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Practicing Creativity in Siouxland, Lawton

20 Jan
Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls slings a lighted steel wool pad around himself as other camera club members attempt slow shutter, long exposure photographs in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently I joined a couple members of the local camera club in Siouxland, Sioux City Camera Club, as they attempted some slow shutter, long exposures of lighted steel wool done by another club member, Ron Nicolls, who attempts to get members to see a little differently and experiment with their photography.

Photographers stand at the right side of the image frame attempting slow shutter, long exposure photographs while Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls slings a lighted steel wool pad around himself. Stars can be seen above Nicolls during the photo demonstration that took place in field near Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls allows photographers to prefocus on him before lighting a steel wool pad to sling around himself as camera club members attempt slow shutter, long exposure photographs in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls slings a lighted steel wool pad around himself as other camera club members attempt slow shutter, long exposure photographs in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It was interesting as Nicolls spun the lighted steel wool on a tether about his person in a snow covered field, a little fire prevention precaution. As one continued photographing the look of what one was seeing kept changing. This makes sense in that, like a camp fire, as the fire dies out, the intensity first seen when the steel wool is lit and and then flung about, it burns itself out and thus gives varying degrees of light for photographing.

Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls lights a steel wool pad to sling around himself as camera club members attempt slow shutter, long exposure photographs in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls slings a lighted steel wool pad around himself as photographers attempt slow shutter, long exposure photographs in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls slings a lighted steel wool pad around himself, and its begins to dim as sparks fly into the air and photographers attempt slow shutter, long exposure photographs in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Depending on where one was standing you also had to be mindful of flying sparks either hitting you or flying nearby. However the sparks added a bonus of sorts to the images captured. I was shooting with an Olympus OMD M1 body which touts 4-5 stops of in-body stabilization and so was handholding my camera shoot between 2.5 seconds and 6 seconds at f/2.5 and f/3.2. I did get movement from Nicolls as he lobbed the lighted steel wool about his body, but for the most part, the in-body stabilization worked well, allowing me to somewhat “move about the cabin” and yet capture images created by the spinning burning wool pad.

It was an interesting and creative endeavor Nicolls presented to other camera club members and an opportunity to attempt a different type of photography that most have not considered. It was also nice that the weather that day was in the mid-30’s so not so bone chilling to make such an effort less than ideal. One’s pursuit of creativity is only limited by one’s non attempt at trying something different and experimentation which could lead to yet another effort to try another photographic approach.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Photographer Tom Schoening makes adjustments to his camera on a trip during a slow shutter, long exposure photography shoot by Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls who is slinging a lighted steel wool pad around himself in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls slings a just lit steel wool pad around himself as photographers attempt slow shutter, long exposure photographs in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls slings a lighted steel wool pad around himself as other camera club members attempt slow shutter, long exposure photographs in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Photographer Tom Schoening and Carey Anderson finish their slow shutter, long exposure photography shoot by with Sioux City, Iowa, Camera Club member Ron Nicolls who was slinging a lighted steel wool pad around himself in Lawton, Iowa Monday evening, Jan. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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

23 Dec

Holiday lights at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

For the last couple of years the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve has been putting up Christmas lights around the homestead that folk can visit each of the four weekends in December, with Christmas Day not included should it fall on the weekend. When the pandemic hit a couple years ago the Adams’ parks manager, Jody Moats, wanted a destination place for people to get outside and enjoy some festive sights as most churches and other organizations were being cautious in having large crowds in small rooms adding to the chance of viral infections. The popularity of the Christmas lights was overwhelming embraced by locals as they can walk through the homestead and meet Santa before his big day.

Santa poses for a photo with fans at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Santa greets visitors at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Holiday lights at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I find it challenging to photographer as the blue goes fairly fast and the homestead is in a small wooded area, so trying to balance an exposure and still so activity tests one’s skill as a photographer. Some photos I made handheld with the help of a study tree while others were done on a tripod. In situations like this I mostly find the people as props to the Christmas lights rather than the other way around. For the brave folk who brave the chill a little popcorn, candy cane or coffee and hot chocolate brace them until they walk about and for a short time just enjoy the Christmas season.

Jerry Mennnega

Sioux City, Iowa

Holiday lights at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Holiday lights at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Holiday lights at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Candy cane decorations light up the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Holiday lights at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Holiday lights at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Making a Photo Choice in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, South Dakota

17 Dec
Canadian geese fly through a grove of trees at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Many times while out photographing in Siouxland I come across various scenes and shoot a number of photographs, worrying at the time about capturing or creating an image and deciding later which ones I should work up in the post processing. Much like developing rolls of film and scanning through the negatives with a loupe or looking at a contact sheet and then deciding which one(s) I should spend time on in the “darkroom”.

During an outing at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve this fall I was lucky to find some Canadian geese hanging out at a small lake area in the park not having yet left for the day to find a nearby corn field to eat and maybe spend the day. The lake area is bordered by trees and brush and I was at one end or part way down to the end and was photographing through a break in the trees without branches obstructing my view or appearing as an aberrant line that is visible but looks like something on the camera’s sensor.

Canadian geese fly through a grove of trees at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I found the geese flying through what remaining fall foliage more appealing that past bare branches, but the ability to get a clear angle to photograph them was limited and frustrating in that the color helps tell part of the story, as the geese are migrating to a an area for winter. I much prefer the line of the geese in the second and third photographs as they show the line of ducks in flight but believe the colorful foliage helps set them apart from their background although the flying geese’s formation began changing at that point, and would soon be leaving the grove of trees and wetland area. Shooting with somewhat of a super telephoto lens gave me a very slight and limited angle of view, in addition to the photographing through a break in the grove tree’s branches that line this wetland area. Sometimes one has to made do with what one has and be happy for a decent image as compared to telling maybe an interesting story ending with that famous line, “Trust me when I tell you………”

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Canadian geese fly through a grove of trees at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, South Dakota Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying the Holiday Spirit in Siouxland, Christmas Decorations, Gene Leahy Mall, Omaha, NE

9 Dec
After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With Thanksgiving past along with Black Friday, the Christmas holiday is beginning and many places are already decorating for the upcoming day. Recently I visited a newly renovated park in Omaha, NE, the Gene Leahy Mall. Formerly the place had a few lagoons, but those have been filled in with new landscaping and different design and now sports and Christmas decorations and other accoutrements for the upcoming holiday.

After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The park is much more family friendly these days with many folk coming out to view the decorations and take photos, either by themselves or with a professional photographer in tow to capture this year’s memories to cherish later. And the magical effect of the decorations as the sun began to set made the area almost magical.

After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Visitors enter the Gene Leahy Mall Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And it’s always challenging to photograph the fading light and the Christmas light together, trying to find that fight balance of ambient and artificial light to create a photo that has a little impact and hopefully catches a viewer’s eye.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
After a 3-year renovation project the Gene Leahy Mall shows off Christmas decorations around which families photograph themselves seen Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022 in Omaha, NE. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Fading Fall Colors in Siouxland, Hitchcock Nature Center, Honey Creek

29 Nov

A hiking trail seen from a ridge at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This particular fall season in Siouxland seemed fleeting and unfulfilled. While there were pockets of color here and there, this fall was like a poem of unrequited love. It is always so nice to see brilliant colors and many hues when fall comes around. It is one of my favorite seasons as it is others as well. But this year that love of fall was not returned by Mother Nature. Mood swings in temperature in extreme seemed to have dampened expectations and the colors. So one must then hope and wish that next year’s fall will be better and somehow like memories past of a period of cooler temps and slowly changing colors that last a bit and not washed away with wind and rain.

Fading colors seen at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Railroad tracks seen from an overlook at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There were nice days though when the temperature seemed perfect for sweater, fleece or jacket wearing. Too cool for shorts but not cool or cold enough for a heavy jacket. The sun and its light rays caressing the path with direct yet diffused lighting. Adding another element to be cherished in photographing landscapes and such. Not the harsh, direct light of summer. And once the colors have faded, the brown landscape emerges and holds sway until spring and warmer temperatures prevail and green shoots reemerge. But now patience is key and the ability to embrace other styles of photography until winter has passed.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A trail takes a hiker to an overlook at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Fading colors during a fall hike at the Hitchcock Nature Center near Honey Creek, Iowa Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Alley Art on Display in Siouxland, Sioux City

23 Nov

Water fills an alley during a rain storm as people check out the alley art still on display after a festival earlier this year in downtown Sioux City, Iowa seen Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes plans to attend an event in Siouxland doesn’t always go as planned as I missed this year’s alley art festival held in downtown Sioux City. A variety of folk decorate and the walls of alleys in the downtown with fanciful and other artistic endeavors which adds a bit to the normally drab scene in the alleys.

Water pours from a down spout during a rain storm in front of alley art on display after a festival earlier this year in downtown Sioux City, Iowa seen Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An alley is back to normal but the alley art remains after an art festival earlier this year in downtown Sioux City, Iowa seen Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Like many communities the alleys are generally the living rooms and bedrooms for people choosing a homeless lifestyle. The folk find an area that apparently suits them and reside there. I am not certain how it is arranged to allow the artists and others who want to demonstrate their artistic skill to do so on alley walls without possible interference from the “local residents”. In the last few years, the demeanor in and around the alleys in the downtown area seem to take on a different tenor. I used to take photography students shooting at night to teach them skills in choosing white balance and using higher ISO settings and other technical camera stuff along with remembering to make a nice composition. A few years ago I stopped that and chose another smaller community whose alleys were also decorated but were also safer in my opinion than the Sioux City alleys.

Alley art on display after a festival earlier this year in downtown Sioux City, Iowa seen Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Alley art on display after a festival earlier this year in downtown Sioux City, Iowa seen Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An homage to the performing arts shown through alley art on display after a festival earlier this year in downtown Sioux City, Iowa seen Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The use of wall space and those willing to give their time to beautify an area is ultimately nice. I would imagine the folk that hang out in the alleys the most enjoy the change in scenery. Banksy or Picasso’s adorning their “living quarters” created by some very talented people. And with winter coming into view, it might be interesting to go back and take a look at the art and the surroundings to see how the winter season looks in juxtaposition to the various displays.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Alley art on display after a festival earlier this year in downtown Sioux City, Iowa seen Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Alley art on display after a festival earlier this year in downtown Sioux City, Iowa seen Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a “Rust”ic adventure in Siouxland, Tekamah, NE

17 Nov

Rusted roofs of sheds near a grain elevator in Tekamah, NE Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes simple is best. During a recent outing in Siouxland and driving a backroad on a return trip from Omaha, NE, I came across some buildings that had seen better days while on a photo safari with a fellow photographer. Sometimes when I see something, one aspect of a possible image just “speaks to me” and I then must work hard to slow down and photograph other possibilities. The other photographer had spotted a grain elevator off the beaten path as we drove through Tekamah and so ventured up toward that area. I was fascinated by another building at first and made number of images of it and some other objects but then drifted back to a couple of sheds. In humans, the “stains” and aged marks would give a person a worn, weathered look, maybe good or bad, depending on one’s point of view. But the buildings made me thing of similar places I had seen as a child growing up on a farm in a smaller community. Maybe not having that distinguished look of a stone structure in a big city of a courthouse or library, but the two sheds were humble in their appearance and the work they seen taken place under their eaves.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A detail image of a grain elevator in Tekamah, NE Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Fall Day in Siouxland, rural Monona County

7 Nov

A trace of fog highlights a rural scene of the Loess Hills area in rural Monona County, Iowa Saturday, October 8, 2022 near Onawa, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Fall is a favorite season of mine as it is for a lot of people. And even though again this year Siouxland has seen less rainfall than it should one could still find some color in places. Driving the backroads of the Loess Hills area in western Iowa is always a pleasure. I am only sad I didn’t get to enough places this year within the time period as the colors changed and the temperature yo-yo’ed between unusually warm to cold and near freezing.

Two hikers head off on a trail from the Loess Hills State Forest Overlook in rural Monona County, Iowa Saturday, October 8, 2022 near Pisgah, Iowa as fall colors are continuing to change from summer to fall. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A rural scene of the Loess Hills area in rural Monona County, Iowa Saturday, October 8, 2022 near Onawa, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Already most if not all trees have lost their leaves and their color. The only ones that still might have some leaves are burr oaks which sport a green and brown color scheme. Winter can sometimes be a long stretch as one only sees brown and sometimes white. But even that was sparse last year with less than normal snowfall as well. But patience will have to be the rule of the day as daylight savings time changes soon and winter slowly creeps closer.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The hillside near a trail from the Loess Hills State Forest Overlook in rural Monona County, Iowa Saturday, October 8, 2022 near Pisgah, Iowa are ablaze in fall colors. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Two hikers set out to hike a trail from the Loess Hills State Forest Overlook in rural Monona County, Iowa Saturday, October 8, 2022 near Pisgah, Iowa as fall colors are continuing to change from summer to fall. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seeing Red in Siouxland, Tekamah, NE

28 Oct

A doorway with red markings on a an older brick building fallen into disrepair in Tekamah, NE Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There are some days while driving about Siouxland that something catches one’s eye. Traveling with a friend recently we passed through the small town Tekamah, NE and an old grain elevator caught his eye. And while walking about I saw an old brick building, and a doorway, or what was left of each. What the red markings might mean to someone is anybody’s guess. Maybe even the one who made them.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Pockets of Color in Siouxland, Rural Thurston County, Winnebago, NE

16 Oct

Some plants haver begun their fall ritual of changing color seen in a rural scene showing early signs of fall Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 near Winnebago, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some local areas in Siouxland have begun exhibiting a change of season as fall slowly makes its way into the area. Recently temperatures have been in the 60’s with forecasts of temps hitting the 80’s for a couple of days. And then with low overnight lows the leave change will accelerate ushering that fall look.

Leaves begin to slowly change in a rural scene showing early signs of fall Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 near Winnebago, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Yellow leaves on a dirt in a rural scene showing early signs of fall Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 near Winnebago, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I immensely enjoy the fall season as many folk do. And will do my best in getting out photographing scenes in rural Siouxland much to the chagrin of many friends and probably readers of this blog. But, therein lies the joy of not having an editor look over one’s shoulder.

Many backroads, many early mornings to catch those rays of sun diagonally lighting up the landscape. And maybe some daytime runs with full sun lighting treetops from above. On a beautiful fall day, with a little jazz playing and some coffee on tap, what a better way to spend it.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Trees barely begin changing in a rural scene showing early signs of fall Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 near Winnebago, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A corn field ready for harvest in a rural scene showing early signs of fall Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 near Winnebago, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sumac leaves change colors in a rural scene showing early signs of fall Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 near Winnebago, NE. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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