Nearly a year ago a friend and I ended up taking a road trip to Nebraska. We had talked for months about doing some sort of dude’s trip and this was it. The Cornhuskers vs. The Buckeyes was going to be that trip.
Nebraska was roughly a 700 mile trip for us, through 6 different states. It was my first time being west of the Mississippi. I had been north, south, and east, never west. It was sort of a big deal for me to see how flat things were that direction.
I was basically wired the whole 700 miles of the trip. My friend took the first couple hundred miles. I was on little Debbie duties myself (possibly the last time I had a little Debbie, but that's a different story). I kept seeing all these rundown houses tough Indiana, and Illinois. I wanted to stop and photograph all of them! Missouri went from rundown houses to old water towers which I was a little overly fascinated with. I had a ton of grand ideas for the drive back home.
The closer we got to Lincoln the more I kept romanticizing the idea of how amazing it would be to just get lost on a motorcycle with my camera for about a week. I could get all these fantastic photos of grain silos, cattle, and rolling planes. (It makes me want to figure out some stuff for another trip while typing this).
Arriving in Lincoln the first thing we saw was the capital building sticking out of the city like some massive brick and mortar beacon. I really can't recall any other building coming any were close to it. We finished out our drive and called it a night after 10-12 hours on the road.
The next day we met up with my friend’s brother. He gave us a tour of Memorial Stadium. We got to see the work out rooms, the locker rooms, the training facilities, and husker’s tunnel. It was maybe the most legit tour I've ever had in my entire life. After the tour we make our way back to my friend’s brother's office. He looks at me and says "photos on the sideline, would you be prepared?" I responded with an "of course!" and he said "let me see what I can do."
Me, already on cloud nine at the thought of one of my bucket list things coming true, set out on an adventure shooting film though Lincoln. My friend and I walked around down town for a few hours capturing everything that I considered the Midwest and Lincoln in a nutshell. It was a very nice town, Lincoln had tons of things to do from what I could tell. Lots of older buildings had started their second or third lives as restaurants and bars. I could still feel the ghost of hard work and agriculture around every corner.
I wanted a photo of the capital building, in my mind nothing said Lincoln more than the capital building since it was the first thing I saw coming into town. My friend was my wheel man we drove around Lincoln until I found a view I was happy with. We we're in what must have been the "ghetto" side of Lincoln, I use that term loosely. It was maybe one of the rougher parts of the city that we had driven though. I hopped out of the car with a couple grand of camera equipment around my neck, and went walking though the "ghetto." I literally didn't have a care in the world in what I even considered the "bad part" of town. I thought if I ever lived in Lincoln I might look for some real estate in that neighborhood. I guess I'm just a custom to some rougher territory.
Later that night my friend's brother got home from work and told me that it was Okayed if I wanted to shoot on the sidelines of the Cornhuskers vs. the buckeyes game. Needless to say I was pretty ecstatic. I thought I was going to sit in the stands, it was a complete game changer when I found out that I would be covering the game for my magazine! I can't remember sleeping much at all that night due to all the excitement.
The next day was game day. As we walked to Memorial Stadium I could feel the electricity in the air. There was a sea of red and white all around us. I didn't get to partake in tailgating for more than a few minutes. I was instructed to go to the press entrance. I ask for directions a couple times and finally found what I was looking for. An elderly woman checked my bag and handed me my press pass badge. The woman instructed me to take the elevator and the elevator person would fix me up.
In the elevator I was among some what I could only assume were veteran sports photographers by their demeanor. They we're talking like it was just another day on the field. I was standing up front trying to contain excitement while faking it till I make it. No one wants to be the new guy. We all piled off the elevator and I wasn't quite sure where to go but I was absolutely sure that they did. I pulled out my phone and did the whole fake "gotta look at this" thing. I followed them to the press area where I met a very kind elderly lady that could see though my crap and knew it was my first time. She grabbed me a vest and went straight in to grandma mode telling me to turn around and helped me put it on. Then she pointed me to another table where they took all my business information and what not.
I found my way to another elevator that took me back down near the Husker's tunnel. I walked to the press area on the side lines. Turned around to look at the crowd, it was an awe inspiring sight. There were huskers as far as the eye could see. I took a moment just to realize how great life actually was, then I started working.
We we're all instructed not to go past the "fox line." That's where the fox TV crews were stationed to capture the game. Cross that line once you'll get a harsh warning, cross that line twice and you're done at that particular game. It really surprised me how strict it was at the time, but I get it though, fox has multimillion dollar contracts to provide coverage of the game. So stay out of their way! Another thing that caught me by surprise is the fact that you had to be on your knees once you got to a particular point on the side line. Again I totally get it you don't need to be standing in those zones. It was more of an interesting moment for me.
I met people from all walks of life with all manner of personally. Everyone I met seemed to be extremely happy with what they were doing. One guy I met reminded me a lot of myself, he was there laughing and smiling just having a good ol time with everyone around him. Another of the sports photographers appeared to be missing one of his arms and was using a duel system. I remember being incredibly impressed but I don't recall getting the man’s name.
The wind was absolutely crazy down on the field. Before we went in to the stadium I remember it being a toasty 70ish on the field it felt like 20 with 80 mile an hour winds. I remember my hands being stiff from the cold and how I could barely open them by the end of the game, my camera was basically stuck to my hands.
Capturing the game was possibly one of the best experiences of my life. It was one of the first times where I was looking at the folks around me and I could say "I think I've found my people." we were all likeminded and there for the same reason. Trying to capture some fantastic play a little different than the guy standing next to him. The whole atmosphere had turned into one big well-oiled machine and it was called football!
The next day my friend and I packed and left for home. We ended up driving three hours out of the way because of a wreck on I64. To be honest I didn't even care I was still hyped up from the experience the night before. Although that did put a damper on any further plans we could have possibly had that day.