Light and Shade in Siouxland, Le Mars and Omaha, NE

8 Dec
Light and shade at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I will sometimes have students in class through the Lifelong Learning program at Western Iowa Tech tell me that they couldn’t find subjects to photograph or that the weather was not cooperating. Photography is a perfect example of the adage of making lemonade out of lemons.

Even in Siouxland one sometimes has to shift gears and think differently about subject matter to photograph. I find reverting back to shooting black and images helpful because seeing becomes more fundamental, reduced to lights and darks, lines, shapes and angles. Color or lack or too much of it doesn’t matter. Weather though can have an impact if one is looking to create certain images. Strong light is a must, but a person must take the time to see a bit differently and maybe more abstractly than when shooting in color.

Light and shade in Le Mars, Iowa Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Light and shade at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When photographing in black and white it’s all about shades of grey. For me it’s less grey and more strident blacks and whites. But one does what one can with what’s available. And even in today’s digital age there are the tools available to create decent black and white images. I believe it’s more in the seeing, of possibilities, than what is before you. I began my career photographing for newspapers shooting Kodak’s famous Tri-X film. In the vernacular of the day it was “f/8 and be there” which I heard from more than one newspaper photographer. At an ISO of 400, Tri-X was a moderately fast film and shooting outdoors in daylight one generally was at f/8 at 1/2000 on a sunny day. Shadows were a major concern because in the day fill flash didn’t have hypersync capabilities and the old Nikon F camera’s only flash synced at 1/60th of a second or slower.

Light and shade in Le Mars, Iowa Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Light and shade at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

So one became very conscious of how light and shade affected subjects be they people, buildings, landscapes or whatever. I still really enjoy black and white, but am happy to shoot color. Each has its place. Photographing fall foliage and Christmas lights is so much nicer, as are fireworks. But black and white can still be very effective and rewarding. One just needs to look for it and see it in this world of color.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Light and shade at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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