Q+A - What it's like to be a military photographer.

10 years 7 months ago #293640 by Tamgerine
Every now and then I get a few questions asking what it's like to be a photographer in the military. I'd like to write an overall article covering the aspects of what this sort of job entails, but I want to cover a broad variety of questions and not just what I've been asked in the past.

Which is where you come in! I'll answer any questions you may have, long or short, about the sort of work I do. I'll be as detailed as I can as long as it doesn't cross the lines of operational security and what I'm permitted to say.

Some background: I enlisted in 2008 into the Marine Corps as a 4671, Combat Videographer, which is my primary MOS. I'm currently 7 months into a deployment in Afghanistan, and I deployed with a Marine Expeditionary Unit in 2010 where we worked on ships with the Navy. The majority of my work in a deployed environment is actually photography, and a little bit of reproduction/print and graphics work.

I've done a lot of things: blown stuff up, flown in a lot of helicopters, done a lot of working parties, worked alongside many foreign militaries, got yelled at, yelled at people, slept on the ground, slept in the rain, slept in the same sleeping quarters with 74 other women, spent 16 hours straight in an MRAP, peed twice next to that MRAP in the middle of the desert, peed next to some guy's garden in the middle of the desert, been to a bunch of different countries, and a variety of other things you can probably come up with. I've taken pictures of most of it. Except the pee.

So if you've got any questions about my line of work, have children who are thinking about the military as an option, or just absolutely have to know what it's like to stand in line for ship food for two hours - here's your chance to ask.
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10 years 7 months ago #293644 by Office Guy
Thank you for severing our country :patriot: AND for sharing this. Any photos to share on the topic?


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10 years 7 months ago #293676 by Luca
:patriot: would like to see some action shots


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10 years 7 months ago #293701 by Jim Photo
:patriot: Can't wait to see what you come up with


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10 years 7 months ago #293789 by Tamgerine
24400B

Sure thing! Most of my favorite photos are from my last deployment because I got to do the coolest things.





This one actually got me an honorable mention in the Military Photographer of the Year competition, Pictorial category. Imagine a giant city built just for training - just buildings, no furniture or anything, but it makes explosion noises and has fake .50 calls in a bunch of different places. Take a bunch of military men and split them up - half insurgents, half Marines. It turns into a giant awesome game of pretend for adults and I could go anywhere I wanted and take photos of the whole thing. We slept in this "city" on the ground for about a week I'd say.








Living on ship is cool when you're not actually doing it, the flight deck is not actually as exciting as they make it out to be on TV. Being on the beach is neat, though!






Kaboom! Breaching a building with the combat engineers. I actually got to set a donut charge on the door for one of these runs and clear the building with them. After we blew up one door we go to the other side of the building and they'd fix the door while we were exploding another, then rinse and repeat.






Here is one from this year when a local got hurt by an IED (either stepped on it or blew himself up making it) and our Docs fixed him up and sent him home with his cousin in the back of a truck.






All of our imagery gets released onto a website called DVIDS, and I've just hit 901 photos. I'm hoping to make it to my 1000th released photograph by the time this deployment is over. Needless to say I have a lot of photos. Not all of them are as exciting as these, however.
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10 years 7 months ago - 10 years 7 months ago #293804 by hghlndr6
:thumbsup:
Nice work Tammy!
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10 years 7 months ago #293871 by Rob Conley
Keep them coming! Love this shot:




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10 years 7 months ago #293893 by Tony Imaging
What an exciting job you have. Thank you for serving our great country and posting these photos. Would also like to see more.

Tell us about some challenges you face being in the thick of things with a camera. How much gear do you typically carry with you? Any close calls where you wish you had something that shot bullets?


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10 years 7 months ago #294072 by Vahrenkamp
:judge:


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10 years 7 months ago #294082 by Stealthy Ninja
These are awesome.
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10 years 7 months ago #294139 by MYoung
I have family in military, thank you for your service :patriot:

I too would really enjoy learning more about your photography, and seeing more photos. :)


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10 years 7 months ago #294174 by Tamgerine
I also happen to carry something that shoots bullets with me! Deployed we have our weapons on us at all times and I would never dream of leaving the wire without my rifle.

A typical load consists of my flak jacket (with sapi plates, front, back, two sides), kevlar, first aid kit, ammunition and magazines, drop pouch for empty magazines and snack storage, gloves, goggles, and eye and ear protection. Then there's my rifle, any camera equipment I bring with me (I usually travel with one body and three lenses if I'm feeling particularly motivated), and any food or water I'll need for the day. There's no going back to the base if I need something, so for however long I go out I need to have everything with me.

