Thursday, October 27, 2011

Travel Blog – 2011 Week 7: Pittsburgh at Arizona

Travel Blog – 2011 Week 7: Pittsburgh at Arizona
By Andy Lopusnak,
October 22-23, 2011

Every time I’ve come to Phoenix, the sky is boring and cloudless during the day. This time was no different, so Phoenix’s skyline hasn’t been very scenic and looks just bland and brown. I even looked at the postcards at the airport and all the city skyline shots are terrible.

Phoenix reminds me a lot of San Jose, where I live now. There aren’t a lot of interesting downtown buildings because the city is horizontal and not vertical - meaning that it's spread out with lots of smaller buildings. Both are in valleys with a lot of brown. It’s sad since both cities are among the ten largest in the U.S.

If I had the time to drive away from Phoenix like, to the Grand Canyon, I’d feel differently about the Valley of the Sun. Because Phoenix is the fifth largest metropolitan in the country, the light leak is massive and I’d need to drive nearly 100 miles away to get night photos with awesome star trails which being in a desert would be ideal. 

When I was here in 2009 for the West Regional of March Madness, I went to the Desert Botanical Gardens to see the outdoor Chihuly outdoor blown glass exhibit. His work is always very colorful and juxtaposed in the blandness of Phoenix, it was stunning (click here to check out my photos from it).

With the small downtown looking boring once again, I opted to take a tour of Chase Field, where the Diamondbacks play baseball when I arrived Saturday morning despite my dire hatred for baseball. However, I love sports stadiums and $7 for a tour of a place I’ve never been to seemed worth it.

Chase Field was the first retractable roof stadium and after nearly 15 years still looks brand new. Sadly, the tour didn’t get up into the cheap seats where I would’ve taken a nice wide shot of the entire field like I’ve taken in numerous other baseball venues (click here to check them out).  

After the tour, I headed to University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale to check in at the trucks and re-take some photos of the venue. I was here first in 2006 just two days after the stadium got its name from the online college – it was originally just called Arizona Cardinals Stadium. That October 8, 2006 game was the first career start for Matt Leinart, which obviously was a bad draft pick for the Cards. Arizona lost that game 23-20 with Kansas City kicking the game-winning field goal with 1:36. 

I drove up South Mountain Park, the largest city park in the world, to get a view of Phoenix and the valley from Dobbins Lookout. The view of the valley is great (but still very brownish). Downtown looks like a distant village from 2,300-feet above.

For the first time in the regular season, I got to bring out the NFL Huddles figures for both teams. These two-inch PVC molds were of the 28 NFL teams of 1983 that the NFL designed. Each of the first six weeks had at least one of the newer teams that joined the league after the 1983 season, so I didn’t get to bring along the little guys. I’m happy that the next two weeks will feature Huddles-friendly teams (Miami at NY Giants and Denver at Oakland). Click here to check out the other stadiums I've taken these figures.

This marked the first time that the Steelers and Cardinals have met since Pittsburgh won Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa back in 2009. I was in my hometown for the Big Game, but didn’t get inside for it. At the time, it was the most watched event in television history and is still considered one of the greatest NFL games ever played. I did get some great photos of the city, the NFL Experience, the flyover and postgame fireworks of the stadium (click here to see my photo gallery from SB 43).

After the CBS Sports meeting at the hotel Saturday night, I decided to hit the Arizona State Fair to get some interesting night shots with the fair rides. I found free street parking and all I had to pay was the $10 entry fee. I love how the fast moving rides and bright beautiful colors look in long-exposure photography. With Phoenix being a bust from a skyline perspective, the fair shots more than made up for my previous disappointment.Check out my video that has some interesting long-exposure stills at the end...

THE GAME: Pittsburgh 32, Arizona 20
Like he did two weeks ago, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger put on a show. Big Ben connected with Mike Wallace on a 95-yard touchdown, the longest in Steelers’ history along with two other scores and 361 yards passing. Pittsburgh never trailed. With the win, the Steelers become the first road NFL team to win a game this season in games that I’ve covered.

Despite the game being indoors, the lighting was perfect. The closed roof is a bit opaque, which provides a great diffused look. Last time I shot an NFL game here five years ago, the lighting was pretty much the same, but that was two camera bodies ago and technology has chanced so much that the results are vastly better this time around.
University of Phoenix Stadium is a great venue. I set up this time lapse where the CBS “beauty” camera was located. When the broadcast comes back from a commercial, this is the camera that shows a wide shot of the fan-filled stadium.

This makes my 14th different home stadium of the 32 NFL teams (not including Wembley Stadium that I got last year for the Broncos-49ers game in London) that I've created a time lapse. In the next three weeks, I’ll be adding Oakland and Seattle to the collection. In this one like my last few, I've included a bit of video at the beginning of the venue.

My first Cardinals game came in 2003 just a week after I bought a used Canon D30 digital SLR from one of my San Diego Riptide photographers (Pat Cubel) because my new team, the Grand Rapids Rampage, gave me a zero budget for nearly everything. I wanted good-looking photos of the team and since I directed my photographers in what I wanted, I figured I could shoot. Little did I know eight years later, that photography would be my passion.

I had a little time to shoot the Cal-Arizona State game that was being played the day before the Cards-Bengals game I was there to work. I had no clue who Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers was and that he’d eventually be a Super Bowl MVP, but got a pretty cool sideline shot of him. Sadly, I cannot find any of my originals and only have web-quality ones (click here to check out the gallery).

The hotel we stayed at was the same that the Bengals were at as well as the Los Angeles Lakers that were playing the following night. On Sunday morning as I waited for my rental car, Lakers head coach Phil Jackson was in the lobby and I asked if he’d mind a quick photo with me. The Zen Master was very nice. He shook my hand, patted me on the back and smiled. Then he said, “thank you so much, but no I’ve got to go.” It didn’t register for a minute or so that I was refused and it didn’t change the fact that I respected Jackson for his response. He went out of his way to make me feel good about a rejection, while many celebrities would’ve just been rude. 
Here's my favorite photos from this past weekend in Phoenix...

1 comment:

  1. like the shot of the state fair rides @ night... very kewl! I was in Oakland last week, SF this week, so I've had (and will have) some fun shooting in your home area... stay tuned; when I have a chance I will post these. I'm bringing a tripod with me!@