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Enjoying the Missouri River in Siouxland, Yankton, SD

17 Aug
A beach scene that could remind one of others places in the northwest of the United States is seen just outside of Yankton, South Dakota, Saturday, April 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

During the hot summer days in Siouxland the thought of cooling off in water is always appealing. But it doesn’t always mean that I follow through on those thoughts. Exploring places and finding interesting “nooks and crannies” while wandering is always a joy. Such was finding a beach area along the Missouri River north of Yankton, SD. It was easy to miss in that there was only a small path leading down to the water and seeing this scene made me think of other places visited in northern California. A kind of wild looking setting I didn’t expect to find. But therein lies the joy of looking and seeing and wandering about and finding a moment when what one sees transport you somewhere else, linking to another memory and creating a chain of sights and sounds along the road of life.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Cool water along a beach outside of Yankton, South Dakota, Saturday, April 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An impressionistic look at water along a beach outside of Yankton, South Dakota, Saturday, April 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Great Escape in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

3 Aug
A deer begins its retreat after seeing a passer-by in a meadow at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, July 05, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Anthropologists have sometimes said that early society retained a fight or flight outlook on life that was in part due to self-preservation. The same is most certainly true in the animal kingdom, even here in Siouxland. Early morning walks in Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve has given me a chance to see nature a bit more upclose and personal that previous visits during later hours when I have visited there. Nature’s actions take place in twilight hours, early and late. I am just glad I can witness some of it as I venture out earlier to escape the current heat of the day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A deer spies a passer-by in a meadow and begins its retreat at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, July 05, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A deer spies a passer-by in a meadow and begins its retreat at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, July 05, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A deer spies a passer-by in a meadow and begins its retreat at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, July 05, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A deer takes flight after seeing a passer-by in a meadow and begins its retreat at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, July 05, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Bird Greetings in Siouxland, Bacon Creek Park

24 Jul
A Redwing Blackbird sings early in the morning at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, June 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Walking early in Siouxland one gets the chance to encounter and hear “the little birdies” sing or scold, depending on their mood and where one might meet them. Sometimes it might be too close to their home, especially in spring or early summer when young might be around.

A bird peeks out of a hole in a dead tree at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, June 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Walking by trees, many trees, and looking up the last place I expect to see a bird is it popping it’s head out of a hole. More likely I expect to see a bird sitting on branches and hidden. Although some species easily give away location once you hear them singing.

A cardinal sits quietly watching passersby at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, June 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Males cardinals are easy to spot within the green foliage. Although they do tend to move about, making it difficult to even grab a fleeting photo. Just a flash of red and then one needs to continue looking.

Early morning light is a bit more directional, and during the summer months bright which creates a nice contrast with the background. Backlit subjects like trees easily stand out against the darker area behind it in shade.

Morning sunlight illuminates a tree at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, June 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The bright light almost makes it impossible to see small birds nestled in the branches, where one might mistake it for a tree limb knot and a branch silhouetted against the light. And sometimes some clever birds mimmic their surroundings, looking like a short, standing tree trunk across the water until upon closer inspection with a telephoto lens or binoculars one sees there is actually a bird there. Standing very, very still.

A Great Blue Herron stands still, almost striking a pose like a tree branch as it watches something across the small lake at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, June 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But that is the fun of early morning walks. Trying to school oneself in learning the habits of these feathered creatures and and spotting them to photograph. The exercise is not a bad idea either as one walks about Bacon Creek exercising the eyeballs and legs.

But once the sun starts climbing, it’s good to heed the advice of other woodland creatures, and head toward a shady glenn to spend the rest of the day until supper time calls. Just lounging about and avoiding the day’s heat, and then starting the process over the next day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A deer makes its way to a shaded glenn at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, June 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying Nature in Siouxland, Fortenelle Forest, Bellevue, NE

22 Jul
An early morning mist envelopes part of the area surrounding the board walk at the Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE Wednesday, July 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always enjoy getting out and visiting places in Siouxland, especially outdoor parks. Taking a walk in nature is always nice, even on those days when the weather isn’t fully cooperating. Visually misty days can be more interesting and different that a bright sunshine, sunlight dappled view of a forest.

Visitors make their way along the board walk at the Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE Wednesday, July 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A woman makes her way along the board walk at the Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE Wednesday, July 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A number of people were out enjoying the board walk at the forest which wanders about a small portion of the park for about one mile. Meandering to different parts, one even close to the Missouri River when other surprises are sometimes in store for those who happened to pick one day over another to visit.

Turkey vultures roost in a tree along the Missouri River bank at Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE Wednesday, July 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A bald eagle replaces the turkey vultures previously sitting in a tree along the bank of the Missouri Valley at Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE Wednesday, July 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Besides making one appreciate the beauty of nature, it always works up an appetite walking and looking for scenes to photograph. Lunch is always a nice reward after a morning out. And the chance to yet again see another bald eagle and enjoy the quiet of the forest just makes it a pleasant day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A couple enjoy a day out at Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE Wednesday, July 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The board walk ehich runs about a mile encompasses only a small portion of the Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE Wednesday, July 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A couple looks engulfed in foliage while using the board walk at the Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE Wednesday, July 7, 2021. (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©)

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

12 Jul
A Lesser Yellowlegs poses as it hunts for a meal at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Taking a jaunt to Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve is always a nice way to start one’s day. Of course that is after having a couple cups of coffee to jump start the day. I am finding one needs to be an early riser to find nature’s creatures a bit more active as they hunt for their morning and mid-morning nourishment. For the shore birds, they sometimes do this just underneath a bird blind that the preserve has put in place in numerous places along Mud Lake for visitors to enjoy the residents and passers through.

A Canada goose informs a visitor that the bird blind is currently occupied at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A Redwing blackbird makes some noise on a perch at Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two Lesser Yellowlegs look for food in Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As I try to improve my photography of nature it’s nice, and convenient, to have willing subjects, as long as they are not too aware of one’s presence. Hence the bird blinds. I know I will not be traveling to far flung places on the earth like Africa, Peru or even the Rocky Mountains to photograph animals in the wild. But will be content with the “local wild creatures” I have nearby at preserves and parks and do the best I can to capture them in motion. Not a bad way to spend a morning.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

American white pelicans slowly circle overhead at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A wood duck floats in Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A Lesser Yellowlegs hunts for a meal at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An Eastern Kingfisher studies its surroundings from a tree branch overhanging Mud Lake at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, May 7, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Reflecting on Nature in Siouxland, Bacon Creek Park, Sioux City

10 Jul
A fisherman looks like he’s casting into the trees as they reflect in the water at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, June 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s nice to take a walk at a local park without bundling up for a winter’s chill and see nature in its summer’s regalia. An early morning walk has night light play that occurs around the park, especially when it comes to reflections.

Not an alpine lake but a body of water at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, June 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Water reflections give a French impressionistic look to a scene at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, June 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Nature plays tricks wth what one sees. And a narrow point of view a person could have difficulty of telling up from down which can be fun. Mother Nature knows when to enjoy herself and let those who see it in on her optical allusions.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A man casts his line into the water as steam and the reflection of the opposite bank appear at at Bacon Creek Park in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday, June 13, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Taking a Walk with Nature in Siouxland, Adams Homestead Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

6 Jul
A deer pauses to watch another early morning walker at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

In recent months I have spent some early Siouxland mornings out walking at local nature preserves. Enjoying what I see and also the cooler temperatures that one finds as the sun barely peers over the horizon. A young self would never have guessed that I have become an early riser. Although naps later in the day are never a bad thing, either.

A deer feeds on corn leaves in a field near Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A deer enjoys a little corn leaf snack in a planted field that borders the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in South Sioux City, South Dakota, Thursday, June 10, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On a couple of different occasions walking at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve I found a deer eating corn stalk leaves in a field that abuts the preserve. Someone said with lack of recent rain in late spring and early summer the deer probably find the corn leaves tastier than the dry grass they encounter. And I can’t swear to it, but on two different walks I spied a deer in the same location munching away, thinking he/she must have found a new breakfast spot to get the day started.

