Life at RAF Waddington: A day through the lens

“It’s an easy job, it’s just point and click”, isn’t it? Well, to an untrained member of the public it might be just point and click but they wouldn’t get the standard expected for a Royal visit.

A photographers day starts by booting up several computer systems and ancillary devices followed by a glance at the diary to allocate booked in jobs. We also set up the studio for identity photographs and prepare equipment for the day. One of the great bits about being an RAF Photographer is the diversity of the work, generally I don’t know what the next job is going to be and which of the many trade skills I’ll need; it could be an engineering task where detail and accuracy of scale is paramount or a public relation event that needs creativity and people skills, it certainly keeps us on our toes!

After a busy day in the office we still perform a twenty-four hour duty photographer role of which we are called out regularly and at all hours of the day or night. Call outs can vary for all sorts of different tasks. The RAF Police can call upon us for photographic evidence, sometimes its smashed windows, crime scenes or even a victim or crime, but more often than not it’s of a vehicle that has been damaged. As the Squadrons well know, we are called out regularly. It may be a simple image of chaffed or frayed wires but it can still take some hours to process the images. Let’s say I get called out at 2000hrs, I have to open the photo section and turn on our internal server, tag out a variety of equipment as I wouldn’t know exactly what I was to photograph. Having photographed the subject and returned to the section, an hour or so has passed. I can’t just print the pictures and go home, I have to register the job with its own unique reference number so that reproduction of the images and the tracking of them is made easier. I then have to upload the images onto our internal server and attach individual file information to each image. File information is a type of electronic information that is unique to each individual digital image, containing as much information as possible. It explains who, what, where, when, why and how each image was taken. On a big Public Relations visit, this can take a painfully long time. So now my images are ready to be edited. This is my opportunity to highlight and annotate each image to suit the originators request. Once this has been done the images need distributing and thankfully most people now require the images to be emailed to them for quick distribution. An archive disc must be created as we keep every job for a minimum of two years. All of the consumables and hours taken to complete the task have to be logged onto our task database. Finally I can return all of the equipment, turn off the server, lock up the building and go home. A small technical job at 2000hrs would probably see me home for maybe two or three
hours later.

Though not a typical day the Airshow is definitely our busiest time here at Waddington. We have to integrate with the public and capture them having fun so to help promote the Airshow for the following years. There are so many presentations and separate events going on all weekend, it can be difficult to get around to everything. But with a section of six, we manage it. Often we are tasked to cover a VIP visit. This can be Royalty, Cabinet Ministers who are invariably escorted by a Defence Chief, local MPs’ or very occasionally, Celebrities. Every aspect of a visit is covered for many different purposes. Most visits that we photograph are for Public Relations and so the images are forwarded, via the Media Communications Office, on to the RAF News and the Defence Image Database (DID). The DID is a location from where National and International Newspapers can gain access to military photographs and use them within the guidelines of Crown Copyright.

The equipment we use can be purchased on the high street but without our training and experience we would just be more amateur photographers with professional kit, which is not always the best combination.

After my working day has finished I join a few other service personnel marshalling and directing races at the Station Kart Club.

By Senior Aircraftman Ben Stevenson

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