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History and Religion in Siouxland, German City Church, Holly Springs

12 Jul

Locals have long worshipped at the historic German City Church (St. John’s Evangelical Church) near Holly Springs, Iowa Monday, June 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While not an ardent student of history, I do enjoy it and learning about places nearby where I live regionally in Siouxland. Iowa like many other midwestern states was settled by pioneers beginning in the 1800’s. Some folk settled as early as the 1830’s while others came in the 1850’s and later. The German City Church near a now small community of Holly Springs has been in service since the 1880’s. I have never attended a service or been around the church when it was open. But it is nicely maintained and cared for by its parishioners and is situated on a hilltop with a view of the surrounding valley around it.

A gravel road leads into the historic German City Church (St. John’s Evangelical Church) near Holly Springs, Iowa Monday, June 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

During the summer months the trees give the church solitude and allows one silence but for the birds to ponder those who settled the area a century or more ago and wonder about their life and the changes that have taken place since it was first built.

The historic German City Church (St. John’s Evangelical Church) Holly Springs, Iowa Monday, June 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Finding history and then spending the time to learn about it is important. All too often it seems the human race keeps repeating the same sins over and over, never learning from those who came before or teaching those who will follow that by the grace of God and a little bit of love and understanding, can go a long way in making the world a better place.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A scenic day with clouds at the historic German City Church (St. John’s Evangelical Church) near Holly Springs, Iowa Monday, June 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Summer’s Day in Siouxland, Rural Monona County, Iowa

10 Jul

Nature’s display of rolling hills and clouds along a gravel backroad in rural Monona County, Iowa near Castana, Iowa Monday, June 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some days in Siouxland are that slow and easy living phrase made famous by George Gershwin’s “Summertime“, the sentiment of the lyrics and mood. There are days when a drive in the country allows one to get away from all the noise created by politicians, idiots and other folk one would rather not hear for a while. I mostly listen to jazz when driving about, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Dave Brubeck Quartet and Miles Davis. Some more modern artists as well.

A swan drifts in a pond along a gravel backroad in rural Monona County, Iowa near Castana, Iowa Monday, June 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I let my mind drift while just looking for images or potential images. There are some back roads I take into the Loess Hills region time and again and run across familiar scenes. Different day, time of year, time of day, all can make a difference with what one sees. And sometimes not.

Two weathered out buildings of a former homestead along a gravel backroad in rural Monona County, Iowa near Castana, Iowa Monday, June 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some scenes remain the same, which is nice in that there is no development, no summer homes or subdivision. The land is still farm land and the views are those views seen by folk possibly over a couple of centuries. Which in the early days of life on this continent the land was most likely traversed by Native Americans until the Europeans arrived and then pushed west looking for space and opportunity they didn’t find from whence they came. Philosophizing beyond what transpired is best done by those politicians and others who while maybe sincere, also seem to be looking for points and admirers to add to their stable of support.

So some jazz, maybe some quiet to hear the birds sing their own acapella tunes along with the wind rustling tall grass or corn stalk leaves and trees. Unwind, meditate and enjoy, continued stress does no one much good.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A former farm house along a gravel backroad in rural Monona County, Iowa near Castana, Iowa Monday, June 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Revisiting Calliope Village in Siouxland, Hawarden

6 Jul

As I drive about Siouxland I have certain haunts I like to revisit if I am in the area, or out photographing with a friend to introduce them to a place and to also see how how I can create new or different images than previously done. The Calliope Village is one such place I like to revisit again and again. Memorial Day and Labor Day the village is open and people show up to check out the local history and listen to some entertainment if there is a local string band playing. But this year the village will not be hosting any events like many places. And to many organizations like the Hawarden Historical Society they miss that opportunity to showcase their local pride and joy and to share with people something of a community’s past they themselves enjoy and hope others will as well.

Taking a walk around the Calliope Village in Hawarden, Iowa on a spring day Friday, May 29, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

So this particular day I work with some “art filters” that are part of an Olympus OMD E M1 II camera to see how I can change up what I photograph. This particular filter reminds me of my time photographing with a 4X5 view camera and using the tilts and swings to help focus a viewer’s attention on certain aspects of an image. When I previously photographed with Fujifilm’s XT-1 and 2 I used a similar filter to achieve a “look” that is similar to the Olympus’ filter.

Sometimes they can be a bit kitschy but if it works for me, why not. And as I tell students who take some photography courses I teach at a local community college, there are times when less is more.

Taking a walk around the Calliope Village in Hawarden, Iowa on a spring day Friday, May 29, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One wants the viewer to take in a scene and wonder a bit about it sometimes. Other times you want an image to hit them over the head and get the message right away. Journalism can be like that, but journalism can also portray subject matter in a way to get people to slow down and ponder.

Taking a walk around the Calliope Village in Hawarden, Iowa on a spring day Friday, May 29, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And maybe some people who see the photographs and are able will stop by and visit the place you share and take the time to see a bit of local history and understand what life was like a couple centuries ago and read short synopses and stories about those who originally settled the area. And it’s the latter I hope for sometimes for people to find and enjoy those gems in their own backyard.

 

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Taking a walk around the Calliope Village in Hawarden, Iowa on a spring day Friday, May 29, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying the Light in Siouxland, Harrison County

19 Apr

The setting sun is seen through a tunnel on DeSoto Rd. near Loveland, Iowa Friday, March 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As a photographer I enjoy watching light. Whether I have a camera in hand or not. But preferably if out and about in Siouxland I want one for those moments I would like to capture. Recently I tried to photograph the setting sun along with a friend whose work I think outdid mine in this circumstance. He was interested in this tunnel created by a former railroad line and for the most part, the time of year helped bring the setting sun almost into alignment with the road passing through the tunnel.

The setting sun will eventually shine through this tunnel on DeSoto Rd. near Loveland, Iowa Friday, March 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The setting sun is seen through a tunnel on DeSoto Rd. near Loveland, Iowa Friday, March 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I did not do a good job handling the wide dynamic range created with the setting sun and the area around the tunnel that fell into shade. It also didn’t help that it was only 25 degrees out and cold. Patience was the last thing on my mind as the warmth of the sun evaporated and night fell. But the process of capturing a unique image was still invaluable. My friend used science and a sunset forecast to determine when might be an appropriate time to photograph the scene. And it was helpful that on this particular ay the weather cooperated and passing rain and snow showers took a day off.

The setting sun will shine through this tunnel on DeSoto Rd. near Loveland, Iowa Friday, March 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The setting sun shines through a tunnel on DeSoto Rd. near Loveland, Iowa Friday, March 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I enjoy the play of light. And sunrises and sunsets add much to circumstances in creating a dynamic image. Although it can feel like a slow process, waiting for the sun to set and staying warm at the same time. But in the end the result always makes the effort worth it. Even if one isn’t particularly happy with the resulting image, it was still fun to attempt and see if the final result would be a stunning image or a memory of a nice day out.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The setting sun is seen through a tunnel on DeSoto Rd. near Loveland, Iowa Friday, March 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The setting sun is seen through a tunnel on DeSoto Rd. near Loveland, Iowa Friday, March 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Backroads in Siouxland, rural Pottawatamie County

15 Apr

A barn in Pottawatamie County near Crescent, Iowa Friday, March 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently I did a bit driving some rural, country roads in Siouxland’s southern region. No other vehicles passing by for the most part it was nice to get out and breathe some fresh air and forget about current events. I am still enthralled with the older barns I find in the area, each with history of its own and all past the days of former glory.

