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Tune up your photography skills at the Gilmore Auto Museum

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Much has been written about the Gilmore Auto Museum, Hickory Corners, Michigan, touting it as “America’s Signature Collection,” awarding it, a “Certificate of Excellence,” among the Top Five U.S. auto museums, and listing it as Michigan’s # 1 Greatest Historic Auto Attractions. But what is not so well known — the Gilmore welcomes photographers of all skill levels.

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According to Steve Randel, professional photographer, “A museum like Gilmore is a photographer’s treasure simply because it offers a valuable learning experience to control lighting and camera angles.”

The museum which only a few years ago featured eight amazing barns chockfull of rare automobiles such as Duesenbergs, Auburns, Pierce-Arrows, and Packards, a classic Shell gas station and a charming 1950s George and Sally’s Blue Moon diner, was only opened during warm weather months. However, for the first time since its 1966 inception, in 2011 the Hickory Corners 90-acre campus opened year round from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The year round availability followed the completion of several brand new buildings including a 1920s Ford Motor Company dealership replica, a Hot Rod room, Model A museum, and much much more.

While some newbie photographers might think its simple photographing stationary objects, on the contrary, it is quite a challenge according to Randel, who also is working on a new book for fledgling photographers. “Depending on where one stands and understanding how to sense, measure, and control the camera lighting variables is a challenge,” Randel said. “Particularly because the museum’s LED lighting is dim.”

I recently accompanied Randel on such a visit, an approximately 2.5 hour drive from suburban Detroit, and while many photographs make great keepsakes, facebook postings, and Picasa libraries, only one to two dozen can likely be labeled extraordinary. The accompany slide show features a select few of Randel’s as well as mine.

Controlling ISO, aperture, and shooting from a variety of different angles helps assure at least one picture will stand among many. And shooting dozens and dozens of pictures is a necessity. For example, the indoor buildings featured some 300 models. A photographer who arrives at the museum at 10 a.m. can expect to spend a full day before departing. Be sure to grab a well-deserved and let me add hearty and delicious lunch! We can’t wait to go back in the spring to shoot the barn cars and local scenery.

Before you go, be sure to bring a large SD card or two, an extended flash and a spare battery just in case. I used a digital SLR featuring 18 megapixels, with a wide angle lens. Daily admission at the Gilmore Auto Museum is only $10 and discounts for Triple AAA and seniors are available.

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