Photographer Spotlight – Kevin Cunningham
Photographer Spotlight Kevin Cunningham: It’s quite often we receive messages sent to us via social media (mostly Facebook) asking us to share photos, plug a website, etc. Mostly people wanting to promote themselves, their business, show-off their photos, car/truck or whatever it is. They rarely care about who is behind the social media page, what our interests are or our mission; their goal is to primarily go viral. That is all obvious with the tone of the message they send to us, “yo share my stuff!” and off to the next page they go asking them to share.
It is not very often you find someone with a crazy amount of talent, who is on the same brain wave when it comes to ideas, beliefs and photography style. It’s even more rare to find out you served in the World’s greatest Navy together. I found all of those things in Kevin Cunningham a couple of years back when he reached out to us via social media, but with a polite respectful tone and he wasn’t all about himself.
It all started with Harley Davidson’s Project Livewire, Harley Davidson’s first electric motorcycle. Kevin sent over a message with a few amazing photos of Project Livewire that were edited to perfection and I’m pretty sure Kevin (as humble as he is) will say, “the photos are OK” because, that’s the type of person he is, as humble as they come. The photos are excellent shots, that covered every aspect of the motorcycle and the unveiling and they definitely caught my attention. It was all down hill from there, Kevin joined the CarShowz Family.
Kevin’s photography experience while serving in the Navy and running Seahamm Photography is a nice addition to the CarShowz Team. We are a close-knit family-oriented team of like minded individuals who make up the CarShowz brand and Kevin is a perfect fit for our team.
While our Mid-Atlantic coverage team has now expanded, Kevin recently made a move out west where we now have access to more events such as Good Guys, Barrett Jackson and more. Kevin has covered major events such as the U.S. Vintage Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, The Watkins Glen Grand Prix Festival, multiple Good Guys Car Show events, Concours In The Hills and events such as OC Carshow, Cruisin OC and others.
Kevin continues to be a great friend and a part of the CarShowz family. We wanted to thank him for all of his hard work he continues to do for us. This month we had a chance to interview Kevin for the CarShowz Photographer Spotlight and to get into Kevin’s brain a bit to see what makes him tick 😉
Check out Kevin’s question and answer session below…
Photographer Spotlight Kevin Cunningham Q&A
CarShowz: What inspired you to get into Photography?
Kevin Cunningham: I’m not sure if I’ve ever really thought about that before. I know the reason I bought my first point-and-shoot. I wanted to document every aspect of being in the Navy. I believed all the hype that the commercials show, so I wanted to be ready to capture memories of the great adventures that I would be a part of. Once I started getting more serious about photography I had some solid support from my family and from some senior sailors to pursue it further. I think that encouragement inspired me more than anything else. It’s what pushes me to continue trying to learn and get better at this little hobby of mine.
CZ: When did you first pick up a camera and start taking Photography seriously?
Kevin Cunningham: I bought my first DSLR in 2007 or 2008. It opened up a whole new world for me. I had a hard time figuring out how to properly expose my shots so that trusty Nikon D40 stayed in Auto most of the time and I had to kit lenses to choose from. The first couple years with a DSLR were not my best. Nor did I try to learn very much. When the Command Photographer on my ship, Nathan Rathjen, noticed that I had my D40 with me everywhere I went, he started trying to teach me the finer aspects of owning such capable cameras. I didn’t catch on very quick. So it was a surprise to me when he told our chain of command that he wanted me to take over as Command Photographer after he left. That meant I migrated from a cheap crop sensor camera to having a $9000 full-frame Nikon kit at my disposal. Talk about a steep learning curve! It took me over a year to even start understand the D700 I was in charge of. That was the beginning of Kevin the Photographer.
CZ: What gear do you shoot with? Preferred lenses, equipment to shoot with, etc.?
Kevin Cunningham: Right now I have two Nikon D5100s, a 35mm prime, a 50mm prime, an 85mm prime, and an 11-17mm ultra-wide angle lens. I have a bunch of assorted gear also. Lighting, filters, etc. As you can probably tell, I really like my primes. Even with crop sensor cameras, they are SHARP. The same can be said for my UWA. I find myself using the 11-17mm lens a lot not only for landscape photography but also at car shows. I try not to get too many extremely distorted shots, but I like how I can get a lot of the vehicle without having to be half a parking lot away.
CZ: How would you describe your style?
Kevin Cunningham: This is a good question because my personal photographic style is what took me the longest to figure out. I tried everything I could and not until I got Lightroom did I really nail my style. I shoot a lot of abandoned/run-down stuff so my style is defined by a darker, slightly underexposed, sharp feel. I have to work really hard on making sure weddings or family sessions are exposed correctly because I always feel like they’re too bright according to my style. I have to keep reminding myself that not everyone likes the grunge feel.
CZ: What is your most memorable photo and why?
Kevin Cunningham: This is a hard question for me to answer because I realized as I was browsing through my photos one time that I can remember details about every photo I’ve taken. It’s almost like looking at the photos takes me back in time to that exact moment. So, to a degree, all of my photos are my most memorable. I’ve never taken a photo that would be considered jaw-dropping. That’s what I would love to do. Take a photo that can start a larger conversation.
Of the ones I’ve taken, there are two that make me the most proud from a photographer’s standpoint. The first being the shot of the Jägermeister race car at Watkins Glen International. That whole experience was absolutely surreal. And to shoot a vehicle moving over 100 mph with a shutter speed of 1/30 of a second was the topping on the cake. Of my landscape work, I think the last photo I ever took when I worked at Wallops Island makes me the most proud. All of the elements of photography came together perfectly and instead of continuing on to work, I stopped, got out of my car, shot the photo, and get yelled at for being late. But that photo was worth it!