A deer stands still in a shaded area as it makes its way across a meadow at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in South Sioux City, South Dakota, Thursday, June 10, 2021. Weather forecasters predict a heat index of 100 with severe storms to move into the area overnight into Friday. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s fun to see the creatures in their habitat, and fun as well to be able to photograph them without them being one or two miles in the distance. Standing and watching and not being in a hurry, the deer generally continued their browsing and eventually moved on into deeper shade areas to await the still rising sun and temperatures that were sure to follow. Other creatures were also enjoying the morning cool temps greeting the new day in song, and then some prefer their water element to stay cool on yet another steamy, summer’s days.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An Eastern Kingbird sits on a barbed wire fence in the shade at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in South Sioux City, South Dakota, Thursday, June 10, 2021. Weather forecaster predict a heat index of 100 degrees Thursday with severe storms overnight into Friday. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two turtles sun themselves on a log sticking out of Mud Lake at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Living History in Siouxland, Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park, Ft. Calhoun, NE

28 Jun
The canon is fired during the living history day at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort.(photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always enjoy the chance to see re-enactments of history, even a scaled down version as the state parks of Nebraska was still being cautious because of the pandemic, even though the state’s governor has pretty much declared the pandemic passed.

Because of ongoing concerns about the coronavirus visitors during the living history day at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park still have limited interaction with re-enactors seen in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A small company of men perfect their parade ground routine during the living history day at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently the Nebraska state parks have again providing programs such as the living history day at Ft. Atkinson in Ft. Calhoun, NE. The people portraying folk from the early frontier period before much of the part of the country became a state helps one understand their lives better and gain an appreciation of what these people experienced and endured at was once the farthest western settlements during that time period.

A military officer re-enactor greets visitors and gives them background information about the fort and its role in history during a hot 92 degree living history day at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two young girls try to stay cool during a 92 degree day during the living history day at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A young re-enactor portraying an early pioneer daughter of the fort’s shop keep exemplifies what many young people of any century might, boredom, during the living history day at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Talking to the people at the historical park everyone seems to enjoy what is offered and those who take the time to share their love of history with others and spend some time not in the present and thinking about today’s problems, but what came before, the brave men and women who pursued some kind of dream coming west to a new place, making their way however uninhabitable or unfriendly it might have seemed. Pioneers who wrote their own stories, some of which we may never know.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Military re-enactors each lunch at a camp site during the living history day at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A tin smith re-enactor talks about his trade to visitors during the living history day at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
1st Lt. Gabriel Field served with the 6th U.S. Infantry at Dt. Atkinson when he died in 1823 and was buried at the post’s cemetery. A headstone of Field’s was first discovered by a farmer in 1954 and later in 1956 began a large excavation of the area of which the living history day at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park is based on, seen in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Fort Atkinson State Historical Park is a replica of the actual fort located in Ft Calhoun, NE Saturday, June 4, 2021. Built in 1819 and serving through 1827 this fort contained approximately 1,200 soldiers, almost half of what then was the extent of the standing army for the U.S. During the Lewis and Clark expedition it was noted that this location would be a perfect place to erect a fort. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Revisiting History in Siouxland, Heritage Village, Sioux Center

14 Jun
Earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

From time to time while driving about Siouxland I like to revisit places, even if it’s off-peak for any activity that might be going on. The Heritage Village in Sioux Center is one such place. A small replica village that celebrates the history of the early settlers and the agricultural aspect of the Midwest. The place has a different look during different seasons, even without the activity of its fall festival celebration.

Inside the earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Inside the earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Early settlers traveled very light, or as light as they could if going west by wagon and any other means of transportation. Some of the early plains settlers lived in sod houses. The wall thick with cutouts for windows, the small abodes kept folk cool in the heat of summer and warm in winter. But with very little room to move about, it’s safe to assume most activity, weather dependent, took place outdoors. And in those days I am sure there was no lack of work to survive and hopefully to also enjoy themselves in simple pleasures, like a nice day with sunshine, light breeze and a decent temperature.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Inside the earthen mound prairie house at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center, Iowa Monday, March 29, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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