Sunday, August 28, 2011

Travel Blog – Detroit

I’ve really neglected this blog, so I’ve decided to write down my journeys throughout the NFL season as a travel blog about the city and the game.

For my first CBS game of the 2011 NFL season, I was assigned the preseason matchup between the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions at Ford Field in the Motor City. I was thrilled to get the game because I’ve never been inside Ford Field. It was one of just two NFL stadiums I haven’t covered or attended a game at – Dallas’ new digs is the other.

As usual, I took the overnight flight from San Jose. When I made my connection in Atlanta, the plane was an international 777 with 16 rows of first-class seats that laid flat. One row behind me sat former NBA superstar Allen Iverson, who slept through the entire flight with a Cincinnati Reds hat, white T-shirt and basketball shorts. I copied A.I. in napped from Atlanta to the D.

When I landed in Detroit, I got my rental car and headed to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn to photograph the indoor portion of this massive complex. The shots were going to be used on-air during the CBS broadcast, but due to technical difficulties at the trucks nothing got on.

Henry Ford was a collector of pretty much everything before antiques were popular. I took pictures of many things but here’s some thoughts on a few of them.

They have the actual rocking chair from Ford’s Theater (no relation) that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in 1865. At the top of the chair, there are stains that you’d think were from blood, but are in fact hair oils.

Next, I photographed the actual bus that Rosa Parks sat in and refused to give up her seat that sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which in turn thrust Montgomery preacher Martin Luther King, Jr. into the national spotlight. After the boycott, the bus was eventually used as a tool shed before arriving in Parks’ hometown. It was restored to what it looked like on the day she made history. Parks’ seat she refused to give up was on the passenger’s side at the fourth window.

The museum has five Presidential motorcade cars in the collection, including the 1961 Lincoln Continental that JFK was gunned down in back in 1963 in Dallas. Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter used this same car during their presidencies after the assassination. It was refitted with a bulletproof top and reinforced for extra security. Reagan opted out of using this vehicle and his car is also housed here.

Everyday, the staff at the museum disassembles and then reassembles a Model-T Ford with the visitors helping. I didn’t have enough time to shoot the outside portion of the museum that encompasses hundreds of acres and is a working village of innovation that includes items from the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop and Thomas Edison’s lab in Menlo Park, New Jersey. The museum has a vile sealed the last breath from Edison that was given to Henry Ford.

If you’re in the Detroit area and have enough free time to visit this place, it’ll be well worth it.

Next I headed to Ford Field to check in with the crew. After settling in, I scouted for the perfect location for my time lapse of the game – the high TV side right corner of the field. I then went on the field to take some close-up shots of the Lions logo at midfield. Next, I photographed my NFL Huddles two-inch molded mascots from the 1980s on the field with current micro helmets for my on-going Huddles on the Field project since I collected all 28 last season (the NFL had 28 teams in 1983 when the figures were created for all the league teams).

After leaving the trucks, I headed to the hotel – the Detroit Marriot at the Renaissance Center. I lucked out and got a high-rise room facing Detroit (room 5517) and immediately began a time lapse of the view that included the baseball and football stadiums as well as most of the large buildings (though I was higher than all of them at the 55th floor since I was staying in the tallest building in the state of Michigan.

Sadly, I didn’t have enough time to shoot the city as the sun was setting when the sky turns a perfect blue with the lights of the city gleaming because the CBS meeting was during this time. However, I did get a chance to walk down to the two most iconic statues in Detroit that were about a block away from the hotel – Joe Louis’s fist and the Spirit of Detroit. After the meeting, I walked back down and took a few more snaps of the Spirit all lit up.

Saturday morning, I drove an hour and a half to Lansing to photograph the state capital. That makes 30 capitals I’ve photographed. Earlier this year, I nabbed Wisconsin the day before the Super Bowl when I was in Madison for a college basketball game. I have Houston Week One and am seriously considering driving to Austin, but that’s a really long drive. Sadly, I think this might be my only one until college basketball season (fingers crossed for Nebraska or Iowa to get games).

On the way back from Lansing, I stopped at Olga’s Kitchen, which was one of my favorite restaurants when I lived in Michigan from 2003-07. Absolutely love their pita bread, which makes their hamburger fabulous.

When I got to Ford Field, I set up my time lapse only to find out that one of my intervalometers (the thing that creates the time lapse) had a battery that was flickering and I had to go to the hotel and grab my spare and use it.

For pregame, I went down to the field and photographed Lions starting QB Matthew Stafford for my ongoing project of snapping shots of the top draft pick in each season (Stafford was the #1 pick of the 2009 NFL Draft). Since this was my first Detroit game with CBS in my twelve seasons with the network, I wanted to ensure that I also got reining NFL Rookie of the Year Ndamukong Suh and All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson. I also grabbed nice pictures of Patriots owner Robert Kraft signing autographs as well as action shots of Tom Brady, Wes Welker (was suffered a neck injury in the game) and Chad Ochocinco.

As for the game, I took my seat in the graphics truck at my computer. The game clock had an issue sending data to the score machine (the eyebar at the top of the screen), though the font machine (the one that pops in lower third graphics had no issue receiving any data). It was a pain throughout the game and no one had any answers to how to fix it. I’m sure no one watching the game at home realized it though.

Stafford was fantastic, though it is preseason. He completed 12-of-14 for 200 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a perfect passer rating of 158.33. The Lions won 34-10 and have scored at least 30 points in all three preseason games thus far. If Stafford plays like this and the defense continues to pressure opposing QBs like it did this night (sacking Brady twice and knocking him down at least five other times), Detroit might have a good season this year. The Lions haven’t won a playoff game since the 1991 season.

After the game, I took a few night shots of the Fox Theater and Comerica Park since they were both right next to Ford Field. My tripod head is trashed and I need to get another one before I head to Houston in two weeks. I noticed a few weeks ago a crack and now it’s nearly useless.

Overall, it was a great trip. I got lots of photos of historical artifacts, reached 30 state capitals, covered a game at a new stadium and got some shots of players I’ve wanted to photograph.

Below are some of my favorite photos from the trip.

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