All original photos belong to Melissa Hamersma Sievers, Sieversma Photography. Linked images as reference will be cited.

Prints of many of these images are for sale.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Minneapolis/St. Paul Street Photography

When packing for a work trip to the Twin Cities, I wanted to travel lightly. I love my big DSLR, but it's cumbersome to walk around ALL day with. That's why I tend to go everywhere with my Canon M in my bag. It's small and can be manually controlled and with care, I can get sharp images. I often use the lens it shipped with, a 22mm or I use my Lensbaby Composer (love it). With an adapter, I can use any of my canon mount lenses. Including lenses that have sat on my shelf for over a decade. Enter my Tamron 70-300 lens. It's not my favorite, but lately it's been seeing some action. It isn't without some lens aberrations. I don't mind the added character from time to time. There are folks that hack their lenses to add abnormalities on purpose, or use cameras with light leaks and inferior lenses (Also, check out My Tamron is a good enough lens to throw in one's bag when you want to travel light. The setup, including my iphone, allows me to explore photography for fun.


^ The Canon M and Tamron 70-300 is a truly obnoxious looking combo. I'm fine with that. ^

As I walked to Union Depot in Saint Paul, I spotted window washers working high above the street. I found a spot where I could frame them above with leaves on a tree below. I pulled my camera from my bag, turned it on and saw a blinking message of doom, "Change Battery Pack". I had charged it before leaving, but the camera power button must have been bumped on at some point. Boogers. There's nothing worse than travelling slim than to realize that you can't use the items that you did bring anyway. What do I do? Go back to the hotel to charge my battery? I thought that Union Depot, being an Amtrak terminal, would likely have charging stations. I was right. Which brings me to my iphone, the device that I had available to make images while my camera was dead. On to the train station. I was disappointed that it wasn't the bustling hub that I imagined. The next departure was a couple hours out.


There were a few folks sleeping on seats, others simply lounging. An Iphone is not well suited for candid images of strangers. But, you make due with what you have. I really like this image.


I needed to make my way across town to meet with friends, I didn't have time to get a full charge. I used the Metro Rail to make the trip. I only made a couple stops, one to get donuts. And one quick stop at the capitol building. It was closed to the public. That's probably just as well, I would've been WAY late meeting my friends. I was able to get a good view of the Cathedral of Saint Paul.

The next time that I visit, I hope to explore more of Saint Paul. Once I met up with my friends, I didn't do much photography. They were gals that I haven't seen in years and it was great to 'just' visit with them. After lunch, I had to part ways with them. I was thankful for the public library as a spot to sit, check email and finish charging my camera and cell phone. While waiting for another friend to finish work, I spent some time wandering around the Nicollet Mall area. On a previous visit, the Peavey Plaza outside of the Minnesota Orchestra Hall has been great for people watching. This visit didn't disappoint. There are a few pianos available for passersby to use. I love this image of father and son taking time to fill a bit of the afternoon exploring music.

Eventually I needed to stick close to the Nicollet platform of the lightrail where I was to meet another friend. So, I photographed passersby. I love that bicyclists roam freely amid cars in this city and that the two CAN share the same streets and traffic laws.



I hadn't yet been to Target Field. It's gorgeous! I hope to visit again soon!

I was grateful to my friend Kari and her husband Brian for giving me a ride back across town to my hotel. I probably would've been tempted to photograph the Cathedral of Saint Paul at night on my way back. Traipsing by myself at night in an unfamiliar city is not a practice that I make a habit of, though. I had already put my camera away for the walk to our meeting point, so it was back to my iPhone. I love the long exposure app. If you haven't downloaded one of many offered, you should. If I have a pole or some other perch to brace my phone, I can hold the shot steady enough during a one second exposure. This is an image of the train passing below the Minneapolis skyline:


I was in the cities for some work training and was grateful for a free day between two sessions to visit wonderful friends and explore a city I don't get to visit often. What a joy to have great company and new landscapes.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Lunar Eclipse: October 8, 2014

I got up this morning around 4:40a.m. to photograph the eclipse, accompanied by my doggie. :D Fact: Photographing at night/wee hours of the morning is still spooky even if you are in your own yard.
I did a few multiple exposure series so that I could have a background for the moon. This image is a composite of three images above.
As I waited for the eclipse to advance and the moon to cross the sky, I worked with a second camera. I have a Lensbaby fisheye lens that I don't often use. It makes some interesting images.
I hope that the rest of you got to observe the Blood Moon eclipse at some point this morning!! I was glad for clear skies. And, it wasn't as cold as the eclipse was back in March. Have a great day. I need to boogie and get to work!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

March is in the Books

Can you believe that we are a quarter of the way through 2014?  When I started a new 365 project, the task before me seemed crazy.  And there are still days where I'm driving home from work without a photo in the bag yet.  It's still a monumental project.  But I'm 80+ photos in!!  That's absurd.  It makes time fly very quickly.

I try to explore some different ideas.  It helps that I'm also doing Lens Pro to Go's photo per week project.  They assign a theme each week.



There are many 'Just Because' images.

"Bowties Are Cool"

I've gotten to document some joyous occasions.

And, I've commemorated some of my own fond memories.

 March 31 was the 13th anniversary of my father's passing (I just noticed that the numbers are flipped this year). That's a long time. I miss him every day and worry that I might forget some details of the man he was. Crazy, but real. I remember music we both enjoyed, and running jokes that we shared.

