This theme had me really stumped—my area is fairly new—unlike England, Greece, Egypt, China and other areas with a rich history—where you can dig a well and discover ancient artifacts. I wanted to take the theme literally. Our town erected a sculpture but it was not completed. Maybe an old bridge or building—"old" being a relative term. Then a friend mentioned a WWII reenactment weekend about 90 minutes from my house. Better yet, it was the last two days of the WWP event. So off I went.
I really wanted to get a cockpit shot inside a Panzer tank—no go. So I shot some panoramics around the area. All of the reenactment groups had very elaborate encampments—but the one I liked had with armor, a pig roast, numerous tents, a stove/cooking area—you name it. I decided to use this for the panorama. One problem—the area I wanted to shoot from was off-limits.
So how to shoot it? I asked a couple of people, got a few strange looks, and was shortly introduced to one of the Fregattenkapitän
for the day, John—technically I assume it was “Johan” for the weekend. Anyway, I explained what I wanted and he really liked the idea. I made him a deal—let me shoot the pano and I’d give them a flash version for their website. That sealed the deal and I shot from the camp center. There are a few bystanders in the distance, but it still looks cool. I would have Photoshopped them out, but I had computer issues and had no PC for a few days.
I had heard of Civil War reenactors, but not WWII. These guys go all out. They strive for authenticity, from the smallest uniform detail to the largest—restored custom-built armor. We’re talking tanks, half-tracks, motorcycles, cars, jeeps—even period bikes. Allies, and Axis. American and Australian. German and Japanese. Soviet and Italian. English and Chinese. The list goes on. This weekend saw over 800 participants from several different countries, plus dozens of vehicles.
Their camps took up several dozen acres, divided into Axis and Allied forces. Bunkers, machine gun and mortar emplacements, string painstakingly twisted and knotted—then painted—to look like barbed-wire. Anti-tank traps, foxholes, sniper nests, command posts and medical tents. Soldiers, nurses, civilians—all in period clothing. Mock skirmishes and even some full scale battles, complete with mechanized armor! Fire, noise, explosions—you name it, the battles had it.
The camps were the most impressive—it was obvious these people have a passion for this. They actually lived in the tents for a few days, ate food cooked over fires or prepared by the camp cook, and used authentic utensils. Yes, there was the occasional beer can or potato-chip bag, but it was really impressive. Where else can you stand 3 feet from German and American tanks as they rumble by? Or walk around and hear 80-year-old record players playing 1940s music, then a couple of hundred feet later hear bagpipe music—and see it’s not a record but a real piper?
Then turn around and spot Cavalry?! Yes—Cavalry. Soldiers on horse-back, again with period gear. Saddles, bridals, stirrups, rifle holsters—you name it.
OK, so why did I select the German camp over another one? Because it was more “secure”—i.e., participants only allowed inside, so there were far fewer people to worry about. The majority of the other camps were wide-open with plenty of wide-eyed kids and countless adults meandering through them. That and it was so elaborate! A pig rotating on a spit over a fire? Mechanized armor? A field cook?
So thanks to John and the folks at 2ndPanzerDivision.com