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“Shooting the Moon” in Siouxland, rural Woodbury County

22 May

A full moon rises as the sun sets behind a the horizon over an Iowa countryside near Anthon, Iowa Saturday evening May 15, 2022 before the lunar eclipse takes place later creating the blood moon. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As the seasons change in Siouxland and the days slowly get longer, I find it easier to “stay up later” and try some photographic adventures. Although a friend of mine was probably disappointed that I didn’t want to shoot later, I find myself fading sooner as night approaches than I did when a younger person.

We ventured out to try our hand at photographing the blood moon, which was created by a partial lunar eclipse. I have driven countless backroads around the Siouxland region, but when it came time to decide where to situate ourselves so the moon create a nice backdrop to something in the foreground, I drew a blank, and settled for a stretch of roadway and hillside.

But after an hour of shooting I found myself fading faster than the setting sun. I told my friend to continue shooting and I didn’t mind staying out late, but I decided to just enjoy the moonrise as it got darker than to try and photograph it in the night sky.

It was amazing to see though. And while there are no European cathedrals in rural Siouxland to utilize in creating an image of note, there is always next month to maybe plan a little better and find a place that would visually create a better scene. Time will tell.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A full moon rises over an Iowa countryside near Anthon, Iowa Saturday evening May 15, 2022 before the lunar eclipse takes place later creating the blood moon. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Transitory Visitors in Siouxland, American White Pelicans, Badger Lake, Whiting

18 May

American White Pelicans settle in enjoying the afternoon sunlight during a brisk, windy day at badger Lake in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday April 25, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With the migrating waterfowl like the American White Pelicans passing through Siouxland, I sometimes get confused about what birds find a home in this area and those that are passing on to another destination. Like the majority of Canada geese that use Siouxland as flyover country, but others call it home.

A truck hauling equipment passes in the background as American White Pelicans settle in enjoying the afternoon sunlight during a brisk, windy day at badger Lake in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday April 25, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

American White Pelicans settle in enjoying the afternoon sunlight during a brisk, windy day at badger Lake in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday April 25, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As I occasionally check various locations around the area to see who’s hanging out, sometimes I am delighted, other times disappointed when I find nothing. But then there is another day, and these critters like we humans are dealing with roller coaster weather than runs cold, then hot, dry, then wet, which probably interrupts their travels as much as it does our daily lives. And some of us are not traveling as far.

Wishing these critters a safe journey and fair winds as they journey to their summer destination.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

American White Pelicans settle in enjoying the afternoon sunlight during a brisk, windy day at badger Lake in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday April 25, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Art is in the Eye of the Beholder in Siouxland, Making Decision on Representation, Little Sioux Park, Correctionville

16 May

A slow shutter speed exposure of water running in the Little Sioux City River at Little Sioux Park near Correctionville, Iowa Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Deciding how best sometimes to represent a scene found in Siouxland, or anywhere is dependent upon the person. And sometimes the representation doesn’t quite fulfill the artist’s or photographer’s intent.

Photographing moving water with a slow shutter speed, during daylight without a neutral density filter doesn’t quite capture the scene as well as very early morning or early evening when using a slow shutter speed would be more beneficial. But it doesn’t hurt to try, and practicing seeing and the skills and mechanics one has at hand is always a good thing I believe. Practice makes one better at achieving results and seeing in the first place. Of course, being prepared is helpful. But I don’t pack the suitcase when I go out photographing and walking. A couple lenses and a camera body and I utilize what I have at hand. Grateful when something works out, aw shucks when it doesn’t.

Of course, there is always tomorrow and another walk. I might not encounter the same scene with the same elements and lighting, but that’s the beauty of taking walks and exploring.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A correct exposure of water flowing in the Little Sioux River at Little Sioux Park near Correctionville, Iowa Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Getting a View in Siouxland, Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park, rural Woodbury County

4 May
An adult bald eagle watches waterfowl below at Brown’s Lake in rural Woodbury County Friday, March 11, 2022 near Salix, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While many folk have access and the ability to visit a number county and regional parks in Siouxland, I for one feel lucky that I can enjoy the various trails and sights and scenes I come across. But that might not be true of all residents. When I visited Brown’s Lake earlier this year I noticed that the Woodbury County Conservation group installed a small deck that is “handicapped” accessible, now making it easier for some people to stand or sit over the water. To watch the waterfowl, maybe fish, or later, enjoy a summer’s evening, notwithstanding the mosquitoes who might also be visiting.

