Tag Archives: black and white photography

Translating what you see in Siouxland, Black and White, Western Iowa Tech

8 Nov

This past session I taught an introduction course into photographing black and white using a digital camera. In the days of film of which I started with Tri-X and then went on to use other films and film-types while working for newspapers, it’s not an easy to always see black and white in a color world. One needs to think about tonality. And how color transforms, or not, when switching to black and white.  Some images of subjects work better than others, but without seeing what works and what doesn’t, will not help a person learn.

Tree line on the campus of Western Iowa Tech Thursday, Oct. 11 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)


Clouds that could llo like waves washing onto a shoreline above the trees taken at Weestern Iowa Tech Thursday, Oct. 11 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The shimmer off the trees was fairly pronounced with the yellow leaves and soft sun peeking through the clouds, but doesn’t quite translate without maybe a darker background to make a more striking difference. The wispy clouds however with dark tree in foreground and deeper (blue) sky makes the cloud photo more striking and dynamic. But there are scenes when less contrast works just as well, especially when photographing people. But taking the photo and then studying it and deciding what one likes is all part of that journey a photographer may take in figuring out what kind of photographer he/she wants to be when they grow up.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Seeing tonality in Siouxland, Cherokee

1 Jul

While out and about in Siouxland recently visiting a community festival I dropped by Cherokee. With recent rains there have been many reports of small and large rivers rising and flash flood warnings. I was curious to see if a small creek running through town had reached the tops of its banks. It hadn’t.

But I liked the quality of light I was seeing that day and saw areas that intrigued me and reminded me of the days working for newspapers and shooting only in B&W, film.

Fading wall art in Cherokee, Iowa June 23, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One had to be really conscious of tonality and contrast to make one’s image pop and help it jump off the page. Not all images taken did that, as some were more documentary in nature.

A path to adventure in Cherokee, Iowa June 23, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)


A shady creek in Cherokee, Iowa June 23, 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©) 

But like shooting in color, the viewer still needs to find the path through a photograph that draws him/her into it and through it and makes the viewing a worthwhile effort.

In those days one could always shoot the film, tweak the film processing and finally adjust some of the printing to give an image more snap. Now it’s all done via software. Whether it’s successful or not is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Seeing B&W in Siouxland, Vermillion, SD

20 Sep

Some of the adult photo classes I teach at a local community college are about taking better photos. And with that I really push those individuals to be open about seeing. In the Tim Allen “The Santa Clause” an elf tells him when he has doubts about the spirit of Christmas and why kids believe and adults don’t, that is it different for the two groups. “Seeing is believing as opposed to believing is seeing.”

We all see life in different ways, and sometimes we have to be open to what we actually, physically see and what we see in our mind’s eye. I have been shooting a great deal with the Fuji X cameras and lenses I have acquired this past year. And I like that system a lot. One of the things I like is the in-camera conversion to B&W. My career for newspapers started with shooting Tri-X and the old adage of f/8 and be there.

I miss shooting B&W. It still has its place in photography. I like the Fuji X cameras for this because the red, green and yellow filter effect one can do in camera with some minor adjustments with tonality in camera give me the B&W images I remember. I used to love using a red #25 filter and an orange #15 filter. Then with a little development tweaking, I got some nice negatives with which to print from.

These days there are a variety of B&W plug-ins to use with Photoshop to achieve some really nice black and white results that create great prints. However, I haven’t tried them, but just find I get acceptable results with this camera system as opposed to converting to B&W in my Canons.

Shooting around the campus of the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, South Dakota, the older buildings really lend to the use of B&W. The subject matter plays an important part I believe. I know I will not use this technique when shooting fall colors. But it’s nice to change it up every now and again.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Photographer David Plowden visits Sioux City

11 Nov

Black and white photographer David Plowden visited Sioux City, Iowa, this past weekend. Speaking at the Betty Strong Encounter Center about his collected work, with emphasis on those photographs he has taken in Iowa. Currently Plowden’s travelling  exhibit, “David Plowden’s Iowa’ can be seen at the Center. In a recent article by the Chicago Tribune, Plowden noted that he arrives at a late hour to preserve defining iconic places in America by photographing them before they disappear. Plowden has published a number of books preserving a past that is no long with us. Titles include: “End of an Era: The Last of the Great Lakes Steamboats”, “A Handful of Dust: Disappearing America”, Bridges:The Spans of North America”, “Requiem for Steam: The Railroad Photographs of David Plowden”, “David Plowden: Vanishing Point: Fifty Years of Photographs”, and “David Plowden: The American Barn”.

Mr. Plowden talked about his passion for photographing disappearing icons of the American past or soon to be past, and his like for doing his work in black and white. But Mr. Plowden emphasized that his work is really about exploring a part of America that people seem to forget, that part of America commonly referred to as fly-over America. His rememberance of people’s names he met in the 1970’s and ’80’s, and his joy in recalling those encounters. His genuine affection for the people he met is very evident as he related stories to the attending audience. Mr. Plowden’s work, all done with a view camera, is a joy to behold and something that budding photographers and others should avail themselves of and enjoy the quiet solitude that his work evokes.His exhibit runs until Jan. 13, 2013.

%d bloggers like this: