Tag Archives: western iowa tech community college

Looking for the Unexpected in Siouxland, Sioux Center

14 May

When I previously worked for newspapers as a staff photographer, I was always on the look out for the unexpected. Big and little things in life that seem out of the ordinary for the context in which you find it. While visiting Dordt College a bit ago with a class, we walked over to the small campus and was looking at the spring blossoming trees and sculpted art work that graces the campus grounds. And then, unexpectedly, I see a young woman “dumpster diving” a large trash bin. Dumpster diving has been around a few decades, as those less affluent in some parts of the country look for items that might be valuable to them while not valuable to the person who tossed the item into the trash.

It seemed a little out of place at this small Christian college, but then again, one man’s/woman’s trash is another’s treasure. The young woman explained she was looking for salvageable items she could use for next year’s term and unlike going through the trash in places like New York City or Los Angeles, these items were probably in a little better shape.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Seeing Color in Siouxland, Heritage Village in Sioux Center

9 May

On my most recent outing with students in my Lifelong Learning class of Photo Safari we spent a good portion of the class at the Heritage Village in Sioux Center. It was a brilliant spring day and colors just seemed to pop everywhere one looked. The Heritage Village is a historical montage of area history with a sod house similar to what early settlers may have lived in, as well other stores like a leather maker, general dry goods store and a blacksmith shop. It was just a nice day to be outside, enjoying the spring weather and taking photographs.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Finding Gold in Siouxland, Le Mars

11 Nov

I always like little finds that are just pleasant. Places that I visit time and again can pleasantly surprise you with a “new addition” that wasn’t previously there. I have walked around Le Mars, Iowa alley ways and downtown area numerous times. And yet I can still be surprised, such as finding a yellow door accompanied by a blue wall. I was with a class and when we came upon this everyone took a collective breath. It isn’t ideal with a cable and another electrical pipe running across the wall, but still, it did “brighten” our day, pun intended.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A colorful entryway in an alley in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday Oct. 22, 2016. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A colorful entryway in an alley in Le Mars, Iowa Saturday Oct. 22, 2016. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning to see in Siouxland, Sioux City

13 Oct

I teach a few photo courses through a lifelong learning program at the local community college. One of the courses deals with some technical aspects all cameras have in common, such as exposure and color space and learning to use manual and Aperture preferred settings. Mostly I spend time with teaching various compositional techniques and then giving “assignments” asking those taking the class to go out and photograph subjects using specific compositional approaches, like the rule of thirds, leading lines, shapes and patterns and repetition. All to get the attending students to learn to see. However their own particular vision directs them. Another course is a Photo Safari course, where I meet with students in the field at various locations and we just photograph. I help them with some technical aspects, but mostly point out possible photographs that might involve light, shapes and patterns that intersect, leading lines, etc. My goal is just to get them to expand beyond whatever snapshots they may currently shooting. I also challenge them while out shooting to use only one lens. And if that happens to be a “kit” lens, to use only one or two focal lengths. These photos were shot recently using only a 50mm. A few with a Holga 50, and the rest with a Canon 50. It forces one to “zoom” with your feet and to work your composition more. But above all, to photograph how one sees the world and just enjoy it.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Siouxland is a Community, Le Mars, Orange City

18 May

This past Saturday ended another 6-week class session that I teach at the local community college, Western Iowa Tech Community College. My short classes are offered through the Lifelong Learning program of the school and are not credit courses, but programs geared to adults and those retiring baby boomers who have an interest in something they want to pursue. Having worked for newspapers over 25 years, it has been an interesting and fun switch to teaching people how to further their knowledge about photography and learning to use their cameras to photograph an image how the individual sees it, as opposed to setting the camera on program and letting it decide how an image should turn out. I spend a lot of time on composition, learning to see light and shadow and how together they help create an image the photographer wants to share with viewers.

The Photo Safari class is one week longer than the others and allows me to give an introduction to some aspects of photography and then spend four weeks actually going on location to photograph. The last day of class we share photos we each made at the various locations. Since I also teach in classroom sessions about photography, this particular class is geared to being in the moment, on location, and the class meets whether it is sunny, hot, raining, or snowing. Barring a major storm of any kind, the class is geared to help the students photograph what is before them at that moment in time, and I am on location to help, offering suggestions if needed as well as talking about composition, light and shadow, and other various photographic techniques.

I find this class the most fun simply because the people attending it truly become a small community for 6 weeks. And while friendships are made in the other classes I teach, here as we wander around the downtown of different communities, state parks, preserves and various entities looking for a photograph, these like-minded individuals explore with each other and share what they are seeing as well as helping one another achieve their own personal vision. And come the final week, albeit sad because it is the last day, it is fun to see how everyone interprets the same geographic location on their own terms and what fascinates them about the places we visit, and then to say goodbye.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

“Urban” shooting in Siouxland, Sioux City

17 Oct

A couple weeks ago I spent the early evening with some students for a photo course I am teaching at Western Iowa Tech in Sioux City, Iowa, exploring and photographing the downtown urban environment of the town. There really are not many urban environments in Siouxland. Sioux City itself is not a small town, but, it is also not a Des Moines, Omaha, Minneapolis or Chicago. Those cities would give a photographer a very different kind of urban shooting experience.

But we wandered about looking for images. I try to tress with students to take chances and photograph what appeals to them, but also push their limit, shooting something they may not have considered before and try to see their environment in a different light, pun intended. I must admit, not many had traipsed through alleys, or looked at streets lights. We were shooting in early evening because if everything went well, the setting sun would create some nice light on surrounding buildings, one of which might have some sweet reflections. However, as long as I have been photographing, Murphy has always been about, and this day, there was rain off and on along with clouds. Although the sun did peek through just before it set. As the sun set, I talked about white balance, daylight vs. tungsten, or cool vs. warm color temperatures. Also, using slow shutter speeds to capture motion and finding possibly ways of shooting such, like placing one’s camera on a paper box and setting the timer as you see cars approaching so there is no movement of the camera when the shutter engages for an eight second exposure.

I think they had fun, even though it was a bit cool and blustery. But that is also part of the experience, and it wouldn’t be as memorable without some adversity in shooting.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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