A couple of summers ago I pulled together a diorama project I had been contemplating for some time. Over the past year I had completed a number of new US Army vehicles, including the M-8 Greyhound scout car, and there were figures needing a scenario, too. The figures included US paratroops by Airfix, which I painted 30 years ago. The scene I envisioned was some sort of Normandy crossroads, where paratroops and lead reconnaissance units from Utah Beach would link up some time during the day on June 6.
The terrain in Normandy, being made up of countless small, enclosed fields, was notoriously difficult for the Allied attackers during that campaign. The enclosures surrounding these ancient agricultural parcels are called hedgerows. They are, in effect, earthen walls as tall or taller than a man, reinforced by tree roots and plant growth that both strengthen the barrier and afford lush cover for defenders. The fighting there in the summer of 1944 is sometimes referred to as “Hedgerow Hell.” It was terribly costly for both sides.
To make the diorama I needed first and foremost to create the hedgerows themselves.
When I make dioramas they are usually not permanent. I don’t use plaster. I would have no place to keep the finished products. I was trying to think how I might use the dirt in our back yard, but that would make it difficult to create the tall hedgerow berms. I decided to use a board, a couple of planks and some sticks underneath a quick-and-temporary layer of paper mache, which I would cover with soil while it was still wet. Standard miniature trees and vegetation (all store-bought foam and lichen) plus some of my HO-scale buildings (though not quite Normandy-looking) would round out the scene.
For the photography I use one of my 20×30 posters of sky (taken whenever I see a good one and inexpensively enlarged by Costco). The camera is usually on a tripod, so I can slow the shutter speed and increase the depth of focus as much as possible.
The crowning moments come when the kids get their turn with the little village we made…
Check out the gallery (black-and-white) of the finished photos from this afternoon activity! It’s on the main page.