HDR Photography at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum

Car 264 is a working trolley car. Here it is parked in front of the museum and is waiting for passengers to embark.

This interior shot of car 264 shows the wicker seats and beautiful wood trim.

On Sunday I went with a group of photographers to the Baltimore Streetcar Museum. It was freezing cold, but that didn’t stop us from wandering around the grounds taking pictures of the trolley cars and other rolling stock. The museum people were extremely friendly and allowed us to go into the car barn and even take some photos from inside some of the cars that were being refurbished.

My favorite was car 294, a closed-in car that had removable windows. The car was built in 1900 by the Brownell & J.G. Brill Company. The interior featured wicker seats and beautiful wood paneling. The area over the windows was lined with turn-of-the-century advertisements for a range of products, which was pretty interesting by itself.

Many of the cars at the museum are working cars, and while we were there taking pictures a number of them went out on short trips, ferrying passengers. We were too involved in our photography to go on a ride, but the museum is easy to get to and we may just decide to go back in the spring for another visit. Or to get some of those shots that were almost — but not quite — what we wanted to get.

For these photos I’ve used the Topaz Adjust filters to bring out detail in the highlights. I could get better detail in the windows of the second shot if I used multiple exposures and combined them in an HDR program. So far I’ve tried a few trial programs and I can’t seem to get the hang of the software. None of my multiple-image HDR photos ever seem to line up evenly, even when I use a tripod to take the pictures.

Using a tripod was essential to get some of the detail on the cars in the car barn, which I photographed with my Nikon D70. The exterior shot of car 264 was taken with that camera and a 20mm lens.

For the interior of the car, I used my Nikon Coolpix 6200 and did some hand-held shots. I was able to hold the camera near the floor and get angles that would have been difficult to get otherwise. I used to think point-and-shoot cameras were amateur stuff, but I’m getting consistently good images from my equipment and find that using both SLR and compact point-and-shoot on the same photo outing is giving me a lot of mileage from my equipment.

I try to take pictures that show texture, and I hope that the interior shot gives a good feeling of the smooth worn surface of the wicker and the grunge on the floor. For a 112-year-old trolley car, the furnishings were in very good shape. One of the wicker seats was torn, but most seemed intact. What surprised me was that there is heat underneath the seats which makes them warm. I’d been walking around outside taking exterior photos and then we went into car 264. I sat on the third seat and it was warm! After freezing temperatures that was wonderful! Needless to say, we spent quite a bit of time inside taking detail shots before we were thawed out enough to venture back outside.

The museum has a nice collection of vehicles, as well as displays and a small store. It’s a small museum but definitely worth a visit if you like transportation-related museums. Enjoy the pictures.

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