RAF Photography Competition 2019

Judging The RAF Photographers’ Best Images

It’s been an absolute honour and a positively stress filled joy, to have been one of the three judges in the RAF‘s annual competition.

Image of The Year; WINNER: Concorde – The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows perform Concorde over the deep blue sea of Greece. On the 21st May, Red 10 and Circus 10 photo chased a full display at the Hotel Datum in glorious afternoon sunshine, whilst deployed on Ex SPRINGHAWK 19 in Greece where they refine the display ready for the Public Display Authority (PDA). Photo: Cpl Ash Keates – RAFAT

The Royal Airforce has trained some phenomenal photojournalists and I would say the top of that list would be Don McCullin, who signed up to National Service in the RAF as a photographic assistant. To be invited back for the second year to judge the work of McCullin’s contemporaries is indeed a special treat.

One certain way of knowing how high the level of photography is in any competition is by looking at how much discussion, heated debate and heart breaking compromise occurs between judges.

Photographer of the Year; WINNER & Image of The Year; HIGHLY COMMENDED: Stargazer – A CH-47 Chinook helicopter rests at night during a training mission in the Arizona desert. The Chinook was being used at a FARP (Forward Arming Refuelling Point) to refuel USMC helicopters whilst deployed at the Marine Corps Air Base, in Yuma, Arizona, USA to take part in the twice yearly training and development programme known as WTI (Weapons and Tactics Instructor). Photo: Cpl Tim Laurence – ACSSU, RAF Halton

Well, I can say that this year, even more so than last year, the debates were passionate. Its also worth noting that Highly Commended places were optionally awarded by the judges, purely because the level of the work was so high and the competition was so close.

Image of The Year; HIGHLY COMMENDED: Split break – Two new XXV(F) Squadron take flight over North Wales. A flight that saw Hawks from both IV(R) Squadron and XXV(F) Squadron, following the Squadrons has split to form 2 squadrons, to meet demands in the UK Military Flying Training System (UK MFTS) and the increase in demand for fast jet pilots. Photo: SAC Chris Thompson-Watts – Photo ACSSU

Judging of the 13 different categories of the RAF Photographer Of The Year Competition 2019 took place at the RAF Museum, in London. Jim Hedge (Picture Editor at the Guardian), Martin Keene (Press Association Group Picture Editor) and myself spent a day looking through hundreds and hundreds of prints. For the video category, we had access to view the entries beforehand and then spent around an hour together viewing our favourites and discussing the merits of our chosen favourites.

Image of The Year; HIGHLY COMMENDED: Goose – The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team; The Red Arrows, deployed on Ex SPRINGHAWK 19, perform Goose on a still morning whilst fisherman watch on from their boat at Chalkoutsi, Greece. Photo: Cpl Ash Keates – RAFAT

The Image Of The Year (Category L) was a great illustration of the skill of the RAF’s photographers. The winning image by Cpl Ash Keates, titled Concorde, grabbed my attention the second I saw it after entering the judging hall and it stayed with me. I later found it had had the same effect on one of my fellow judges too. A strong sense of composition, colour, technical perfection married to the subtlety of capturing the shadows left by the Red Arrows on the water, raised it from a great picture to a winning photograph.

The four images I’ve shared here show an absolute mastery of craft; bringing not only fast reflexes, but an art of composition, a deep aesthetic sensibility and layers of subtlety. Our task was to choose just one winner, but the work was so good that we decided to also award six Highly Commended places too.

Photographer of the Year; WINNER: Centurions of The Night – A pair of RAF Typhoons wait to taxi out and depart from RAF Akrotiri on an Op SHADER night mission. RAF Typhoons are now upgraded and equipped with a new ‘Centurion’ weapon configuration that now includes Brimstone missiles. Photo: Cpl Tim Laurence – ACSSU, RAF Halton

The Photographer of the Year (Category K) was won by a superb portfolio of six images by Cpl Tim Laurence (ACSSU, RAF Halton). Another showcase of mastery of craft, with a varied set of images which worked extremely well together, yet each in their own right shone. Another extremely difficult category to judge with much debate and discussion as the level of work was so high. Cpl Laurence also had his phenomenal photograph titled Stargazer (of a Chinook at night) highly commended in the Image Of The Year category.

Photographer of the Year; WINNER: Centurion Sundown Ð A RAF Eurofighter Typhoon rests on the pan at RAF Akrotiri Airfield, Cyprus at sunset. Deployed to RAF Akrotiri as part of 903EAW the jets deploy daily in support of Coalition troops on the ground in the Middle East offering valuable target acquisition and fast air support with deadly precision in the fight against Daesh. Photo: Cpl Tim Laurence – ACSSU, RAF Halton
Photographer of the Year; WINNER: Heavy Metal – This image shows a Weapon Systems Operator (WSOP) from 27 Squadron, RAF Odiham, looking out of the front crewmanÕs door of his CH-47 Chinook as the setting sun disappears at MCAS Yuma, Arizona and marks the beginning of a night time training sortie. Photo: Cpl Tim Laurence – ACSSU, RAF Halton

First place in the Video (Category D) section goes to SAC Ed Wright (Photo ACSSU) for Fortune Favours the Bold. Finland will be the host nation of Bold Quest 19.1 held in April-May 2019. Bold Quest 19.1 is a multinational joint fires interoperability demonstration and assessment event sponsored and facilitated by the United States Joint Staff.

The People’s Choice-Vote Now!

During the judging process, these nine images made it to our People’s Choice board. Have a look at the stunning photographs and make your vote (It’s a quick, one click vote).

Behind The Scenes

It really is a joy talking about great images, championing favourites and being treated to so many great images. Many congratulations on all the winners, all who were highly commended and my best wishes to all who entered their fantastic work. I’ve only shared some of the winners here, but do pop by the RAF Photographers’ Instagram to see more work. You can also find them on Facebook.

Judging the 13 different categories of the RAF Photographer Of The Year Competition 2019. (L-R) Jim Hedge (Picture Editor at the Guardian), Edmond Terakopian (photojournalist) and Martin Keene (Press Association Group Picture Editor). RAF Museum, Hendon, London, UK. August 20, 2019. Photo: SAC AMY LUPTON / RAF
Judging the 13 different categories of the RAF Photographer Of The Year Competition 2019. Edmond Terakopian (photojournalist) looks through some of the entries. RAF Museum, Hendon, London, UK. August 20, 2019. Photo: SAC AMY LUPTON / RAF

Here’s a video prepared by the RAF, part of which is a behind the scenes look to the work done by their photographers and also gives a glimpse of the judges at work.

2 responses to “RAF Photography Competition 2019

  1. Its Jim Hedge, Ed, HEDGE!

    But you are quite right, it was an enormously hard job to judge. The sheer volume of wonderful images was quite overwhelming. But one of the joys of the experience is the opportunity to discuss one’s thoughts with other professionals, and to see the pics through someone else’s eyes. A fascinating day.

    • Hi Jim. Many apologies for the surname! That’ll teach me to write late at night!! Now corrected. A joy to see you and great to look through the images together. Keep well sir 🙂

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