooting telescopes for National Geographic, from a 175′ boom crane. The super clamps (and magic arms) stablize my Gitzo as I head north.
Which resulted in a two page opener for the whole story.
Producing, orchestrating, arranging permits, renting a huge boom truck and bringing up two panel trucks filled with lighting gear to shoot the world’s largest binocular telescope atop Mt. Graham cost, maybe, very rough, the better part of 25k. When I got into position and finalized the lighting, I had an effective window of time that enabled me to shoot less than 100 frames, perched atop a 175′ toothpick atop an 11,000 foot mountaintop. Stability was the key to the shot, and super clamps came to the rescue.
And all this stuff gets started in the unbelievably lovely town of Bassano, Italy, where food, wine and the charms of Italy abound. A wonderful place to live, work, or have a photo show. One of the reasons I headed there was an exhibit staged during the Bassano Fotografia, a celebration of photographic works of all kinds.
I can’t thank the gracious folks at Manfrotto enough for sponsoring the show. The prints were beautifully done, and the space was exquisite for the display of pictures. Annie and I had a blast, with friends such as Loredana and Renzo, who. along with Mark Langley combine forces to make events like this happen.
And, we got to see how the things that have rattled around in my cases forever get made.
The whole adventure was a wonderful, sort of pre-Christmas present. The show now rotates to Milan, the fashion capital of Europe, for an opening in late January. I get to go back to Italy, which is something I could get very used to doing:-)