In the midst of the fight

Herrick 18 Stories

Capt Mau Gris. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Capt Mau Gris. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Captain Mau Gris is team leader for the British Army’s Combat Camera Team (CCT) based in Afghanistan throughout the summer 2013 as part of 1 Mechanized Brigade. Op Herrick 18′s CCT also includes Sergeant Barry Lloyd – video cameraman – and Sergeant Barry Pope – photographer.

This trip was the reason we exist, though at the time we didn’t know it. Going in alongside fighting troops to capture their experiences and help out if required.

‘If you don’t get it, you might as well not be there’

It was only meant to be an hour and a half on the cordon for a search operation. The team and I had been put with 3 troop of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF) along with Matt Cook, a war artist covering the search for bomb making equipment.

I didn’t really think much was going to happen. They aren’t going to put a war artist in the thick of it; even though Matt Cook, who has illustrated for The Times, is a hugely experienced war artist. We would be stuck in one place, the boys would cover it in five minutes; then there’d be an hour of sitting around.

If there is anything that two previous tours has taught me; it’s always those little trips that prove the most interesting.  We inserted as we had with the Brigade Operations Company before, with the ground assault force. I knew what was coming (read about that here…) – a ride in my favourite vehicle, the Warthog.

The insertion was as expected, hot, cramped and dusty. Without going into to much detail, the place we were had a bad reputation, everyone was a little on edge and keen to get into some cover.

We moved off into the green zone. I could see we were going to get some great material from here. It was that classic Helmand landscape, lush green in places, working out to desert through various shades of brown and beige. Photogenic but dangerous, as hiding amongst it is easy to do.

4 Troop of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force.

4 Troop of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force.

Lloydie and his Holiness were moving up and down the line of troops as they moved out to get those ‘patrolling shots’ that have graced fronts covers and illustrated reports for 10 years. I had one eye on them; and one eye on the 3D handycam that I was attempting and failing to master.

We gained access to a compound with the guys fanning out to cover the surrounding area. Using ladders guys clambered up to the roofs to increase their line of sight. I suggested to Matt, did he want to get up to get some pictures? He takes pictures on the ground to work from later. He said, ‘yup,’ and clambered up.

I then moved the ladder to a nearby compound climbing up myself. The moment I reached the top of the ladder, three bullets cracked overhead in rapid succession. Accurate, controlled and close. I dropped down. Immediately regretting telling Matt to get up then taking away his only method of getting down. The lads started returning fire, adding to the noise. The guys were shouting;

‘Get cookie off the roof. Get him down.. Now!’

‘Who’s Cookie?!

‘The fudging war artist, you know, THE CIVVY.’

‘Oh, fudge’ (or words to that effect.)

Same risk

Matt hadn’t been with the guys that long so the nickname threw everyone. I was already moving the ladder. Matt climbed down smiling like a Cheshire cat. Adrenaline has that effect on some people.

To report the incident, we needed more than just the audio of guys firing, so I told the two Baz(s) to get up there and gather the material. It was at this point that I paused. Previously, when I have ordered soldiers to put themselves in at risk; in situations like this one, the reasoning is clear. It would give us an advantage on the battlefield. Now the risk verses reward was not as clear cut.

In the end it came down to the basic reason for our existence as a combat camera team; as it is in our mission statement: “The Combat Camera Team provides broadcast standard news footage, audio content, photographic images and copy on stories involving the British Army which, for reasons of national or foreign security, operational necessity or general sensitivity, would not ordinarily be available to the public media.”

Capturing the action.

Capturing the action on film.

We take the same risk to show people what our fellow soldier goes through. We were in danger anyway and if you don’t get it, you might as well not be there in the first place. Lloydie and His Holiness were straight up there.

The contact tailed off quickly, and we had to move to a new compound. Before moving, I tried capturing the reality of what a fire fight sounds like for the soldiers, whilst it was fresh in their minds and because I had recorded the actual fire fight I would be speaking to them about. So I made a quick recording with one of the guys before we moved out.

Troops of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force.

Troops of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force.

Troops of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force.

Troops of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force.

Troops of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force.

Troops of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force.

You can listen to that here: Crack,Thump. It’s only a minute or so long but the feeling is there, and we were preoccupied at the time. We moved off to get a better view of the area and ended up on the border where green zone meets desert, in a raised compound. Lloydie hopped up to the best vantage point and me and his Holiness hung around Matt Cook as he sketched.

Matt Cook takes notes.

Matt Cook takes notes.

Matt Cook takes photos of the soldiers to draw from later.

Matt Cook takes photos of the soldiers to draw from later.

As the firing had died down the guys went back to the original tasking of compound searching for any enemy weapons stashes. It wasn’t long before it picked up again.

A hollow sound, like something being spat out of a tube; followed the shout of ‘incoming..,’ The troops dived for any available cover. A pregnant pause preceded the dull impact and explosion of a grenade launched from a UGL (underslung grenade launcher).

With the same accuracy of the initial engagement, the grenade had landed 30 metres behind me and between the Baz(s). A bullet landing on the domed roof two metres in front of Lloydie meant it was probably time to move.

Before we got the chance, another shout of ‘incoming.’ This grenade landed within 15 metres of his Holiness. Lloydie hopped off the roof and joined Baz Pope and me beside a wall which offered us cover. As the BRF suppressed the enemy, with their own grenade launchers, the fire eased up.

At that point, I poked my head above the wall. A ‘crack’ followed by that small puff of dust on a compound wall not far from my head made be duck back down. It felt personal.

Duck!

Duck!

Contact with the enemy.

Contact with the enemy.

The combat camera team with war artist Matt Cook.

The combat camera team with war artist Matt Cook.

As I was the only one exposed, he could only have been shooting at me. This has happened before, but it is rare and I always come away feeling the same. Despite my chosen profession; it still strikes me as strange from an objective point of view that someone would try to kill me or I them, despite no personal grievance between us.

It is an obvious thing to say, and naive too, I am sure some would also say. It’s not something that I dwell on or particularly think about other than when I am in the situation or immediately afterwards. Or when I am blogging…

After that, we were joined by the guys who would be taking our place. These guys had landed with the main body on the helicopter assault force and had experienced more fighting than we had that day, but not without reward.

Some significant finds had been made. Enemy machine guns, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and bomb making equipment had all been uncovered. For us though after only an hour and a half, the operation was over.

We returned to Patrol Base Lashkar Gah Durai, not minding the Warthog ride as much as usual; anticipating the material we had gathered and the stories we could tell. The guys from the BRF were interested in what we had gathered as well. There’s a certain pride in seeing the interest and the reaction of the guys to the footage the team had produced.

There was one downside. We hadn’t seen the stuff being found, so we couldn’t tell that story as well as we should be able to. Secondhand recollections and helmet cam footage – poor material for us to build the story with. The curse of TV or photographic reporting – ‘If you didn’t get it and you can’t show it, you might as well have not been there’.

If you want to see the photos we get or those recordings I make; follow me on Twitter or Soundcloud.

Speak to you soon.

Read Mau’s other blogs here: Capt Mau Gris

Follow Mau on Twitter: @mau_gris

The edge of the fight

Herrick 18 Stories

Capt Mau Gris. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Capt Mau Gris. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Captain Mau Gris is team leader for the British Army’s Combat Camera Team (CCT) based in Afghanistan throughout the summer 2013 as part of 1 Mechanized Brigade. Op Herrick 18′s CCT also includes Sergeant Barry Lloyd – video cameraman – and Sergeant Barry Pope – photographer.

Fight the ‘deep battle’

For those of you who haven’t seen a Warthog vehicle, they are made up of two boxes of armour on some rubber tracks. Incredible vehicles really, it’s just like someone over six-foot trying to actually fit in one comfortably – impossible.

If by some miracle you do manage to fit, don’t fall asleep. Unfortunately soldiers are programmed from basic training, to sleep anywhere. Particularly if they are about to be up for a long time and for some reason, particularly if you are on transport. So I fell asleep. Bad mistake.

All credit to the Royal Tank Regiment, I slept soundly for the whole journey, although I woke up with my head stuck at 90 degrees for the first 30 mins of the operation; and my neck in pain for rest of the Irish Guards operation (op) on the border of the green zone. This was an op to clear an area in the east of Helmand of enemy weapons stashes.

The Irish Guards are the Brigade Operations Company for this tour. The BOC as they are called, are there to fight the ‘deep battle.’ By this I mean their sole purpose is to target the enemy where he least suspects it and take his ‘lethal aid,’ the stuff he uses to attack us; bomb-making kit, ammunition, weapons.

Soldiers from the 1st battalion the Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

The BOC prepares for Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Soldiers from the 1st battalion the Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Soldiers from 1 Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Soldiers from the 1st battalion the Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Soldiers from 1 Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Soldiers from the 1st battalion the Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Soldiers from 1 Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Brush with the enemy

Before heading out on their task, they dropped us off at a compound with the tactical headquarters to watch the sweep start before we joined it. All was well initially, the guys got off to a good start clearing compounds as we watched them from afar.

Then the first rounds were exchanged. The enemy had reorganized and were fighting back after seeing what the troops were doing. It’s a strange thing; immediately looking to get somewhere more exposed when the shooting starts; but as a team we have to get the footage or stills of the action as it happens, to get the story.

As it was, the action was just out of sight and focused on the troops who had landed with the Helicopter assault force and it was cut short by the Apaches arriving overhead. I had a strange mix of emotions. From a professional perspective I was a tad frustrated on missing what could have been an interesting story, mixed with relief for the guys that it was over. Though we still had the rest of the day for excitement.

Following the BOC’s initial brush with the enemy, we moved out of the command compound and on to the ground with another set of guys. Just in time to see them uncover a hidden enemy weapons stash; which had home made explosives.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal

Explosive Ordnance Disposal team at work searching for IEDs. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Ordnance Disposal team at work. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Ordnance Disposal team at work. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Explosive Ordnance Disposal

Explosive Ordnance Disposal team at work. Sgt Barry Pope (RLC) phot

Enemy stockpiles

This gave us a great chance to see the Explosive and Ordnance Disposal (EOD) guys at work. I suspect there is nothing they like better than blowing stuff up. Following a suitably large bang, we continued on with the search.

Throughout the day there would be sporadic shooting as the enemy sought to harass and distract the Irish from their task but the focus of the troops meant that once the day was over five enemy stockpiles had been discovered.

For the combat camera team, we had had a productive time with the BOC. It was a chance to test our working methods amongst the some of the best troops around and, strangely, I found myself coming away frustrated at not getting more of the action, but pleased that we had been give the chance to test ourselves in a near fight before we were actually in the line of fire.

Soldiers from the 1st battalion the Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Soldiers from the 1st battalion the Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Soldiers from the 1st battalion the Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Soldiers from the 1st battalion the Irish guards on Op DAAS NAIZAH. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Capt Mau Gris recharges his batteries before the operation. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

Capt Mau Gris recharges his batteries before the operation. By Sgt Barry Pope RLC (phot)

See you next time guys.

Read Mau’s other blogs here: Capt Mau Gris

Follow Mau on Twitter: @mau_gris

War dances and the nomadic life

Herrick 18 Stories

Capt Mau Gris. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Capt Mau Gris. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Captain Mau Gris is team leader for the British Army’s Combat Camera Team (CCT) based in Afghanistan throughout the summer 2013 as part of 1 Mechanized Brigade. Op Herrick 18′s CCT also includes Sergeant Barry Lloyd – video cameraman – and Sergeant Barry Pope – photographer.

Tongan tribal dance

Hi, it’s been awhile since I last wrote because we have been out and about Helmand; living out of our Bergens. Lots of very random, interesting stuff has cropped up and the lads (His Holiness and Lloydie) and I have covered them all.

Now if you had told me during pre-deployment training that within 2 weeks of being in Afghanistan I would be flying out of Helmand to a completely different province, I would probably have snorted and said something along the lines of, ‘yeah right, whatever.’

Well, that happened. Now imagine if you’d told me I would be filming a Maori war dance. Sure enough, I found myself in a small tent confronted with 60 Tongan soldiers who were going to show me how it was well and truly done.

These quiet but impressive soldiers had quietly completed their tour of duty guarding one of the main entrances to Camp Bastion, they were going to perform ‘the Sipi Tau’. Which is a traditional Tongan tribal dance done by ‘the old guard’ to test whether ‘the new guard’ is ready and up to the task.’

It was incredible, the noise and passion displayed was truly impressive. From prior painful experience we knew as a team, that the noise levels would be blown out unless we adjusted the ‘gain’ on the mics and strategically positioned them so they weren’t to close.

Annoyingly for Lloydie every rendition of the Sipi Tau was done slightly differently, so none of the video could really be cut together but the sound of it is impressive enough.

For a listen click here.

After blowing the audience away with the Sipi Tau, the deeply religious Tongans broke out into a Hymn, which was both the opposite in spirit to the war dance, but still made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

Click here for a listen.

Images of the Tongan Defence Force  medal presentation parade.

Images of the Tongan Defence Force medal presentation parade.

Images of the Tongan Defence Force  medal presentation parade.

Images of the Tongan Defence Force medal presentation parade.

FOB life

This last few weeks has also been a period of nomadic living for me and the CCT. We have been spreading the CCT love. First up was Forward Operating Base Ouellette and it’s little brother, Observation Post Dara. One of the interesting things about us travelling is that about five per cent of the stuff we take with us is normal travelling kit, like washing kit, sleeping bag. The rest is pure kit.

Situated to the North Ouellette is a large camp that houses the Royal Highland Fusiliers, the Second Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, and the attached personnel.

FOB Life, Ouellette

FOB Life, Ouellette

FOB Life, Ouellette

FOB Life, Ouellette

FOB Life, Ouellette

FOB Life, Ouellette

FOB Life, Ouellette

FOB Life, Ouellette

One of the main reason for the existence of the camp is to help out the Afghan National Civil Order Police or ANCOP as they are called. Their job is patrolling route 611, one of the main routes in Helmand. So we got out on the ground with them and the British forces with them, in this case the Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Task Force.

It was a great experience, going through one of the local Bazaars making sure it was free of explosives. It was good to see how well received both Afghan and British Troops were by the locals but importantly it was a good lesson for me about how the team worked out on the ground.

One of my main responsibilities is to act as a body guard for the guys whilst we are out on the ground. The idea being that they are focusing on their jobs with their hands full of camera equipment.

 

The CCT at work out at the forward operating bases

The CCT at work out at the forward operating bases

 

The CCT at work out at the forward operating bases

The CCT at work out at the forward operating bases

 

Previously, because his holiness (Sgt Pope) has always deployed separately to myself and Lloydie, I had no problems covering one man. Now I had two guys, both of whom don’t want to be anywhere near each other (they tend to get in each other shots, and the stills camera is too noisy when taking pictures to be near the video camera).

I found myself having to make rapid decisions on the ground who was in the riskiest position and most vulnerable. Not that either were in any real danger in this situation as there was more than enough soldiers around. I found myself with Lloydie more often than not, as ENG filming draws the attention more completely, his Holiness is able to maintain more situational awareness because the camera is up to his face less often when taking stills.

Next up was Observation Post Dara, positioned a little way away from Ouellette, it’s a little camp, with enough guys in it, to keep a constant watch on the green zone that it overlooks. FOB soldiering at its purest, like the start of the campaign. The guys cooked, cleaned, and looked after each other. I am sure for some, the idea of living there for six months on top of each other would make most stir crazy; but the guys were a formed community. Living safely guided by the standard operating procedures they had laid down.

FOB life PB Attal

FOB life PB Attal

FOB life PB Attal

FOB life PB Attal

Finally there was the comfortable Patrol Base Attal. We got sent there at the last minute of some filming concerning Armed force and were welcomed by E battery of 1 RHA. What we saw here is what happens when an Army Chef puts his heart and soul into a kitchen, top rate food and obvious pride in the kitchen. This seemed to eminate around camp with the guys taking that little bit of time to make the place more homely.

Anyway, thanks for reading let me know what you think or want you want to hear about on twitter .

See you next time guys.

Read Mau’s other blogs here: Capt Mau Gris

Follow Mau on Twitter: @mau_gris

Rock ‘n’ Roll

Herrick 18 Stories

Capt Mau Gris. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Capt Mau Gris. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Captain Mau Gris is team leader for the British Army’s Combat Camera Team (CCT) based in Afghanistan throughout the summer 2013 as part of 1 Mechanized Brigade. Op Herrick 18′s CCT also includes Sergeant Barry Lloyd – video cameraman – and Sergeant Barry Pope – photographer.

A song and dance

It’s been a fun time for the CCT since I last wrote. Life has been dominated by the Combined Services Entertainment (CSE) Show. This is on the opposite end of the spectrum to what we exist to cover but has its difficulties. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of attending one, a CSE show combines comedy, music and dancing to help troops take their mind off work where ever they are deployed for a couple of hours.

Having directed a music video before I am well aware of the pitfalls of filming entertainment. The combo of noise, movement and lights if not handled correctly can be an absolute and utter nightmare to edit, doubling or even tripling the time it takes to complete a job. This was the first time that I had seen one of these entertainment shows and, like any typical soldier, I was sceptical about the show’s ability to distract me without the aid of alcohol. I was even a bit nervous for the stand-up comics, as sober soldiers on operations would be a tough audience.

I was proved wrong. Within minutes of the first comic coming on, I was relaxed and enjoying the show. So relaxed that I pretty much forgot I was working. Good for morale, bad for work. I realised, as we left the show, that Lloydie would need more interviews to create a video piece. We would have to come back and do the show again. Again, I thought I would be bored. Nope, second time round I couldn’t get enough of the dancers and the band called Front Cover, but still we needed more. The next night promised massive crowds as it was for the whole of the camp Bastion.

Sgt Barry Lloyd. Cpl Si Longworth (phot)

Sgt Barry Lloyd. Cpl Si Longworth (phot)

Capt Mau Gris and Sgt Barry Lloyd. Cpl Si Longworth (phot)

Capt Mau Gris and Sgt Barry Lloyd. Cpl Si Longworth (phot)

Sgt Barry Pope. Cpl Si Longworth (phot)

Sgt Barry Pope. Cpl Si Longworth (phot)

Sgt Barry Lloyd. Cpl Si Longworth (phot)

Sgt Barry Lloyd. Cpl Si Longworth (phot)

Large events like this pose their own problems for the guys – both Lloydie and his Holiness (Sgt Pope) have to contend with the crowd, who don’t like people pushing past them to get closer to the stage. Also moving around a venue that is much larger takes time and can make cutting a bit trickier. Lloyd and his Holiness nailed it – working like madmen to get the shots they needed. To add to the fun we had the talented Brigade Photographer Cpl Simon Longworth along to take some amazing ‘drag flash’ photos (I think that’s what he called them anyway.) We were nearly there, almost enough footage. We had one night to get the last shots that would make the piece.

Sadly just when we thought we had achieved our mission, operational commitments meant that the last show was cancelled. Just when you think nothing more can go wrong! So quick thinking by the guys meant that we worked out that a multimedia piece could still be possible. The Army definition of a multimedia piece is a video that relies fairly heavily on photos or even exclusively on photos with some audio on it. We learned a valuable lesson realising this.

There are multiple ways to skin a media cat in order to get that story across.

 

CSE Show in full swing. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

CSE Show in full swing. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

CSE Show in full swing. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

CSE Show in full swing. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

CSE Show in full swing. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

CSE Show in full swing. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

CSE Show in full swing. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

CSE Show in full swing. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

CSE Show in full swing. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

CSE Show in full swing. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

CSE Show in full swing. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

CSE Show in full swing. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

CSE Show in full swing. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

CSE Show in full swing. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

See you next time guys. Take it easy.

Read Mau’s other blogs here: Capt Mau Gris

Follow Mau on Twitter: @mau_gris

Filming close quarters combat in the third dimension

Herrick 18 Stories

Capt Mau Gris. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Capt Mau Gris. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Captain Mau Gris is team leader for the British Army’s Combat Camera Team (CCT) based in Afghanistan throughout the summer 2013 as part of 1 Mechanized Brigade. Op Herrick 18′s CCT also includes Sergeant Barry Lloyd – video cameraman – and Sergeant Barry Pope – photographer.

‘Spray and pray’

With Lloydy gaining a bit of fame in for his 3D filming (he’s been interviewed by BBC Radio Merseyside) I thought it was time to talk about our 3D filming, so far, in this blog.

Last week, I found out that the Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF) were going to the Close Quarter Battle (CQB) range to practice their skills. So I set up a day to go down and capture them in action.

CQB ranges are pretty claustrophobic and seriously intense; as they are made to replicate urban warfare. Though for Helmand this is a thing of the past it’s still practiced, and it is ideal subject matter for a bit of 3D action. To give you an idea – here is a video we made on Close Quarters Marksmanship:

[http://youtu.be/OGetZAelPbg]

The ranges are set up in a kind of winding alley format, with lots of corners forcing the guys to practice the drills. They face all the problems that might happen in the real thing and they have to deal with them as they go.

With the perfect subject, we set about assessing gear that the production house 3Dizzy had given us. We’ve been given a p2, which is a large standard news camera, which has a large 3D lens on it. Advantages of this – great HD quality footage with complete control. Downside – very awkward to move with and fricking heavy. We also had a 3D Helmet camera, which had the opposite qualities – easy to use, but no monitor to watch the footage, to use military slang; a ‘spray and pray’ camera. We also had a 3D handycam which was in the middle of the two.

3D filming of close quarters marksmanship. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

3D filming of close quarters marksmanship. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

3D filming of close quarters marksmanship. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

3D filming of close quarters marksmanship. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Close quarters marksmanship being filmed. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Close quarters marksmanship being filmed. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Close quarters marksmanship being filmed. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Close quarters marksmanship being filmed. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

3D filming of close quarters marksmanship. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

3D filming of close quarters marksmanship. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

3D filming of close quarters marksmanship. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

3D filming of close quarters marksmanship. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

On 3D cameras you have an additional elements of ‘convergence’ and ‘depth budget’ to consider alongside the ordinary considerations such as exposure and framing. Simply put these are controls for whether something pops out at you from the screen and how three dimensional something is. Too much can actually ruin a shot or even make it ‘illegal’ according to broadcaster standards.

With all this to consider Lloydy and his Holiness (Sgt Pope) were really earning their pay on this shoot. As the producer I had to concentrate on holding my tongue and getting them the time they needed to do the job, as well as not ruining their shots by accidentally walking into them, which I have done more than once. Don’t ask me how, it just happens.

3D filming of close quarters marksmanship. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

3D filming of close quarters marksmanship. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

We set up Lloydy with the big camera as he’s the specialist video guy, getting the tough arial tracking shots from an observation deck. Then his Holiness got the nice, tight shots on the handycam, we are hoping to show the results later in the year! Drop me a line in Twitter if you want to know more.

Filming from the Hospital

I also promised to talk to you about the difficulties of shooting in the Camp Bastion Hospital. From a producer’s perspective – it is about the clearances and preproduction you have to go through – for legal reasons actually filming patients is a no go, you can get their permission afterwards and in the UK but because of the nature of this environment it’s not always possible to track people down after they have left.

ISAF are teaching the afghan doctors and surgeons more advanced medical techniques to enable them to look after and care for the more seriously injured soldiers. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

ISAF are teaching the afghan doctors and surgeons more advanced medical techniques to enable them to look after and care for the more seriously injured soldiers. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

ISAF are teaching the afghan doctors and surgeons more advanced medical techniques to enable them to look after and care for the more seriously injured soldiers. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

ISAF are teaching the afghan doctors and surgeons more advanced medical techniques to enable them to look after and care for the more seriously injured soldiers. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Working in the hospital. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Working in the hospital. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Also in that environment were people are very aware of cameras, you often have to contend with people messing up the shot by trying to avoid being in it. Or trying to stop you because they have not been told that you have permission. That said if you do go through the pain – the shots of the work people are doing there are worth it. Nothing worth anything is ever easy.

See you next time guys. Take it easy.

Read Mau’s other blogs here: Capt Mau Gris

Follow Mau on Twitter: @mau_gris

Herrick 18 Stories: Good times, sad times, wasting time

Capt Mau Gris. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Capt Mau Gris. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Captain Mau Gris is team leader for the British Army’s Combat Camera Team (CCT) based in Afghanistan throughout the summer 2013 as part of 1 Mechanized Brigade. Op Herrick 18′s CCT also includes Sergeant Barry Lloyd – video cameraman – and Sergeant Barry Pope – photographer.

 

The meaning of CCT becomes clear

Hi guys – its been a little while since I posted something but a fair bit has happened.

One of the sad duties I have to do is cover vigils of fallen  comrades. It’s probably one of our most important tasks; documenting the vigil to a fallen serviceman, but you cannot help but feel a little scummy, a bit like the paparazzi as you take the photos and video of such a solemn occasion. I do wonder how people could do it for a living.

Vigil service for LCpl Jamie Webb of 1 MERCIAN Regiment. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Vigil service for LCpl Jamie Webb of 1 MERCIAN Regiment. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

The team got its first run out as a deployed newsgathering unit. We had go down to Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand to cover the official changing of the Brigade from 4th Mechanized Brigade to 1st Mechanized Brigade. This happens when a new tour begins and a new load of people take over. We found ourselves working alongside Caroline Wyatt, the BBC’s Defence Correspondent and the British Forces Broadcasting Service guys.

We arrived a day early to film the goodbye Shura – which is an Afghan meeting with Afghan musicians and traditional food. There was this exquisite potato flat bread call Burkahra. All the top Helmand residents descended to say thanks to out-going Brigadier Bob Bruce and welcome Brigadier Rupert Jones.

With a real-time deadline of 12.30pm for 1pm News to get the material back to the UK in time, we had a real rush. The satellite decided it didn’t want to work. Great! So we had to rush around like mad men trying to hop on a computer anywhere we could. We managed it by the skin of our teeth and got to see our images on the news for the first time!

It was at this point that I began to realise the pressures and difficulties that traditional news teams must have when chasing a story. It’s not just being aware of the environment and the constraints on the kit, it’s getting the interviews, that are ‘clean’ – ie free from distraction in the picture and the sound, as well as the GVs (or general views) of whatever it is you are covering. That is before you have to worry about transmission back to wherever will be showing it!

Images of the 4th mechanized brigade Shura. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Images of the 4th mechanized brigade Shura. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Images of the 4th mechanized brigade Shura. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Filming of 4th mechanized brigade Shura. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Images of the 4th mechanized brigade Shura. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Images of the 4th mechanized brigade Shura. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Images of the 4th mechanized brigade Shura. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Images of the 4th mechanized brigade Shura. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Shawqat farewell

Following that faff, we were prepared for the next deployment to  Forward Operating Base Shawquat in the Nad-e Ali to see the Mercian regiment leave Afghanistan for the last time. Shawquat has is based around an old British fort that was used the last time the British were in Afghanistan! So we got some good pictures of where our predecessors would have stayed.

