Thursday, October 13, 2011

Travel Blog – NFL Week Five: Tennessee at Steelers & the Blue Angels

Travel Blog – NFL Week Five: Tennessee at Steelers & the Blue Angels
Oct. 7-9, 2011

Downtown Pittsburgh
I took nearly 100 gigabytes of video and stills over the past weekend. It started on Friday when I drove into San Francisco to drop my wife, Bethany, off for a week-long baking class. Fleet Week took off on Friday with practice runs of the air show that would take place the next day.

Since she needed to be in the city at eight and the air show practice began at noon, I decided to get mainly video, but a few stills of downtown from Treasure Island as well as the Palace of Fine Arts and the Golden Gate Bridge

The Palace of Fine Arts

The video of the Palace of Fine Arts is great with awesome clouds and a fantastic reflection of the domed structure. Sadly, the clouds dissipated for the other video which didn’t provide as dramatic backdrop. So, I sped up the video to 500% times the original speed and think it helps distract from the bland sky.

By the time the practice runs started the sky was completely blank. Apparently the photographers on the pier thought the cloudless sky was perfect for shooting the jets. Though I got some great shots, I think a small puffy cloud here and there would have made the photos amazing. I didn’t take any video of the practice runs because I wanted to get stills of the jets screaming by frozen in motion.
The Blue Angels

For all the shots, I situated myself at on a fishing pier near the Golden Gate Bridge so I could get the plane passing over the iconic bridge. Here's my favorite picture of the day - one of the Blue Angels looks as it it is perched on top of one of the Golden Gate Bridge's towers.

Blue Angel sitting on top of the Golden Gate Bridge

I love shooting Pittsburgh. The skyline is spectacular thanks to the confluence of the three rivers at the tip of downtown. Pittsburgh has over 600 bridges with 18 of them visible on a clear day from Mount Washington flanked on the Monongahela riverside and the football and baseball stadiums situated on the Allegheny riverside. Downtown is between these two rivers were they merge to form the Ohio River.
Downtown Pittsburgh at Night 
The skyline is condensed and full of interesting buildings with a rainbow of different colors. Even the boring rectangle highrises are compelling thanks to variety of colors. The most breathtaking views are from Mount Washington’s Duquesne Incline, which was created in 1877.
Pittsburgh and the Duquesne Incline

I had the Steelers last week when Houston upset them 17-10. This is my first Titans game since Tennessee beat the New York Giants 29-10 last September. I haven’t had a Tennessee home game since Christmas weekend 2007 and hope to get back to Nashville this year. I’ve only had four Titans home games all-time, which is the second least of any AFC team (I’ve been to Kansas City just three times for NFL games). 

Until I saw two historical information signs, I didn't realize that the first professional football game was played in Pittsburgh and that the first World Series was also played here. Both occurred just steps from where Heinz Field and PNC Park now stand. Here's both signs. 

THE GAME: Steelers 38, Titans 17
Tennessee jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but Pittsburgh scored the game’s next 28 en route to a 38-17 win. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger tied a career best with five passing scores. Hines Ward nabbed two of them to record his 15th career multi-receiving TD game.
Steelers WR Hines Ward
Almost ten years to the day that Heinz Field opened. I was there and the Steelers won 16-7 over Cincinnati. I’ve been back for now nine other Pittsburgh games. Overall, this was my twentieth Steelers game since 1997 (when I went from the stands as a fan paying for entry to the trucks and booth and getting paid to do so). Pittsburgh is 16-4 in those games (wins in 80% of games), which is the best of any team that I’ve covered and equally 8-2 at home and on the road. 
Game ball from the first game at Heinz Field

This is the second time I’ve done a time lapse at Heinz Field. The first was in the divisional playoff game that the Steelers beat the Ravens this past January. That time lapse featured the grounds crew taking off the tarp and it going from day to night (click here to check it out). I was positioned at the 50-yard line for that time lapse. This one is from the left corner end zone to get some of downtown Pittsburgh in the shot. 
When I arrived on Sunday, it was very bright out because of where the sun started out in the sky. By kickoff, the sun was out of view and it looked great outside with some nice clouds adding to a sweet time lapse.

Saturday was not a good day to shoot with the blank sky, but on Sunday, I got some great clips due to the fantastic cloud cover after the game. I sped these clips to ten times normal speed and used some old 1980s theme music. 

While I was shooting San Francisco on Friday, I did a Facebook check-in from the bridge and found that one of my colleagues from The Daily Sports Source was nearby doing a shoot for a documentary. When he was done, he stopped by and we caught up while the Blue Angels practiced. Andy Latimer was the creator and producer of the show that aired on Fox Sports Net from noon to 1 PM on weekdays from 1999-2000. I met Latimer while working as a camera operator/production tech at WEDU in Tampa. He knew I was into sports and hired me originally as a researcher and within a month I was an associate producer. The Daily Sports Source was the first daily national sports commerce program. The show was ahead of its time. Indirectly, it helped me get my gig with CBS in 2000.

On my flight from San Jose to Atlanta Friday night, pro golfer Boo Weekley was on it. I photographed Weekley in 2010 for CBS’ coverage of the PGA Championship. He was in San Jose for the Open, which he didn't make the cut. Boo was fantastic when he was in the studio last year. Here's one of my favorite shots of him.

Boo Weekley
Friday night before I departed for SJC, the wife and I booked our 2012 vacation travel. We will be going to Rome, Venice and Budapest in mid-April after March Madness. The tickets cost me 150,000 total miles and with my recent Diamond status, I anticipate that we will have enough miles to pay for most if not all of our hotels in the three cities.

We’ve never been to Italy and will be returning to Budapest a second time. For our first international vacation in 2009, we went to Vienna, Budapest and Prague. Vienna felt like being in any large U.S. city with lots of modern highrises and Starbucks on every corner. Prague and Budapest were fantastic. Sadly we spent just few days in Budapest since Prague was the primary draw of the vacation. We’ve wanted to go back since the day we left Budapest and since the train from Venice is about eight hours, we decided it was time to go back. 


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