By Dr. Larry Tiefenbrunn
CEO and Inventor, Platypod
Sunday, July 29, 2018, was a day that I will never forget. In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably tell you: late last year, my friend Larry Becker invited me to join him and Rick Sammon as a sponsor of their Picturing Success Podcast and in fact, Platypod has been their sponsor since this past February.
A few months ago, at Photoshop World 2018 in Orlando, I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing Rick play some amazing rock guitar with his band at the After-Hours Party. I did the interview with Rick and Larry the next morning. As we got to talking, I mentioned to Rick that my youngest son, Aryeh, is quite a good guitar and bass player and, in fact, has taught music theory alongside being a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) teacher. Rick says “Hey Larry, you guys have to come up to the house one day in Croton-on-Hudson and have your son do a jam session with me. As long as you’re there, we’ll take a trip over to the Croton Dam and take some cool pictures.” Now, who could turn down an offer like that?
Two months later, winding up the back roads of Westchester, we came up to Rick and Susan Sammon’s beautiful home near the end of the road, right next to a lovely pond. Aryeh and I sat on the Sammons’ back porch together with Rick, Susan and their friend Brendan, who heads up the electrical systems for the Broadway play Wicked. We had a nice chat about music, photography and Broadway while watching a tiny little hummingbird zipping in and out of the corner bird-feeder. The Sammons are such wonderful and gracious people.
Soon, in the downstairs den, the jam session began and I was not only pleased that Aryeh was keeping good pace with Rick, but he even shared some new chord progressions that Rick learned quickly and really liked. They shared some songs from Eric Clapton, the Beatles and Stevie Wonder but what I think they really had the most fun with was improvising over blues and jazz progressions.
While they were strumming and plucking, I was able to set my smartphone either on the coffee table or on the floor using my Platypod Ultra, together with a small ball head and a Square Jellyfish clip. I recorded a little and did a short Instagram live stream. Nice!
When the jam was over and evening was approaching, we hopped into Rick's SUV with our equipment. I am a Nikon guy and Rick is a Canon Explorer of Light (“Nikon guy," of course, is an unofficial title). We started out on the road atop the dam to get some nice photos of the reservoir. Strapping Platypod Max onto the bridge guardrail allowed us to get closer to the edge, granting us a wider field of view than we could've achieved with a tripod. We shot long exposures and HDR to try out some really nice effects.
Next, we traveled back down the road to the bottom of the dam, where I was overwhelmed by the power and sound of water rushing out of the relief outlet. I experimented with several shutter speeds to try and achieve the maximum emphasis on the strength of the water rush. Rick suggested that 1/25th of a second would probably do it and he was very close; I chose a shot with 1/40th of a second. Max came to the rescue once again, sitting right on the ground and allowing us to get the lowest angle possible, giving a heroic appearance to the dam and water-jet.
You know, I have been following Rick as a teacher in videos and books for years now; he has written close to 40 publications! He is truly one of the great photographers of our time and an outstanding instructor. To spend an evening like this with him, together with my son, was something that many photographers (and musicians) could only dream about. I hope I get to go back one day soon. I’d also love to learn a little bit more about iPhone photography from Susan, who is somewhat of an expert on this topic. Who knows, perhaps she could write an entire book about it. Personally, I would happily buy a copy!
Dr. Larry Tiefenbrunn is the inventor of the Platypod product, the CEO of Platypod and a full-time practicing pediatrician in East Brunswick, NJ.