Friday, September 14, 2012

Travel Blog: Return to GR, the Windy City and a Little Luck

Travel Blog: Return to GR, the Windy City and a Little Luck
Andy Lopusnak,
September 7-10, 2012

When I got the assignment for Week One, I was ecstatic. It's one of the few games on the NFL schedule that I was hoping to get for a plentitude of reasons.

Aside from getting my first Chicago Bears home game with CBS Sports (the game was my 190th with the network); it gave me the opportunity to fly into Grand Rapids, Michigan where I lived from 2003-2007 when I worked for the Arena Football League's Grand Rapids Rampage. In my photography business, I've sold more images of GR than any other city. Since the drive from GR to the Windy City is about three hours, I decided to return for the first time in more than five years to get new photos of the city and visit with some friends.

Grand Rapids hadn't changed much since my wife, our pets and I left the second largest city in Michigan. However, I've upgraded my camera twice since leaving in July of 2007 and needed to get new photos.  

In a nice surprise, I found out that the day I flew into GR was the annual Celebration on the Grand, which culminates with fireworks at dusk. Sadly, the fireworks were postponed due to weather (despite it being clear by dusk). That made me 0-for-2 in shooting fireworks at the Celebration on the Grand. Back in 2006, I was ready to get fireworks shots when it was cancelled due to rain. Interestingly enough, the next day was my first of documenting each city and shooting pregame for every game. Here’s a link to my night shots of Nashville taken the night following that 2006 missed fireworks and a link to my pregame shotsof Vince Young’s NFL debut. That was the first time that I did night shots outside of a few Grand Rapids test photos. Sadly I’ve had just one Tennessee Titans game since then and didn’t get any opportunity to get any new night shots that game. In the six years since that night in the Music City, night photos are my absolute favorite thing when I travel.

Saturday morning, I walked over the Buckingham Fountain which was just a block or so away from the Blackstone hotel I stayed on Michigan Avenue. That night there was a festival, so I couldn’t get shots from every angle. Sadly, the more iconic photos of this fountain were blocked off for the festival.

From the fountain, I walked over to the Art Institute to jump on the Grayline Hop On-Hop Off bus tour. It’s $30 compared to the other HOHO which is $35. I highly recommend either tour. The more expensive is good for 48 hours and has different tours to other parts of the city. Since only had a short period of time before I needed to be at Soldier Field to set up my machine for Sunday’s game, I went for the Grayline double decker. If I had more time, I would’ve done the other tour.

The best views of the Chicago skyline can be taken at the Adler Planetarium, which is a stop on the HOHO. Sadly with numerous roads closed in the Windy City for festivals and street fairs, traffic along the HOHO route was terrible and I was stuck by the Adler for over an hour before the next bus. I guess there are worse places to be stuck than the most scenic view of the Second City.
I got to Soldier Field around 3:30pm on Saturday. After checking in and getting situated, I walked around the stadium to find where I was going to set up my time lapses and get photos of Soldier Field. This was the second time I'd been inside Soldier Field. The first was January 2, 2000 when I came up to the Windy City to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Bears 20-6 to clinch the Central Division crown. It was the last game for left tackle Paul Gruber, who broke his leg in the game. Here's a photo I took with my old Fuji point & shoot film camera from that day. Two years after I was there for the first time, the stadium was renovated and no looks like a spaceship on top of Greek columns. From the north end zone, I looked out from the stadium to the Chicago skyline and it's quite an impressive sight.

Due to the CBS production meeting being delayed, I got to shoot some night photos Saturday before the meeting in addition to the night shots Sunday evening after the game.

In my now 190 NFL games for CBS Sports, I've covered 31 of the 32 teams. I've yet to get a Dallas Cowboys home game. I did get a chance in 2004 when I was with the Rampage to go inside Texas Stadium, where we had our pregame walkthrough, but didn't get a game there before it was demolished in 2010 (you can see my shots from it here).
The game marked the first in the anticipated NFL career of Andrew Luck, the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. I started a collection of #1 draft picks gallery a few years ago and photographing Luck makes him my 19th different #1 pick (20th if you count Steve Young, who was the first pick of the 1984 Supplemental Draft of USFL and CFL Players). Luck became just the fourth rookie QB in NFL history to throw for at least 300 yards in Week One of his rookie season joining Cam Newton (422), Robert Griffith III (320) and Peyton Manning (302).
The Bears dominated in this game. Chicago QB Jay Cutler tossed for 333 yards with two touchdowns and an interception (that was returned for a score). Cutler’s favorite target was Brandon Marshall. The former Denver Broncos teammates from 2007-08 didn’t miss a stride as Marshall nabbed 119 yards and a touchdowns in his Bears debut.

The comparisons between Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning began way before Luck was drafted. Both were Heisman Trophy runner ups, both led their college teams to 11-2 seasons with 37 passing TDs as a senior and both would've been the first pick the previous year if they decided to opt out of their senior seasons. The first game in both of their careers looked eerily similar.

Lost 24-15 vs. MIA
Lost 41-21 at CHI
Comp. Pct.
Pass Yards
Passer Rating

This marked my third consecutive season covering the Colts as the away team in Week One. The previous two were at Houston with the Texans beating Indianapolis both times. In 2010, Houston upset the Colts 34-24 thanks to 231 rushing yards by little-known Adrian Foster, whop went on to lead the NFL in rushing. That was my first sports time lapse. A year later in the 2011 opener, the Texans routed the Colts 34-7 in the first game missed in Peyton Manning's career (he went on to miss the entire 2011 season and is now with the Denver Broncos).

The clouds were awesome and it made both of my time lapses of the game outstanding with the Chicago skyline in the background. Adding Soldier Field, I have taken at least one time lapse in 21 of the NFL’s 32 venues (not including Wembley Stadium in London that I got in 2010). The team venues I still need are: Atlanta, Carolina, Cleveland, Dallas, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Kansas City, New England, San Diego, Tampa Bay and Tennessee.

I had the GoPro Hero 2 set up in the high south end zone and it took a shot every two seconds. All told, it snapped 3,996 images.

Using the 40D, I had that set up on the highest possible place in the stadium – on the roof in the southeast corner. It took a photo every 25 seconds.  

All told, I took 7,489 total images. This includes over 5,000 just in the two time lapses. I'm still editing all the shots, so I won't be adding a best shots gallery to the end of this blog. 

Week Two brings me to the City of Brotherly Love for the Ravens-Eagles. I was in Philly when I did a double dip last Thanksgiving (click here to read my post about that). My first Eagles game for CBS came on Halloween 2004 when Philly hosted the Ravens. The Eagles won 15-10 to go 7-0 on the season.

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