 Take over of authority at Main Operating Base Lashkar Gah. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Take over of authority at Main Operating Base Lashkar Gah. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

As you can probably tell I’ve been doing a fair bit of travelling which is just as susceptible to delay as in the UK. The Afghan weather plays havoc with the Helicopters so the Baz(es) and I have been doing what all good soldiers do, when they get free time – sleeping.

Time for a well-earned rest. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Time for a well-earned rest. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Next time – I will talk to you about filming the elite Brigade Reconnaissance Force in 3D – the first British troops to ever be filmed in 3D!  I also will talk about the difficulties and constrains of filming in the Hospital.

See you next time guys. Take it easy.

Follow Mau on Twitter: @mau_gris

Herrick 18 Stories: Military Dogs homeward bound

Captain Mau Gris

Captain Mau Gris

Captain Mau Gris is team leader for the British Army’s Combat Camera Team (CCT) based in Afghanistan throughout the summer 2013 as part of 1 Mechanized Brigade. Op Herrick 18′s CCT also includes Sergeant Barry Lloyd – video cameraman – and Sergeant Barry Pope – photographer.

 

Dogs on a plane

As part of a camera team, you get asked to film some weird stuff. It doesn’t come much weirder than being pulled out of your bed at 3am to film some dogs being walked around the desert.

After I had woken fully, I found out that we were going to film the military working dogs (MWDs) being walked before their flight home following their tours. MWDs, unlike their military handlers, have no standard tour.

Depending on their ability to work, some of the dogs getting on the plane had been in Afghanistan for up to three years. They were going home to Germany for some well-earned rest. It’s not unheard of for the handlers to buy their dog from the Army after it finishes it’s career. Indeed some handlers have even used their operational bonus to buy their dog.

When you’re stumbling around in the dark surrounded by MWDs, it is a useful fact to know that the dogs you have to be careful of are not the protection dogs, who tend to be bigger and louder than the rest, it’s the hyper-focused search dogs that will have a little nibble on you if you get too close.

Image of Military Working Dogs leaving Afghanistan after a tour of duty. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Image of Military Working Dogs leaving Afghanistan after a tour of duty. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Image of Military Working Dogs leaving Afghanistan after a tour of duty. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Image of Military Working Dogs leaving Afghanistan after a tour of duty. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Members of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps loading military working dogs in to the C17 aircraft in preparation for the flight home to the UK. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Members of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps loading military working dogs in to the C17 aircraft in preparation for the flight home to the UK. Sgt Barry Pope RLC (Phot)

Highway to Helmand

Aside from the dogs, I had my first outing into Helmand to visit 22 Engineer Regiment. The job we were filming involved removing a bridge that had been damaged; which would then be replaced by an Afghan contractor. Though I only got to see it as they were stripping away the first bits with the help of a US Marine Corps crane team.

They had been working hard all night to build their temporary base near the bridge before working on the bridge itself, so they were tired by the time I got there. The bridge is near a place called Lashkar Gah Durai and is an important feature on Highway 1 (which is a bit like the M25 but for the whole country). So, they were working quickly to avoid the traffic building up.

It was great to get out and finally do the job I have been training for. However, it was useful for another reason. As I am sure most people who have served will tell you, it doesn’t matter how much you organise your kit on pre-deployment training, you will always have to re-jig your kit after your first time out on the ground. I have now realised just how much of a pain the tripod I have to carry for my cameraman is going to be.

Members of the Combat Camera Team (CCT) in Afghanistan

Members of the Combat Camera Team (CCT) in Afghanistan

Follow Mau on Twitter: @mau_gris