US Soldier Documents His Deployment in Afghanistan Using His DSLR

Update: Jansen has requested that his photos be removed, as they are currently “being investigated for possible violations of sensitive information.”


US Army lieutenant Alexander Jansen has spent the past year serving in Afghanistan as a liaison officer, training the members of the Afghan National Army. During this time, he has been very involved in photography, using his DSLRs to capture what deployment is like through a soldier’s eyes.

We’ve mentioned Jansen a couple of times last year. The first time was when he shared some techniques for stabilizing your camera that he learned through marksmanship training. The second time was when he used the dust of Afghanistan to demonstrate how effective the weathersealing is on Pentax DSLRs.

Since February 2012, Jansen has also been publishing his photographs over at PentaxForums every few weeks. Here is a selection of photographs that Jansen has captured:


Here’s the list of gear in Jansen’s arsenal: Pentax K-5 IIs, Pentax K-5, Pentax K-30, Pentax K-7, DA* 16-50mm, DA* 50-135mm, DA* 60-250mm, DA 55-300mm, DFA 100mm Macro WR, Sigma 8-16mm, and Sigma 30mm.

You can find his entire collection of 283 published photographs photographs divided into 17 separate updates over on PentaxForums. There are higher-resolution images, as well as Jansen’s descriptions that describe what the photographs are showing.

Image credits: Photographs by Alexander Jansen and used with permission

  • Leonardo Abreu

    I see a smile in the smoke

  • Mansgame

    subjects are somewhat interesting but the photography doesn’t really do it for me.

  • Neal Alan Sacheck

    very very cool pictures

  • Cristian Palcău

    7 Lenses and 5 bodies and he says that he is a soldier, i think he was a photographer.

  • tttulio

    Nice, but I don’t see why the emphasis on the type of camera one uses.
    Do we really need DSLR on the title? If he had used a Leica would we use Rangefinder or a Fuji pro-1 a Mirrorless?
    US Soldier Photo-Journal in Afghanistan.

    They are just tools, DSLR used to mean “pro” territory 10 years ago, that is no longer the case.

  • Ryan Oliver

    Yeah, not understanding the DSLR call-out in the headline. Wow. His camera has a flappy mirror.

  • andi

    wondering what the army pays him for letting them look like good guys just being over there to help the poor people… i do agree with Cristian Palcău that he’s a photographer not a soldier…

  • Igor Ken

    This looks nothing like Call of Duty.

  • Igor Ken

    Although I do agree with you, guys on petapixel use this type of titles for their articles all the time, it’s kind of a trademark ;)

  • Antonio Carrasco


  • Antonio Carrasco

    These photos are great. They show a different side of life during wartime that might not be captured by a civilian photojournalist because there’s not a lot of combat.

  • frank mckenna

    Love this one. Get behind the scenes and see life over their from a soldiers point of view.

  • frank mckenna

    He’s a soldier there. If you look up his name you will see that he has been there for awhile but he does alot of photography too.

  • AdamB

    I see it as strictly an alternative to using the word camera. It’s just a bit more defined in nomenclature.

  • AdamB

    Have you ever known anyone that made a living doing something other then making photographs? I have a healthy amount of gear, but I’m not strictly a photographer. I have an absurd amount of hand and power tools, but I don’t describe myself as a mechanic or carpenter.

  • Duke Shin

    Not EVERY soldier is a dumb redneck who’s just there to kill ayrabs for Amurika.

  • Docrwm

    Yes, we do need the name in the title. The big splash for Jansen came when he demonstrated the robust nature of his Pentax equipment by burying it in the dust/sand and then taking it out and just using it. He is very vocal about the weather sealing on his equipment and its utility in the field.

  • Docrwm

    His Military Occupational Specialty is Engineer. He’s posted about the missions he’s been on. He is not a Public Affairs Officer.

  • Docrwm

    What is your one skill? Remember, your ‘logic’ limits you to only one!

  • Boon

    I agree that type or brand of camera does not and should not matter at all, under most circumstances. However, in the highlands of Afghanistan where daytime temperatures hover around freezing point even in the warmer months, a camera’s specifications may matter. Currently, only Pentax DSLRs are rated to function normally at minus 10 below zero Celsius (-10C), or 14 degrees Fahrenheit (14F). No other maker offers that kind of rating (not even Nikon D4/D3X or Canon EOS-1D X, 5D Mark III etc.). So in this case, it’s a matter of the right tools to use in a harsh environment. A quick check of the specs of various DSLRs will confirm this. Pentax DSLRs are rare as hen’s teeth, but they serve a function. Climbers and backpackers use them in part because of their very wide operational temperature range, and because they’re easy to use even with gloves on.

  • OSAM

    He was in uniform and carried a weapon. He was expected to know how – and be able and willing – to use that weapon at a moments notice. He represented the US armed forces as a member. He was a soldier whose assignment may or may not have officially been to document his deployment. Remove your head from your ass and try again.

  • Jess James

    I guess you are unaware of the rifle and sidearm he packs. He is a soldier in the true sense of the word. He is also an officer and a gentleman.

  • Jess James

    How well does you photography go when someone is shooting at you or trying to blow you and your colleagues up by any cheap shot they can?

