I visited B&H Photo in Manhattan with a sketched diagram in my hand, hoping to find something that would allow me to attach a shelf to my tripod. When I was using the tripod only for still photography, the need was there, but minimal. When I started using the tripod for drawing and painting (with a sketch board firmly attached to the tripod head), it became clear that I needed a place for my pastels, my paints, the water, the paper towels. When I added videography, the tripod kept the camera firm and fluid, but I needed a handy place for the microphone, the iPad, the Zoom audio recorder, and other supplies.
After trying to rig something on my own, and failing, I started visiting local hardware stores, and was able to cobble together a solution involving perforated steel strips and cotton twine. At best, I had devised a temporary solution. Entering B&H, my hopes were not high.
Then, I spotted a large, flat piece of plastic called a Tripad. Aha! This was the solution. As you can see in the image, the Tripad surface extends from two of the three tripod legs. The genius part–the part that I never considered when I was doing my own (lame-o) inventing was a brace that fit over the head of the tripod and supported itself by hanging onto the far leg. B&H has lots of tripods, and I happened to find myself there around dinner time, when the busy store wasn’t too crowded. The Tripad worked: it was stable, not too large, and, quite perfect. The surface measures 15 inches wide and 11 inches deep (plus the part that connects to the tripod legs); the second triangular piece fits over the head and onto the leg. It weighs three pounds and holds eight. It comes along with me, but mostly when I travel by car; it’s little heavy and large for casual use, but durable and solid for professional applications. Here’s the video; see for yourself. The Tripad costs $99, and you can buy it here.
Now, back in my inventing days, I was thinking (though never seriously) about a setup that might involve not a full shelf but a pair of arms extending, on the perpendicular, from the tripod legs. There is an artist’s tripod with this design (Mabef M27), but I could never quite figure out which search terms could be used to find such a contraption on Google.
Then, I got lucky. I found the Easel Butler: Maximillian (or, for friends, Max). I liked the site immediately: the device “weights less than two bananas.” And that turns out to be true. In ounces, that’s 11.5, and in length, it’s 14 inches. There is a metal brace that slides over two easel legs. The brace has two holes: into each hole, you place a metal rod. The rods are kept in place by rubber o-rings (which you must be careful not to close, especially when working in the field). There’s a bag that attaches to the far side of the easel, a counterweight. With Max’s arms outstretched, I was able to place a full box of pastels without once worrying about an accident due to instability (clumsiness is, of course, another matter entirely). Easel Butler sets up in an about a minute, and requires about as much time to strike and put away. It comes with a nice little bag. It’s sturdy, well-thought-out, and well made. And the whole package is light enough for anyone to take along, and small enough to fit into a suitcase so it can travel with you, anywhere in the world. Want to see it in action? Watch this… Or just buy it here for $37.95.
I’m happy. A month ago, I was traveling some inept path with no real understanding of how to solve a problem. Now, I have two good solutions, each well-suited to a particular creative application. Below, some additional pictures that may convince you to invest, or, at least, to think differently about the way you work when you create.