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Selecting a Subject in Siouxland, rural Iowa and Nebraska

2 Mar
A lone leaf, left behind at the Missouri Valley Welcome Center just outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Setting out with a purpose when photographing is always a good course to take when time is limited and the destination known. But it doesn’t always work out that way. In a free wheeling photo course I offer at a local community college I take the “students” to various locations I have previously visited and share with them a place in which to become familiar and find photographic opportunities.

Finding a perfect photographic subject at Preparation Canyon State Forest Overlook north of Pisgah, Iowa Nov. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes depending on the place and subject matter it can be challenging to different students at different times with different interests. Hence the purpose of the class in being prepared to change one’s photographic perception whether for class or a vacation or whatever the occasion. Circumstances change and one should be ready to pivot with those changes which may bring opportunity or not.

Greeted by a subject at the No Toll Troll Stroll park in Oakland, NE Saturday, October 31, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Having worked for a few smaller newspapers I always enjoyed getting out and photographing and learned that my preconception of what I might encounter may not always hold true to what I found Thinking on one’s feet is probably a good way of putting it. Seeing the opportunity to photograph something as opposed to photographing what one might think is possible when getting to a destination. One never left a newspaper assignment without having something “usable”. I had a few editors “disappointed” because I didn’t come back with the photograph of what they imagined in their mind. And never mind that what they imagined may not have existed except for in their own head, one just has to be open to the opportunity of what is, rather than be disappointed with what is not.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Finding some color on a fall day at Preparation Canyon State Park north of Pisgah, Iowa Nov. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Frosty Winter’s Day in Siouxland, Rural Plymouth County

26 Feb
Cattle graze in a corn field harvested in the fall of 2020 on a frosty winter’s day in rural Woodbury County, Iowa Tuesday, February 2, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A warmer day in Siouxland and a chance to take a short drive around the countryside, enjoying some of Nature’s winters work. A recent frosting of trees and buildings adds a little beauty to an otherwise normal winter’s day a chance to leave the house without freezing extremities and perchance to dream of “greener pastures”as the calendar marches ahead one day at a time.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Unexpected pleasures in Siouxland, Finding Visitors in rural Plymouth County

20 Feb
An eagle feeds while another waits along the Big Sioux River in a winter scene off of Highway 12 near Broken Kettle Grasslands preserve Tuesday, February 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes while out and about driving in Siouxland I come across something I never planned. And then I sometimes find something I never knew I had photographed until I look at my images at home. While enjoying a day out in warmer temperatures of 12 degrees, I stopped along the Big Sioux River to photograph the meandering stream. When I had finished and was heading back to my vehicle I stopped and photographed the river in the other direction. There is a bridge there, and while it was not spectacular I made a few images. Then I photographed beyond the bridge, working with a newly acquired lens and putting it through some paces. It was not until I had returned home and looked at those images did I realize that there were two eagles down river that I did not see with the naked eye and wished I had.

An unexpected pleasure to be enjoyed later and maybe another trip to look for the birds.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A winter scene of the Big Sioux River meandering off of Highway 12 near Broken Kettle Grasslands preserve Tuesday, February 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Winter in Siouxland, Sioux City

16 Feb
Birds, possibly starlings, fluff out their feathers to fight off the cold on a chilly winter’s day in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, February 2, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The little rodent, affectionately known as Punxsutawney Phil, has decided it’s seen its shadow, allowing another 6 weeks of winter to linger around the Siouxland area and other places as well. Boogers. It has been a pleasant weather so far as winters go, but the next couple of weeks temps are predicted to stay below freezing and below zero with wind chill taking them down into double digits. Not something I am looking forward too. Bird activity has been mixed with the backyard neighbors scarce some days and around the next.

A red-bellied woodpecker feasts on some bird food in a backyard on a chilly winter’s day in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, February 2, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Long winters can be okay until the temperature dips below zero and then heads into minus double digits because of wind chill, which there seems to be a lot of that in Iowa. One could only imagine settlers on these plains in the 19th century with mud houses on an open plain with the wind howling and dipping temperatures into lows that impossibly frigid.

So spring is on my mind with temperatures in the 30’s. I even like 40’s. Thinking of greening grass and the warm rays of the sun. It will arrive, but at this point seems like somewhere in a distant future.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Backyard birds, possibly starlings, sit on a neighbor’s chimney on a chilly winter’s day in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, February 2, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Walking in History’s Footsteps in Siouxland, rural Monona County

14 Feb
An older cemetery, many grave sites at the Belvidere Cemetery contain the remains of early pioneer settlers, seen in rural Monona County near Moorhead , Iowa Monday, Dec. 121, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I know I have visited a few different cemeteries in the Siouxland area. Each is unique in its own way. Each has history of early settlers who lived and died nearby, settling a part of then frontier but what is now western Iowa. And as I have speculated previously the landscape around which these souls are buried must be so different than what is seen these days. More land being farmed, no more native prairie grass waving in the wind. And more people populating what must of then been a more desolate and somewhat isolated frontier.

