Friday, December 14, 2012

Photo/Travel Blog: Two Bay Area NFL Games

Photo/Travel Blog: Two Bay Area NFL Games
Andy Lopusnak,
December 6-9, 2012

In an ultra-rare double dip, I had the chance to cover the home games of both Bay Area teams this week: Thursday's Oakland Raiders game against the Denver Broncos and Sunday's matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins. Oh, and I didn't have to jump on a plane for either game. Eerily. The final score in both games were almost the same with Denver winning 26-13 and San Francisco winning 27-13.

I've covered 12 Raiders home games with CBS Sports since doing my first in 2003. This was my first photographing it from the sidelines. For the game, I rented a Canon 300mm f/2.8 L lens from Adolph Gasser Photography for $55 for 24 hours. It's a great lens despite being 25 years old. I'd love to have one (please Santa). There wasn't any stabilization, but I didn't need it necessarily since it was on a monopod. Here's a look at my three-camera set up for the game: 7D with the 300 on the monopod, 40D with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS and the 20D with the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC (oh, and of course I had the GoPro upstairs for a time lapse). 
This marks my second straight season doing a Raiders-Broncos game and fifth overall. It's tied for the third most common game I've covered - only the seven Bengals-Steelers and six Colts-Texans games I've covered are more common than this AFC West rivalry.
Last year, the Broncos won 38-24 thanks to Denver QB Tim Tebow tossing two scores and gaining 118 on the ground. That game marked just the sixth time in league history that Heisman Trophy winners started against each other. It was also just the fifth time in NFL history that a QB/RB tandem ran for over 100 yards each in the same game. After last year's game, I got a photo of myself Tebowing in front of the Raiders' Commitment to Excellence banner. 

Fast forward one year and Tebow has been replaced by perhaps the greatest regular season quarterback in league history - Peyton Manning. 
Denver (10-3) won its eighth straight and Oakland (3-10) lost its sixth in a row. Manning continued writing his way into the record books becoming the fastest player in NFL history to reach 5,000 career completions. He also has a league record 12 seasons with 10 or more wins as a starting quarterback and extended his NFL record for career 300-yard passing games (70) tossing for 310 against the Raiders.
Manning added his 30th passing score in the game when he connected with tight end Joel Dreessen on a six-yard strike on the game's opening possession.

Denver running back Knowshon Moreno scored the Broncos other touchdown and ran for 119 yards, his first 100-yard game since 2010. Coming into the game, Moreno had just 169 yards on the season.

For Oakland, QB Carson Palmer threw an interception near the Denver goal line and fumbled near his own end zone. Palmer did throw two touchdown passes - one near the end of the first half and the other late in the fourth quarter. His first was to running back Darren McFadden, who jumped into the Black Hole after scoring (as seen in the photo below).

In my all-time games list since 1997 (when I began covering games), this marks the 250th NFL game overall - It's the 22nd Denver game with the Broncos posting a 14-8 record (11-4 on the road and 0-1 in London). For the Raiders, it's 23 overall games with an overall record of 4-19, including a measly 2-10 record at the Black Hole. Oakland has lost the last ten games I've covered.
Weeks 14 & 15 in the NFL are a celebration of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's 50th anniversary. All teams will be wearing commemorative patches on their jerseys and home teams will be honoring their players, coaches and administrators that have been inducted in football's holiest of hollies in Canton, Ohio.
I've been to Canton three times. Each pilgrimage has been special. You can see my photos from all three of these journeys by clicking here. Most recently, I was there on July 31 of this year when I was in nearby Akron for my annual PGA Championship photo shoot. 
At this game, the Raiders most of their living HOFers there. First they all lit the Al Davis flame before the game and then at halftime were introduced along with their busts from the Hall of Fame. 
In total, there were a dozen former Raider HOFers there (Fred Biletnikoff, Willie Brown, Dave Casper, Mike Haynes, Ted Hendricks, James Lofton, Howie Long, Ronnie Lott, John Madden, Jim Otto, Art Shell and Rod Woodson), as well as Broncos CEO John Elway and three HOFers in the NFL Network broadcast (Marshall Faulk, Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders). Here's one of my favorite shots of the HOFers. This is of Biletnikoff with future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning before the game. 

This large collection of HOFers greatly increased my gallery dedicated to the ones I've photographed. You can view it by clicking here. Sadly, they wouldn't let the photographers on the field for the ceremony so, I didn't get a wide shot of all 12 with their busts because the cheerleaders where in the way on the field, so here's a shot from the time lapse so you can see the ceremony.
I got a great time lapse the last time these two teams met here last year (click here to view). This time, I set up my GoPro Hero 2 in the small shack at the highest point at the 50-yard line. Sadly, someone moved it a few times and apparently turned it off in the third quarter. Here it is anyway. 

It was 6-3 at halftime before the 49ers scored three rushing touchdowns in the second half to beat the Dolphins for the first time at home since 2001. San Francisco running back Frank Gore put the 49ers up 13-3 four minutes into the third quarter with his 50th career ground score that tied the franchise all-time mark with Roger Craig and Hall of Famer Joe Perry.

After an Anthony Dixon touchdown put San Francisco up 20-6, the Dolphins converted a fourth and goal when rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill found a leaping Anthony Fasano for a three-yard TD. That was as close as it would get as 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick scored on a 50-yard run with 2:10 left to lift San Francisco to a 27-13 victory.

Aldon Smith added two sacks to his NFL-leading total. His 19.5 with three games left is tied for ninth all-time in league history. The NFL record is 22.5 set in 2001 by former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan.

I did an end zone time lapse of the 2011 preseason game between the 49ers and Raiders last season that went from day to night (click here to view).  For some reason, the sideline credentials I get to shot 49ers games doesn't give me access to the elevators to go to the press box so I haven't had the chance to get a sideline time lapse until now. I set up the GoPro in the broadcast booth at an interval of every ten seconds. It took 1,998 frames over the course of five and a half hours. Sadly, the lighting was very harsh with not a lot of cloud cover.

I didn't get a lot of time to shoot San Francisco this week since I live in the Bay Area. Sunday morning. To see my vast work of San Francisco photos, please click here to check out my many SF galleries. 

I went to Treasure Island and got a few shots of the Bliss Dance sculpture. There was a little traffic and I got there after the sun had come out. Click here my gallery of shots of Bliss Dance during the day and at night when she changes colors. Also, I did an awesome time lapse of Bliss Dance changing colors. It can bee seen by clicking here. 
The image above is of the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco skyline from Treasure Island hours before the game. On the way home, there was bumper-to-bumper traffic so I decided to get a day/night combo shot of San Francisco as seen from Twin Peaks. The shot at the top of this article and the one below were taken within a matter of 30 minutes. 

Week 15 approaches and my crew is doing the game of the week - Denver at Baltimore. The winner of this game will likely get the #2 seed in the AFC playoffs. It's once again another trip to Baltimore. Ugh. I think this time that I'll shoot the National Aquarium. Unlike the overpriced Georgia Aquarium ($35), this one is $10.  

Here's a collection of my best shots from both games and some new San Francisco photos. 

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