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Finding Spring Colors in Siouxland, Alton

6 Apr
Spring color in downtown Alton, Iowa Friday, April 1, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Ah Spring, a slow arrival here in Siouxland. Temperatures overnight still hover in the 30’s. And a brisk prairie wind makes it feel even chillier. So finding spring color in the area while the trees are still bare and the landscape brown, can be challenging.

Spring color in downtown Alton, Iowa Friday, April 1, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Spring color in downtown Alton, Iowa Friday, April 1, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The small community of Alton though has spruced up some of its buildings, “splashing” color onto walls to brighten the downtown area. It does make it a bit more cheerful on a blustery, albeit, sunny day. Like many others, I look forward to getting out and visiting places and enjoying balmy days in the 40’s and 50’s. Temperature in the 60’s would be nice, but I can be patient. Some color I did find was reminiscent of the passing winter, but sometimes one just move forward, and not dwell.

Maybe May flowers.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An orange snow plow adds color to the downtown area of Alton, Iowa Friday, April 1, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Spring color in downtown Alton, Iowa Friday, April 1, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying the Light in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

5 Feb
Morning at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Sept. 27, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I must admit it’s must easier getting up in Siouxland and going outdoors throughout most of the year, when it isn’t winter. Getting my personal engine turned over with a couple cups of coffee and maybe some hot oatmeal is helpful, but inertia and pleasant warmth inside the house are strong factors for being lazy.

But no matter when I go out, I am always looking at light and how it might or does interact with subjects, whether singular, minuscule or on a grand scale. Light makes the image. The more dramatic the light oft time means more impact. But a person can not always control that aspect of what might be encountered.

Early morning at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Sept. 27, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Canada geese fly over treetops at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve looking for a landing spot as the sun rises behind clouds in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But one is more guaranteed success earlier in the morning and late in the day when color gets added to the mix. During midday the sometimes harsh light can make some great black and white images can create drama that holds a viewer’s attention. And so wistfully I think about the coming spring and the possibility of getting out early again when the temperatures are above zero, and hopefully above freezing. Sometimes that north wind can stop a person in their tracks, but not for long. Frost bite is serious and pausing some days is not advised.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Early morning at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Sept. 27, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A weathered fence rail at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Clear Day in Siouxland, Storm Lake

18 Jan
A cool autumn fall day at the Frank Starr Park in Storm Lake, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I believe it was in a song the phrase “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone”. On a clear day the view in Siouxland is unimpeded. During a fall outing with a photography class I teach through a Lifelong Learning program at the local community college there was still some color at a park by the lake in the community of Storm Lake. A cool day but very pleasant.

Finding the right spot for a colorful photograph at the Frank Starr Park in Storm Lake, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some remaining color at the Frank Starr Park in Storm Lake, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes not much needs to be said on those days, other than being thankful to enjoy such a day and walking about and seeing nature’s beauty. And of course having a camera and trying to do just that. Any season is a good season to be out photographing. Some are just a bit more conducive weather-wise. And those days will pass as nicer ones come into view.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A cool autumn fall day at the Frank Starr Park in Storm Lake, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating Christmas with a Tree, Durham Museum, Omaha, NE

29 Dec
Christmas tree at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Every Christmas most every home goes out to find a Christmas tree here in Siouxland. It’s not 100% but probably close. I personally sometimes get a tree, and other times not. Over the years even my cats have enjoyed having something “new” in the house they can play with as it suits them. Occasionally at night I will here something rolling about the floor and then scampering. Sometimes I will call out, and other times I just roll over and hope that I will find only one ornament displaced and not broken.

So visiting places like the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE is pleasant, and I can experience a giant of a Christmas tree that sits inside a former Union Station, a hub of activity during the early railroad days and up through the second world war when massive troop deployment cycled through the station. Now it houses a local museum and Christmas every year displays a grand tree. One of these days I would like to make it down for the evening tree lighting when pandemic life returns to some kind of safe environment and normalcy, whatever that may be.

