1/1000th of a second. That’s the amount of time Austin Spurs photographer Andy Nietupski said he gets to capture an image that will never be repeated.
“I can summarize a 48-minute basketball game into 1/10th of a second,” Nietupski said. “None of that is easy. Sports photography really made me work to become good.”
The challenge of sports photography is one of the reasons he wanted to pursue it, along with the beauty.
“Sports are full of color, intensity, emotion and speed,” Nietupski said. “Capturing that in an image is challenging, both physically and technically.”
Nietupski first started taking photos in 2008 while on assignment in Japan for IBM. Every weekend he would explore Tokyo with his wife and photograph the city’s rich history.
After returning to Austin in 2009, he thought photography would be boring, and it was, he said, until he started photographing sports in 2011.
Nietupski can still remember calling the Austin Spurs to request permission to photograph games. Although he said there was some caution, he began capturing images of team during the 2013-14 season and has been on the sidelines every season since.
After seven seasons with the team, Nietupski has many memories, but one he said he’ll never forget is the deciding game of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers on April 9, 2016.
“I’ll wager that it was one of the greatest come-from-behind victories ever seen in the Cedar Park Center [now the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park],” Nietupski said.
He recalled, “RGV led until very late in the fourth quarter, when a steal and layup by Keifer Sykes tied the game. The Spurs took the lead with 0.4 seconds remaining on a free throw by Sykes to secure the win for Austin, 89-88. Keifer posted a season-high and team-high 31 points. Austin advanced to the Western Conference Finals with the victory.”
“I was so excited that I put down my camera just to watch, although I did get a lot of great images before that,” Nietupski said.
Another moment he said he’ll never forget is when Austin won the Western Conference Championship on April 5, 2018, but “not for the reason you’d think.”
“The game moment I’ll never forget is Darrun Hilliard crashing into me as he drove the lane. Darrun and I were both sprawled out on the floor. It was a pretty big collision,” Nietupski said. “Darrun has a steely demeanor on the court, but he was very gracious to me, especially at that moment.”
Out of all the Austin Spurs players Nietupski has captured images of throughout the years, one stands out to him as being particularly challenging, yet amazing, to photograph.
“Orlando Johnson played with an intensity that screamed emotion. He was amazing to photograph,” Nietupski said. “The biggest challenge was he always drove the lane with his mouth wide open. Not the most flattering of poises to some, but I loved it.”
Nietupski said his favorite part of being a sports photographer is the people.
“I feel like a member of the team of every sport I photograph. The people really appreciate what I do for them, and I find that especially rewarding,” Nietupski said. “There are lots of pressures on the people in the front office, especially during a game. I like to think I make their lives easier.”
When asked if he has a favorite photo from his time photographing the Austin Spurs, Nietupski replied, “Asking a photographer if he has a favorite photograph is like asking a parent if they have a favorite child. No way. I have tons of favorites.”
A special thank you to Andy Nietupski for all of the memories he has captured throughout the years. Some of his favorite photos can be seen below: