Tag Archives: nature

Venturing over Siouxland’s Border, Steen, MN

22 Aug

I spent part of a recent day visiting an Iowa State Preserve in Siouxland near the South Dakota border which is also not far from the Minnesota border. While heading  home I saw a sign that said, Steen, MN, six miles. I made a detour. After living in Iowa for a number of years I have not ventured into Minnesota. No particular reason, I just never got there. When I hit the outskirts of the small community I had not even realized I had crossed a state border.

A sign at a park welcomes visitors to Steen, Minnesota Thursday Aug. 3, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Steen is a tidy little community. Originally settled by one Ole P. Steen who fought for the North during the Civil War as a calvaryman. Like many of Iowa’s early communities, Steen was created, 1888, because the Illinois Central Railroad needed a railroad station. Today it’s population is a little over 170 people according to the 2014 census. Many communities that start as a railway hub eventually hit a peek as that hub moves to another community. After having spent a bit photographing various aspects of the community, a pick-up stopped next to me and a man popped out introducing himself as mayor. He was quick, and handed me a little booklet about the community’s centennial which occurred in 1988. A man proud of his hometown and a place he calls home.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Getting Lost in Siouxland, rural Monona County

18 Aug

Maybe because I grew up on a small farm in Illinois that I enjoy driving about the countryside in Siouxland. And in the southern portion of this area of Iowa the country gravel roads meander through the state designation of the Loess Hills.

A couple farms nestled into a valley in the Loess Hills in rural Monona County, Iowa Sunday, June 25, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I have gotten smarter these days driving about in that I now carry county platt maps and an Iowa county road atlas so when I end up somewhere with no idea what direction I am headed, I can get a sense of where I am lost in Siouxland. While driving about I listen to some various jazz artists and just enjoy the visuals I come upon often times not seeing another soul for the many hours of driving time I spend wandering these roadways.

A car meanders along a gravel county highway in rural Monona County, Iowa Sunday, June 25, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But I find myself transported to another plane of thought without worrying about current events or other issues that most face if not day to day at least a portion of our lives during the week. It’s a time I let my mind wander and savor the moment and the here and now and sometimes wonder what this area of Iowa must have looked like when early settlers arrived while this state and others west were still prairie grasslands before becoming the agricultural hub of production it is now.

A maintained graveyard of early settlers and forebears in rural Monona County, Iowa Sunday, June 25, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Seeing snippets of land not farmed, especially in the Loess Hills area where some farms and farmland is nestled in amongst the still prevalent hills and green space that exists today.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Exploring Light in Siouxland, Lyon County

8 Aug

Some days when I am driving around Siouxland I try to have a destination in mind so I feel I have accomplished something on my excursion. I visit a place and record some images to share here.

And then, there are those days when even after I have visited some place and explored and recorded I become extremely jazzed when after a stormy evening and the weather is changing that clouds become amazing. Add to that the fact that there is still developing weather and then the light becomes amazing.

As clouds pass overhead the scene on the ground changes quickly. Unlike landscape photographers who “camp out” at a specific spot to capture the moment, I drive around the Siouxland area and sometimes am not able to safely pull over to photograph a scene so must sigh and continue on as the clouds continue moving across the sky.

But then, sometimes the “photography god” smiles and gives an image of two to make the day’s driving worthwhile.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Grain bins sit on the outskirts of a small community in Lyon County, Iowa Thursday Aug. 3, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Horses graze in a field in Lyon County, Iowa Thursday Aug. 3, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Living History, or seeing it, in Siouxland, Wisecup Farm Museum

6 Aug

While visiting southern Siouxland this summer, I came upon another little slice of historical memorabilia. I find it surprising but also wonderful that there are so many museum’s of all stripes in western Iowa. Some in cities and small towns, but others created by people trying to preserve the past and help people understand what pioneers and early settlers lives were like prior to this 21st century. The Wisecup Farm Museum outside of Missouri Valley has a number of restored pieces of farming equipment as well as a one-room school house, a small chapel and homestead. A lot of stuff “stuffed” within the confines of a small space.

A variety of “antique” or former period farm machinery is found at the Wisecup Farm Museum in Missouri Valley, Iowa Wednesday, June 21, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Antique Minneapolis Moline tractors form a line at the Wisecup Farm Museum in Missouri Valley, Iowa Wednesday, June 21, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I appreciate the aged and no longer viable farm equipment I encounter because it was in use and the tech of the day while I was growing up on a farm. Farming today is as high tech as a number of other industries with satellite guided tractors and sensors to help farmers get the best yield from their tillable fields.

But it’s nice to know the what and how farmers got to this point. But it’s also nice that individuals find it important to share the past and help educate those of today. It’s been written that people are condemned to the past if they don’t know it. But that is another discussion for a better philosopher than myself.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Watching the Clouds go by in Siouxland, rural Woodbury County

4 Aug

I remember as a kid I would sometimes lie on my back in the yard and just look up and see an expansive sky. Growing up on a farm one didn’t have tall buildings interfering with your view from the yard as one might in a city. The blue sky with clouds overhead sometimes made one think of large wads of cotton candy drifting by in a sea of blue.

I still love seeing clouds fill the sky and on days when I can chase them, I do. To me it makes a nice drive in the country. If I get a little shadow action on the ground to create a bit more mood, all the better. And yes, I will admit I use a polarizer filter. Guilty of sometimes making the sky too dark, too dramatic, but hey, it’s what I see.

Some people I know tsk, tsk the use of that filter, and especially the overuse of it or creating too dramatic a sky. And well, that’s fine. But if you look at some of my photos, you might want to close your eyes.

With clouds in the sky, the day just seems to be endless as they drift by adding something to the landscape and reminding one of childhood.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Creating images in Siouxland, Sioux City

16 Jul

The other day it was a not, muggy, miserable type of midwestern summer day in July that is probably best spent indoors if possible. But this was a continuation of a few days of hot, muggy and miserable days in Iowa and I needed to get outside and breathe some fresh air even if it was a bit unbearable. I visited Bacon Creek Park and walked its three mile loop. Thankfully there was a breeze and most of the loop passes through a forested area.

Because I chose mid-day to take my walk, not a bright idea on a hot, muggy and miserable kind of midwestern summer day, the light was vary garish. And so I started looking for scenes that would best use this type of light. I tell students you can photograph any time and anywhere. It’s just a matter of being observant. That doesn’t mean mid-day photos are more successful than a nice sunset or evening shot during the golden hour, but the possibilities are still there. And if you’re taking a walk on such a day, it pretty much reflects the experience, maybe.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Making Decisions while photographing Siouxland, Woodbury County

8 Jul

Many times while out photographing a scene whether in the country or a small community, I sometimes struggle with how I want to frame the image I see and if I want to shoot it “full frame” or use the square crop that my Fuji mirrorless cameras allow me. For some subjects the square crop just works better in my opinion. Many times I feel strongly enough that I only shoot the scene one way or another. But other times I may shoot it both ways. I try to cut down on the number of images I have to edit but some days when I am indecisive, I spend more time in front of the computer rather than out in nature.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Clouds form as a change in weather takes place in rural Woodbury County, Iowa Saturday, June 24, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Clouds form as a change in weather takes place in rural Woodbury County, Iowa Saturday, June 24, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

%d bloggers like this: