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Bagpipes and Dancing Girls!

You can also see this blog published on the British Army Blog site here.

‘Cut and thrust of news media’

Where do I start! I’ve just sat down to write this next blog and realised how much we’ve been doing! So here’s the highlights from the last month…

First of all what have we got released, well Jay, Cpl Jamie Peters has had lots of his images used in various forms of print across the media.  On the video front some highlights for me were remembrance and St Andrews day, these 2 jobs were both with the Scots Guards who are based out at FOB Ouellette. For these jobs I had to film edit and send the footage back to the media all in the same day, which is really what the CCT is made for and on both occasions STV (Scottish TV) ran with the stories.  Which you can view here:

Link to Remembrance STV story:  http://news.stv.tv/scotland/199912-first-minister-tribute-to-immense-sacrifice-on-remembrance-sunday/

 

 

Link St Andrews STV Story  http://local.stv.tv/glasgow/magazine/203576-battalion-scots-guards-celebrate-st-andrews-day-in-helmand/

 

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

 

The main challenges with this sort of job are, time appreciation and technology. Both these events were planned in true military fashion down to the minute. The situation really did remind me of wedding photography, the couple have their big day planned to the minute and they’ve planned in some 5 minute slots for photographs. You then have to deliver a slice of reality to them and the time table is started again actually giving you a chance to cover the day successfully. If only the military was that easy but as some one of a more senior rank than me has planned the days activity’s I don’t have a cat in hells chance so the only thing that is getting changed is my plan of attack. Inevitably there will be some things I can’t film as I’m somewhere filming something else or we’ve got the next  5 mins sprung on us to do an interview with the commanding officer, which also means I’m going to miss another key part of the day. I’ve found that I have to keep a mental note of what I have filmed and what’s left to shoot, if I imagine the news story in my head using the footage I have I will either be happy or start panicking! in reality news stations don’t need clips of “everything” as they only have 20-30 seconds to fill with the story any way, I just need to make sure what I do film is strong and tells the story, No pressure! The Technology side of this is the BGAN satellite link we use to send the Rushes (video footage) back to the news and this dictates the other time issue, It will take me about an hour to take all the footage off the camera and cut it down to rushes, then we have to allow at least another hour to upload and if we’re aiming to get this on the evening news we really need to get it over to the news stations by 13.00 – 14.00 which is 17.30 Afghan time… So I need to stop shooting at around 15.00 and if they’ve got anything really interesting planned after that time I have to be really strict and not film it as we’d rather get what we have on the news than none at all because it went over to late. Both pieces were used by Scottish TV, which is great for us but more importantly it’s great for the guys we’ve filmed and their friends and family back home.

It was my birthday last month! Another year older!! But luckily it seems the might of the British Armed Forces came through an organised a CSE show for my birthday, although it seems they invited the rest of Camp Bastion as well! Combined Services Entertainment are part of the same organisation as BFBS and they travel the world as well as the UK and provide much needed entertainment to troops serving away from home. Normally in a period of 2 months they will visit Afghanistan twice hopefully giving a large portion of the troops out here a chance to relax for the evening and enjoy the show. You can see a video I put together of the night here:

 

 

Photo: Cpl Mike Oneill (Crown copyright 2012)

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

 

We’ve also spent some time putting together a video message from Afghanistan to be played at the British Military Tournament  this month, so that’s quite exciting as it’s a high profile event, so keep your eyes out for that!

Also a continuation from my last post, the bridge build by 21 Engineers the footage I shot got used on BFBS you can see the story here: http://bfbs.com/news/afghanistan/new-afghan-bridge-stand-test-time-61976.html

I’ll leave it at that I could keep going but fear you may fall asleep! One final thought, we’re in the desert and its Freezing!!!!

 

Don’t forget you can follow us on Twitter: @CombatCameraH17

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Bridge building and the Gurkha festival Dashain!

This blog post is also published on the British Army blog

 

Building bridges in Afghanistan

Well we’ve been here six weeks now. And we’ve been busy bees.. In the six weeks we’ve been here we’ve been back and forth from Lashkar Gah and as a team we’ve been out to Patrol Base 2, PB4, PB5, Shawqat, PB Clifton and Main Operating Base Price to name a few.