A newly built handicapped accessible deck is seen at Brown’s Lake in rural Woodbury County Friday, March 11, 2022 near Salix, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A newly built handicapped accessible deck is seen at Brown’s Lake in rural Woodbury County Friday, March 11, 2022 near Salix, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I have enjoyed a few outings to the lake and the chance to see various migrating waterfowl passing through the area. Although I braved the colder temps and winds gust of 30mph and higher in doing so. Call me crazy, but it was still worth it to watch nature and enjoy the show at hand.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A number of Canada and greater white-fronted geese lift off after being spooked at Brown’s Lake in rural Woodbury County Friday, March 11, 2022 near Salix, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A newly built handicapped accessible deck is seen at Brown’s Lake in rural Woodbury County Friday, March 11, 2022 near Salix, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Canada geese take off from Brown’s Lake in rural Woodbury County Friday, March 11, 2022 near Salix, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Greater white-fronted geese lift off at Brown’s Lake in rural Woodbury County Friday, March 11, 2022 near Salix, Iowa (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A View from the Top in Siouxland, Rural Monona County

2 May
A pair of Canadian geese are seen sitting in a former eagle’s nest, possibly enjoying a view from a natural Air BnB nature’s penthouse loft in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Tuesday April 26, 2022.

Sometimes when out wandering backroads in Siouxland I am pleasantly surprised by findings I come across. While out looking for various waterfowl and spring planting attempts by local farmers, I happened to talk with a rural Monona County resident who told me some geese had taken up residence in a former eagle’s nest. It was a interesting sight to see these two heads sitting on top of such a large nest. And they must feel pretty blesses to move in and the former occupants. Although the local resident said it was witnessed that an eagle was back, maybe checking on its sublet occupant.

I did find though that this one nest was not the only one occupied by a new resident. And now I wonder how many times I have driven by various areas in the country that have these hidden gems I am not aware of and have missed. Hoping for more revealing secrets as spring unfolds into summer. One can only hope.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A pair of Canadian geese can be seen sitting in an eagle’s nest possibly enjoying a view from an Air BnB nature’s penthouse loft in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Tuesday April 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Canadian goose can be seen sitting in an eagle’s nest possibly enjoying a view from an Air BnB nature’s penthouse loft in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Tuesday April 26, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Getting Dry in Siouxland, Snyder Bend Park, Woodbury County

30 Apr
Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County, Iowa see Monday April 18, 2022 is almost “bone dry” with no water and dust blowing about in parts previously covered by water, reminiscent of the 1930’s Dust Bowl. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The last year or so less and less rain has fallen in the Siouxland region which includes western Iowa, northeaster Nebraska and south eastern South Dakota. A recent visit to Snyder Bend Park has shown how much water has receded from a previous shoreline. The park’s water is fed from a local power plant when it discharges water into the area. With little snow over the winter and until recently hardly any rain, at times the park looked like a dust bowl when the wind gusts occurred.

Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County, Iowa see Monday April 18, 2022 is almost “bone dry” with no water and dust blowing about in parts previously covered by water, reminiscent of the 1930’s Dust Bowl. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County, Iowa see Monday April 18, 2022 is almost “bone dry” with no water and dust blowing about in parts previously covered by water, reminiscent of the 1930’s Dust Bowl. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When I visited the park a couple years ago and eagles were migrating the park was filled with water. Now the former lake beds are a giant, sandy beach. Time will tell how this will unfold and what will be seen for recreation this summer.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County, Iowa see Monday April 18, 2022 is almost “bone dry” with no water and dust blowing about in parts previously covered by water, reminiscent of the 1930’s Dust Bowl. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Snyder Bend Park in rural Woodbury County, Iowa see Monday April 18, 2022 is almost “bone dry” with no water and dust blowing about in parts previously covered by water, reminiscent of the 1930’s Dust Bowl. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Imagining History in Siouxland, Inkpaduta Canoe Trail, Correctionville

26 Apr
A sign informs a visitor about the Inkpaduta canoe trail near Copeland Park in Correctionville, Iowa Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When I come across a piece of history in Siouxland I was not familiar with previously, I sometimes try to imagine what life may have been like in that time period, at least what the landscape might have appeared to those first settlers, and of course, to those already living in the region.

A sign informs a visitor about the Inkpaduta canoe trail near Copeland Park in Correctionville, Iowa Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Little Sioux City River is the Inkpaduta canoe trail near Copeland Park Correctionville, Iowa Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This particular day was not an ideal day to photograph in black and white. Overcast, darkish and a brown landscape does not make for exciting and provoking imagery. But given the history of the Little Sioux River and what an earlier exploring photographer might have seen and recorded make me think photographing in black and white appropriate.

Also this reference at Copeland Park in Correctionville to Inkpaduta does not include the sadder saga that occurred in Okoboji of where settlers were massacred by this chief and his braves which happened in retaliation to his own brother being killed by a white settler for the reason of not helping a starving group of Native Americans who had long resided in the area “now claimed” as his land.

