Stunning photos claim top prizes at Royal Navy photographic awards

Striking images have captured the lives of Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines as they serve on vital operations around the globe.

The pictures have all been taken by the Royal Navy’s own dedicated photographers, who are behind the lens capturing the significant moments as the Senior Service carries out missions across the world’s oceans, in the skies and on land, from Arctic to desert and jungle.

Now these skilled photographers – all of them serving sailors or Royal Marines – have been recognised for their stunning imagery in the Royal Navy’s annual photographic competition, the Peregrine Trophy.

The hardy bunch of photographers follow warships and commandos wherever they go, sharing their important missions with the world through still images and video, providing a behind-the-scenes look at life in the Royal Navy, from emotional homecomings to frontline ops.

In the last year, the photographers have been there on the frontline as the Royal Navy continued to deliver during the Covid-19 global pandemic, protecting the UK’s interests at home and abroad.

Leading Photographer Kyle Heller was named the Royal Navy’s photographer of the year by the judges for his portfolio of imagery from HMS Queen Elizabeth’s historic deployment to the east coast of the USA, which saw the first British F-35B Lightning jets land on the aircraft carrier.

HMS Queen Elizabeth won the Peregrine Trophy for their collection of images from the landmark deployment, which Kyle was a part of.

This is a job like no other – it sounds clichéd, but it’s true. I’m still trying to get my head round winning the award, in all honesty. I’m not one for the plaudits at all and for me it’s about the opportunities, experience and variation that you get with this job. There really is nothing like it.

Leading Photographer Kyle Heller

This video of a British F-35B pilot talking about his experience of flying the Lightning jets off HMS Queen Elizabeth won the Royal Navy Video Award. By Leading Photographer Dan Shepherd

He said: “This is a job like no other – it sounds clichéd, but it’s true. I’m still trying to get my head round winning the award, in all honesty. I’m not one for the plaudits at all and for me it’s about the opportunities, experience and variation that you get with this job. There really is nothing like it.

“Life is never dull and you’re there as part of history in those big moments. Seeing the Lightning jets land for the first time is that part of history you’re there for and won’t forget.  I’ve seen so much around the world as a photographer and I’m very thankful for those opportunities. This is a proud moment for me.”

Kyle joined the Royal Navy in 1998 aged 17 and served on HMS Beaver, Sheffield and Cornwall, before becoming a Royal Navy photographer in late 2009. Among numerous other things, he has covered operations in Antarctica, the South Atlantic, South America and the disaster relief work in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean. He’s now based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall. 

Joining up as any other rating into a particular trade such as logistics, engineering or warfare specialists, Royal Navy photographers work hard to excel at their chosen field before being accepted into the elite photographic branch.

The Peregrine Trophy dates back to 1961 and is named after the HMS Peregrine Royal Naval Air Station in Sussex. The award’s primary purpose is to encourage the production of eye-catching, powerful imagery and video that can be used in the media to demonstrate the Royal Navy and Royal Marines operations.

More than 250 images and videos were submitted for this year’s awards, which were judged by Richard Pohle of The Times, Steve Parsons of the Press Association, Jane Sherwood of Getty Images, Lee Durant of the BBC, Jack Ashdown of Great State and director of photography and cinematography Vince Knight.

While there is no formal awards ceremony this year – due to Covid-19 restrictions – the images will be on public display at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire from December through to March.

This video with a Royal Marine on what Remembrance means to him won the Royal Navy Short Film Digital Storytelling Video Award. By Leading Photographer Barry Wheeler