This Bizarre World War II Photo with ‘Floating Trees’ is Not Photoshopped

Photo of the ‘floating trees’ taken by Osvald Hedenström

This mind-bending World War II photograph with “floating trees” may look like it is an optical illusion or cloned on Photoshop — but it is actually a real image.

In the surreal image, which is part of the Finnish Defence Forces’ photographic archive, a Finnish army car drives along a road, a few miles from the border with the Soviet Union.

Above the vehicle, a line of mysterious pine trees eerily levitates in the air.

The picture was taken in 1941 by a Finnish photographer called Osvald Hedenström, as his nation tried to shield itself from neighboring Stalinist Russia during World War II.

Photograph of the Finnish photographer Osvald Hedenström (1913–1998) writing captions in Savukoski.
Image of Finnish photographer Osvald Hedenström

A year earlier, Finland had warily agreed to fight alongside Nazi Germany in a bid to protect itself from Soviet invasion.

Hedenström was fighting under German command when he found himself beneath the floating trees and decided to take a photo.

According to Atlas Obscura, the hanging trees are not an optical illusion or cloned on Photoshop — but a type of camouflage used by Finland during World War II to disguise the road from Soviet forces.

Confusing The Enemy With Trees

Almost 75% of Finland is covered in trees and the Finnish decided to make use of the country’s natural resources as a method of concealment and defense in World War II.

“The Finns didn’t have funds to buy artificial camouflage such as nets in vast quantities,” military historian Colonel Petteri Jouko tells Atlas Obscura. “So they used trees, leaves, and foliage to confuse the enemy.”

“The Finns have camouflaged the road to Raate, about 10 km from Russia, with pines hanging in the air, because right on the border there is an observation tower erected by the Russians,” Hedenström writes in a caption accompanying the photo.

Floating trees in Finland

Pine trees were hung from cables which were connected to poles on the right-hand side of the road. The trees were strategically installed there to obscure the view from the nearby enemy Russian tower.

Atlas Obscura reports that the erected trees would not conceal the road from aircraft. But if Russian forces were looking at the area from a watchtower, all they would be able to see was an uninterrupted line of trees.

However, on ground level, the trees would bizarrely look as though they were levitating.

And due to the angle of Hedenström’s photo, the cables on the first row of trees can not be seen, which further adds to the impression that the pines are floating in mid-air.

A tree used to disguise a coastal defence ship.
A tree used to disguise a coastal defense ship in a photo taken by Esko Suomela.

During World War II, trees were used to camouflage everything from tanks to heavy artillery, while white sheets were used to disguise vehicles in the snow.

The image is now part of the Finnish Defence Force’s photographic Archive, which contains 160,000 photos captured between 1939 and 1945, when Finland fought two separate wars against the Soviet Union.

Image credits: All photos by SA-KUVA/ Public Domain.