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Enjoying a Summer Day’s Drive in Siouxland, rural Cherokee County

8 Aug

A perfect Iowa summer’s day in rural Cherokee County and near Quimby, Iowa Monday, July 21, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I like driving about in the summer in Siouxland on back country roads. I don’t have to drive fast and can just enjoy the scenery. Growing up on a farm I sometimes think that prejudiced me to like being in the country rather than in the city. I am not exactly “Green Acres” material and those who understand will get the gist. Wide open spaces, a slow pace driving gravel roads and enjoying the a summer’s breeze, provided that the temperature isn’t in the 90’s and the humidity above 75%. Without the radio on, or maybe some low key jazz, my mind wanders and ideas come and go as I make my way in various places in this part of Iowa. When I was younger, I know I was in a hurry. Now, I want to enjoy the moment, hopefully a nice moment, and get to what needs being done in good time.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A perfect Iowa summer’s day in rural Cherokee County and near Quimby, Iowa Monday, July 21, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An Americana Moment in Siouxland, Rural Cherokee County

30 Jul

An old, unused railroad trestle at the Pearse Area in rural Cherokee County and near Quimby, Iowa Monday, July 21, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s always fun to find a moment in life that seems to be pure Americana, especially in rural America, even in Siouxland. Possibly reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting. Although in this day and age that viewpoint may seem skewed to a particular demographic. But summertime is essentially kids’ time. Before the vagaries of adulthood creep into sight and childhood fun time has to be put aside.

A perfect Iowa summer’s day for some teenage boys as they jump from an old railroad trestle into the Little Sioux River in rural Cherokee County near Quimby, Iowa Monday, July 21, 2020. What some might consider a quintessential slice of rural Americana and a right of passage hanging out at a favorite swimming hole. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Idyllic may be another way of looking at it. I was surprised and happy while out roaming some backroads in Cherokee County one day and I had come across this bridge and thought it might create a nice image. Then by chance driving across the the Little Sioux River I spied from some distance a group of boys up on the old trestle. Sometimes God smiles on you and the kids hung out long enough for me to swap lenses and from a short zoom to a telephoto. The railroad trestle was still some 2-3 football fields away, but made it possible to shoot a little tighter and tell a story many children in many places have experienced.

A perfect Iowa summer’s day for some teenage boys as they jump from an old railroad trestle into the Little Sioux River in rural Cherokee County near Quimby, Iowa Monday, July 21, 2020. What some might consider a quintessential slice of rural Americana and a right of passage hanging out at a favorite swimming hole. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Not all of the boys jumped into the water, but those that did spaced themselves out and hung around while the others behind them dropped into the water, creating their own living quintessential slice of Americana that maybe someday their own children may experience growing up in a rural place, some call heaven, others not so much. These boys are enjoying their summer, not thinking about tomorrow or next week or what school life might look like this year. Just enjoying a summer’s day and being kids.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A perfect Iowa summer’s day for some teenage boys as they jump from an old railroad trestle into the Little Sioux River in rural Cherokee County near Quimby, Iowa Monday, July 21, 2020. What some might consider a quintessential slice of rural Americana and a right of passage hanging out at a favorite swimming hole. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Steady Steed in Siouxland, Rural Plymouth County

28 Jul

A horse chases away flies on a humid summer’s day in a field in rural Plymouth County, Iowa Monday, July 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some days in Siouxland, like other places, are better than others. It all depends on the story. A horse standing at the top of a hill pawing the ground, bobbing its head as though it were Pegasus ready to leap skyward and fly to the heavens. But upon closer inspection, the poor beast is standing in a meadow besieged by flies and so it prances about trying to chase the little buggers away so it can have a few moments of peace. Paul Harvey said a lot when he used it now oft quoted tagline, “….the rest of the story.”

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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©)

Seeing Shadows in Siouxland, Calliope Village in Hawarden

16 Jun

Light and shade at Calliope Village in Hawarden, Iowa Friday, May 29, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

For the most part life is pretty straight forward for most individuals, even in Siouxland, and the same could be said for photographs. What you see if what there is. But sometimes I wonder if there are exceptions in those perceptions of various individuals and how they respectively see the world compared to others witnessing the same scene.

I like working with light and shadow in photography. The dynamic between the two is pretty straight forward, utilizing one to focus a viewer’s point of view to another aspect of a photograph. But sometimes it’s not always so straight forward. When color is introduced to a photo of light and shade a viewer’s interest in in shapes is “colored” (pun intended) by whatever actual color is introduced into the image.

Light and shade at Calliope Village in Hawarden, Iowa Friday, May 29, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When B&W images are used the starkness of light and shade without color allows a viewer to see “less” and respond to only those subjects or objects within the frame, not “shaded” (again, pun intended) or influenced by another element within the photograph.

Light and shade at Calliope Village in Hawarden, Iowa Friday, May 29, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The starkness of an image simplifies it for a viewer. The individual sees only two objects as it were, competing against one another for attention. And eyes generally are drawn to the light. But both are needed to make an image, and make it compelling.

Light and shade at Calliope Village in Hawarden, Iowa Friday, May 29, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But depending on the subject matter and when more shades of grey are introduced into an image, it becomes a bit murkier, as with life, the shades of grey mute into one another at times without a stark contrast and an individual must begin discerning what about the image that is important and where along that light to dark spectrum does that person’s  interest lie and how is the individual affected in what is seen.

One could only wish images, like life, could be simple and straight forward. To some people it probably is. They like what they see or don’t like it, and already have minds made up and interpreted as to their own aesthetics. Not able to adjust or change or perceive anything else even when there are so many shades along the spectrum that to enjoy. B&W white only illuminates so much and much could be lost in the shadows when there is so little light.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Light and shade at Calliope Village in Hawarden, Iowa Friday, May 29, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Venturing out into Siouxland, rural Sioux County

12 Jun

Venturing out in Oak Grove Park near Hawarden, Iowa Friday, May 29, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As the state of Iowa slowly opens amid the coronavirus so does areas of Siouxland. Although some areas, like parks were never really closed, it hasn’t been until recently that nature is dressing its season, such as spring with summer hot on its heels if one consider recent over the top temperatures the region has recently endured.

Making a trip back to Oak Grove Park to which I have traveled a few times, mostly during the fall. It’s a nice park, but it was nicer still to get outside and enjoy nature and take a walk, much to the chagrin of friends who know I like to walk about when photographing an area.

Venturing out in Oak Grove Park near Hawarden, Iowa Friday, May 29, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Venturing out in Oak Grove Park near Hawarden, Iowa Friday, May 29, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The sun this day was high overhead filling a blue sky and its light created deep shadows in areas with trees which made it fun and challenging to photograph.

Light and shade brings out details on a rail fence in Oak Grove Park near Hawarden, Iowa Friday, May 29, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A bee seeks pollen from a flowering bush in Oak Grove Park near Hawarden, Iowa Friday, May 29, 2020 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes photographing detail is easier in harsh light helping the sculpt and shape the image so the subject matter stands out. Then again, a light and airy approach can also be effective depending on what the photographer wants a viewer to concentrate on. Perspective and mystery can make an interesting photograph. Then again maybe not.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Forested acres in Oak Grove Park near Hawarden, Iowa 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©)

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