A few days ago Tracy Lee stepped into the MMA Disputed Interview lounge and gave me a behind the scenes look at what it takes to be a MMA photo journalist. Tracy Lee is one of the most recognized names in the sport and continues to impress everyday with her photos.
1. How did you first get into photography and was it a passion in your life at an early stage?
I can't say that I've always had a camera in my hand; it started around the age of 19 I think... I borrowed an SLR film camera from my mom and began shooting skateboarding.. Before that I had a point and shoot but I wasn't especially active using that at all. I had a friend that worked at Costco photo center and developed like 10 rolls at a time for the price of 1 roll. Since it was so cheap, I just fired off shot after shot and got really addicted.
2. What made you start shooting MMA and particularly UFC?
I wanted to be able to go to the fights for free; doesn't everyone?? I had a lot of friends on the cards. I had an in with a magazine I had a partnership with and they had credentials with the UFC. They allowed me to send in credentials for each show and it was all downhill from there!!
3. What other photographs projects do you have outside of shooting for UFC?
Wow. That's pretty extensive. I started with skateboarding and snowboarding photography and continued onto nightlife photography- that got me to Vegas. I have done everything from event photography for The Outdoor Channel or Toyota, to portrait and modeling photos, to fight photos; even pet photos! I shoot for a lot of different clothing lines and lately I have been shooting and writing stories to go with for Versus.com.
4. Run us through a typical day or week in the life of Tracy Lee?
Typical day or week? I can't say that I have a typical because everything is always changing. I'm also super spontaneous; I got home from Charlotte yesterday after 3 shows in a row, and on a whim drove to LA 2 hours later to swap out a camera. I leave for Dubai and Abu Dhabi on Sunday and didn't have enough time to overnight it and get it back. I am in and out of hotels and airplanes, and I often fly by the seat of my pants. I love to spend hours on my computer working on my other business, internet marketing consulting. I don't sleep much either as you can see since it's 4:30 am and I am answering these questions.
5. What is the atmosphere like inside a UFC arena while shooting pictures?
You know, I always love the energy inside the arena. You may get a better view from the comfort of your living room for way cheaper as a spectator, but you cannot beat the electricity and excitement that a live event offers. Especially at the ones out of the country; those ones often get to be INSANE!!
6. Are there any challenges that arise while shooting or just in general getting into the photography field?
Shooting a live event is always a challenge and I strive to get better each and every time I do it... The lighting, the cage, the motion, the referee, the fighters... There are so many variables that make it difficult to always get your shot. The more practice you have, the more it becomes second nature though.. Getting into the industry at this point is much more difficult than it was 3 years ago. So many more photographers vying for the same spots. You have to put in your time at the smaller shows, and work for little or no pay to build a good reputation. (crap, I'm STILL doing that! lol)
Stay in contact with Tracy Lee at the following links as she continues to let us inside the world of MMA.