Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Grizzlies Online Chat 5.4.07

Live Chat with Grizzlies Photographer Joe Murphy
May 4, 2007 - Transcript

Memphis Grizzlies team photographer Joe Murphy answered questions from fans in a Grizzlies live chat on Friday, May 4. Below is a transcript of the event:

Did you study photography in school or are you just a natural?

Joe: Acutally my college degree is in PR and Advertising. I took one class. I got my start with NBA photos.

How did you get your big break into professional sports photography?

Joe: I started working with NBA photos as a temp where I temped for a whole year. I was sticking labels on slides in the library back in 1994. I wouldn't go away so they hired me full time.

How does one go about becoming a sports photographer? I mean, I understand photography and I already have the equipment, I'm wondering about what doors does one knock on to start down this road. I can think of nothing better than combining my two favorite past times.

Joe: Are you looking for my job? I'm kidding. Obviously contacts help. I had mine at the NBA. I left the NBA and became a photographer on my own. When the Grizzlies moved, I applied but I already had contacts. You have to get the foot in the door somewhere through an internship or something.

Can you tell as about your equipment? Which lenses do you work the most with?

Joe: I am now a Canon shooter. I was a Nikon shooter and I still use some Nikon for remotes. For basketball, since I shoot on strobes I use a 28 to 300mm. It's a variable F-stop but since I can set it at 5.6, it's not affected when you chance focal length.

How do you get those cool overhead shots of the basket? Do you shoot from a ladder or something?

Joe: I don't have a ladder. I set up the cameras before the game. For the camera that is behind the backboard glass, I set up a camera with clamps and then I trigger it from the opposite end of the court. For the direct overhead camera, it's set up in the ceiling of the catwalk. I use a 400mm lens looking straight down. I have to use safety cables and clamps up there just to keep everything safe.

Are you afraid of heights?

Joe: No, heights don't really bother me. Although at The Pyramid, the catwalk was really shaky so you felt like you were levitating. It was the weirdest catwalk of all of the arenas that I've been in.

How many cameras do you use during a single game?

Joe: Usually six. Four set up for remotes and two that I use as hand helds.

Have you worked at other arenas around the league? If so, which is your favorite?

Joe: Yes. My favorite as far as fan craziness is Dallas. I was just down there for Game 5 and it was like a rock concert in there. It was extremely loud but everybody was on their feat - like last night's game at Golden State. I've been there too. They have fun fans as well.

I've been in every NBA arena except for Phoenix and Seattle. Hopefully I can get to Phoenix this year for The Finals.

What has been your worst on court collision? Stepped on by Shaq? Oliver Miller?

Joe: I actually had Shaq land on me. It was miserable. It was in Detroit. There's no good way to cushion 300 pounds when it falls on you. Lebron fell over me and knocked me over once. He was nice enough to ask if I was OK and help me up. I got the shot. That's all that matters!

What's been your most exciting photo shoot yet? the Finals? Allstar Weekend? Grizzlies Playoffs?

Joe: Last year's finals were alot of fun. It was mayhem. It was fun to see Posey and Jwill in the locker room celebrating. It was bittersweet because I wish they were still with the Grizzlies but I was happy for them. All star week is a lot of fun but it's a lot of long days. We have to cover everything.

Who is the most photogenic Grizzlies player?

Joe: You know… Rudy and Dahntay are the most athletic and they make for great pictures. Although Kyle is fun to shoot because he drives to the lane which makes for great shots. I'm looking forward to shooting him next year.

What do you enjoy more, shooting action shots of the Grizzlies Dance Team or the players?

Joe: Since my wife is actually an ex-Grizzlies Dancer, I'd have to say the players. And she was my favorite Grizzlies Dancer to shoot. I shoot the others not 'strictly for work'. Hi honey!

How do you get players to warm up to the camera and look natural?

Joe: Joe Murphy For portraits, you try to establish a rapport. I'll ask them a couple of questions to help relax them. I try to let them be themselves. You get the best pictures if they are relaxed and being themselves.

Which Grizz was the most nervous in front of the camera during a portrait shoot?

Joe: This year it was A.J.. He was so funny because he was so happy to be there but he just was unsure of what to do. Once he calmed down he was great. He's got to be the nicest guy out there.

How much time do you spend on average working for the NBA in a given week?

Joe: If it's a homestand during the season we may have three games and a couple of events like Read to Achieve. It could be three to five days a week. If the Grizz are out of town I will go with the NBA to shoot other games.

Sometimes I just have to sit in the hotel and wait for the next game when I work out of town. But you do get compensated for that so it's not bad. ; )

What other types of professional sports have you shot?

Joe: I shoot all of the Titans games for the NFL. I just found out that one of my Vince Young photos is on the cover of EA Madden Live this year. I've shot PGA, MLB, MLS, plenty of hockey, college football. The only thing I haven't shot is the Olympics. Winter Olympics would be fun.

Have you ever been tempted to drop something off the catwalk?

Joe: Not tempted but fearful that something might fall. Everything is up there with safety cables. If you drop a roll of tape from up there you're sending somebody to the hospital.

Do the fans talk to you a lot, or do they let you work?

Joe: Yes, fans ask a lot of questions. Some ask technical questions but most of them ask questions following a play or dunk like, 'did ya get that one?'

How awesome was it taking shots of Michael Jordan?

Joe: As a shooter, I only got to shoot him when he was with the Wizards. When I worked at the NBA, I got to shoot him more in Paris. Out of every player, he's that one that has an aura where you're a little in awe. Once he did tell me to stop taking his photo during the All-Star game in 2003.

I was shooting him like crazy. Finally, he looks at me and says “Hey joe, you have to have enough photos of me by now, right?” At one point, he was joking and said, “Joe, I just can't get rid of you today.” He's my favorite player. If you're gonna get yelled at by anyone you'd want it to be him.

What is your worst photography gig ever?

Joe: Oh man… let me see… That's a good question. I've never really thought about it. Someone had me take photos of their kids once and all the kids did was cry. I knew at that moment I would never be a child photographer.

I saw on your website that you shot the Rolling Stones. Who do you think is the most awesome/famous person you've ever photographed?

Joe: Outside of sports, I got to shoot the Rolling Stones and Elton John. That was fun. I got to meet them during the meet and greet photo shoots.

Last year you came so close to winning the NBA Photo of the Year, do you think you'll be in the bracket again this year?

Joe: I can only hope. I don't pick those - it's up to the powers that be. But I hope that Rudy shot against the Hornets is in there if anything gets picked.

How many pictures do you usually take during a game? What happens to all those?

Joe: It's hard to keep track when you trigger remotes and after deleting the blank shots, there are probably at least 400 or so. Then it's narrowed down to 200-300 that are usable.

What advice would you give an aspiring sports photographer?

Joe: Keep shooting. No matter what it is - whether it is high school sports or college or other photos. Just keep building that portfolio and keep shooting.

So Joe, what's up next on your schedule?

Joe: Water skiing this weekend and then NBA games once I find out who's in the next round.

Moderator: Thanks everyone for your great questions today. Joe, thanks for joining us and I hope we can do it again soon.

Joe: Thanks everyone. Take care!