Gunner, Shot, Tank!!! Fire!!!!

The Medium Tank (M4) was the primary tank produced by the USA for its own use, as well as that of the Allied Forces, during World War II.  Production of the M4 exceeded 50,000 units.  Interesting,y, the M4 was not dubbed the Sherman by U.S. forces, but rather by the United Kingdom, who named it after Union General William Tecumseh Sherman.  The Brits regularly named its American-built tanks after famous American Civil War generals.  I found this Sherman tank at the impressive Airborne Museum at Sainte-Mère-Église.  By the way, if you look beyond the main gun, you’ll notice a church tower with a white parachute canopy hanging from it.  Some of you may recall the famous incident involving 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) paratrooper John Steele, whose chute caught upon spire of the church.  Steele hung there for two hours, watching the raging battle below, before he was captured by the Germans.  You can see a re-enactment of that incident in one of my favorite War movies, The Longest Day. Red Buttons played the role of John Steele.

…beyond the call of duty

Executive Mansion,
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.
Dear Madam,

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
Abraham Lincoln

The American Cemetery, at Colleville-sur-Mer, France


(Creative Notes:  I shot this with the Nikon D700 and the Nikkor 28-300 F/3.5-5.6 G ED VR lens.  Post processed the image to the moving Hymn to the Fallen by John Williams.)

The Battery of Longues-sur-Mer

During a recent trip to France, I had the opportunity to spend the day on a guided tour of Normandy.  It’s hard to describe the emotion one feels when standing on such ground, so I won’t try to do so.  What I will do is to show you some photographs of the area, and give you a little back story, beginning with this shot of the batteries at Longues-sur-Mer.

Built in the first months of 1944, the at Loungues-sur-Mer included four 150-mm guns, housed in casements, located in the middle of the assault sector on the top of a 65 meter cliff overlooking the Channel, and with clear line of sight and in range of  Omaha (American sector) and Gold (British sector) beaches.  In the very early morning hours of 6 June 1944, the French cruiser Georges Leygues and the U.S. battleship Arkansas opened fire on the batteries.  The batteries returned fire, forcing the headquarters ship HMS Bulolo to retreat to a safe distance about one kilometer from the shoreline.  The German guns ceased fire briefly, but then reengaged the allies, continuing to fire until 1900 hours (7pm for you civilians).  While three of the four guns had been disabled by the British cruisers HMS Ajax and Argonaut, the batteries, along with 184 men, did not surrender to the British until the following day.  (Creative notes:  For inspiration, I post-processed this photograph and wrote the post while listening to the awesome Band of Brother’s score.  I shot the photograph below as the sun was still rising over Normandy, using my Nikon D700 and my “travel lens”, the Nikkor 28-300 f/3.5-5.6 ED VR.  The shot above, from inside the gun casement, comes courtesy of the Nikkor 14-24 F/2.8 lens.)


Mama, I’m comin’ home…

Well, friends!  It’s Valentine’s Day, so today’s post had to be special.  I think by now most of you who follow my posts know that I’ve been, for some time now, part of an HDR collaboration with some of the coolest HDR cats out there, like Jim Denham, Rob Hanson, Bob Lussier, and Brian Matiash.  And now, we’ve added another amazing HDRtist to the mix, Mike Criswell (aka Theaterwiz)!  Man am I lucky to be part of such a perfect storm!  And what better way to welcome Mike, and to celebrate Valentine’s Day, than with an extra-special set of brackets I shot (and all of us post-processed to to our own tastes) as part of my continuing coverage of the awesome URBEX site known as Asylum “T”.

