Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

A U.S. Army paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division performs a pre-jump check before exiting a C-130H on Aug. 18, 2013, near Alexandria International Airport in Louisiana.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Tech. Sgt. Russ Scalf / U.S. Air Force

U.S. Air Force Capt. Candice Adams Ismirle waits to receive a radiation treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md., on Oct. 22, 2013. Ismirle's cancer had returned after about two years in remission.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Tech. Sgt. Russ Scalf / U.S. Air Force

Airmen from the 19th Airlift Wing prepare a C-130J for a flight at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas on March 27, 2013. As home to the largest C-130 fleet in the world, Little Rock AFB delivers mission-ready Airmen to fuel combat airlift operations.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Tech. Sgt. Russ Scalf / U.S. Air Force

U.S. Army Sgt. Jacob Ceus, an 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper, has his equipment checked at Alexandria International Airport in Louisiana on Aug. 18, 2013.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Tech. Sgt. Russ Scalf / U.S. Air Force

Cowboys prepare to ride during the National Championship Bull Riders €Some Gave All€ Memorial Day championship on May 27, 2013, near Bee Branch, Ark. The event featured a presentation by an Arkansas Army National Guard color guard, a tribute to fallen service members and free admission to active-duty military personnel.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Tech. Sgt. Russ Scalf / U.S. Air Force

A Penn State University swimmer competes during a meet at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., on Jan. 12, 2013. The University of Arkansas has close ties with the military community, including an ROTC program, military appreciation days and two football games each year at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Ark., which was built as a tribute to Arkansans who have served and paid the ultimate price for their country.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Tech. Sgt. Russ Scalf / U.S. Air Force

U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Bodiford, a team leader assigned to 1st Platoon, 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment, 39th Infantry Brigade, climbs Pinnacle Mountain near Little Rock, Ark., on Sept. 5, 2013. Bodiford scales the mountain multiple times per week as part of a physical training regimen to prepare for warrant officer candidate school.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Tech. Sgt. Russ Scalf / U.S. Air Force

Firefighters for the 19th Airlift Wing meet for roll call at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas on Aug. 12, 2013. Every morning at 8, both shifts meet to conduct a change over.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Tech. Sgt. Russ Scalf / U.S. Air Force

A U.S. Army paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division waits in line before boarding a C-130H near Alexandria International Airport in Louisiana on Aug. 18, 2013. There were 681 paratroopers dropped from nine U.S. Air Force aircraft in support of Joint Operational Access Exercise 13-0X.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Tech. Sgt. Russ Scalf / U.S. Air Force

U.S. Army paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division wait to board C-17 Globemasters at Alexandria International Airport in Louisiana on Aug. 18, 2013.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Tech. Sgt. Russ Scalf / U.S. Air Force

Senior Airman Justin Denno returns to the Little Rock Air Force Base fire department on Aug. 14, 2013. The department, comprised of 49 Airmen and seven civilians, operates on two 24-hour shifts that respond to nearly 700 emergency calls each year.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Tech. Sgt. Russ Scalf / U.S. Air Force

U.S. Army paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division sit in a C-130H at Alexandria International Airport in Louisiana on Aug. 18, 2013, The paratroopers were conducting static line jumps as part of Joint Operational Access Exercise 13-0X.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Tech. Sgt. Russ Scalf / U.S. Air Force

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U.S. Air Force photographer Russell Scalf honored as military photographer of the year

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Russell Scalf has been named the military photographer of the year for work done in 2013. Scalf’s work was among thousands of photos reviewed by judges at the Defense Information School in Ft. Meade, Maryland.

Scalf took time to discuss his work and his career:

How did you get into photography?

The short answer is that I got incredibly lucky. My first exposure to journalism was writing for my high school newspaper. When I enlisted I didn’t land the print journalist job, I was offered photography instead. In a twist of fate, two years ago the Air Force photo and print journalism career fields merged to create “photojournalists.” workshop photoThis year I was recognized as both the Air Force print journalist of the year and the Department of Defense military photographer of the year, both of which are humbling distinctions.

