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Grand Architecture in Siouxland, Louis E May Museum, Fremont, NE

26 Jul
A grand estate, the Louis E. May Historical Museum is on the National Register of Historic Places in Freemont, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As I continue driving about Siouxland I surprise myself at finding unexpected pleasures like the Louis E. May Historical Museum in Fremont, NE.

Sadly, the museum is currently closed because of the pandemic, but am hoping it might be reopening this coming fall for a chance to see the interior of the former home.

The Louis E. May Historical Museum is on the National Register of Historic Places in Freemont, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Louis E. May Historical Museum is on the National Register of Historic Places in Freemont, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It was difficult to find much information about the history of the museum and former home online. With just a brief mention about it on two official sites:

The home was built in the Italianate Revival style by Fremont’s first mayor, Theron Nye, in 1874. Nye’s son inherited the home in 1900 and remodeled the home from 1901 through 1912. The current style of the home is Georgian or Classical Revival and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is art of the Dodge County’s Historical Society. The home’s grounds are a Nebraska Arboretum Site, a grassroots membership-based nonprofit that believes environments matter and provide a better sense of place and social interactions as well as improving one’s health.

Another blogger wrote about the historical house in 2013 after a visit. I look forward to actually touring it when it reopens.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The Louis E. May Historical Museum in Freemont, NE seen Saturday, May 22, 2021 was originally built in 1874 by Fremont’s first mayor, Theron Nye. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Louis E. May Historical Museum in Freemont, NE seen Saturday, May 22, 2021, has a perennial Victorian garden and a rose garden on the grounds. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Louis E. May Historical Museum in Freemont, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Built in 1874 by Fremont, NE’s first mayor, Theron Nye, the Louis E. May Historical Museum is now listed with the National Register of Historic Places seen Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Geometric Lines in Siouxland, Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha, NE

16 Jul
Geometric shadow lines at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when visiting places in and around Siouxland I default to shooting in B&W. It’s what I started with and used for photography, personal and professionally for many years. Even though scenes are in color, unless one is color blind, I see some scenes in black and white. And it took a while to understand the color of objects and how each color or variation there of was rendered in a shade of grey.

Light and shadows at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And depending on the subject one might also be able to utilize whatever texture is found in the scene to add one more visual element. Black and white can create a simplicity when photographing. Geometric lines and shapes, tonality, gradations. The use of Ansel Adams Zone System. Ten steps of gradation from black without detail to white without detail. At least that was how I was taught. Something though I haven’t critically thought about in a decade or two, but still aware of it and it figures into my thought process when shooting and working on black and white images.

Geometric shadow lines at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Then one can let the imagination take over and pursue visual imagery that engages oneself, focusing only on capturing what will translate the what is seen. Then photography becomes fun.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Light and shadows at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Lines and Shapes in Siouxland, Midland College, Wayne, NE

30 Jun
A building on the campus of Midland College in Wayne, NE Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I enjoy visiting institutions of higher education. The idea of walking the same ground that so many have walked before pursuing dreams and hopefully a better way of life for themselves and their fellow citizens. The architecture is interesting and sometimes is a combination of a variety of styles depending on when the school was founded and when other buildings were later added to the campus to help with a growing student population.

Early sculpture piece depicting a nostalgic campus scene at Midland College in Wayne, NE Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Avant guard signage at Midland College in Wayne, NE Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I am by no means astute about architecture and the history of styles and such, but more appreciative in the lines, shapes, angles and other visual aspects which I enjoy. And photographing in B&W the shades of grey that occur within the frame of an image.

The school seemed closed between its spring and summer sessions, and I am not certain what protocols are in place at various institutions as each seems to dictate what is acceptable as pandemic restrictions are eased or altogether done away with. But one can always enjoy the grounds which are well tended and presentable in case a prospect might be passing through to take a peek and see what lies within.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A more classical building design at Midland College in Wayne, NE Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Shapes and lines on the campus Midland College in Wayne, NE Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An architectural feature of a building on the campus of Midland College in Wayne, NE Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Visiting the Netherworlds in Siouxland, Durham Museum, Omaha, NE

20 Jun
A visitor watches film clips of director James Cameron seen in the “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Even though I live in Siouxland, a region that is part of what is affectionately or not affectionately known as flyover country, there are a number of museums, large and small, which one can visit and enjoy traveling exhibits, both visually and educationally stimulating.

Currently at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE is the exhibit James Cameron — Challenging the Deep. Film director Cameron put together various crews to explore the worlds under the sea including the Titanic and the battleship Bismark allowing Cameron to share his passion and interest with the deep ocean by creating an immersive exhibit using large video screen displays to show visitors what he and others saw beneath the ocean depth, in some place 10,000 meters deep, or almost 10.5 Empire State buildings stacking on top of one another.

