26 February 2019
New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) photographer Leading Aircraftman Jenn Harley never imagined her career would be behind the lens of a camera.
But two years after enlisting with the Royal New Zealand Air Force she found herself taking photos at the bottom of the world, at Scott Base in Antarctica.
Leading Aircraftman Harley, 24, from Upper Hutt, joined the NZDF’s annual deployment to Antarctica this summer season, where NZDF personnel support scientific research programs at Scott Base and McMurdo Station.
The extreme nature of Antarctica led to some interesting challenges.
“You’ve got to be really flexible because things change all the time down there – the weather has a big impact on what is happening at any given moment,” she said. “I needed to adapt as I went and reassess my plans all the time.”
During her week-long stay, Leading Aircraftman Harley was able to explore Scott Base and the American base McMurdo Station.
“It was so interesting being there – seeing the amount of people it takes to sustain a base and the supplies needed to keep a base running blew my mind.
“The NZDF team is a big part of that. It was cool to see them working and knowing they help keep everything running.”
Leading Aircraftman Harley completed a Bachelor of Visual Imaging degree that included graphic design, web design, film and photography.
“I never thought I’d be a photographer,” she said. “I took photography in high school for a year, but didn’t love it. Then I picked it back up at university with my degree.”
After finishing her studies, Leading Aircraftman Harley took a year off to travel and returned to New Zealand looking for a job. She spotted an advertisement for an NZDF photographer, thought it looked interesting and felt it would give her the opportunity for more travel.
NZDF photographers get to see the “highlight reel” of the NZDF, she said.
“We get included on national and international operations, as well as exercises. Our photos showcase what we do, the capabilities we have and the talent of our people.
“We get to meet so many people and we move around a lot. I’ve seen so much of New Zealand, just through work.”
Some of her best work moments have come while she has been flown in helicopters.
“In Exercise Blackbird in winter last year, flying around the Southern Alps in NH90 and A109 helicopters, it was just the most beautiful, best experience in my life.
“There was also a flight in Antarctica to an Adélie penguin colony. Taking off from Scott Base, I almost cried because of the beauty.
“I can’t stop thinking how I get paid to do all these amazing things, see the most spectacular places and take photos of the coolest people.”