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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©)

Light and Shade in Siouxland, Laurtizen Gardens, Omaha, NE

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

When visiting places while out and about in Siouxland or nearby locales, I try to stay conscious of imagery and look for those scenes that I think might look sweet in black and white as well as in color. Although maybe not the same scene. And not matter where I might venture, there is always an opportunity awaiting if one stays aware or open to seeing such.

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

Windows always provide the best opportunities on sunny days. I really prefer clean and little cluttered scenes, but sometimes one doesn’t have a choice. Then you must be choosey and see if something you see in color will translate well enough into black and white. Mysterious is also good. But everyone has their own way seeing.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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

Finding History Nestled in Siouxland, Trinity Cathedral, Omaha, NE

25 Apr
The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska Trinity Cathedral is surrounded by newer and more 20th century architecture near downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Those communities and larger cities settled more than a century or two ago have what one might consider an odd conglomeration of architecture dotting its downtown streets and city core. Most U.S. cities downtown areas are dotted with European style architecture which makes sense since it was settlers of those countries for the most part that began a push westward in their newly adopted home. These buildings reminded them of their former home and parts there about.

But as cities grew and entered into the next century and generations of people tastes and styles of architecture also changed and became more modern looking. The Trinity Episcopal Cathedral of the Nebraska Diocese is the oldest church building still in use in the state.

According to its website: ” The community of Trinity has been worshiping in Downtown Omaha since the city’s earliest days. Founded in 1856 by Nebraska’s first settlers, Trinity came through a financial crash, a building fire, and the struggles of the frontier before moving into a beautiful building on the corner of 18th and Capitol in 1883. We’ve been there ever since, making Trinity Cathedral the oldest church building in Nebraska still in use.

That long legacy has given us a love of beauty and history, which shows up in our architecture, our music, and our worship. It’s also made us committed to serving the physical, spiritual, and social needs of our neighbors as an inclusive, loving community where everyone can find a home.”

The Fisst Bishop of Nebraska is buried at the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska Trinity Cathedral near downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska Trinity Cathedral is the oldest still in use church building located near downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska Trinity Cathedral near downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Cities’ downtown areas grew up around the core that began in some case two centuries ago and some of which still thrive as well in cities in the eastern U.S. which are even older than Omaha. In some ways these buildings tell folk a little history visually about a community. Pueblos and missions certainly do that in the western areas of the U.S. The architecture grounds a community in some respect linking to a past that almost certainly is overlooked these days until one stops and actually thinks about it.

A newer skyscraper peeks above the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska Trinity Cathedral located near downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska Trinity Cathedral near downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I am certain the inside of this church like many religious buildings is beautiful on the inside. Many times when I happen upon places they are not always open, certainly not these days during the coronavirus pandemic. But that might be something for another trip to enjoy the solitude and history one might feel inside the church. Certainly many footfalls have echoes within, both in joyous and sadder times. A rock in a community to anchor those who wish it. Whose doors are always, generally, open and welcoming to those who wish to visit.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska Trinity Cathedral near downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska Trinity Cathedral near downtown Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Feeling Koi in Siouxland, Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha, NE

23 Apr
A koi fish swims about in its pond at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Friends who have known me for a while know I like the bad pun every now and again. And to visit a koi pond and to find coy fish seems like something made for exploiting. At the Lauritzen Gardens there is a pond with fish in it swimming about. I assume these are the traditional koi fish. Most are gold but some seem to have lost color and appear white.

With an overhead skylight reflecting in the water it seemed a perfect time to experiment shooting black and white and seeing how the two subjects correlate with one another. One live and there in real time the other more ephemeral existing in a reflection, fleeting as the fish because of the daylight needed to make the reflection appear.

A koi fish swims about in its pond at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Koi fish swims about in their pond at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It was moment of realizing patience as the fish swam through the reflections and autofocus was fooled more times than not with the reflections and moving fish. And sometimes the fish became lost in the ephemeral making its existence almost non existent, but a fleeting moment, dream, thought or other wistful bit of time and space that may or may not have been.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A koi fish swims about in its pond at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Monday, March 8, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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