This photo was taken during the protests in Egypt and is one of my all time favorite tank photos. It does an AMAZING job of showing what realistic weathering looks like on a well maintained, actively deployed, CLEAN tank looks like. Make no mistake, outside of a museum this is as clean as a tank gets.
One of the things that comes up a lot when we talk about weathering scale models is the fine line between well weathered and overdone. I think one of the things that really surprises people that haven't seen modern tanks in the field is how quickly they weather, how rough the surface is, how poorly they're painted, and how little the crews worry about keeping the paint fresh.
The photo above was taken recently in Sudan. You can easily see that the road wheels are pitted and rusty, the paint is chipped, the tracks are rusted where they're not being worn, and the front of the tank in positively CAKED in gunk.
This photo was taken on the family farm and actually belongs to a piece of well maintained, often used farm equipment. It's not pretty and the paint on the body is pretty bad. What matters is that it functions well and it's not falling apart. In the field, military or alfalfa, that's the most important thing.
This is a different view of the first photo that does a good job of showing just how worn and dirty this active duty tank really is.
And the question of what to do with a broken fender is pretty clearly answered in this one.
Here are some examples of tanks currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And here are some colour photos of WW2 era tanks in good shape that have been well maintained and whitewashed like you'd expect to see in the winter scenes.
But of course no discussion of tank weathering, especially winter tank weathering, is complete without a grainy, black and white historical photo. It is photos like this one that we're often forced to reference for historical projects -- and it can be made easier by taking MODERN photos and converting them to black and white. While you still have to do a bit of guesswork it does make it a little easier to sort rust from mud and whitewash from chipped paint.