Thursday, September 29, 2011

NFL Week Three: New Orleans (Texans at Saints)

Sept. 24-26, 2011

Downtown New Orleans at dusk
If you take Bourbon Street and the allure of Mardi Gras out of New Orleans, most would think of the Big Easy as a big waste of time. It’s truly a small town with all of the action centered on Bourbon Street and Jackson Square, which is just one block from the most famous drunken drive in the world.

Since I don’t drink, I’m not a fan of Bourbon Street, where it’s bar after bar and strip club after strip club. Maybe if I was here for Mardi Gras where cheap beads get you a free show from even the most conservative women, it might be different, but Bourbon Street is not for me.

I’m not a fan of jazz music or the Creole cuisine (aside from some Popeye’s that is). It’s blazing hot because it’s in the bayou and was dirty and run down even before Hurricane Katrina.

So, why do I like the Crescent City?

The compactness of the city makes it a traveling photographer’s dream. Everything is within walking distance. Though you’ll find all the trappings of an American city, New Orleans has an old-world feel to it around Jackson Square. It’s close enough to downtown, but far enough away to not be distracted by the hideous high rises (sadly all of which are boring looking hotels).

Horse-drawn carriages fill the cobblestone streets around the square with numerous local artists selling colorful interpretations of Big Easy lifestyle. Though it’s just a block away from the indulgence of Bourbon Street, Jackson Square preserves a two-century history of what New Orleans once was and a reason why Thomas Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. 

St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square
Paddleboats like the historic Natchez glide down the Mighty Mississippi as if Mark Twain were still alive. Though today, the Natchez shares the waterways with football field-length freighters that carry goods to and from all corners of the globe. 

The Natchez on the Mighty Mississippi
Since New Orleans is below sea level, the dead aren’t buried. They are entombed above ground in elaborate monuments to religion and decadence. On the edge of downtown, the most photographic and interesting embodiments of these resting places can be seen in St. Louis Cemeteries #1 and #2. The tombs are like apartments sandwiched together. Some are in perfect condition, while others are now just rubble piles. 

St. Louis Cemetery #2 - Established 1823
Since I’ve shot New Orleans many times over the last four years, I focused on getting video this time. Shooting video with an SLR is a lot harder than a traditional video camera since it’s a bit bulkier and the zoom controls aren’t as smooth. I’ve started looking into purchasing a rig of some sort that will more controls. I want to get that moving but still look of modern movie/TV videography, but getting that slight movement with smooth zooming is difficult. I’m working on it. Here’s a video montage of New Orleans I took this weekend.

As promised, here are two NYC videos that I didn’t get a chance to post in my Week Two travel blog. One is from the Canon 7D and the other is a miniature effect from the Canon SD4500.

Don’t come to New Orleans in the summer. This place is a hellhole during this time of the year. I’ve been to the Big Easy twice in July/August for the ArenaBowl XXII in 2008 and the Chargers-Saints preseason game last season; and it was terrible. I felt like I needed a shower after less than two minutes outside of the hotel. Growing up in Tampa, I thought I was used to the heat and humidity, but it’s different in the bayou (and not in a good way). This time, it was late September and it was just as bad.

THE GAME: Saints 40, Texans 33
Houston dominated the first half, but thanks to a 23-point burst in the fourth quarter New Orleans won 40-33. Saints QB Drew Brees passed for 370 yards with three touchdown strikes as New Orleans overcame two fourth-quarter deficits to victory. The teams combined for over 800 yards of total offense and the 73 points scored is the second most in the league through three weeks.New Orleans wore its throwback 1970s uniforms for this game - though they look nearly identical to the current uniforms.
Saints QB Drew Brees
I got my first intervalometer in the mail two days after I came back from last year’s preseason game in New Orleans. I remember walking around the field of the Superdome and imagining where I’d put my camera for a time lapse. It killed me that I’d likely not be back to the Big Easy for a game in at least a year since the Saints are a NFC team and CBS wasn’t going to have them in the 2010 regular season.

I set up my camera in the south end zone, where CBS had its high end zone view (camera four as it’s called in the TV truck). Getting there wasn’t easy as I needed to climb out on a ledge, but the results were pretty impressive.

For this time lapse, I also added some sped up video of the outside of the Superdome and video of the Saints logo that’s on the 50-yard line. 

I’ll be back in the Big Easy in April for the Final Four and hope to be here for the 2013 Super Bowl – all of which are broadcast on CBS. This past April, I attended my first Final Four (in Houston) and got some great shots and nice time lapses. When New Orleans won the Super Bowl two years ago, I was there for CBS as well and plan on never missing another one that the network broadcasts.

That game was in Miami and all the activities were all over the place unlike New Orleans that is essentially just a few blocks. I drove over 200 miles getting Super Bowl photos from South Beach, Ft. Lauderdale to the stadium over the week I was there for CBS. I got up hours and hours before sunset each day to get shots all over the Miami area. That’s not going to be an issue at the 2013 Super Bowl (or the next Final Four).

In addition to NFL games, I’ve been to New Orleans for ArenaBowl XXII in 2008 when the Philadelphia Soul beat the San Jose SaberCats 59-56. After that game, the Arena Football League folded and missed the 2009 season. It returned in 2010 under a different financial model and in August finished its second season after the collapse with the Jacksonville Sharks beating the Arizona Rattlers 73-70 on the final play of the game.

I got some great shots of the 2008 ArenaBowl that was played next to the Superdome in the New Orleans Arena. The AFL announced this week that ArenaBowl XXV will be played here again next season and I’ll likely be photographing it. Here’s a few of my favorite shots of ArenaBowl XXII. If you want to see more, please click here to see my galleries from ArenaBowl XXII.

The opening kickoff of ArenaBowl XXII
San Jose QB Mark Grieb
AFL founder Jim Foster presents Philadelphia owner Jon Bon Jovi the ArenaBowl trophy
In 2010, I was in the Big Easy for the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament. This was just two weeks after I purchased the Canon 7D. On one of the off days, I drove up to Baton Rouge to photograph the capital of Louisiana. I love how this building is totally different from the standard capital design with a domed roof that looks a lot like the U.S. Capitol.

Baton Rouge - state capital of Louisiana
Since I didn’t focus on stills this time, I thought I’d share with you my favorite photos of New Orleans that I’ve taken over the years. Here’s some of my favorites not used in this article.


I did take shots of the game and some other scenic photos of New Orleans this time. Here’s my favs from the trip.

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