He's photographed the Super Bowl and the Olympics. Now, he's home – taking pictures of the eruption

Updated: Jun. 4, 2018 at 3:40 PM HST
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PUNA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - The lava-reflected orange glow of the skies above Kapoho is not something you'd typically see in a photograph taken by Jordan Naholowaa Murph.

Murph, a Hawaii Island native who grew up in Puna and now works as a professional photographer based out of Oahu and San Francisco, is used to a very different backdrop – one where triumph, not tragedy, is the defining trait.

A glance through his portfolio reveals recent photos from some of the biggest sporting events in the world. Last week – just days after taking photos of a man tossing a fishing net into waters off Kapoho beneath a fiery sky – Murph was in Oakland, documenting the first game of the NBA Finals rematch between LeBron James and Steph Curry.

He was in Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics, working for Sports Illustrated, taking photos of Usain Bolt and the rest of the world's biggest track and field stars. As the former team photographer for the Los Angeles Angels, he's taken countless shots of two-time American League MVP Mike Trout.

Those assignments were nothing like the one Sports Illustrated sent him on when the eruptions began.

"Being based on the continent for ten years now, I have never been sent by a client to my hometown Hilo," Murph told Hawaii News Now. "I've been sent to Maui and O'ahu many times, but never home home. It was bittersweet to be assigned by Sports Illustrated for a very brief trip to document the affects on sporting life by Kilauea's most recent outbreak in lower Puna where I grew up."

Murph says his assignment was to look for the impact of of the eruption – which has now claimed more than 117 homes – on western sporting life, though he had something else in mind as he arrived in Kapoho.

"I wanted to illustrate the Hawaiian subsistence sporting life, what people don't normally see or know about our culture and home," Murph said.

Instead, he says, he visited Kapoho with a friend, Eli Kipiili, along with Eli's father, Obed, who taught the boys – and Murph's father, for that matter – how to fish and dive and sustain themselves off the land.

On Monday morning, lava began pouring into the ocean off the coast of Kapoho. Homes are sure to destroyed, and the coastline will never again appear as Murph remembers it. But his memories will remain – as will the iconic photographs he took before lava changed the area forever.

"Standing there as day turned to night, as the glow of the eruption lit up the sky like the most brilliant sunrise or sunset, it was bittersweet knowing that I got to visit Kapoho for possibly the last time with my childhood friend, doing what we did as keiki, as he shared and taught his own keiki, just as it had been for us," said Murph.

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