CZ: What is your most favorite car or truck you photographed and why?
Kevin Cunningham: Another tough one. I like weird/unusual/unique vehicles. I’ve also been fortunate enough to shoot A LOT of vehicles for CarShowz. The newer GT-Rs are probably some of my favorites. They’re almost like a forbidden fruit to me. I will NEVER be able to afford one. And out of all them, the Driven To Cure GT-R would be my favorite. How can you not love that car and what it stands for??? I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunities I have to capture car shows for this site and I’m not sure I can answer this question as it has been asked. I can give you a gallery of my favorite cars/trucks if you want 😉
CZ: What is your most memorable photo shoot session and why?
Kevin Cunningham: Man, you’re killing me with these questions. If I had to choose only one it would have to be the weekend I spent at Watkins Glen. I grew up 15 minutes down the road from that track and had never gone until CarShowz got me in to shoot at the age of 30. Going back home is always amazing and to throw vintage race cars and track side access on top of it? It would be EXTREMELY hard to top that. Although, another one comes to mind. In one of the towns I lived in a boxcar had stopped on the tracks in the middle of the hood for like 3 days. My buddy climbed on top of it and spun steel wool while I took a long exposure shot. About 20 seconds after the shutter closed a cop car came driving by asking if I was taking flash photography. I answered that I was not and they informed me that someone reported fireworks in the area. “No officer, I haven’t seen any fireworks.” My buddy started climbing off the boxcar as they drove away. They drove right by him and stared as he hopped off. They kept on going. That one was memorable because for a few minutes I was sure me and my buddy were going to jail and yet, afterwards, it was hilarious!
CZ: What places (to include car events and others) are on your bucket list to visit for photos?
Kevin Cunningham: Pshhhhhhh, do you have three hours to read my whole list?! I’ll list some below but the list keeps growing every day…
- Norway for the Northern Lights and amazing landscape shots
- The Galapagos Islands for the flora and fauna
- The Iditarod/Alaska for the Northern lights and dogsled race
- The Pacific Northwest for the landscape shots
- A legit California car show (I’ve got a taste of the West Coast scene and I want more!!!!)
- SEMA for sure!
- TROG – Mike M’s coverage has given me some serious beach fever!
- The middle of the ocean (I’ve never had the opportunity to shoot underwater and I want to REAL BAD!)
CZ: What tips would you give up and coming Photographers?
- Step outside your comfort zone! I’ve had conversations with a National Geographic photographer and a world famous long exposure film photography just because I reached out. How do you think some little wannabe photographer and car show enthusiast ended up shooting photos for a website like CarShowz? I reached out to Jeff with some photos I had taken of Harley’s electric motorcycle that weren’t good at all and now look where I’m at. Every time I go to a show with my gear and tell people I’m shooting for this site it almost seems like I’m a liar. Like I’m posing as someone I’m not supposed to be. I still can’t believe I’ve been given this opportunity. I cherish it every time. And all it took was me growing a pair for the 5 minutes it took to put an email together. Sure, it’ll cause you anxiety to do it but seriously the worst thing anyone can do is say “no thanks”. Then you move on and try again.
- Don’t ever stop learning. I thought I was hot shit after I got out of the Navy and started taking photography classes because I had been Command Photographer for 2 years. Let me tell you, I didn’t know half as much as I should have. I learned A LOT while I was in school but even if you don’t want to go to school or can’t afford it the internet is a wonderful place with even more free information. Keep trying, keep Googling. You’ll get there.
- Find your style. Try everything until you find something that clicks. Then keep pursuing that until you think you’ve got everything down. Then push it to another level. I love HDR but I found my limit of what I find personally acceptable by pushing it too far. Your style is important and don’t ever let anyone put you down for what you like.
- Try to find the fun in it. I have had some serious adventures because of photography and I would encourage anyone to do the same. Just don’t do anything illegal 😉
CZ: Is there anything additional you would like to add that we did not cover?
Kevin Cunningham: Well, you never asked how I got so awesome or how people can donate money to me so I can buy lots of really expensive camera equipment and become a famous photographer! 😛 Nah, I’m a pretty low-key laid-back guy that loves photography and cars. I live in Tempe, AZ so if anyone out here wants a feature all you have to do is reach out and we’ll get it scheduled!
CZ: Are there any shout-outs you would like to give?
Kevin Cunningham: I HAVE to give a shout-out to Jeff. (Yeah, I actually typed that – Jeff didn’t edit it in after the fact) He accepted me into the CarShowz family and I couldn’t be more grateful. I really do feel like a family member. I’d like to give a shout-out to Mike M. and Mark P. because those guys accepted me in with no question. Their coverage pushes me to get better coverage just to match them and that’s a valuable thing. The year before I even hopped on this CarShowz train, I met Mark in Ocean City. He pulled his Monster Magnum in and I got a shot of it. Then, being the naïve baby tog I was, offered to send him a copy of the photo because I thought it was awesome. And now I get to work with the guy! All three of these dudes are inspirations to me. I’d like to give a shout-out to the people who have supported me over the years. It’s been a lot of people so if you think you’re one of them, just throw your name in there and you’re probably right. I’d also like to give a shout-out to the people like Jason Duhon and Andrew Lee. People who are genuinely good. I’ve met my fair share of ignorant, cocky, arrogant, inconsiderate car people over the years. The genuinely good people are the ones I remember well. Those are the people I want to be around when I go to shows. If you’re a genuinely good person, keep doing your thing! Put those positive vibes out into the world and they’ll come back to you. 🙂
Be sure to check out Kevin’s social media pages and also please don’t hold it against him that he shoots with Nikon. 😉
and you can also check out some of Kevin’s feature coverage galleries here on CarShowz: https://carshowz.com/author/kevinc/