Life behind the lens with award-winning Army photographer

A British Army photographer, who won NATO photo of the year in 2022, shares his passion for taking pictures.

Corporal Rob Kane’s image of Pathfinders, jumping by freefall parachute into Exercise Swift Response in Macedonia, was chosen as the best image captured by photographers from the 30-nation strong NATO alliance last year.

Rob, aged 35, has been in the Army for 18 years. He originally worked as a recovery mechanic in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and qualified as a military parachutist, before developing his love of photography and transferring to become a Royal Logistic Corps photographer in 2018.

He says,

“It was in my late twenties when I started enjoying documenting what I and my colleagues were doing. I did a lot of traveling with 16 Air Assault Brigade and I ended up taking a load of GoPro videos and stills on my phone.

“I was sharing images with colleagues and then started doing little bits for my unit.

“I used to go to Kenya two or three times a year with my unit and I would put together short video stories and stills showing what we were up to.”

The jobs I enjoy the most often involve planes. As well as being with the Pathfinders on Exercise Swift Response in Macedonia, I was on the tailgate with the Pathfinders when they jumped into Ukraine in 2020. Corporal Rob Kane, Army Photographer

As an Army photographer, Rob has been trained to the highest professional standards to capture both stills and video imagery. He says,

“I love both video and stills but the busier we get the more I enjoy stills because video involves a lot more work. But in our quieter times, I enjoy video because it deserves a lot more time and effort. Because the pace of operations for us is so high, we don’t always get the time we need to put into a video.”

Like all Army photographers, Rob is responsible for producing iconic imagery that captures moments in history. For instance, at Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral last September.

He works as part of a Combat Camera Team (CCT), who are the first ones out the door when needed, covering operations, training exercises, ceremonial occasions and other events.

CCTs deploy worldwide, often working under difficult conditions, wherever the Army needs imagery captured, such as when soldiers provide humanitarian support and take part in high-level international exercises as well as supporting UK operations.

Rob says,

“The jobs I enjoy the most often involve planes. As well as being with the Pathfinders on Exercise Swift Response in Macedonia, I was on the tailgate with the Pathfinders when they jumped into Ukraine in 2020.

“Going to Ukraine with 16 Brigade was amazing. I was with fellow Army photographer Corporal Danny Houghton on the plane. Danny was doing stills, while I was doing video, and won an award for a similar shot to mine in Macedonia two years later.”

To take his winning NATO photo, Rob had to have specialist medical training and steady nerves to work on the open back ramp of an RAF C-17 Globemaster while breathing through an oxygen feed. 

“This was the best job I’ve done,” he said. “There was every chance it wouldn’t happen because there were so many hoops to jump through. The opportunity was offered and, as a former 16 Brigade soldier, I had the interest and a head start on the necessary skills.”

Rob says the hardest part of his job is juggling the requirements of a task.

“I know that sounds really dull,” he says, “but I’ve often got majors and colonels calling for content from all directions. It’s such a busy job for most of the year.”

Rob is looking forward to a break from his fast-paced job with his wife, Ka Wai, expecting their first child. But when his paternity leave ends, Rob will be straight back into the thick of the action as an Army photographer, ready to grab his camera and go wherever in the world he is needed.