Thursday, November 1, 2012

Travel/Photo Blog: Week 8 – The Frozen Tundra

Travel/Photo Blog: Week 8 – The Frozen Tundra
By Andy Lopusnak,
October 27-29, 2012

It was 28 degrees (F not C) when landed in Green Bay. That’s pretty appropriate since Green Bay epitomizes the cold. They don’t call it the Frozen Tundra for nothing.

Going to Green Bay is the closest thing to holy ground in the NFL outside of the Hall of Fame in Canton. The Packers are a throwback to the beginnings of football nearly a hundred years ago.

Green Bay is also known as Titletown USA and backs that up with 13 championships (four Super Bowls and nine titles in the pre-Super Bowl era). The Packers got their name in 1919 when founder Earl Lambeau got $500 from the Indian Packing Company for uniforms and equipment. Two years later, Green Bay joined the fledgling National Football League (at the time called the American Professional Football Association). That was 91 years ago this week (10/23/1921) when the Packers beat the Minneapolis Marines 7-6

The Packers are the only non-profit, community-owned major professional sports team. Fitting since Green Bay is the smallest city of the 32 NFL markets with a population of 104,057 within the city limits.

I had been to Green Bay before, but it was before I got into photography back in 2004. That game was also against Jacksonville with the Jags winning 28-25. Brett Favre threw for 367 yards with two touchdowns, but turned the ball over four times (three interceptions and a lost fumble).

When I landed in Green Bay, I immediately headed over to Lambeau Field to set to check in at the trucks so I could go shoot the Packers Hall of Fame, the first HOF to honor an NFL team. This is a great museum. Lots of history, lots of artifacts and it ends with four Super Bowl trophies.

The life-sized models of the Ice Bowl and the Lambeau Leap as well as the replica of Vince Lombardi’s office were star attractions. It’s a pretty large museum and a must-see if for some reason you’re ever in Green Bay.

There are 147 individuals in the Packers Hall of Fame, including 22 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I do like that they honor their non-players and non-executives putting in a team photographer and other support staff. However, some of the players on the list might havve been good in the Green & Gold, but to put someone like Jan Stenerud in for playing just four years with no Pro Bowl appearances just waters it down during a blah period in Packers history.

I wish they would've put all 13 NFL Championship trophies on display together. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Lombardi Trophy, but it would've been awesome to see all 13 trophies grouped together. Another downer is the reflective glass that houses all the artifacts (all museums should look into non-reflective glass). Luckily, I brought my tripod and circular polarizer that helped, but some displays had horrible reflections. 

With the exterior shot of Cowboys Stadium last week, Lambeau Field was the last of the 31 active NFL stadiums that I hadn’t shot. After shooting the HOF, I went to shoot inside Lambeau. Most of the seats were old-school aluminum benches except for the luxury seats and a few premium seats in the southeast corner. The Packers are expanding the stadium in the south end zone that will increase capacity to make it the fourth largest in the NFL.

One of the coolest features of Lambeau is the atrium that feels like a mall more than a stadium. There are a few restaurants that are open to the public everyday, a massive Pro Shop, the Hall of Fame and tours of the stadium start from this location. Right outside of the atrium is two larger-than-life sculptures of Lambeau and Lombardi.

Other than the Packers, there’s not much to Green Bay, the third largest city in Wisconsin behind Milwaukee and Madison. The tallest building isn’t even in downtown. It’s the St. Vincent Hospital. This ten-floor, 142-foot structure was built in 1957. In comparison, it’s more than ten times smaller than Chicago's Willis Tower, the largest building in the United States.

Green Bay kind of reminded me of a smaller Cedar Rapids, which is sad because Cedar Rapids is tiny. There's no structures considered high rises and not much to shoot.

When exploring "downtown," I saw the Titletown Brewing Company due to the old railroad depot and the giant Packers statue in the front. The Packers statue is a remnant of the old Packers Hall of Fame that was located where the Resch Center is at now (near Lambeau Field).

After snagging some shots, I headed in for lunch. I started with the Titletown Cheese Curds. Though I lived in Grand Rapids for four years, I never tried cheese curds. They tasted just like fried cheese sticks and the portion was quite big for $8.  

Since it’s a brewery, I went for the burger. It was, however, a peanut butter and bacon burger. I asked for medium rare and sadly after sending it back once, it was more medium to medium well. Nonetheless, it was pretty damn good as were the sweet potato fries. They did take half off the burger, so that was nice. I’d come back.  

Green Bay is home to the National Railroad Museum. It’s about two miles from Lambeau, so I stopped by after the game and grabbed a few shots of the trains outside. Admission is $9, but since it was ten minutes before close no one was asking for payment. The NRM was founded in 1956, a year before Lambeau Field opened.

It houses 25 locomotives (11 steam, 14 diesel and one electric), twenty passenger cars, 15 freight cars, five maintenance of way cars, six cabooses and five other train-type equipment. There’s a bunch of other artifacts, but all are housed in the indoor museum, which I didn’t go inside.

Green Bay used a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and two Aaron Rodgers touchdown passes to beat Jacksonville 21-15. Rodgers passed Hall of Famer Bart Starr for second all-time in Packers history in career passing touchdowns. Jaguars rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert tossed his first 300-yard game (303) in a losing effort.

The Jags were without All-Pro running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who was hurt the previous week in Oakland. Green Bay was without safety Charles Woodson as well receivers Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings. I was bummed that Woodson wasn’t on the field even in street clothes when I was out for pregame because since he’s a former Heisman Trophy winner and I have a gallery of the winners.

The sun was so bright for both time lapses. It was by far the worst of any stadium I’ve done a time lapse thus far. So with the brilliant light, I opted to put the Canon 40D, with the better sensor and sensitivity, in the north end zone where it was the brightest. I set the intervalometer to take a photo every 20 seconds and there were 1,100 images in totality. If I get back to Lambeau after the south end zone construction is complete, I will set up a time lapse there to eliminate the sun issues. I love how the construction crane moves before the game.

I set up the GoPro Hero 2 in the CBS broadcast booth to maximize the 50-yard line view since there wasn’t another safe place to put the camera with the same vantage point.

It was set at an interval of every 30 seconds and was still shooting well after the game for more than 600 images in a duration of five hours and 35 minutes. This was the first time that the battery didn’t die before I picked it up after the game. Can the battery actually gain time since I drain it every time I use the GoPro?

Friday, I was in the San Jose area and stopped by the construction site for the new San Francisco 49ers stadium in Santa Clara. The outer shell is going up fast. Here’s a link to my gallery of the construction site. It opens in 2014 and is likely to get either the Super Bowl in 2015 or 2016. If it gets Super Bowl L, it will be on CBS.

To begin November, I will be in the Nati. That’s where I restarted this blog for the preseason game between the NY Jets and the Cincinnati Bengals. It was where I debut the GoPro Hero 2 for time lapses. You can check out that blog by clicking here. This will be my first game photographing Peyton Manning in a Broncos uniform.

Here’s a selection of my favorite photos from this past weekend in Green Bay.

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