I think the biggest challenge I face is getting infantry units and grunts to accept me. For one thing I'm a female, for another I'm new and they don't know me, and for another I'm not a grunt. You also have to sometimes fight your way onto flights or to get a spot on an operation - when you've got limited seats on a helicopter are you really going to give one seat to someone with a camera? We're usually the first to get dropped from something because someone higher ranking wants to go. There are a few amazing commanders who really know how to use a Combat Cameraman but there are also those out there who think we're not very important and will kick us off a shoot as fast as we could blink. That's really what you have to fight against. You have to fight to get out there and then you have to fight to be accepted.

I haven't had any close calls, thankfully.
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10 years 7 months ago #294175 by sleeper54
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As others have already said . . .thank you for your service.

.

Tamgerine wrote: --snip--

There are a few amazing commanders who really know how to use a Combat Cameraman but

--snip--

.
This thought points at my question.

What is the main purpose of the photos you take and photo opportunities you get..?? Training, documentation, news (military or civilian), posterity., or...??

Also . . .I assume the guv'ment 'owns' the photos/video you shoot..?? Or maybe not..??


Stay safe . . .from friend and foe..!!


...tom...


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10 years 7 months ago #294487 by Tamgerine

sleeper54 wrote: .
As others have already said . . .thank you for your service.

.

Tamgerine wrote: --snip--

There are a few amazing commanders who really know how to use a Combat Cameraman but

--snip--

.
This thought points at my question.

What is the main purpose of the photos you take and photo opportunities you get..?? Training, documentation, news (military or civilian), posterity., or...??

Also . . .I assume the guv'ment 'owns' the photos/video you shoot..?? Or maybe not..??


Stay safe . . .from friend and foe..!!


...tom...


Our MOS deals with considerable more amounts of work and responsibilities than just photographs of combat. We also provide administrative photography such as promotion photos, command board portraits, passport photos, and document military ceremonies like change of commands or transfers of authority. In addition to that we do battle damage assessments, incident assessments, and handle sensitive imagery. We also have reproduction specialists (4612) who deal with printing. We print things like flight manuals, publications, posters, any graphic designs needed, ceremony programs, and pretty much anything that needs printed.

Combat Camera shops support entire bases in the rear and any sort of administrative work, training, or historical documentation they need.

When you consider the entire MOS, combat photography is actually just a very small portion of what we do. Nowadays a deployed unit may only have two or three Combat Camera personnel assigned to them, and when you factor that into a MOS of hundreds of Marines only those few who are deployed are even going to get a chance to see combat.

What the bulk of our word ends up being really depends on the kind of unit you're assigned to. An Air Wing will have very different needs than an infantry battalion or a headquarters unit.

The only thing we don't deal with as an MOS is news because that is Public Affairs and is a separate field. They do all the writing/media/broadcast stuff. That's not to say our stuff doesn't end up on the news but we don't shoot specifically for news or write stories.

And yes, the government owns every photo I have ever taken in the line of duty. They're all public domain and I hold no copyright over them unfortunately.
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10 years 7 months ago #294509 by NickSano

Tamgerine wrote:

sleeper54 wrote: .
As others have already said . . .thank you for your service.

.

Tamgerine wrote: --snip--

There are a few amazing commanders who really know how to use a Combat Cameraman but

--snip--

.
This thought points at my question.

What is the main purpose of the photos you take and photo opportunities you get..?? Training, documentation, news (military or civilian), posterity., or...??

Also . . .I assume the guv'ment 'owns' the photos/video you shoot..?? Or maybe not..??


Stay safe . . .from friend and foe..!!


...tom...


Our MOS deals with considerable more amounts of work and responsibilities than just photographs of combat. We also provide administrative photography such as promotion photos, command board portraits, passport photos, and document military ceremonies like change of commands or transfers of authority. In addition to that we do battle damage assessments, incident assessments, and handle sensitive imagery. We also have reproduction specialists (4612) who deal with printing. We print things like flight manuals, publications, posters, any graphic designs needed, ceremony programs, and pretty much anything that needs printed.

Combat Camera shops support entire bases in the rear and any sort of administrative work, training, or historical documentation they need.

When you consider the entire MOS, combat photography is actually just a very small portion of what we do. Nowadays a deployed unit may only have two or three Combat Camera personnel assigned to them, and when you factor that into a MOS of hundreds of Marines only those few who are deployed are even going to get a chance to see combat.

What the bulk of our word ends up being really depends on the kind of unit you're assigned to. An Air Wing will have very different needs than an infantry battalion or a headquarters unit.

The only thing we don't deal with as an MOS is news because that is Public Affairs and is a separate field. They do all the writing/media/broadcast stuff. That's not to say our stuff doesn't end up on the news but we don't shoot specifically for news or write stories.

And yes, the government owns every photo I have ever taken in the line of duty. They're all public domain and I hold no copyright over them unfortunately.




:patriot: :patriot: :patriot: :patriot: :patriot: :patriot:


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