Penguins & Group Photos

A brief insight into a detachment to Mount Pleasant Complex (MPC) in The Falkland Islands.

‘Penguins and group photos’ is an accurate (albeit very brief) description of what you will experience as an RAF Photographer detached to MPC. Penguins; you’ll see them everywhere. Whether it’s ‘the real thing’ at one of their many natural habitats dotted around the islands or in photos on the walls, the paintings on the signs and on every conceivable gift for sale in the shops - there is no escaping them. Similar can be said for group photos. Well, you can’t buy them in the shops, but you’ll certainly see them on the walls… everywhere.

 RAF Search & Rescue crew boarding La Boreal Cruise Ship after a fire broke out. Crown Copyright.

RAF Search & Rescue crew boarding La Boreal Cruise Ship after a fire broke out. Crown Copyright.

    RAF SEARCH & RESCUE CREW BOARDING LA BOREAL CRUISE SHIP AFTER A FIRE BROKE OUT. CROWN COPYRIGHT.

  RAF SEARCH & RESCUE CREW BOARDING LA BOREAL CRUISE SHIP AFTER A FIRE BROKE OUT. CROWN COPYRIGHT.

There is, however, a lot more involved with a four-month tour in this rather remote part of the world.

As the only professional photographer at MPC, the workload is large. There is a lot happening on a daily basis and over a large area. There are four Typhoons, one Voyager, one C130-J, two British International (Brintel) helicopters and currently, but not for long, two SAR Sea Kings. HMS Clyde is docked just down the road at Mare Harbour and there is a Roulement Infantry Company (RIC). Tasks include your ‘regular’ flying station Ground Section work: idents, engineering support, public relations, QRA support and of course, group photos. Alongside ‘core’ tasking, there is the possibility of being requested to photograph or video anything that the hierarchy deem a suitable use of your services. An example of which was a task requested by the Command Secretary on behalf of Falklands Conservation to provide photographs that will be used in the 2015/16 Southern Giant-Petrel census. Although this doesn’t sound like the most exciting of jobs, it involves a lot of low flying around the islands, whilst perched on the edge of the cargo ramp of a Hercules - more exciting than a group photo!

The Photo Section is located next to the tallest building on the island, ‘Timmy’s’ Hangar and is a decent size. It’s currently equipped with two digital workstations, Epson 9880 and 4900 printers along with a Canon 1DX, a Canon 5d Mk III and the normal selection of lenses. The walls display an interesting history of RAF Photographers, past and present, in the form of painted murals (some have clearly put more effort in than others) and photographs.

Away from work, there are plenty of locations to visit around the islands. Bertha’s Beach is a ten-minute drive from MPC and is the nearest location to see penguins. Stanley (the ‘Big Smoke’ of the Falklands) is an hour’s drive from MPC and where you will find supermarkets, cafés and gift shops. There is a ‘proper’ cinema, a bowling alley, a library, a good gym and a couple of bars at MPC to keep you busy if you manage to find any spare time. Currently, there is a camera club that runs on Tuesday evenings and is organised and run by enthusiasts with a varied range of photographic experience. It was a good place to share some of my experience and knowledge and even to judge their monthly competition.

 A Royal Air Force Typhoon pictured during a routine sortie in the Falkland Islands. Crown Copyright.

A Royal Air Force Typhoon pictured during a routine sortie in the Falkland Islands. Crown Copyright.

 The view of South Georgia from the 'Para' door of a C-130J Hercules. Crown Copyright.

The view of South Georgia from the 'Para' door of a C-130J Hercules. Crown Copyright.

 Another view of South Georgia from the 'Para' door of a C-130J Hercules. Crown Copyright.

Another view of South Georgia from the 'Para' door of a C-130J Hercules. Crown Copyright.

As an RAF photographer, I can add this to the list of great opportunities to photograph and discover a part of the world that might otherwise be very hard to get to.

N.