The Little Sioux City River is the Inkpaduta canoe trail near Copeland Park Correctionville, Iowa Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Little Sioux City River is the Inkpaduta canoe trail along with a forested area near Copeland Park Correctionville, Iowa Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

So I try to imagine the area as seen by those first inhabitants, long before farming reshaped the landscape or any kind of building touched the landscape. Photographing in black and white might be an homage to an earlier exploring photographer but probably did not do justice to the scenes depicted. I personally like a bit more contrast and saturated blacks. However I don’t spend a lot of time in post processing and do not use plug in accessories that might create a stronger B&W image.

It was just nice to find another slice of history I had not previously encountered and enjoy that day the relative quiet that was almost certain prevalent in the day when there was no traffic noise from a nearby roadway. Just the sound of leaves underfoot and the running of the water in the riverbed. Maybe as Simon and Garfunkel believed in their tune, “The Sounds of Silence”.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A forested area along the Inkpaduta canoe trail at Copeland Park Correctionville, Iowa Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seasons in Siouxland, Bigelow Park and Brown’s Lake, Salix

22 Apr
A number of Canada and greater white-fronted geese take off from Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Monday, March 7, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The “spring season” in Siouxland as elsewhere seems out of whack with weather bouncing back and forth between seasonal and a bit warmer, to still cold with biting wind gusts that reminds one Mother Nature is not quite done with sharing winter yet. A couple of different days checking out Bigelow Park and Brown’s Lake yielded different results. Wind gusts making temperatures feel like the teens and only allowing one to stay outside of a warm vehicle for maybe 10-15 minutes tops.

Sandhill cranes make a flyover at Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, March 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some common mergansers look like low flying missiles over Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Monday, March 7, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A common merganser flies low over some Canada geese and other waterfowl at Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, March 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But the wind and temperature didn’t seem to affect or bother the waterfowl present at the lake. Flying in and flying out, taking wing on whatever pretext, although some did react to low flying raptors looking for a meal and watching perched in nearby trees.

A juvenile bald eagle surveys Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, March 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An adult bald eagle looks over at a juvenile bald eagle in tree tops at Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Monday, March 7, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But as much as I like watching the birds fly about and test my skills trying to photograph them, the windchill and cold temps made the prospect of having breakfast and a pot of coffee a strong influence in seeking a warmer climate than my vehicle. And nothing like having another opportunity to try again to capture these creatures in nature.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A common merganser flies low to land at Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, March 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Canada geese lift off at Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, March 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Canada geese do a fly over before landing at Brown’s Lake at Bigelow Park in rural Woodbury County Sunday, March 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Finding Spring Colors in Siouxland, Alton

6 Apr
Spring color in downtown Alton, Iowa Friday, April 1, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Ah Spring, a slow arrival here in Siouxland. Temperatures overnight still hover in the 30’s. And a brisk prairie wind makes it feel even chillier. So finding spring color in the area while the trees are still bare and the landscape brown, can be challenging.

Spring color in downtown Alton, Iowa Friday, April 1, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Spring color in downtown Alton, Iowa Friday, April 1, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The small community of Alton though has spruced up some of its buildings, “splashing” color onto walls to brighten the downtown area. It does make it a bit more cheerful on a blustery, albeit, sunny day. Like many others, I look forward to getting out and visiting places and enjoying balmy days in the 40’s and 50’s. Temperature in the 60’s would be nice, but I can be patient. Some color I did find was reminiscent of the passing winter, but sometimes one just move forward, and not dwell.

Maybe May flowers.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An orange snow plow adds color to the downtown area of Alton, Iowa Friday, April 1, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Spring color in downtown Alton, Iowa Friday, April 1, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Walking Through History, Oto Cemetery, Oto

11 Mar
An older grave marker at the Oto Cemetery in rural Woodbury County Tuesday , January 18, 2022 near Oto, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I have walked about a number of rural cemeteries I have come across in Siouxland. Reminders of those early settlers and pioneers who came to Iowa couple centuries ago looking for a better life than the one left behind. Walking through the various cemeteries one can never really know why folk left and traveled to an unknown area, then, far away and probably weeks or months in the making of the journey, considering it was done by wagon train.

Oto Cemetery overlooks the small community in rural Woodbury County Tuesday , January 18, 2022 near Oto, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Older grave markers have dates around the mid 1850’s at the Oto Cemetery in rural Woodbury County Tuesday , January 18, 2022 near Oto, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But the folk were remembered, and most are laid to rest on a hillside, overlooking an area they settled to begin a new life. In a place still cared for, and with the occasional new occupant that comes to join those before them, laid to rest, for an eternal slumber, until the final calling they all most certainly believed in.

A peaceful resting place to await their next journey.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Older graves markers sit atop a hill at the Oto Cemetery in rural Woodbury County Tuesday , January 18, 2022 near Oto, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A detail image of an older grave marker at the Oto Cemetery in rural Woodbury County Tuesday , January 18, 2022 near Oto, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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