  • A. Jansen

    Hey all, I can’t talk long (in a rush), however I just wanted to clear a couple things up: I am 100% *NOT* a PAO (Public Affairs Officer) or military journalist type – I am a combat engineer that was deployed to Afghanistan and acted as a platoon leader and an embedded trainer to Afghan soldiers. Regarding the gear – it is 100% mine and not supplied by Pentax or the Army – it’s personally owned (being single helps make that happen ! ;) and photography is a hobby of mine and how I chose to document my deployment. This was a voluntary project that took off a lot more than I thought it would – that’s all. Thanks for viewing! :)

  • Sara McAllister

    Beautiful work. Thanks for sharing it with the world.

  • Sudar P.

    Thank you for your service. Great Pics!

  • Carolina Bonham

    Haters gonna hate, Sir… keep doing what you do, and stay safe!!

  • Sketchr

    Besides one or two, these are pretty crappy photos. This is about the average I would expect from an enthusiast with a DSLR but very little competency. Certainly not worth featuring… I have come across many, many “amateurs” bringing their photos back from the front lines that would be more worthy of the space you have here, and whose photos are certainly more worthy of the exposure and attention. You do a disservice to photography by just grabbing the first photographer you found who brought a camera with them on deployment. There are also some amazing photos (more than some) from those people in the service branches whose job it is to take photos. In fact the Military Photographer of the Year awards were decided about two weeks ago and might be worth a google search.

    From a former Navy Photojournalist.

  • MangKanor

    Pentax: Military approved camera.

  • Oliver Kealey

    You got your sign off wrong. It should read “From a pompous ass.”

  • A. Jansen

    I’m sorry that someone who’s primary purpose was to lead and command combat patrols *while* focusing on training Afghans in said combat environments (as I was in charge of mentoring a company during operations) with absolutely no formal training in photography disserviced you, military photographers, and the art of photography.

    Next time I’ll use my iPhone.

  • Sal Monella

    I saw a rabbit standing up.

  • Trevor Riley

    Thanks for your service, and for sharing your experiences through photos. Stay safe

  • Chris Popely

    I have only one sentence for you – ‘Get your head out of your ass.’

  • kenyee

    Thanks for your service Heie. Glad to see your work (and Pentax which has seemed like the redheaded stepchild put up for adoption lately) is getting some good recognition. Keep up the good work and stay safe!

  • Leyla Ainita Dewi

    Thank you for sharing your awesome pictures, I posted it at my facebook page. may you always safely and healthy.

  • Cami Donohue

    THANK YOU for your service! These photos are wonderful. Thanks for giving us a tiny perspective of what life is like for soldiers serving.

  • Gail Parker

    Hey, Alexander. Do what you can, what you do and why you do it. I love photography but there really are too many critics of most things in this sad world. I notice also, too many geeky blokes who are missing the point, the effort, fear, emotions. They are probably more interested in the bloody ‘size of a lens hood’ than the location! As i like to say ‘Cobblers, to the lot of them! With knobs on!’ If you enjoy it, do it.

  • Shamgar Dean

    right on the button Gail

  • Shamgar Dean

    The title of the article says “US Soldier Documents His Deployment in Afghanistan Using His DSLR”… documents HIS deployment with HIS DSLR..not documents the US army’s deployment using the US army’s issued DSLR. So let him be…his sharing his life in the service for us to personally relate to/with..You were a Navy Photojournalist..he is not an Army photojournalist..he just loves his way of photography..even under war conditions..

  • DP

    By all means please share your portfolio

  • A. Jansen

    Thanks for the support everyone :)

    And @facebook-100002087006791:disqus, it’s 3 camera bodies (the K-5 is no more) and 11 lenses. But my car is over 15 years old (which I just got despite biking/running to and from work everyday for the entire year before my deployment), so you can see where my priorities lie ;)

  • Francisco Herrera

    and I think you’re stupid!

  • Francisco Herrera

    Hey guy, why don’t you just relax. Does it really bother you that much? You are envious that you don’t have the spot light on you. If you don’t like it, just skip this post!!!

  • hasta los huevos

    Serving who?

  • Christian DeBaun

    Nice work Lieutenant Jansen. Stay safe over there and keep shooting, and thanks for sharing your work with us – it’s an honor.

    Don’t let the few detractors in this thread dishearten you, and keep honing your craft. I think you’ve got the good beginnings of a book, which I would buy in a heart beat!


  • Sketchr

    Mr. Jansen, I am not knocking your purpose while deployed nor trying to discourage you in pursuing taking photos. I just feel that in a photography centered article you try to find those “extraordinary” photos/photographers out there. Your photos are good and nothing to be ashamed of but I am sure you are the first to realize that you are not the only one who decided to bring a camera along on deployment whose primary job wasn’t photography, journalism or public affairs. Having seen a good number myself, I just felt they could have dug a little deeper and found something or someone a little more worthy of the attention of an article such as this. But I’m guessing the real purpose of this article was not to give focus on the photographs or the photographer but instead give a shout out to Pentax.

  • Joseph Vincent Evangelista

    They should make Call of Duty: Engineering Warfare

  • NikonUser

    Does it matter? Does it take anything away from the article? You’re just looking for something to fuss about.