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  • More than Photography: Kevin Young’s Inspirational Road to Recovery

  • Photography often documents journeys; however, few are as inspirational as Kevin Young’s. After overcoming a life-threatening accident in 2011, Kevin re-focused his photography to specialise in architectural and portrait work. Inspired by his love for all things technical, Kevin’s determination to overcome both his physical and creative challenges is what makes his work truly special. It is a reminder that photography is more than just capturing great images or moments. Here, he talks to us about his road to recovery and how photography played a vital part.

    Monument Valley. Nikon D810 + AF-S NIKKOR 24–70mm f/2.8E ED VR f/4| 70mm | 1/200 sec |ISO 400 |© Kevin Young
    Monument Valley. Nikon D810 + AF-S NIKKOR 24–70mm f/2.8E ED VR f/4| 70mm | 1/200 sec |ISO 400 © Kevin Young

    Switching from business major to photography

    Similar to many, Kevin’s passion for photography developed as a child, when he first came across his parent’s camera and started playing around with it. This then lead him to take a dark room photography class at school.

    “Seeing an image develop in the dark room, was one of the coolest things I had experienced. This sparked my interest – enough to the point where I went out to buy my very own SLR camera.”

    Kevin went to collage to major in business, but alongside this, decided to take a two-year art elected photography class where he studied Black and White photography. As he was nearing the end of his two years, sage advice from his photography teacher encouraged a switch from business to a photography major. Kevin transferred to the prestigious Rochester Institute of Technology in the US: this was a pivotal moment that allowed him to channel his life passion into a successful career.

    The moment everything changed

    Everything was moving smoothly for Kevin until the fateful day on the 4th July 2011, where everything took a turn for Kevin. It was on this day when his friends encouraged him to take a break from the multiple projects he had was busy with and join them on a boat trip out to West Ski, a small manmade island in Mission Bay.

    Waist deep in the water, Kevin decided to go for a swim and gently dived forward. In the process, something unexplainable happened – he fractured the C4, C5 and C6 vertebra in his neck. Instantly paralysed from the neck down. Kevin nearly drowned that day, owing his life to a nearby nurse who resuscitated him.

    It took Kevin multiple surgeries and intense rehabilitation to rebuild every human function from talking, using a knife and fork and walking. Remarkably, Kevin re-built each of these functions and 2 months later, walked out of rehab ready to start his life again.

    While recovering from quadriplegia, sleeping was never easy or regular, with cramps constantly waking me up. Living close to the beach, I started going down there at night and shooting long exposures, often between 2-16 minutes.

    “As I would wait for photos to render, I found this time really helped me connect with nature and the world around me. That tranquillity helped my recovery, providing a calm to all the ups and downs of my difficult situation. It was a very important part of the healing process for me.”

    Naturally, the battle didn’t end there though. Kevin woud continue a journey to recovery where photography would play a key role, re-connecting Kevin with the world around him.

    Nikon D810 + AF-S NIKKOR 24–70mm f/2.8E ED VR| 70mm | 1/200 sec | ISO 100 |© Kevin Young

    Bali. Nikon D810 + AF-S NIKKOR 24–70mm f/2.8E ED VR| 70mm | 1/200 sec | ISO 100 © Kevin Young

    Recovery through photography 

    It would take Kevin six years to fully recovery. Throughout this time, Kevin was fully focused on photography and this effort would take him all over the world to capture portraits, landscapes and architecture.

    As a numbers-orientated guy, Kevin enjoys exploring the possibilities his photography kit offers him to nail a shot like tweaking multiple exposure settings or making sure all his lines are squared up for a powerful architectural shot. As many keen photographers would agree, focusing in such a way, offers a calming, almost theraputic, cathartic experience.

    “I can just enjoy and focus more on the creative aspect of an image as I’m constantly thinking about the exposure times, what needs to be increased/decreased and the layout of the image in front of me.”

    Kevin doesn’t like to think in a “project-by-project” mind-set, but says he is particularly proud of his landscape and travel portraits. The joy he feels is how he judges the success of his work.

    West Coast Road Trip captured on the D810 - Kevin Young
    West Coast Road Trip. Nikon D810 + AF-S NIKKOR 24–70mm f/2.8E ED VR| 24mm | 1/40 sec |ISO 400 © Kevin Young

    Take a look at more of Kevin’s work by visiting his website

    A message for future photographers

    Waterfalls. Nikon D810 + AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR| 116mm | 30 sec |ISO 100 |© Kevin Young
    ‘Waterfalls’ Nikon D810 + AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR| 116mm | 30 sec |ISO 100 © Kevin Young

    Kevin’s busy schedule and short-attention span means his work is very much focused on the present, bouncing from project to project and trying not to plan too far ahead. It’s this spontaneous passion that gives Kevin’s photos a superior quality – the feeling that he has stumbled upon a magical scene at the right moment in time to capture it.

    Kevin’s advice for those photographers looking to capture similar photos?

    Start now. Even if you do not have access to the right setting or don’t feel you’re good enough, just start practicing. That means when you are in the right place at the right time, you can avoid the pitfalls and mistakes and capture that all-important shot.”

    As we celebrate Nikon’s 100th anniversary this year, Kevin Young is a photographer who completely embodies what photography is about – an emotional connection between us, the camera, and the landscape around us.

    What in Kevin’s photography kit?

    My favourite pieces of equipment hands down has to be the D810 and the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR. The D810 is an amazing camera for almost any application – the dynamic file range is awesome, and its functions are incredibly customisable. It’s without a doubt the best long-exposure camera out there.

    The AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR is the ideal lens for travelling given how light it is, and the fact it takes incredibly sharp photographs across an entire landscape. I love it.”

    Post-production-wise, Kevin does anything and everything he needs to get the image where he wants it to be. A common technique includes stacking or blending different exposures and focus especially with landscape shots.

    I also do a lot of re-touching or cloning out of those objects I don’t want in the scene. My stance is that I will do whatever I need to in post-production to create the perfect result, from colour correction to localised adjustments.”

    Based in San Diego, California, Kevin Young specialises in architectural, landscape and portrait photography. You can find out more about his journey by visiting his website: