Well, “hate” might be a bit strong. After all, the faithful tripod is just trying to do its thankless job. But I would argue that using tripods can have the insidious effect of screwing up your camerawork. Here’s what happens: The camera crew moves to the next setup of the day, my dutiful assistant sets up the tripod at its default average height, the assistant uses the bubble on the tripod head to level it, and then mounts the camera. Seems practical. Innocuous even.
But here’s the thing… Just by setting up on the tripod, I’ve inadvertently limited my vision. Obviously I would tweak the height and position from where it was first placed, but unconsciously the possibilities for innovation dwindle. Why should the camera be anywhere near that height? Maybe it should actually be in the rafters looking down at a 45 degree angle. Why in hell does the tripod head need to be level? Maybe a slight dutch angle matches the set better. And wouldn’t it be cool if the camera was moving during the shot? Especially now, when modern cameras are so much lighter than the behemoths of yesteryear, the possibilities are endless.
Of course this extends beyond the tripod. I read an interview with legendary photographer Paolo Roversi, who said the first thing he does when he arrives at the studio for a shoot is to turn on the lights where the previous crew left them, randomly scattered throughout the space. He said he usually discovers some amazing lighting for the shoot, or an inspiration to expand upon, that he never would have thought of if he just set up his lights traditionally. But that’s not the way it’s “supposed” to be done! Screw that. We all need to see with a more innovative, unique, and individual perspective.
So leave the tripod on the truck, grab the camera or a director’s finder, and walk around the set. Really try to see the possibilities.
Okay, I’m exaggerating to make a point. [Disclaimer: I do use tripods from time to time. Shhh… Don’t weep, poor tripod.] But be honest, how many things in our work and our lives are like the tripod? And can we eliminate or ignore them as much as possible to truly see all the options available to us?