A sign welcomes visitors to the older Belvidere Cemetery, many grave sites here contain the remains of early pioneering settlers, seen in rural Monona County near Moorhead , Iowa Monday, Dec. 121, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A country road leads to an older cemetery. Many grave sites at the Belvidere Cemetery contain the remains of early pioneer settlers, seen in rural Monona County near Moorhead , Iowa Monday, Dec. 121, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Doing some online looking did not bring any general information about this burial site or the community of Belvidere. Names of the deceased are listed, but no cross references without further genealogical research. While not doing a lot of looking there at the cemetery itself, I have found that not many names are duplicated among the various cemeteries I have visited with earlier dates from the 19th Century. Guessing relatives did not travel far or met and married folk from a very far distance, even miles by today’s standards

This older Belvidere Cemetery, like many, sits top a hill and has grave sites containing the remains of early pioneering settlers, seen in rural Monona County near Moorhead , Iowa Monday, Dec. 121, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

These are peaceful places, a good resting place in an area that departed souls can look out from and still see the surrounding hillsides that may have graced their views during those earlier years as the area was being populated with people looking for a place west of the Mississippi. Seeking fortune, a new life or solitude, and maybe a new beginning.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An older cemetery, many of the grave sites in the Belvidere Cemetery contain the remains of early pioneering settlers, seen in rural Monona County near Moorhead , Iowa Monday, Dec. 121, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The entrance to the Belvidere Cemetery, which contains the remains of early pioneering settlers, seen in rural Monona County near Moorhead , Iowa Monday, Dec. 121, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enduring the Cold in Siouxland, rural Plymouth County

12 Feb
Frost on the muzzle of a horse grazing in a snow covered field at the Broken Kettle Grasslands preserve Tuesday, February 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

We humans are not the only ones needing to put up with recent cold temperatures recently. While out driving about Siouxland I came across three horses grazing outdoors. There was a barn nearby so one would assume they bed down onto some nice straw for the evening.

But it was a sunny day, and I can only guess like their human counterparts they were enjoying a brief respite in the sunshine during a balmy 12 degree high kind of day. Waiting for warmer temperatures to return and melt some of this white stuff and make it bearable again to be outdoors for more than a brief period of time.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Horses, their muzzles frosted over, graze in a snow covered field at the Broken Kettle Grasslands preserve Tuesday, February 9, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Photographic choices, Color or B&W in Siouxland, Council Bluffs

31 Jan
An image from downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when out photographing in Siouxland I consciously make choices about photographing subjects. And don’t give the matter much thought. Then again, one can make choices when photographing and choose later what might be more appropriate. These days photographing with a digital camera and using software the ability to shoot in color and then transform to B&W is easy.

I generally though photograph in color then change the settings in the camera to also photography in B&W. During the days of film, one generally carried two camera bodies. One with Tri-X and the other with your personal favorite slide film. Lots of people loved Kodachrome. I personally liked Fuji’s Velvia and other photographic color films.

But in the end, is color the better way to go with shapes being secondary to the scene, or is Black and White with tonality and shapes being the prominent aspect of an image.

No matter which is chose, it’s nice to have a choice, and the ability to do it with one camera body.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An image from downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Cityscapes in Siouxland, Council Bluffs

29 Jan
A church’s spire is seen in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, with the city of Omaha, NE also seen in the near distant background. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When driving about parts of Siouxland I always enjoy the architecture I encounter. There are some really nice gems in the region. Sometimes depending on weather, time of year and which way the wind blows (a joke, poor I realize) it’s tough to make a photograph. Again, as a failsafe I chose working in black and white. A grey day, hazy, with a white sky, not blue, color would not have helped this image. So I punted and used black and white, shapes and angles and a horizon line to create an image.

Shooting from a nearby hilltop, and because of power lines and trees, my choice of placement for me and the camera lens may not have been ideal. But using tonality and the shapes the image turned out better than I could have hoped.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Keeping an Eagle Eye out in Siouxland, rural Woodbury County

27 Jan
An eagle sits high atop a tree along a creek outside of Onawa, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes it’s just nice to get lucky. These days when driving about in various rural places in Siouxland I scan tree tops, mostly looking for raptors like various hawks, but sometimes and somedays one gets lucky. Coming back from an excursion of such driving in late November last year, an eagle was sitting high atop a tree that sat in the corner of a harvested farm field. Minding his or her business, and probably just looking for the next meal. I was happy to again see such a magnificent bird, coming at the end of the day which makes an even better memory.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Shapes and angles in Siouxland, Missouri Valley and Oakland, NE

19 Jan
An outline of a picnic bench on a warmish fall day at the Missouri Valley Welcome Center just outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Light and shade, shapes and angles, imagination. Some days can provide endless possibilities. And it’s never a bad thing to take a moment and look differently at subjects or why you are motivated one day in photographing the subjects you set out to capture. One never knows what lurks in the shadows. Maybe an image.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Shapes and angles and light and shade in Oakland, NE Saturday, October 31, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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