So, a little bit about Asylum “T”.  After World War II (I’ll discuss the WWII era and pre-WWII area on another day), this site, which is located in former East Germany, towards Dresden, was taken over by the Russians and used as a military hospital until around 1993, when the Russians turned it back over to the Germans.  What’s interesting about the former Russian installations I’ve have explored is that the attics and basements are full of little mementos of the former Russian occupation.  Take this attic, for example.  What you see here are the names of several Russian cities, from which those who left their marks hailed, as well as the dates the person was assigned to the installation, or when they rotated out.  With that backstory in mind, I felt that post-processing this shot to Ozzy Osbourne’s fantastic Mama, I’m Comin’ Home was a no-brainer.  Like Ozzy sings to his wife (bet many of you did not know “Mama” was his nickname for his wife), I can imagine these Russian soldiers, weary after years away from home, can think of nothing more than returning to loved ones, girlfriends, wives, and, yes, even mothers!  Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Post-Processing notes:  My favorite photographic  sizes 8 x 10 and 1 x 1 (square crop), so it should come as no surprise that I went with an 8 x 10 crop for this one.  Aside from that creative decision, I also chose to process this shot in a way that would bring the greatest attention to the text left behind on the walls and wooden beams by the Russian soldier.  As I’m also partial to the color red, and since it is, after all, Valentine’s Day, I also saturated and brightened the red paint (particularly on the nearest pillar) a bit.  To give the photograph greater depth, I carefully painted shadows back into the image in places where you would expect to se shadows, while still keeping just enough light on key bits in the darkness to let you know what you are looking at.  I wanted this to look as realistic as possible, yet with my own personal touch.

Mike Criswell (aka Theaterwiz):

I was anxious to get a look at the brackets when Jacques told us what the title was going to be, I was not disappointed. The information he provided about the location was amazing and when I started processing this I wanted to convey that in my version of the shot. I really liked the gritty foreground and detailed ceiling when I first looked at the set, but the more I worked on the picture the more I realized where my vision was for this set of brackets. I wanted to focus more on the doorway and the amazing writing on the walls and column, this area really told the story of this location and I tried to accent those areas in the processing. I think I spent more time looking at different cropping ideas on this than final processing tweaks, and I had a hard time deciding on my final version. I let everything sit overnight and this ended up being my favorite when it was all said and done. Thanks again for the brackets Jacques, and thanks to the rest of the Collaboration group for letting me join in the processing fun.

Jim Denham:

Thanks to Jacques for supplying a great set of brackets and a great story behind them! I wanted to highlight the names and dates in the image, but didn’t want to overdo the processing – something simple and straight forward. There was a lot of space in the image and I cropped it down a bit to move the focus clearly on the concrete pillar and the wall behind. Used dodging and burning to further accent.

Rob Hanson:

Once again, Jacques donated a fantastic set of brackets for this round. I did all of my processing work before I got the backstory on Asylum -T, and found that I didn’t make too many changes even after I heard more about this place. This set also gave me a chance to do some overdue research on Ozzy’s career. Not being a big heavy-metal fan, I lost interest in Sabbath sometime after “Master of Reality” wore out (and yes, folks, I remember when it was released!)

With a tip of the hat to Jacques’ fantastic composition skills, I brought the crop in somewhat aggressively, strengthening the vertical lines of the columns in order to highlight the tall ceiling. I felt that this really brought attention to the column and brings us closer to the graffiti while eliminating what were, for me, a couple of minor distractions.

In a cold, dark, dingy Urbex environment, I think it’s a natural human impulse to want to escape, to go back to what is warm and comfortable. As I did with both Mark Garbowski’s recent “Uptown & The Bronx” and Brian Matiash’s “A Seemingly Safe Exit” collaborations, I lit the way out of this scene by providing warm and inviting light coming from the door. That gives us a choice to either stay in the scene to take in more of the graffiti, or to navigate toward the door to something more soothing.

I really enjoy working with Jacques’ brackets. They always confront me with things that make me think more about what I’m doing with an image.

Bob Lussier:

A set of brackets provided by Jacques is always guaranteed to please. This is no exception.

I kept the processing pretty straightforward. I tend to lean towards contrasty processing so this place that Jacques so expertly captured was perfect for me. I pulled back the saturation a bit and then popped the red graffiti.

Finally, I cropped it to an 8×10 format to help lead the eye across the floor and out the door.

Thanks Jacques, for the Valentine’s Day gift.

We love you too.

Brian Matiash:

It’s always a pleasure to work on a fine set of brackets, especially when they are from an HDR cohort.  Jacques has proven time and again that he knows how to get very compelling UrbEx images, so it was a treat to take a crack at this series.

I decided to crop the image a bit and get rid of some of the foreground.  I also kept the processing more on the colder, stoic side.  I want the viewer to feel chilly when looking at the graffiti on the stone columns.

My favorite part of the scene is that little bit of the door that you see in the background. There is something so wonderfully creepy about it.

Kudos for a fine set of brackets, my man. I truly enjoyed it.

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