Christmas tree at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Christmas tree at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And the museum gets lots of visitors who do the same as I. I couldn’t imagine the amount of pine needles that is cleaned up afterwards. My trees are generally small, but somehow leave behind an inordinate amount of needles to clean up. But a small price to pay to enjoy a special time of year the meanings and joy this symbol gives.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Christmas tree at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Christmas tree at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Merry and Bright in Siouxland, Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha, NE

25 Dec
Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

During the holiday seasons I try to visit various places because of the displays that one can see at them and the work that goes into making visitors appreciate and enjoy such displays. I must say I am never disappointed with what I have seen at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE. I can only guess that planning must start one to two years out as to what supplies, plants and other accoutrements are necessary for these delightful visions to take life.

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The indoors gardens this year became a visual light play and can only be really appreciated as the sun sets and the lights seen in a darkened environment. And the fascination someone has with train sets as each year the trains that might be running out of doors at a display do shorter runs indoors the during Christmas season.

And I find it a marvel what is done with plants to create various scenes holiday or not and give visitors a chance to walk through and enjoy a small world away from the white noise that seems to be everywhere these days, if only for an hour or two. A brief respite in time to be a child again.

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And sometimes I think the staff of the gardens can not possible out do what was done the year before and then am pleasantly surprised to enjoy a new experience and see how creatively plants can be used.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Capturing Christmas Lights in Siouxland, Sioux City

15 Dec
Christmas lights decorate the front lawn of the Sioux City Public Museum with the Ho Chunk Centre in the background as the sun sets Saturday, Dec. 04, 2021 in downtown Sioux City, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

During the holiday season around Christmas it’s always a challenge to capture images of Christmas lights and decorations hoping to show them at their best and not in total darkness. Like taking photographs of people during the golden hour, the same somewhat applies to photographing the holiday decorations. And then one hopes that nature works in your favor and you get a nice sunset to help set off the holiday lights. Being prepared and ready to always good. But in these cases, being lucky isn’t a bad thing.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A lit Christmas tree stands on the front lawn of the Sioux City Public Museum with the Ho Chunk Centre in the background Monday, Dec. 6, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A lit Christmas tree stands on the front lawn of the Sioux City Public Museum with the Ho Chunk Centre in the background Monday, Dec. 6, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A lit Christmas tree stands on the front lawn of the Sioux City Public Museum with the Ho Chunk Centre in the background Monday, Dec. 6, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying Holiday Lights in Siouxland, Adams Homestead Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

11 Dec
Christmas lights add a festive feel for Christmas at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 05, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Christmas lights add a festive feel for Christmas at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 05, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

During the cold winter nights this time of year in Siouxland and other northern realms, the holiday lights that people put up for display adds the festive feel for celebrating the Christmas holiday, both secular and religious. The lights make the dark nights a little cheerier and inviting and allow folk to just enjoy the moment of seeing the displays and forgetting about the ills of the world and the hope that maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

Christmas lights add a festive feel for Christmas at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 05, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Christmas lights add a festive feel for Christmas at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 05, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve began putting up outside lights last year during the pandemic to give people a safe environment to to enjoy the holiday and a reason to visit the preserve. Many times during the year I also visit, taking walks on the trails looking for critters, be it waterfowl, song birds or deer and turkey that inhabit the area.

This year the snow hasn’t visited Siouxland yet, but the first storm is predicted to hit within days, but on this particular night, the prairie wind was making its presence known as strands of lights whipped back and forth during wind gusts. I was just glad there was no stinging white particles hitting my face as I walked about enjoying the scene and trying to photograph the lights. Always challenging and best done when there is still some sky available for balance in an image. Yet even on a cold and blustery night, it was good to get outside and just enjoy the moment.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Christmas lights add a festive feel for Christmas at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 05, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Christmas lights add a festive feel for Christmas at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 05, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A volunteer plays the festive piano selections in the church chapel during the Christmas holiday celebration at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 05, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A volunteer plays the festive piano selections in the church chapel during the Christmas holiday celebration at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 05, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The house that Mary Adams lived in on the land that eventually became the park is decorated for Christmas at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 05, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Santa heads to a barn, maybe to check on the reindeer, during a Christmas lights celebration at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 05, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Santa poses for a photo with a young child during the Christmas celebration at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 05, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Santa poses in front of Christmas lights at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 05, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Most everything is decorated with Christmas lights to add a festive feel for Christmas at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 05, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Most everything is decorated with Christmas lights to add a festive feel for Christmas at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 05, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Park Manager Jody Moats adjusts a speaker’s volume to add holiday music for those visiting to see the Christmas lights at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 05, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Cool Misty Morning in Siouxland, rural Nebraska, Winnebago, NE

23 Nov
A misty fall morning in rural Nebraska near Winnebago, NE Monday Oct. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some times the prospect of waking up early to get somewhere before the sun actually peeks over the horizon seems a difficult task. It’s not always a long drive to reach someplace in Siouxland, but I find jump starting my “get off my ass and go” engine takes a bit of effort. But when I get somewhere, I am most certainly glad I got up and explored the destination, enjoying the light play that an early morning sun will sometimes create.

A misty fall morning in rural Nebraska near Winnebago, NE Monday Oct. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A misty fall morning in rural Nebraska near Winnebago, NE Monday Oct. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Add a little cool overnight temperatures and as the sun warms up the earth magical things happen as the light plays with the mist that is created. I don’t always avail myself of every opportunity I might have in photographing light play. And sometimes I know I am just being lazy. But these days I don’t mind. I will enjoy what I see and the moment and only hope there may be more sometime down the road.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A misty fall morning in rural Nebraska near Winnebago, NE Monday Oct. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A misty fall morning in rural Nebraska near Winnebago, NE Monday Oct. 25, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Waning Days of Fall in Siouxland, rural Monona and Woodbury Counties

15 Nov
Cattle graze in a field under colorful fall foliage outside Smithland, Iowa in rural Woodbury County, Iowa Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With the first winter snow and possible snow to begin creeping into the area accompanied by high winds, I don’t expect many of the leaves and any fall color to be seen in a few days. Driving about Siouxland the last couple of weeks I have felt lucky to see find spots of changing fall foliage and the chance to take a few images. Like many folk, I enjoy fall and it was one of the reasons for returning to the Midwest after having worked and lived in other parts of the U.S. Winter will come, but it will also pass. One only hoped it passes sooner that later. Mild winters are nice, if temps remain in the 20’s and 30’s without below freezing wind gusts and sustained cold spells. Being out on days like that is not so enjoyable even if one likes winter.

An iron trestle bridge frames a gravel road as some fall color is seen in a yet to be harvested corn field in rural Monona County, Iowa Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Country backroads and changing autumnal colors in rural Monona County, Iowa Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Driving about the backroads and country roads are a joy to me. Have always been. No matter where I lived I always seemed to find country roads to drive about on and a chance to get away from the noise that sometimes daily life brings. These days maybe a little more jazz than classical music on the car radio that gives my mind a chance to wander as I drive around and just look, not really knowing what to expect over the next hill or around the next bend. Small surprises and joy when an image pops up and I am there to record it. Most times, if ever, award winning, but satisfying none the less and pleasing to me. Sometimes simple joys are the best.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Trees with colorful foliage near a harvested soybean field in rural Monona County, Iowa Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seeing Red in Siouxland, Badger Lake, rural Monona County

13 Nov
The sun rises over Badger Lake Wildlife Refuge in Monona County, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021, near Whiting, IA. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes one needs to make an effort to enjoy the day in Siouxland, like getting up early and staying motivated beyond a cup of coffee to see the sun rise. At least in the fall sunrise is closer to a “normal” hour that say 5 or 5:30 am. But still, the scene, the quiet, although I was disappointed in few critters around the lake, the morning was pleasant. Not cold, mild chilly and a nice way to start the day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The sun rises behind some grasses at Badger Lake Wildlife Refuge in Monona County, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021, near Whiting, IA. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sunrise lights up plants surrounding Badger Lake Wildlife Refuge in Monona County, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2021, near Whiting, IA. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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