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Mark1616 Jul 21, 2010 2:07 AM

From humble beginnings to flying the photographic dream. The story of Spy (Kevin M).
This thread gives me huge pleasure to write, it is my side of the story of an in house photographic success.

Many of us with a passion for photography dream of making it in the photographic business by getting our work published, winning awards or becoming pro. Unfortunately most of us don't put the work in, don't find the right breaks or simply don't have the skill to achieve our goals.

One man who most of us know simply as Spy aka Kevin McElheran, has certainly done so and is rising (in more ways than one) in the photographic world.

Kevin joined Steve's at the end of 2004 and although I wasn't around until a year later, I remember that we were both into sports photography so often would exchange opinions on each other's work. For the purpose of this potted history I though it worth going back to Kevin's first threads at Steve's as I think it really shows the wonderful progression and gives the rest of us some hope in making it as well.

This is the 1st photo thread that Kevin posted, a not too uncommon shot from a FZ20 that many people would take. However, unlike many people things didn't stay this way, it was just the beginning as there was a deep routed desire to improve.

Roll the clock forward about a year and a half, along with a slight change of kit to a Canon 20D with 70-200mm f2.8 and the improvements as well as the eye had improved immensly.

In this thread we also see the start of the wonderful way that Kevin uses light with the 5th shot

This is now the area that Kevin is really know, the capturer of light not only in day but also at night (yes I know I just rhymed). When he doesn't find enough light he is also an expert in painting with it to create scenes which marvel.

I have to admit, feeling majorly embarrassed, that actually I didn't notice any of Kevin's landscape skills until the last year or so, but actually he has been posting strong images for quite some time.

These threads show some of the earlier shots, the appreciation for light and compositional skills being honed.

I'm going to race forward now as unfortunately I have to be out in a few minutes and want to get this thread up.

So what is the success that I'm talking about, where is Kevin now (apart from probably asleep..... or knowing him, out shooting as I think it is the middle of the night so ideal shooting conditions)?

Well before answering totally, I thought it worth popping up a few of Kevin's latest shots, just in case anyone has missed what he is producing.
OK, I will stop playing with you all now and finish the story.

The first part of the success (apart from being able to create these amazing shots) is Kevin landing (pardon the pun) the job as an Aerial photographer allowing him to share shots like the one below.... not to mention he also gets to hang out of the windows of aircraft and helicopters while doing so, I think he is the James Bond of the photographic world.
The 2nd part and the latest and greatest part follows on from the numerous National Geographic Daily Dozen publications is that the high standard of his work has now been accepted to be sold by National Geographic.... now that's hard to do. So my whole hearted congratulations go out to Kevin for his dedication to photography and in no part to his huge skill in taking a photos, seeing light, composition and the use of Photoshop to produce what we are seeing here.

If you would like to have a look at his photos on the NG website go to and in the search type McElheran.

I really hope that this isn't the last time we get to write about someone reaching for the sky (more puns, I know, I can't help it), flying high and making their dreams come true.

We can do it people, Kevin is proof, it can take a lot of hard work, dedication and crazy hours but if it's what you want it's there for the taking.

OK, I think I've said enough, I'm a fully paid up member of the Spy fan club and we all look forward to seeing your next photos Kevin.

MartinSykes Jul 21, 2010 3:19 AM

Yes, well done Kevin. I love the second to last shot above.

spy Jul 21, 2010 9:09 AM

1 Attachment(s)
I am honoured by your story of my humble beginnings of just 7 years ago man handling my first Panasonic FZ 20 and the journey to today. Reading those early posts made me chuckle....a lot. :0)

You said, "...where is Kevin now (apart from probably asleep..... or knowing him, out shooting as I think it is the middle of the night so ideal shooting conditions)? ...I was in fact shooting up at the park by my house trying to get lightning but it was too far away but something else was in store for me last night and after facing east trying to capture lighting for about 30 minutes, I got up to go home and I turned around to see a marvellous sky! What makes this shot interesting for me is that it was taken at 11pm, the stars are visible and I'm shooting with the 4 stop ND filter. ISO's at 50 and a 30 second shutter. The yellow/orange colour is not from a setting sun (it went down long ago) but rather it is a reflection of the light coming from the city lights!

Why would I use a 4 stop ND filter in the middle of the night? Colours and light pop with long exposure.

Thank you Mark for the story and thanks to everyone that follow and comment on my postings. I hope to inspire all who read.


5dMII, 24-70 2.8, ISO 50, 30 seconds, 4 stop ND Hoya filter

Ordo Jul 21, 2010 10:05 AM

Nice story. Great achievements, well deserved prizes!

pj1974 Jul 21, 2010 2:18 PM

Great post Mark, thanks for the detailed history. (it's 4:48am here in Australia - I can't sleep - so a great post to read!)

I (still) remember seeing some of those early shots - and though my focus (pun intended) is more on landscape than sports, it's great to see Kevin's varied talents - and progression.

Congrats Kevin (spy) on the National Geographic recognition of your work and skills - well deserved!


PS - what is that white glow on the horizon / right of your 30 second photo, Kevin? To do with the lightning, or something else? (If the city glow appears on the left of this photo - I can't work out what the light is - or is it the afterglow of the sunset)? It can't have been super dark, I guess, right? 30 seconds at ISO 50 with a 4 stop ND filter - still allowed quite a lot of light in. I've done a number of long exposured night photos that needed e.g. ISO 800 or ISO 1600 with no filter - so I'm guessing maybe the moon or other aspects presented some light?

spy Jul 21, 2010 5:05 PM

Thanks Ordo and Paul for stopping by.

Paul, the light on the far lower right is where the sun had set. As far as 'how dark was it'??, ...the sun had set at 9:39pm so add another hour and 20 minutes on to that and it's quite dark. I had to be careful walking in the park as I didn't want to step in any gopher holes that are all over the place. A deer ran in front of me and stopped 50 feet in front looking right at me but couldn't make out what I was. It got spooked when I turned my camera onto it and ran away.

The moon is about 1/2 right now but it was behind storm clouds which is to the left of the photo.


Hards80 Jul 21, 2010 5:29 PM

What a great story my friend.

i remember some of these shots well. what an inspiration for us all. keep up the good work and keep posting your great shots.

love the glow from the city lights on that last one, really makes for an interesting and dramatic shot. and of course the ariel storm moving in shot is spectacular.

Hawgwild Jul 21, 2010 9:28 PM

It's always nice to see someone do well with their passion. Congrats, Kevin, you earned it.

spy Jul 21, 2010 10:45 PM

Thanks so much Dustin and Robert!

wave01 Jul 22, 2010 3:33 AM

What a great story and very well done it shows what can be done

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