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Seeing Wood and Stone in Siouxland, Iowa Lakes Laboratory, Milford

24 Sep

A look inside a lab building at the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory in Milford, Iowa Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Many times I like revisiting places I have been to previously in Siouxland. Something is always different whether it’s the time of year, the lighting, etc. And sometimes I see the same subject matter but it also strikes me differently upon another visit. The Iowa Lakes Laboratory is a research facility and classroom in the lakes region of Iowa. Near Okoboji and Arnolds Park, where the amusement park is located.

This visit the sun was pretty strong, yet diffused, no doubt because of the wildfires happening out west. But it made for better images in my humble opinion when shooting in B&W, which I don’t often do, but probably should do more, of course depending on the subject matter.

One of the research buildings at the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory in Milford, Iowa Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An entrance to a building at the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory in Milford, Iowa Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The buildings were constructed during the 1930’s during the CCC (Civilin Conservation Corps) when many out of work Americans during the depression years were put to work constructing buildings throughout various areas of the United States. A number of state parks in Iowa have such buildings constructed during that era. A wikipedia account states: “….a major construction program took place in the mid 1930s, when the Civilian Conservation Corps built five stone laboratories, four student cabins, a bathhouse, and other amenities.”

I always believe that revisiting places and trying to see them differently is always a good challenge and helps keep one active photographically speaking. Not relying on what was previously photographed, to if so, how might a different approach affect the look of an image.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

at the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory in Milford, Iowa Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Blooming in Siouxland, Sioux City

27 Jul

A blooming Iris in a backyard garden in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, May 31, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While I appreciate beautiful gardens and such when I come upon them in and around Siouxland, I myself do not possess the green thumb. In the spring I have a few flowers that bloom if the weather cooperates and that changes from year to year. Too cold and dry a spring, maybe tulips, maybe not. Other flowering species might follow but not always, or as much as I might like to think.

Flowers bloom along with a flowering Lilac bush in a backyard garden in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, May 31, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Gardening is a talent unto itself and the knowledge of choosing the correct plants and nurturing them to produce those blooms is a skill that takes practice. Personally, I like bushes as they take up more space in the yard which might mean less mowing and more places for my feathered friends to hide in as they flit to and from feeders. And then I always think there is always next year and maybe a better weather year for producing flowers.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A blooming Iris in a backyard garden in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday, May 31, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Storytelling in B&W and a Little Imagination, Durham Museum, Omaha, NE

19 Jul

A former Union Pacific railway station, a statue pf a departing passenger from days gone by seen at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, May 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when out and about wandering Siouxland and elsewhere, one can see something that sparks a little imagination and wondering on the part of the viewer. I think Black and White imagery helps tell a story a little better at times that color.

The Durham Museum was formerly a Union Pacific railway station and its heyday was before, during and after the 1930’s and 1940’s, especially during WWII. Information at the museum along with photographs show a great movement of people during the Second World War passing through the station. And so there are some statuary that depicts some of the history of the former railway station.

A former Union Pacific railway station, a statue pf a departing passenger from days gone by while two lovers sit tight in the background seen at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, May 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When I have looked at the above the statue I wonder if this gentleman is a traveling salesman or maybe a jilted lover whose dearest’s heart was won by a new suitor seated with her in the background. And so the young takes his belongings packed into a single suitcase and leaves.

A sculpted piece at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, May 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The sculpted piece I believe was something on display and with meaning of the times when the station was built. The directional light creates an interesting effect and definitely gives a viewer a chance to study the statue which I believe is of a railway worker, judging by the wrench in the hand.

I enjoy B&W photography and probably don’t utilize it enough when out shooting and exploring Siouxland. For me it depends on the light and how it encapsulates a subject and sets is apart from its surrounding. And I sometimes miss having a darkroom, and the ability to create an image first on film, then adding to it via the actual developing process to give and take away contrast depending on how one processed the film and with what developer was used, and finally through the printing process. Using a “hard” paper that really accentuates the light and shadows or a softer paper with more grey tones appearing. The one watched while the image appeared in the developing tray coming to life and fulfilling, hopefully, the vision one had in mind when creating the image on film.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Union Pacific railway sign hanging at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE Thursday, May 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying Early Morning Light in Siouxland, rural Nebraska, Winnebago, NE

17 Dec
A song sparrow sits in a bush eyeing a visitor to a meadow on an early Nebraska morning near Winnebago, NE Sunday Oct. 17, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Deep shadows are formed as the sun streaks across a yet to be harvested field on an early Nebraska morning near Winnebago, NE Sunday Oct. 17, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

So I will wait another year here in Siouxland before enjoying the early morning jaunts looking for light traipsing through the rural landscape in and around Siouxland. Yes, there will be early morning light this winter, but it will be colder, and maybe less inviting without the warm fall colors adding to the scene. White is just that, white. Although there entails a challenge of maybe using trees and other object as a graphic element to create an image.

Sunlight lights up drying meadow grass on an early Nebraska morning near Winnebago, NE Sunday Oct. 17, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Wood ducks sit on a log in a pond on an early Nebraska morning near Winnebago, NE Sunday Oct. 17, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sunlight lights up a yet to be harvested field and grain bins on an early Nebraska morning near Winnebago, NE Sunday Oct. 17, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With early light this time of year most critters don’t seem to rouse to forage until the light is up along with warming up the temperature. I don’t blame them. Personally, staying under the covers in bed is a preferred winter’s morning destination for me, but that doesn’t actually accomplish the objective of photographing nature. Such a conundrum. But I will be patient and see what opportunities await this winter and see how much walking through the “tundra” I will do depending on that day’s temperature and the wind. Maybe I just need to bring a thermos of coffee along for those mornings out.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Bison graze in a field on an early Nebraska morning near Winnebago, NE Sunday Oct. 17, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Deep shadows are formed in yet to be harvested fields on an early Nebraska morning near Winnebago, NE Sunday Oct. 17, 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©)

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©)

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©)

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©)

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©)

Enjoying the Light in Siouxland, Heritage Village, Sioux Center

1 May
Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when I am cruising about Siouxland without any objective in mind, I just enjoy the light that I come across. To me it seems early spring and then again fall, when the sun is slowly changing its position relative to the earth, I find the play of light in the mornings and again afternoons just a bit different. Strong light without being overly harsh as it will become as seasons move toward summer. Light play and shadows created are intriguing, at least to me. Shapes, designs, patterns, repetitions and such can be endlessly fascinating.

Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The images themselves can be somewhat like cotton candy, in that they look nice, kind of cool, sometimes, but like the cotton candy, without any meaningful nutrition or value, other than how it looks. But sometimes, that is enough.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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