My 30 year journey to ARPS
The following is a potted history of what led to me being awarded a Fellowship of the British Institute of Professional Photographers (BIPP) after 12 years working in the RAF photographic specialisation. Now, 30 years on from the start of that journey I find myself being awarded an Associateship of the Royal Photographic Society.  
 I joined the RAF in 1973 as an apprentice aircraft air radar/communications technician. Following this 3 year apprenticeship I worked on several aircraft types until eventually being employed as an instructor in the Tornado Maintenance School becoming the senior avionics instructor in 1985.
I commissioned in 1991 and during my first commissioned tour at RAF Cosford I was selected to undertake specialist Engineer Officer Photographic Training at the Joint School of Photography (JSOP). Historically, officers selected for this course were taken from a photographic background but the RAF had already recognised that digital technology was going to play a big part in the future of both ground photography and airborne reconnaissance. With this in mind, it decided that it was more practical to covert an avionics specialist to photography than vice versa. My course at Cosford replaced a civilian based degree at the University of Westminster and was 7 months of full-time education in all aspects of both ground based traditional photography and aerial reconnaissance, it included Monochrome, Colour Negative and E6 transparency photographic processes and the use of 35mm medium format and 5 x 4 inch field cameras. We studied colour science, Mono chrome sensitometry, aerial photogrammetry and video production and editing.  Following my conversion at Cosford I was posted to the Reconnaissance Support Development Centre (RSDC) at the Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre (JARIC), RAF Brampton. At the RSDC I did significant research into the then embryonic stages of digital Photography with some of the very early DSLR’s such as the Kodak DCS 420. What was apparent in these early years was that the technology was likely to move very fast and that decisions would need to be made eventually about the RAF’s conversion from conventional to digital photography, both on the ground and in the air. This 3 year period in my RAF career proved to be extremely interesting and formed the basis of what was to follow in the coming years.
I then completed further tours within the RAF photographic specialisation as follows:
Operational Support within JARIC responsible for all photographic reproduction including printing large format (60 inch wide) RA4 colour images from 12 inch wide aerial colour film.
Photographic Engineering Officer 41 (F) Jaguar Reconnaissance Squadron, RAF Coltishall. Responsible for the processing and production of all monochrome reconnaissance material gathered using the BAe photo reconnaissance pod.
41 (F) Sqn was a fully mobile deployable asset and our task was to protect the Northern Flank of Europe from Russian aggression. Our normal deployment base was Bardufoss in Norway, 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle.
HQ Strike Command, responsible for the Thermal Imaging and Laser Designator (TIALD) pod used on the Tornado Harrier and Jaguar. This pod was utilised during the Gulf wars and the Balkan crisis to enable military forces to strike very specific targets without causing collateral damage.
I was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader in 2000 and initially posted back into my core Engineering specialisation as the Officer Commanding the Tornado Maintenance School. Following this tour, in 2003 I was appointed into the post considered to be the senior RAF Photographic Officers’ post at RAF Wyton. The holder of this post is responsible for the management of ground based photography and all of the photographic engineering elements of airborne reconnaissance.
My main areas of focus during this tour were as follows:
Convert RAF ground-based Photography to Digital. This was based on the research work that I had completed 7 years earlier at the RSDC. The main challenge here was to develop a strategy that allowed the RAF to keep up with technology which at the time was seeing cameras made obsolete with the space of around 2 years. Previously the RAF had purchased Hasselblad 501c medium format and Nikon F4 35mm cameras. These were expected to last around 15 years! My team and I set up novel arrangements where we leased photographic equipment on a 3 year 3 tranche cycle thus allowing the RAF Photographic branch to maintain a core of modern up to date camera equipment. This still goes on today.
Introduce colour negative and its associated scanning into the RMK aerial mapping camera carried by the Canberra Aircraft during operations over Afghanistan. The RMK was a traditional film camera that used 12 inch wide film that needed to be processed in the theatre of conflict. Colour film processing requires precise temperature of 38.75°C/102°F , When the mobile cabin you are working in in the desert is reaching 50°C+, life became difficult and it was my problem to solve.
Carry out research into the use of digital sensors for airborne reconnaissance. This work was initially carried out in the USA and eventually led to the introduction of the RAPTOR pod, a very long focal length digital camera fitted initially to the Tornado. 
Towards the end of this very successful tour, I was invited to submit a paper to the BIPP based primarily on the work I had done to convert a large organisation from conventional chemistry photography to a purely digital based workflow and my work on solutions for digital reconnaissance and the introduction of colour to the RAF mapping capability. Once submitted, my paper was assessed and I was then invited to the BIPP’s head office in Ware Hertfordshire where I was subjected to a 3 hour interview by three Fellows of the institute!
During my 12 years working in the RAF photographic arena I attended several major industry seminars with both Kodak in Rochester, USA and Agfa in Leverkusen, Belguim as the RAF representative. I was invited to speak at the Kodak Aerial Imaging Seminar in 2005 on military fast jet reconnaissance in the arctic circle.
I was granted my Fellowship of the BIPP on 20th April 2005 which I retained until I retired from the RAF in March 2011.
The KLDCC has given me the opportunity to develop my love of photography from behind the camera. Whilst I consider my technical knowledge probably as good as most, I love to use my specialist technical knowledge to the benefit of other club members. However, it is quite clear to me that I still have loads to learn when it comes to taking pictures and being a member of the KLDCC is helping me do just that. Talk within the club of gaining qualifications/distinction’s got me thinking, and I had made the decision to follow in Steve Duncan’s footsteps and look towards achieving my ARPS. I visited the Photo Video show at the NEC in March with the specific intention of visiting the RPS stand to get things going. I joined the RPS and then found myself in conversation with Simon Vercoe the Distinctions Assistant. Simon suggested that as a past Fellow of the BIPP and based on my training and experience I should apply to the RPS for an ARPS exemption.
I therefore provided the RPS with the relevant certificates and evidence and as a result I was awarded my ARPS on 19th April 2024 a little over 30 years after starting on my photographic adventure. I look back on the 12 years that I spent as a photographic specialist in the RAF with a high degree of pride and I am very pleased that this has led to the award of my ARPS.
Brian Sadler ARPS