What led you to join the Air Force?

I grew up in Norton, Ohio, which is a small town just outside of Akron. My dad worked maintenance in steel plants and is the hardest-working person I’ve ever met. He told me that good paying jobs in industry were going away, and if I wanted to make something of myself I had better get an education. My best friend’s dad was a recruiter for the Air Force, but his original job was a photographer. When my blue-collar trust fund went bust, it was an easy decision to enlist. My original plan involved serving four years then finishing school, but one incredible experience has led to another and another. This September will mark my 10th year in the Air Force, yet it seems like yesterday that I was taking my first trip on an airplane to basic training.

What do you most like shoot?

That’s not a fair question at all, haha. I’m a curious kind of person, and I think one of my strong suits is being versatile. Really I find myself at ease in a number of settings.

I think I find the most satisfaction from shooting long-term stories. I finished a story last year that spanned nine months before, during and after one family’s deployment. You see a lot of terrific photos of send offs and homecomings in the military. They are tremendously emotional moments. What you don’t usually see are the family members who are left at home trying to carry on with the day-to-day routine, or taking care of the kids alone. It takes great strength to live that way, and I have incredible respect for military spouses. Some of them are going on their sixth or seventh deployment, and that takes a toll. I believe there is a great value in that kind of story, and I’m proud that I’m able to help them share their stories with others. It may not be as flashy as airplanes or special forces, but I think in the military our people are our most valuable resource. It’s fulfilling to dig in on a story like that and see it through to the end.

How does it work to be a photographer working within the context of the military? How do you get assignments? Are you compelled to convey a particular point of view?

Story assignments in the military are not all that dissimilar than at a civilian publication. You have a supervisor or an editor who has a communications goal and audiences that they need to reach. Sometimes my supervisor may hand me a specific story and say, “Hey this is news and I need you to cover it.” Other times it may be as generalized finding a local story that ties into a larger theme for the Air Force, like safety or the budget. I think any good story tells itself. Oftentimes people get in the way of that by putting themselves before the story or trying to make it into something it’s not.

How do you balance Air Force photography and your civilian editorial clients?

I think finding balance is something that most photographers struggle with. I’m also a husband and a father, and I think the hardest thing to balance is photography and family. I’m lucky to be with someone who has great compassion for others and understands my passion for storytelling. We just find the time to work on the projects that appeal to me. Sometimes it means I have to say no. Right now I’m deployed to Southwest Asia, and it’s probably the first time I’ve really had to put some projects on hiatus in nine years of service.

What has been your most memorable assignment?

My most memorable assignment was the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Our security forces Airmen, who are our police force, organized a ruck march from their headquarters in San Antonio all the way to Ground Zero. I was part of a team of Air Force journalists who embedded with them for the last three days of their journey. It was my first time in New York, and we marched into the city across the George Washington Bridge and received a police escort down the center of Broadway, all the way to Times Square. Every neighborhood we passed through, the people stopped what they were doing and lined the streets to cheer for and thank the Airmen who participated. It felt like being part of one of the old ticker-tape parades. It’s a special memory that I’ll cherish forever.

What would you like to be doing in five years?

I’d like to be doing work that challenges me professionally, emotionally and intellectually. I enjoy opportunities that challenge my way of thinking and allow me to continue to grow.

Do you have any advice for others working as photographers within the military?

The only person who can stop you from being successful is yourself. If you’re waiting for the day that someone stops at your desk and hands you the road map to success, you’re going to be waiting a while. Talent will only get you so far in life. I’ve become successful because I was willing to put in the work to get there.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

There are many fantastic journalists and photographers working in the ranks of the military. If you’re not familiar with our work you should check out the results of our annual contest at Military Photographer of the Year , and great stories of Airmen serving all over the world at Airman Online.

JOAX

U.S. Army paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division board a C-130H, Aug. 18, 2013, at Alexandria International Airport, La. The paratroopers were conducting static line jumps as part of Joint Operational Access Exercise 13-0X.

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