A visitor watches a film of deep sea exploration from film director James Cameron at the “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An informative and elaborate set sets the stage for the James Cameron “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Costumes from the movie “Titanic” seen juxtaposed with film of the actual Titanic that director James Cameron filmed during a deep sea exploration and seen at the “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There is a model of the Titanic as it appears underwater on display that is seen in some of the videos showing the exploration of the ship that Cameron and others recorded. The director’s fascination with the deep ocean evidently started when he was a young child and he nurtured that desire to explore as he followed his career path as a film director. Some of the problem solving in filming movies, such as the Abyss, helped Cameron realize what might be possible as he collaborated with experts in the field of under water exploration.

A mock version of the “Titanic” on display at the James Cameron “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Informational panels explain that director James Cameron held a long fascination since childhood about the sea and is told in the “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Items on display used in filming some of the deep sea exploration seen at the James Cameron “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Through the use of underwater recording technology and deep ocean submersible vessels Cameron and others explore the deep, and film themselves exploring the deep which gives the exhibit viewer an idea of how this was all made possible at such incredible depths, with Cameron narrating what is being seen and how it was made possible.

And the exhibit in some ways becomes more interesting by the fact that its entire area is bathed in deep blue light or blackness, resembling what the various individuals must have encountered themselves as they dove deep to explore areas of the ocean not seen by many but now accessible to all through this exhibition.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An informative and elaborate set sets the stage for the James Cameron “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Visitors watch film of deep sea exploration from film director James Cameron at the “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Getting in Line in Siouxland, Omaha, NE

4 Jun
Shadows creating lines at the Union Pacific Big Boy Engine display near Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I don’t think as I travel about Siouxland that I have ever seen a graphic B&W image which I did not like. Black and white photography can simplify the images one takes simply by eliminating excessive factors, like color. Which is obvious I think. But when people photograph they see in color and so then many times are not aware of how that image might look when converted.

Shadows creating lines at the Union Pacific Big Boy Engine display near Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When I began my photographic adventure shooting for publications I was using back and white film, specifically Tri-X. In college I didn’t pursue a photo-centric path. I never really studied photography. I did take a number of elective “art courses” though which a kind instructor allowed me to interpret and sort of create along the way. Working with various film stocks of differing ASA’s (as ISO was referred to then) and film developers such as Accufine, D-76, HC-110, Rodinal and others I now not remember. Shooting the recommended film exposure and then developing the film normally, pushing it (2-3 stops), pulling it (mostly one stop) and the printing examples.

I learned a lot. And I appreciated, and still do, shooting B&W. When I shoot in that “film” genre these days, I shoot monochrome or whatever the camera system I have allows me. I do not shoot color and then covert into B&W. I am concentrating on a black and white image. Deep reds are dark greys, yellows, light greys, blues are a medium grey.

Shadows creating lines at the Union Pacific Big Boy Engine display near Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I am thinking in tonality and seeing in my mind’s eye what the finished image will look like. In the film days depending on the processing and then printing, which could be on “soft” paper, medium or hard paper, a photographer could achieve a different look and feel to an image. Now one relies on software, although I do just basic work with contrast and levels in photoshop and not with any plug-ins. I am sure I could achieve even better results, but try to gain that strictly when shooting and then minor tweaks in post.

The Union Pacific Big Boy Engine display near Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Union Pacific Big Boy Engine display near Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I find that B&W images keep life simple. Although when shooting for publications when I started out and an editor in the fall would say go out and photograph some trees for Page 1 art, I was always mystified because the reproduction was in black and white and the image created was with black and white material, film and paper for printing. I wondered if they really knew what they were asking, or just responding to the visceral appeal of seeing bright fall foliage when driving into the office that day.

Of course one could then effectively use specific filters that would enhance a black and white image, so when shooting yellow leaves against a blue sky a specific filter could almost turn the sky black and the leaves would seem to jump off the print. Those images might be a bit out of gamut for the press room, but nonetheless one did have some options. And one still does today. The thought process is still mostly the same, seeing the tonality and then accomplishing that with the tools at hand.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The Union Pacific Big Boy Engine display near Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Getting Jailed in Siouxland, The Squirrel Cage, Council Bluffs

29 May
Lots of metal at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Being incarcerated is not for the faint of heart. And hopefully most folk will never encounter such an ordeal whether in Siouxland or elsewhere. The Squirrel Cage in Council Bluffs had been in operation for a few decades. Visiting such an inhospitable place as a museum gave me pause for those who spent time there for supposed crimes until each’s trial. One of only a few such places built in the United States it opened for “business” in 1885 and was in use until 1969.

