Friday, September 8, 2017

Pitt For Life: Light them Up!

The very first time that I photographed the victory lights, I didn’t even know that I was doing it.  In fact, it wouldn’t be until about six months ago that I realized that I had photographed them.  It was just some random day back in 2013 that we must have been picking my brother up from campus.  It was right after my Dad got his new Nikon Coolpix L820, and I was using that to test it out.  I was still in high school at the time, knowing that in a few short months, I would be calling this campus home.


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The glow of the victory lights seen from Bouquet Street, May 2013.
So what are the victory lights?  It’s an extension of the regular yellow lights at the top of the Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh Campus.  They get turned on after a Pitt Football victory or other important athletic event victory (I’m not sure why they were on in May).  The thing that stands out about the victory lights is that they can be seen for miles (below).


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The victory lights seen from the West End Overlook, October 2015.
When this photo was taken, I thought it was the first time that I ever photographed them.  I particularly like how you can see Heinz Field, even if just barely, in the image too (Heinz Field is home to the Pitt Panthers and the Pittsburgh Steelers).  Some day, I’d like to be at the West End Overlook for a night game in which the Panthers win in order to get an active Heinz Field with the Victory lights just turned on.
The day that I took this photo, I hadn’t planned on stopping there.  I was up north of the City when I found out that Pitt had won.  I planned on just stopping in Oakland, but when there was a bad accident on the parkway, I took a detour.  Since, I didn’t plan on going, this was shot hand-held, not on a tripod.  Same with the following image.


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The victory lights from the Mary Schenley Fountain, October 2015
Flash forward to the next football season, and this time I was actually going to games.  The first game of the season, I wasn’t able to stick around for the lights, but for the next game (Pitt 42- Penn State 39, Heinz Field) I was able to get a shot from the same spot, this time on a tripod.


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The victory lights from the Mary Schenley Fountain after the Keystone Classic, September 10, 2016.
Even though they are the same lights, sometimes they look better than others- and this was definitely one of those times.  The Keystone Classic was one of my all-time favorite Pitt memories (read about it here or watch about it here).
Following these games, I spent the next couple games on Heinz Field as a photographer.  I got some okay shots of the victory lights, but most of the time, my batteries were dead from shooting the game.  I did get a really nice shot that I liked after the Pitt vs. Syracuse Senior Day game.


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The victory lights from Schenley Plaza, November 2016
The one thing that I can’t go without saying is that the victory lights aren’t always yellow.  For a victory, they are, but a few days after the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015, the University replaced the victory lights to show support to our friends in France.


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The victory lights replaced by the colors of the French flag as seen from Soldiers and Sailors Hall, October 2015
This change in the victory lights was only temporary, but they left them on for about a week in support.  During the time, the University also held a vigil hosted by Chancellor Gallagher (just days after he attended one hosted by Pitt Students during which I almost ran directly into him, just a tad embarrassing when I looked up and it was the Chancellor).
The other thing about the victory lights, they helped to create the nickname of the “drunken man’s compass” around the University.  Since they can be seen from most of Oakland, all you have to do is find them to navigate around Oakland (I’ve often said that is how you graduate to being an upperclassman– not having to use the Cathedral to navigate).
Any time Pitt Wins, I love to get out and shoot the Victory Lights from as many different angles as I can.  I particularly like going to upper, upper campus to get shots of all of Oakland.  However, with the Pitt Victory this past weekend, I didn’t get a chance to go up to upper campus.  Here are some shots that I did get (and two of them are from our neighbor, Carnegie Mellon University).


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Roc and the Cathedral with Victory Lights On.  Outside the William Pitt Union, September 2017


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Victory lights from Carnegie Mellon University, next to
Wean Hall, September 2017


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The victory lights taken from below Hamerschlag Hall on Carnegie Mellon University’s campus, September 2017
So next time you’re in Oakland and you see the top of the Cathedral is illuminated in bright yellow lights, take a moment to stop and look at them.  They really are an awe-inspiring sight.  And you know, hopefully we’ll see them this weekend after Pitt takes on Penn State in the Keystone Classic 2017.
~AMH

The fist image was shot with a Nikon Coolpix L820.
Images 2-6 were shot with a Canon Rebel T5 with a variety of Lenses
Images 7-9 were shot with a Canon Rebel T7i with a Tamron 18-200 F3.5-6.4 VC lens.

All images copyright Allen Howard/HDIC Productions

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