Ice cold at Green Bay
Before moving to Chicago from Portland in 2003, I had joked with my friends about getting to see football games at Green Bay in January.
Since then I have covered four games in the land of the’ cheese heads’. The first three, in sub freezing temperatures, were a picnic compared to what we had to endure January 20 during the NFC Championship football game. I never expected to be shooting a game taking place in weather below 10 degrees Farenheit, let alone a game below zero. At kick-off the temperature was 0F and by end of overtime, it was -2F.
New York Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes celebrates after kicking a 47-yard game winning field goal in over-time to defeat the Green Bay Packers in the NFL’s NFC Championship football game in Green Bay, Wisconsin January 20, 2008. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES)
What do you wear to a game that cold? One of my colleagues remarked that in such circumstances it’s really not about fashion and another one added that its not even about making good pictures, it is purely a matter of survival!
Before heading down the tunnel to the field, I put on two pairs of socks, foot warmers, snow boots, long johns, felt lined jeans, a ski bib, a thermal top, a long sleeve shirt, two fleece jackets, a ninja mask, an Elmer Fudd hat, two pairs of gloves and a Parka. Just moving was a problem, which became abundantly clear to me when I placed a camera around my neck and tried to slide it under the hood of my coat – the camera flew up into my face, split my lip and chipped a tooth. I had no choice but to head out to the game with blood oozing from my lip, hoping that it wouldn’t freeze and make things worse.
Surprisingly enough I was warm.. warmer than I had been the previous week when it was 30 degrees and snowing, only this time I was more padded than the Michelin man.
New York Giants players huddle in front of the heat-blowers to warm up during the NFL’s NFC Championship football game against Green Bay Packers in Green Bay, Wisconsin, January 20, 2008. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES)
However, within the first few plays I encountered something I had not anticipated – I had to learn how to breath. Every time I exhaled through my mask, warm air would go everywhere fogging-up the view finder and the back of the camera. Not only could I not see, but I had to worry that the condensation would crystalize into ice before my eyes. I found that if I pulled the mask down to my chin and exposed most of my face to the arctic air, I could exhale downward while shooting, keeping the viewfinder free of fog, however this meant that with every breath ice would form on the back of the camera.
The cold was a true test of our digital cameras. My newest body wouldn’t focus and every time I wanted to review images on the back of a camera, it would take three times as long and the freezing liquid crystal display would fade from one image to the next rather than making the blunt transitions I was accustom to. Batteries died right and left, it took forever to change them wearing two pairs of gloves and pulling cards out took an eternity.
A Green Bay Packers fan cheers before the start of their NFL’s NFC Championship football game against the New York Giants in Green Bay, Wisconsin January 20, 2008. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES)
With the game about to end, I put a wide angle lens on the camera around my neck and checked it to make sure it was set up correctly. When I ran on to the field and found Brett Favre, I put the camera up to my eye, pushed the shutter and nothing happened. The display on top was blank, and the camera wouldn’t even light up or take a picture for that matter. Two hours later once it warmed up inside, the display looked fine, but I still had to press the shutter button three times to get it to fire.
We survived but next day I had to call my dentist and realized that I had sustained mild frost bite on six of my finger tips.
There is cold weather everywhere, whether you live in the North, South, East or West but then there is cold weather like that at Lambeau Field cold weather in Green Bay, Wisconsin during the NFC Championship game.
I have worked in the cold throughout the world but the temperature in Green Bay that weekend where I spent five hours outside was the coldest I have been in for that amount of time. It was cold enough it would freeze my breath right to the back of my camera. Causing a frost build up on the back of the camera and on my eyeglasses. The cameras worked well, but every function was slowed by the cold. Another factor working against us was the game was at night, a dark cold night. Most other times while working in the cold, whether standing on the side of a mountain covering downhill skiing or even during the second coldest NFL game in Buffalo before this one, it is usually sunny outside, but this was night.
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (lower right) is sacked in the second quarter by Green Bay Packers defender A.J. Hawk during the NFL’s NFC Championship football game in Green Bay, Wisconsin January 20, 2008. At left is Packers defender Nick Barnett. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES)
Layers, layers and more layers along with those chemical hand and toe warmers placed in other places besides your hands and toes. Wearing layers was the only way to stay warm. I had on two pair of thermal underwear covered by wind and rain proof winter pants, two Under Armour shirts and a winter wind proof parka, a fur lined hat that covered my ears and my neck covered by a neck warmer, with two pairs of toe warmers covered by two pair of socks in winter boots.
Everyone will ask how you keep your hands warm. As any photographer who works in cold weather will tell you we all have different pairs of gloves for every type of cold. I found on my left hand, which does not use as many finger movements while taking photographs, a heavy mitten with a chemical hand warmer inside and on my right hand a wind proof thin glove with a hand warmer in the palm of the glove and placing it in a pocket in my jacket with another hand warmer inside after each timeout and play stoppage worked best for me. Others used thermal heat packs for sore backs or toe and hand warmers on their backs around the kidney area to heat the blood as it flowed through the body as another way to try to keep warm for those extreme conditions.
New York Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes celebrates after kicking a 47-yard game winning field goal in over-time to defeat the Green Bay Packers in the NFL’s NFC Championship football game in Green Bay, Wisconsin January 20, 2008. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES)
The coldest I felt was when it went to overtime. No one wanted to play, watch or work any longer than we had planned for; but I’m telling you all, there was no place I would have rather been than on that side line, in every piece of cold weather gear I owned to witness one of the great NFL games of the season and the second coldest game in history.
I feel lucky just to have actually been there, cold and all!