A former county jail, the Squirrel Cage Museum is located in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Jail time was not to be envied at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Minimal accommodations at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Every manner of “criminal” from juveniles to adults were housed in the jail which used a rotating 3-story cell system, which history shows escaped any major catastrophe such as a fire since there would have been no way for a jailer, who lived on site with his family, could have safely gotten all prisoners out. In early days criminal offices for getting locked up included adultery, which could probably fill many a hotel these days, both famous and not famous. Those folks were also jailed with arsonists, domestic abusers, murderers and children who ran afoul of the law.

Docent Kat Slaughter gives tours at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Docent Kat Slaughter gives tours at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Docent Kat Slaughter gave a nice 45-minute tour about the jail, its history and the good, bad and ugly aspects of the jail. Originally she said the rotating cells were operated by an underground water system which was later replaced. And there was only one boiler, and summers were extremely uncomfortable because heat rises and prisoners places within metal confines throughout and at the top of the jail could not escape the heat.

But evidently, for some, that was not enough of a deterrent as even evident today, to keep on the straight and narrow.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Jail time was not to be envied at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A sneak peek into the past visiting at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Mary Poppins Proud in Siouxland, Laurtizen Gardens, Omaha, NE

27 May
Umbrellas on display at a garden exhibit at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Visiting various places in and around Siouxland I always delight in fantastical exhibits and the imagination and inspiration of folk who create these exhibits. Seeing a recent one at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE I could only imagine that Mary Poppins would be proud, and most certainly I and others would have been delighted had she dropped in for a “spot of tea” and a song. But maybe that is my imagination running away with me, as a lyric to some now forgotten song plays in my head. Still, exhibits should elicit responses from those seeing them and enjoy them for what they are and represent.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Observing the Lines in Siouxland, Laurtizen Gardens, Omaha, NE

21 May
Jet trails create streaks in the sky near flag poles at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when photographing in Siouxland my mind’s eye sees images that I consciously think won’t pass muster. But nothing ventured….

Simple images, few distractions, hopefully will help and not hurt. And maybe the spark of an idea will be fruitful, or something to file away for another attempt with another subject.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Jet trails create streaks in the sky near flag poles at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Looking up in Siouxland, Omaha, NE

11 May
Looking up in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I remember so many years ago before living in Siouxland and visiting relatives in a larger city than where I lived people reminded me not to look up. They said doing so would make me stand out as a tourist. While I understood what they were getting at, the advice belied the fact that I was indeed, a tourist. And looking up just naturally comes with that territory.

Walking around downtown Omaha, NE one can play tourist. The small city has a interesting mix of buildings and styles. While not a student of architecture or the history of that medium, I know there is a mixture of various architectural styles found there and the tall buildings naturally invites one to look at and admire their grandeur..

Looking at taller buildings in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seeing shapes in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But it’s not just the buildings seen outside, but sometimes it’s also what is seen inside. While I didn’t photograph the front of the Douglas County Courthouse in Omaha, I did pause to photograph the ceiling inside. Older courthouses have a style and decor that is wonderful. And as many were built early on, sometimes in another century, what is seen helps tell the history of a place, although that history was generally told through the eyes of those wielding power at the time, mainly the movers and shakers of the day. Monied people who settled the area and controlled that through their wealth and influence.

Inside the Douglas County District Courthouse in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Inside the Douglas County District Courthouse in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But the architecture is to be admired, if not the message through the murals that adorn the spaces. The style is grand, elegant and formal. Many times constructed with marble that today would be beyond the reach of many communities and sensibilities and styles change. No longer harkening back to those European roots per se, but looking to create a statement of the those who craft the structures today making their own mark and not wanting to continue a traditionalist look created many centuries ago.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A portrait of a forebear hanging inside the Douglas County District Courthouse in downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying the Ethereal in Siouxland, Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha, NE

7 May
An exhibit using symbols at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When visiting places in and near Siouxland I always try to find a different way of viewing something I might previously have seen. Shooting photographs in color is different from shooting them in black and white. Color most times influences what a viewer sees, but in black and white one can uses shapes and light, light and shade, to influence what the viewer sees.

Shapes and lines at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A child follows the path at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Black and white photography can sometimes be a bit more stark and strips away elements that don’t really add to the image but just happens to be there. Placement and use of light and dark shapes the images and maybe a viewer’s impression.

Good, bad or indifferent, it’s good to stretch beyond how one normally sees. Creating images that don’t necessarily fall into a way of seeing that one might consider.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Shapes and lines at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A mystical view during an exhibit of symbols at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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