The great thing about being on the Combat Camera Team and in the job as an Army Photographer as my Regular counterparts are, is you get to see what every unit in the Army does, normally if you’re an Infantry soldier, a medic, an engineer or any other unit in the Army you only really see what your unit does as that’s your job, you’ll see the periphery of other units but in our roll we embed with a unit and really see what goes on.

We went out to PB Clifton to see 21 Engineers as they were building a non-equipment bridge, this kind of bridge build is great for Afghanistan as the bridge itself is made from local materials and built in a way that the locals can repair and maintain the bridge easily long after ISAF forces have left Afghanistan.

Here’s a collection of images taken by Cpl Jamie Peters, Jamie is the photographer in our three-man CCT team.

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)#

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

 

Gurkha celebrations

Straight after the PB Clifton job we were bounced out to PB2, as the Gurkha’s from 1st Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles were about to start celebrating Dashain and sacrifice some watermelons. The Dashain Festival, as celebrations in Nepal go is the equivalent of our Christmas, so it’s a big deal and a special time for family and friends. As we will see in a couple of months time with random Santa outfits, decorated patrol bases, millions of sprouts and tonnes of Turkey. It’s important to the troops to make this time as normal and happy as possible. And the Gurkhas didn’t let us down, they really did have a fantastic couple of days. Back home in Nepal and the UK, Dashain is celebrated for 14 days. But for obvious reasons they have to shrink it down here in Helmand and they settled for four days. We were only there for one day but that was the day involving Curry and entertainment so we did well. We also foot patrolled out to one of the smaller check points to visit the guys out there to see how their celebrations were going too.

Here’s a video I produced of the day, so you can get a feel for what it was all about

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

Photo: Cpl Jamie Peters (Crown copyright 2012)

Here’s a photo of me taken by the boss Captain Booth and as you can see 6 weeks in and he’s still chopping my feet off!

Back in Bastion, we still have to carry out jobs that are equally as exciting like filming and photographing ISO containers! That’s a challenge in itself, make ISO containers exciting!

 

I think I’ve gone on enough now but I’ll be sure to update you again soon!

Don’t forget if you’re on Twitter you can follow our progress on a more regular basis via our Twitter feed @CombatCameraH17

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The Afghanistan journey begins…

 

‘Children: The sounds of progress’

“I was sat at Lashkar Gah waiting for a helicopter, it was about 10am and the sun was out, it felt like a nice summer morning you get in the UK (sometimes!), the camp at Lash  is surrounded by high walls and on the other side of those walls is the hustle bustle of life, people living in the provincial capital going about their daily business, these are sounds you get used too but then came the sound of children, lots of them laughing, screaming and playing, the noises that are all too familiar with a playground during break time in any country around the world but not here. It’s a sound I’ve never heard here before, during my last tour 3 years ago we were involved in projects building schools in this area but we never got to see the schools full let alone hear all the kids playing and laughing outside.. For me the sounds I heard washing over the walls brought on a moment of contemplation.. it was the sound of progress..”

First of all here’s a quick video, this was from the Brigade’s final training exercise before we deployed. This was filmed and edited by me:

We’ve arrived! It was a long journey, it took about 18 hours in total so we grabbed sleep where we could! We’ve been here for just over 3 weeks now, after an overlap of about a week with the outgoing CCT (Combat Camera Team) we’re finally in the driving seat.

 

Catching some sleep in between transport…

The Herrick 16 team handing over to us the Herrick 17 team with layers of cheese!

Train the trainer

Our second week was spent at Lashkar Gah where the brigade HQ is located and the other half of the AMOC (Afghanistan Media Operations Cell) team. We were tasked to cover a story with the PMAG (Police Mentoring Advisory Group). They were handing over and officially opening up a new wing at the police training school, which has been built and developed by PMAG. The wing was being taken over by Afghan trainers who had only recently attended a ‘train the trainer’s course’. The new class being enrolled was the first co-ed mixed male and female class to be held, so this was a great mile stone in the history of Afghan Police Force training and a real sign of change.

Here are a couple of images, these were taken by our boss, Captain Booth.  Being an officer he may be mighty with the pen but he’s not professionally trained in photography. I’ve left out the all the shots with feet cut off and there were a few! Hopefully by the end of the tour, between Jamie and I, we will have brought an end to his feet chopping!

