Friday, August 31, 2012

Travel Blog: New York City (Bears at Giants)

Travel Blog: New York City (Bears at Giants)
Andy Lopusnak,
August 23-25, 2012

This made my 189th NFL game covered with CBS Sports and my first pitting two NFC teams – the Chicago Bears at the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. CBS has the AFC package meaning that if the road team is an AFC team that it’s going to be on CBS. With the new TV contract coming in 2014, this might become a regular occurrence since the new contract outlines that CBS and FOX have the ability to switch games.  

Since 1997 when I began working games, this marked my sixth Chicago Bears game; but my first with CBS. Next week in my 190th CBS NFL game, I get the Bears again and this time it'll be my first trip to Soldier Field not as a fan and the first since January 2, 2000.

Of those previous five Bears games, three of those previous games were for FOX Sports at Tampa between 1997-2000. One was as a photographer for Bay Area Sports Drive Magazine in 2009 at San Francisco. The other was the final regular season game of 1999 when I went to Chicago to see the Buccaneers play the Bears as a fan. In all five of those times, the Bears lost. Of the 233 NFL games I’ve attended since 1997, the Bears are the only team that hasn’t won a game. That changed Friday night when Chicago won 20-17. Before I get into the game, here's my photo journey until kickoff.

When I landed in the ATL on the first leg of my trip to the greater East Rutherford area, I reached Diamond Elite Status on Delta. It’s my second year being Diamond and by far the fastest getting there. All miles and bonus the rest of the year will go into my rollover for the following year. In addition, I’m just 5,863 miles from reaching one million miles with Delta (and should be there by Week Two when I travel to the City of Brotherly Love for the Ravens-Eagles game). I got some great news when I arrived at the airport Saturday morning and was bumped up to first class for the longest domestic flight I can fly (JFK to SFO). Here's a shot of my home for the six hours home...

It was a pleasant surprise to not see the Flatotel as the hotel for this trip. Other than the location just steps away from Times Square, the Flatotel was by far the worst hotel in the NFL circuit. The beds were rock hard every time and valet parking was a nightmare with waits of nearly an hour at times.

Step in the Hudson Hotel. I loved the very modern-designed room. It was one of their deluxe studios and had hardwood floors and a huge balcony near Columbus Circle at the southwest edge of Central Park. Though it felt like an upscale IKEA room, it was very nice. The only issue I had was the valet. I had to wait nearly 15 minutes just to drop my rental after the game, then Saturday morning (just four hours later) there was another wait though I called down ahead of time.

I had a real scare when I got home after this trip. I thought I uploaded from my laptop to my external drive all of the NYC shots. However, I only did it for the game and the two time lapses. I deleted all the shots from my six-hour walk around Friday morning through Central Park and at the 9/11 Memorial. Luckily, I found a free program called "restoration" that searched my recycle bin and found most of the shots. Some were completely lost, like the ones of my hotel room and night shots from the balcony. However, I got back almost all of the shots from Friday morning.  

With the hotel so close to Central Park, I woke up at six and walked down to the Columbus Circle subway stop and took it up to the American Museum of Natural History to get a daytime photo of the Rose Center for Earth & Space that's on the north side of museum. It's a scale model of the solar system. If I get more time next time, I'm going to visit the museum. It's the place where Ben Stiller's film Night at the Museum was shot. 

After getting this, I walked into Central Park, which is across the street, and headed to Belvedere Castle. Sadly, my shots of the castle were among my unrecoverable files, so here's one from my phone that I posted on Instragram.

Near the castle I saw the King Jagiello Monument and took a nice silhouette of it. The monument is one of 29 sculptures in Central Park. Jagiello was the King of Poland from 1386-1434.

Next, I went to The Lake and got numerous reflection photos of the midtown skyline. I've shot this before, but never during the day.

Every time I'm in Central Park, I always forget to head over to Strawberry Fields and get a shot of the Imagine mosaic. It's in honor of John Lennon, who was shot in 1980 across the street from the mosaic in front of his apartment.

I walked back around The Lake getting more reflection shots.

Next, I took photos at Bethesda Terrace that's highlighted by the iconic 1873 fountain Angel of the Waters. After walking through the rest of the park, I took the subway down to the 9/11 Memorial.

Last year, I had two games in New York and both times I tried to go to the National September 11th Memorial & Museum that was opened on the tenth anniversary of the attacks. Both times tickets were sold out well in advance. This time, I booked reserved tickets as soon as I found out I was doing the game. Eventually, you won't need tickets to see the memorial, but since there's numerous high rises under construction; it's limited to reservations. I will say that the security getting into the memorial was stricter than any I've had at the airport. They asked for my ticket five different times.

It's a pretty somber place. In the footprint of where each of the Twin Towers once stood now has massive pools with the largest man-made waterfalls in the United States cascading down their sides. Each pool is one acre and together they are intended to symbolize the loss of life and the physical void left by the terrorist attacks. The sound of the water falling is supposed to drown out the sounds of the city, making the site a contemplative sanctuary. Almost 400 trees, including the survivor tree that stood when the towers fell, fill the remaining six acres. Names of all the victims are inscribed along the outside of each pool.

I also shot some video of the 9/11 Memorial.

I headed back to the hotel and off to the game after I left the memorial.

The Giants were dominant in the first half led by two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning (17-of-21 for 148 yards with a TD). In the second half, the Bears came back to win it when the backups for both teams were in. Chicago scored the game’s final 13 points blanking New York in the second half. If Manning goes down, then the Giants are doomed because David Carr looked horrible.

New York Giants defensive lineman Justin Tuck, who I personally think was shafted from the Super Bowl MVP four years ago, has a new face mask that has been compared to Shredder from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the waffle fries at Chick-fil-a. Here’s a story on the reasoning behind the new face mask.

I did a MetLife Stadium time lapse for the Giants in 2010 (click here to view) and one for the Jets last year (click here to view). This time, I did two time lapses. The first using my GoPro Hero 2 in the broadcast booth, which didn’t go as planned. I’ll play around with this through the season and get a better version, so you can see how it goes behind the scenes. This one wasn’t great, so I’m not going to post it.

The other one was at the same vantage point as the Jets time lapse last season. I walked all over the stadium and just couldn’t find a secure place to put my 40D. The high end zone and sideline areas have weird metal “nets” that would block the wide angle that I wanted.

I’m heading to the Windy City for the 2012 NFL opener. In addition to adding another new time-lapse venue, this game will be the NFL debut of 2012 NFL #1 overall draft pick Andrew Luck for the Indianapolis Colts. For the third straight year, my first regular season game has the Colts on the road. I’ll go into more detail about those games in next week’s blog.

Here’s some of my favorite photos from NYC and the game.


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