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Enjoying Early Morning Siouxland, rural Nebraska, Winnebago, NE

22 Jun
Two Canadian geese take off from a pond near Winnebago, NE Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Even though I do like to sleep in when possible, I also like getting out early to drive about rural Siouxland looking for nature, or other aspects of life when the “world” is still relatively quiet. Critters can be surprisingly forgiving when they see a visitor passing through their neighborhood, and probably wonder what the heck is that person doing up so early.

An Eastern Kingbird sits on a barbed wire fence near Winnebago, NE Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Two Redwing Blackbirds sit on fence posts in a field near Winnebago, NE Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The light in early morning is so sweet to photograph in and creates interesting scenes via its angle to the earth’s rotation. Such early morning light becomes better as the seasons moves into fall, in that one doesn’t have to rise so early, but the light itself changes, a little softer, but still direct. Plus, one can always take a nap later to recoup that lost sleep, but one can never regain the time lost or the possibility of images that could be photographed, but never seen to start with.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A brown thrasher peeks through some brush in a field near Winnebago, NE Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Visiting the Netherworlds in Siouxland, Durham Museum, Omaha, NE

20 Jun
A visitor watches film clips of director James Cameron seen in the “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Even though I live in Siouxland, a region that is part of what is affectionately or not affectionately known as flyover country, there are a number of museums, large and small, which one can visit and enjoy traveling exhibits, both visually and educationally stimulating.

Currently at the Durham Museum in Omaha, NE is the exhibit James Cameron — Challenging the Deep. Film director Cameron put together various crews to explore the worlds under the sea including the Titanic and the battleship Bismark allowing Cameron to share his passion and interest with the deep ocean by creating an immersive exhibit using large video screen displays to show visitors what he and others saw beneath the ocean depth, in some place 10,000 meters deep, or almost 10.5 Empire State buildings stacking on top of one another.

A visitor watches a film of deep sea exploration from film director James Cameron at the “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An informative and elaborate set sets the stage for the James Cameron “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Costumes from the movie “Titanic” seen juxtaposed with film of the actual Titanic that director James Cameron filmed during a deep sea exploration and seen at the “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There is a model of the Titanic as it appears underwater on display that is seen in some of the videos showing the exploration of the ship that Cameron and others recorded. The director’s fascination with the deep ocean evidently started when he was a young child and he nurtured that desire to explore as he followed his career path as a film director. Some of the problem solving in filming movies, such as the Abyss, helped Cameron realize what might be possible as he collaborated with experts in the field of under water exploration.

A mock version of the “Titanic” on display at the James Cameron “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Informational panels explain that director James Cameron held a long fascination since childhood about the sea and is told in the “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Items on display used in filming some of the deep sea exploration seen at the James Cameron “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Through the use of underwater recording technology and deep ocean submersible vessels Cameron and others explore the deep, and film themselves exploring the deep which gives the exhibit viewer an idea of how this was all made possible at such incredible depths, with Cameron narrating what is being seen and how it was made possible.

And the exhibit in some ways becomes more interesting by the fact that its entire area is bathed in deep blue light or blackness, resembling what the various individuals must have encountered themselves as they dove deep to explore areas of the ocean not seen by many but now accessible to all through this exhibition.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An informative and elaborate set sets the stage for the James Cameron “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Visitors watch film of deep sea exploration from film director James Cameron at the “Challenging the Deep” exhibit at the Durham Museum Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Those Lazy Days of Summer in Siouxland, mostly Summer, Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha, NE

18 Jun
A sleepy lion fights to keep its eyes open for a noon time nap at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I visited the Henry Doorly Zoo south of Siouxland this past spring. Although temperature wise it could have been considered summer by normal standards. The big cats were lazing about in the sun after having eaten earlier that morning. Looking at them a nap sounded good. The zoo sprawls over a fair distance and I must admit, some days I am feeling rather tired. But it’s fascinating watching the animals and then watching the people watching the animals.

An Asian tiger walks across its compound at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Enjoying a look at the Asian tiger during a public school spring break at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

In April it was already shorts and tee shirt weather. The animals staying in the shade except when tempted out, ignoring the humans straining to get a look as they admire the big cats and other animals. I want to visit the zoo again this summer, but already weather forecasters are predicting heat indexes of 100 or better, and the Siouxland area has had numerous 90 degree weather days already, without much rain. Like the big cats, I don’t feel overly energetic on these days, and driving an hour to see them in 90 degree or higher temps isn’t as inviting as it might once have been.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE Monday, April 5, 2021 (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Passing Through in Siouxland, Cedar Bluffs, NE

16 Jun
Main street in Cedar Bluffs, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some days driving in Siouxland I may stop in a small community, but not spend a lot of time there. Roads pass through, and so do I. The 2010 census says there are around 230 residences in Cedar Bluffs, NE.

There are days where I am headed somewhere specific and do not want to spare the time, and other days I might drive about a bit, then make a couple of photographs of what visually appeals to me, no reflection on the community. And then see it recede in the mirror as I look for another place to stop and peek at, and ponder.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Downtown Cedar Bluffs, NE Saturday, May 22, 2021. (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©)

Celebrating Memorial Day in Siouxland, Le Mars

12 Jun
DAVE OTT, foreground, and other American Legion Wasmer Post 241 Honor Guard members fire a 21 gun salute as area residents and community members attend the Avenue of Flags Memorial Day program at the Plymouth County Courthouse in Le Mars, Iowa Monday, May 31, 2021 hosted by the city of Le Mars and American Legion Wasmer Post 241. There are currently 1,428 flags posted for the day of celebration and remembrance, all donated by family members of those area and local residents who served in the armed forces, living and deceased. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A member of the Armed Forces salutes during the presentation of the Colors as he and area residents and community members attend the Avenue of Flags Memorial Day program at the Plymouth County Courthouse in Le Mars, Iowa Monday, May 31, 2021 hosted by the city of Le Mars and American Legion Wasmer Post 241. There are currently 1,428 flags posted for the day of celebration and remembrance, all donated by family members of those area and local residents who served in the armed forces, living and deceased. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

There are a number of places one can celebrate Memorial Day in Siouxland, remembering those who have and are serving along with loved ones who have passed on to a better place.

I always enjoy the ceremony in Le Mars, where this year another 40 some flags were added to the Avenue of Flags that dot the Plymouth County Courthouse lawn and this year the boulevards across the street. At one point in the program all of the names belonging to those flags that family members have donated are read. This year that number totaled over 1,400 names.

Dennis Britt’s wife, Joyce, and family donated a flag in his honor at the Avenue of Flags Memorial Day program at the Plymouth County Courthouse in Le Mars, Iowa Monday, May 31, 2021 hosted by the city of Le Mars and American Legion Wasmer Post 241. There are currently 1,428 flags posted for the day of celebration and remembrance, all donated by family members of those area and local residents who served in the armed forces, living and deceased. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
ROCKY BUNJES, of Le Mars, IA, and American Legion Wasmer Post 241 member served in the Army during the Vietnam war. Area residents and community members attend the Avenue of Flags Memorial Day program at the Plymouth County Courthouse in Le Mars, Iowa Monday, May 31, 2021 hosted by the city of Le Mars and American Legion Wasmer Post 241. There are currently 1,428 flags posted for the day of celebration and remembrance, all donated by family members of those area and local residents who served in the armed forces, living and deceased. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Dog tags hang from each flag as area residents and community members attend the Avenue of Flags Memorial Day program at the Plymouth County Courthouse in Le Mars, Iowa Monday, May 31, 2021 hosted by the city of Le Mars and American Legion Wasmer Post 241. There are currently 1,428 flags posted for the day of celebration and remembrance, all donated by family members of those area and local residents who served in the armed forces, living and deceased. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Not as many people attended this year as I have seen in the past. That is understandable. There is still residual dealings with the ongoing pandemic, while circumstances are getting better, a success over this health issue doesn’t seem to be here yet. But those that did attend found a nice day, with moderate temperature and light breeze that made celebrating a bit more joyous that a rainy, overcast and more somber type of day.

Family members and area residents attend the Avenue of Flags Memorial Day program at the Plymouth County Courthouse in Le Mars, Iowa Monday, May 31, 2021 hosted by the city of Le Mars and American Legion Wasmer Post 241. There are currently 1,428 flags posted for the day of celebration and remembrance, all donated by family members of those area and local residents who served in the armed forces, living and deceased. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Flags flutter from a breeze as area residents and community members attend the Avenue of Flags Memorial Day program at the Plymouth County Courthouse in Le Mars, Iowa Monday, May 31, 2021 hosted by the city of Le Mars and American Legion Wasmer Post 241. There are currently 1,428 flags posted for the day of celebration and remembrance, all donated by family members of those area and local residents who served in the armed forces, living and deceased. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Next yearI will probably visit another community during its remembrance. Sad in a way that so many remembrances are held, but good that people take the time out of a “holiday” to remember those who served their country and embraced a challenge when one arose.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

ISAAC JOHNSON of Le Mars, IA, reads a dog tag looking for the flag of his grandfather Jerry Johnson as he and other area residents and community members attend the Avenue of Flags Memorial Day program at the Plymouth County Courthouse in Le Mars, Iowa Monday, May 31, 2021 hosted by the city of Le Mars and American Legion Wasmer Post 241. There are currently 1,428 flags posted for the day of celebration and remembrance, all donated by family members of those area and local residents who served in the armed forces, living and deceased. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Area residents and community members attend the Avenue of Flags Memorial Day program at the Plymouth County Courthouse in Le Mars, Iowa Monday, May 31, 2021 hosted by the city of Le Mars and American Legion Wasmer Post 241. There are currently 1,428 flags posted for the day of celebration and remembrance, all donated by family members of those area and local residents who served in the armed forces, living and deceased. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Neighborly Chat in Siouxland, Emerson, NE

10 Jun
Two neighbors chat one afternoon in Emerson, NE Monday, May 24, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s nice when visiting places in Siouxland to find neighbors taking the time to chat with one another while about and about. A cordial interaction is always a pleasure to see even as the residents check out the visitors to see what they are up to.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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©)

Home is Where the Heart is in Siouxland, Council Bluffs

2 Jun
An entrance to a home in the historic district in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes not a lot needs to be said about a person’s home, in Siouxland or someplace else. If folk are comfortable somehwere or it is a place that provides shelter not withstanding circumstances, home is where one hangs their hat.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Getting Jailed in Siouxland, The Squirrel Cage, Council Bluffs

29 May
Lots of metal at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Being incarcerated is not for the faint of heart. And hopefully most folk will never encounter such an ordeal whether in Siouxland or elsewhere. The Squirrel Cage in Council Bluffs had been in operation for a few decades. Visiting such an inhospitable place as a museum gave me pause for those who spent time there for supposed crimes until each’s trial. One of only a few such places built in the United States it opened for “business” in 1885 and was in use until 1969.

A former county jail, the Squirrel Cage Museum is located in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Jail time was not to be envied at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Minimal accommodations at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Every manner of “criminal” from juveniles to adults were housed in the jail which used a rotating 3-story cell system, which history shows escaped any major catastrophe such as a fire since there would have been no way for a jailer, who lived on site with his family, could have safely gotten all prisoners out. In early days criminal offices for getting locked up included adultery, which could probably fill many a hotel these days, both famous and not famous. Those folks were also jailed with arsonists, domestic abusers, murderers and children who ran afoul of the law.

Docent Kat Slaughter gives tours at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Docent Kat Slaughter gives tours at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Docent Kat Slaughter gave a nice 45-minute tour about the jail, its history and the good, bad and ugly aspects of the jail. Originally she said the rotating cells were operated by an underground water system which was later replaced. And there was only one boiler, and summers were extremely uncomfortable because heat rises and prisoners places within metal confines throughout and at the top of the jail could not escape the heat.

But evidently, for some, that was not enough of a deterrent as even evident today, to keep on the straight and narrow.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Jail time was not to be envied at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A sneak peek into the past visiting at the Squirrel Cage Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa Saturday, May 1, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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