the blog of Seldom Seen Photography

Cars, Cars and more Cars

Hood Ornament - 1939 Pontiac Deluxe EightToday I visited the LeMay Car Museum – officially known as the LeMay –AMERICA’S CAR MUSEUM® with a small photo group from the Tacoma Mountaineers. Though I’m not sure if I actually visited the museum or not, because according to the guide, the LeMay car collection I visited and the new museum being built next to the Tacoma Dome are not the same organization due to some sort of falling out. Regardless, the LeMay car collection is amazing, and I don’t even like cars that much!
LeMay Cars
We spent over four hours photographing cars (the typical tour takes about 2 hours, but it is up to you, as each group gets their own tour guide). I shot way too many images, it is going to take me a long time to edit these, but I wanted to blog about it and show a few shots. The car collection is housed on the old grounds of the Marymount Academy – a former Catholic school for boys. Harold LeMay was the garbage man for the nuns that ran the place, and after the school closed its doors and the nuns couldn’t keep the place up, LeMay bought it. The collection has thousands of cars, though most are not on display. Don’t despair though, there are more cars there on display than you can look at in a day, or even a weekend.

I found myself mainly photographing details of cars rather than shots encompassing whole cars. One reason – the cars are stacked in there bumper to bumper, and it is nearly impossible to get a photo of a single car without a lot of clutter in the way. Shooting a lot of detail shots, I found my macro lens came in very handy. While the macro lens was nice to have, my tripod was essential to photographing there. Hood ornament - 1956 Chevrolet Bel AirThe collection is mostly indoors, though not all the buildings are heated. So, it was fairly dark (especially on a winter’s day), so without using a flash, either a tripod or a high ISO setting is required. I’m not a fan of high ISO noise, so a tripod was necessary. I also shot in RAW format. The lighting conditions were odd, mostly a mix of daylight and fluorescent.  Shooting RAW will allow me to adjust colors when I process the images. I hope you enjoy the few sample images I’ve included here. The upper photo is the hood ornament from a 1939 Pontiac DeLuxe Eight Convertible. The center photo is from, what I call, the “expensive car room”, which includes a Tucker worth over $1,000,000. The last image is the front end of a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible.

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3 responses

  1. wow, these cars look fantastic. such classic looks. great job.

    February 5, 2011 at 9:44 pm

  2. scot keller

    Joe: Congratulations on the fantastic pictures. As a life long “car guy” and lover of great photography, I never tire of seeing shots that give you a glimpse of what the vehicle designers intended.

    I was also taken back on your comment……”according to the guide, the LeMay car collection I visited and the new museum being built next to the Tacoma Dome are not the same organization due to some sort of falling out.” As a long time supporter, ex Board of Directors member and the Museum’s CMO, I thought it was import to dispel the unfortunate rumor the Docent communicated during your visit.

    Let me reassure you, Mrs. LeMay has been, and continues to be, a generous supporter of LeMay – America’s Car Museum. She and her son Doug are also active members of ACM’s Board of Directors and their ongoing contributions to the Museum are invaluable.

    Again, congratulations on the wonderful shots and thank you for sharing them.

    Scot Keller
    Chief Marketing & Communications Officer
    LeMay – America’s Car Museum

    February 8, 2011 at 4:56 pm

  3. Thanks for the comments on the photos.

    Scot, I was also somewhat taken aback by the docent’s comments, and I was not totally clear on what the issue might be. If it is an unfounded rumor, please excuse me for spreading it. The docent did say regardless of the issue, that the LeMay collection will be loaning cars for display at the new museum. I hope you are correct and that there is not troubles between the two parties. These cars are a treasure for all of Tacoma to enjoy.

    February 8, 2011 at 5:36 pm

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