Dougal picked up great audio

As part of this story we interviewed one of the Afghan female police officers, now this gave me something to think about as we had to use an interpreter as well, so the format of the interview needed to change. I needed to get an end result where the female was framed like a normal interviewee and looking in the right direction with good audio. We had a dougal mic (a big mic that looks like a wee scotty dog with a pole stuck up its..) and I also had radio mics (small and clip on your shirt collar), my preferred method is to radio mic the person we’re interviewing but as there are real sensitivities around females in Afghanistan, I don’t think getting her to start stuffing wires up her top with me guiding them through would be appropriate. So we went with the dougal and positioned the boss and the interpreter where the female we were interviewing wouldn’t be bobbing her head from one place to the next when they were asking questions and interpreting. The interview went really well! We got some great quotes and she was funny. Once I got back to start the edit, I found as we had been focused on the interviewee the dougal picked up great audio from her but we could hardly hear the interpreter and we needed the audio from them … So lesson learnt, next time I’ll set the interview up exactly the same but I’ll put the radio mic on the interpreter and dougal on the interviewee so we get both sets of audio and on different channels. The output from this job, is a set of rushes that we make available to the media, rushes are an un-edited collection of clips and interviews put together with a press release, this gives a news team all the parts they need to run their own story during a news broadcast.

My footage from this job was picked up by BFBS and used in a story they broadcast, you can view the piece here: http://www.bfbs.com/news/afghanistan/women-see-role-grow-afghan-police-61270.html all the footage after the MOD indicater half way through was shot by me.

More technical and mentally demanding

Once we got to Lash, the jobs started sprouting out of nowhere.  In the first two days we ended up with five jobs and I’m not moaning as a like to be busy. To give you an idea, these were our tasks for that week:  The police training story, Kings Royal Hussars coming home story for their local news, Brigadier’s end of tour piece to camera, collecting stock footage of Lash, collecting video messages for a charity event ‘Ride to the Wall’. Fingers crossed, this is a sign of things to come as I want to get as much material out of my tour as possible and really develop my video skills and to do that we need lots of work!

Although when I say we were busy, the one thing that has hit me is the difference in activity. All my previous tours have been with a formed infantry company with 100 other blokes. You normally hit the ground running and life is pretty hectic, long hours and hard work of a totally different type, whether it’s standing in a guard tower for hours on end, driving vehicles on long patrols or humping kit on foot patrols. Every day you’re rolling from one job to the next without much of a break, if any, in between. So far, what I’ve seen from this job, which to be fair isn’t much yet, it’s more like my civilian job where the work-load is more technical and mentally demanding with long hours in front of a computer. Yes we’ll be getting out on the ground for weeks in a row so I’ll get my boots muddy, but we’ll always be heading back into Bastion too get the footage edited and sent off to where ever it needs to be. It has felt a bit weird sometimes, I keep feeling like I should be leaping onto a vehicle and heading out on a 12 hour patrol or getting stuck in a sanger for a couple of days instead of being sat in an office. Although we are now on a sanger rotation at Bastion, so I can treat myself to a bit of guard! Another lesson learnt, be careful what you wish for!

Another similarity with my civilian job is that a large part of this job is finding and developing relationships. For BT as an account manager I have to find the right person within a government organisation at a high and low level to talk to and then develop that relationship, leading to new business for BT etc. With the CCT we have to find all the right people to talk to within all the units out here and develop those relationships, which will then lead to stories. And it’s much the same with the media. We want to get the stories out so we have to find the right people to talk to and more or less sell them the story. Another great way of finding stories is just talking to random people and its surprising what you can dig up!

Here’s one last video, these were the video messages we recorded to be played at the Ride To The Wall event at the national arboretum, a great event raising money for the up keep of the memorial. http://www.ridetothewall.org.uk/ 

 

Well it looks like we’ll be getting out on the ground shortly so I’ll make sure I have some good footage to share on my next update…

 

You can also view this blog via the British Army official blog site: http://britisharmy.wordpress.com/2012/10/22/a-new-combat-camera-team-arrives-in-afghanistan/

And you can now follow me and the CCT on Twitter via @CombatCameraH17

 

 

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