A house or small barn on a gravel road near Loveland, Iowa Friday, March 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Siouxland region and country itself has gone through some changes when these places and others like them thrived in their heyday. Some good and others questionable. Time will tell about the end results of changes. In the meantime I just want to enjoy these relics and ponder their time in the sun and continue exploring the backroads.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Detail of a house or barn on a gravel road near Loveland, Iowa Friday, March 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Flight of the Redwing Blackbirds in Siouxland, Rural Harrison County

11 Apr

 

Thousands of Redwing blackbirds in a field near Loveland, Iowa Friday, March 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Nature puts on some amazing shows somedays. Most times those shows might be associated with storms. Thunder and lighting comes to mind. But on a recent outing in Siouxland I came upon a very large flock of Redwing blackbirds in a field as sunset approached. They would settle, then rise up and fly about, sometimes to an adjoining field and then back again.

Thousands of Redwing blackbirds in a field near Loveland, Iowa Friday, March 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Thousands of Redwing blackbirds in a field near Loveland, Iowa Friday, March 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It was an amazing sight to watch. A choreographer’s dream as hundreds and possibly thousands of birds flew up and around and never crashed into one another. Moving in unison with like-mindedness. And then it ended as they moved on, tired of a spectator watching and maybe disturbing their ritual as the sun set and the day ended.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Thousands of Redwing blackbirds in a field near Loveland, Iowa Friday, March 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Thousands of Redwing blackbirds in a field near Loveland, Iowa Friday, March 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Springing Forward in Siouxland, rural Woodbury County

8 Mar

The sun sets behind a hillside in rural Woodbury County near Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, March 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As daylight savings time kicks in here in Siouxland and elsewhere in the U.S., I will have to stay out a little later to capture a sunset, or earlier for that sunrise. Once the last of winter moves on and the temperature stays in the 50’s or higher, it will be more pleasant shooting either time of day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The sun sets behind a hillside in rural Woodbury County near Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, March 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The sun sets behind a hillside in rural Woodbury County near Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, March 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Godot is Waiting for Spring in Siouxland, rural Monona County

29 Feb

Clouds pass through the area in the Loess Hills area off of the Loess Hills Scenic Byway in Monona County, Iowa Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Spring is slowly wending its way into Siouxland. Temperatures fluctuate between cold in the 20’s and 30’s and warmer, high 40’s and into the 50’s. Talking with friends it’s the latter 50’s we are all currently interested in. While driving some country roads recently I had to be careful as normally sound roads were a muddy glaze that would navigate well in a pickup truck, but not so much with other vehicles.

Clouds pass overhead near a weathered building in the Loess Hills area off of the Loess Hills Scenic Byway in Monona County, Iowa Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Clouds pass through the area in the Loess Hills area off of the Loess Hills Scenic Byway in Monona County, Iowa Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The rural landscape is still pretty dull. Browns, shades of brown populate the hills and dales of the Loess Hills region in Siouxland. No early peeking green shoots could be seen by a passing motorist. But hopefully soon. And a chance to wander again on a bright spring day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

in the Loess Hills area off of the Loess Hills Scenic Byway in Monona County, Iowa Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Greener Pastures in Siouxland, Rural Buena Vista County

19 Feb

Cruising in rural Monona County, Iowa Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

in rural Buena Vista County, Iowa Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes while out driving in Siouxland in nicer weather I never know who I might see off the beaten path. More likely a critter of some sort. And I am glad when driving backroads I am moving slowly enough to be able to brake and then get one or two photographs made before the elusive creatures vanish.

Planted crops on a summer’s day in rural Monona County, Iowa Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Cornfields and woods near corn and soybean fields can be an ideal spot to find nature hanging out and I feel lucky when I can both enjoy and photograph the scene at the same time.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

 

Cruising Siouxland, Buena Vista county

7 Feb

Driving in rural Buena Vista County, Iowa Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I think it’s never too early to think about getting out and cruising through Siouxland, looking to see what is just beyond the bend and what new friends one might make while out and about.

A quiet scene in rural Buena Vista County, Iowa Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I never tire of seeing vistas, although I am sure the ones in Iowa pale in comparison to those west and east where mountains provide a different kind of view but at least here I know I won’t get a nose bleed from altitude.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A hilltop view in rural Buena Vista County, Iowa Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Grassland and forest in rural Buena Vista County, Iowa Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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