For whatever reason we got on a kick out of threatening each other with 'knuckle sandwiches'. We'd put up our dukes and tell the other person, "You're gonna get one of these... and then one of these..." I couldn't think of anything to photograph that day. Then I thought it'd be fun to make an actual knuckle sandwich. My husband asked me, "How's that going to go?" I say as I retrieve a plate from the cupboard, "Well.... I'm going to put a slice of bread down. Then my fist... then I'll put a slice on top of it all. How do you think it would work?" My husband responds with a laugh, "I'm sorry I asked." :D They obviously never knew each other, but that's pretty much how I
 imagine the conversation might have gone with my dad too.

My dad was gone too soon.  I thankful that we had such a great relationship.   I'm so grateful that people will still bother to take a moment once in awhile to share the memories that they have of him with me too. The least that I can do is to share some of things that I remember fondly about the man too.

And that's how the first quarter of 2014 ends.

Here's the full gallery.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

January 2014 365 Project

The first month is in the books!!  You can follow my 365 photo progress on my flickr stream:  I include captions for a few images there.

I've had a lot of fun so far.  Do you have a suggestion for a theme?  Feel free to comment!  I try to mix up my subjects.  I also go to on occasion to check out their word of the day.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Thanks John!!

Morningside College in Sioux City, IA is my alma mater. I chose Mass Communication and Graphic Design as my majors. Photography was my minor. I loved the school. It was quaint and my professors all knew me, even the instructors who only shared a single class. A couple weeks ago I went back over homecoming weekend to help celebrate one wonderful instructor. John Bowitz was the head of the Art Department when I was a student. Fast forward a decade, plus a couple years. Now John is stepping away from his time teaching hundreds of students in this facility. Loads of artists have put charcoal to paper and brush to canvas under John's instruction and displayed their work in the gallery. Over the summer work highlighting John's career was placed on display. His past students, colleagues and friends gathered at a reception on Homecoming weekend.  

John, I wish that I could have really listened to your speech more thoroughly. My son wanted to explore the gallery and check out the art work too.

I did appreciate his reflection on the early days teaching art history.  While it was a subject lacking in his favor, he began to appreciate the subject as he became more immersed in the subject. I'm glad.   I always appreciated his willingness to take the time to chat with me or answer any questions that I may have.   I didn't get to take many classes with him other than Art History. I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to be in that classroom the fall of my sophomore year.  I studied in Europe the following semester. How wonderful to actually see things that I already viewed on the pages of a textbook.

My drawing instructor, Terri McGaffin also shared her memories of John at the beginning of her career at Morningside. John had explained that teaching technical skill and accuracy is important. Allowing a student to explore ideas is equally, and perhaps more important.  A person may not remember everything learned during four years of college. A person does remember how to learn, explore concepts and overcome challenges.

Terri McGaffin and Shannon Seargeant worked over the prior year to contact as many former students as possible, inviting them to participate. We were all asked to submit a piece of artwork that could be placed in a three ring binder and presented to John as a gift. 



John, thanks for all that you have done and continue to do for art education. My first trip to a city was the Art Club's weekend in Chicago my freshman year. I still love the smell of art supplies. I plan to continue making art and trying to spread the love to others. I look forward to seeing the work that you put forth during retirement.

I know many of your former students wish that they could have attended your show as well. 

May you always have a blank piece of canvas or paper or wood or a couch at your disposal!! :D


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Be Present in the Moment

I appreciate people who have the patience and drive to hunt wildlife and gather food. I haven't done it. I like to think that photography is similar in nature, minus the harvesting of game. Photographing lightening is sort of like fishing. There may be strikes happening all around you... But you have to pick a spot, aim your camera and cast your line.

I have the problem of wanting to rush around to a different spot... only to see strikes happening where I was just set up.

Other similarities include these tips: 1. You have to know your target/subject. 2. Be prepared. 3. Be patient. 4. Enjoy the moment even if you don't bag a trophy.

For more than ten years, I've been trying to photograph bald eagles. I haven't travelled to Yankton to see them along the river because I'm not familiar with their pattern there. I may have to try it this year. I know that near where I grew up in Union County, South Dakota, bald eagles typically visit toward the end of February and into March. Whenever the snow thaw begins, geese come into the area and eagles are right behind. That's where and when I tend to photograph them, in cottonwoods over the fields and local creeks.

When they are in the area, I try to drive over in the morning on my way to work and just before sunset after work. Last year was the first year that I noticed them in the Vermillion River valley. This was way more convienent for me, I could look for them as my son and I commuted to town. The problem was that I would only ever see them when I was not equipped with a DSLR camera and long lens. This setting was the most picturesque that I'd experinced. I'd see one perched above the water as I drove by. Sometimes I'd stop and turn the car around to watch for a bit.

Even though the eagles flew off months ago, I still scan the river as we drive by. It's been really pretty lately as the trees have been turning.

Am I right?

Except that something caught my eye:

Do you see it?

Patches of white tend to readily catch my eye, even if they are small... The thing is, I've never seen bald eagles in the area at this time of year. I will admit that I am not an expert.

I am glad that I was able to take a snapshot to share my sighting with you today, but I was really sad that I didn't have my big camera and an appropriate lens. I was not prepared.

But, it is another lesson for me. I need to be more patient and try my best to be more prepared. Most importantly, I need to enjoy the moment. This bird was in the prettiest setting that I could hope for, fall all around and I didn't have 'my camera'. I didn't bag a 'trophy shot'. But, the bird stayed still long enough to turn the car around, roll down the window and fire a shot just to prove that it was there. Then I was able to step out of my car and watch for a few moments. I maybe could have gotten my son out of the vehicle too. When he is older, I look forward to pointing things like this out to him too.

I don't know how long this bird will be around. It seems like where there is one, there is probably another one or two in the region. I hope to be better prepared next time.

In the mean time, I am thankful for the opportunity to experience a majestic scene. And I will try to live more in that moment.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"I'm Just a Country Cook"

I  have the privilege to work full time for South Dakota Public Broadcasting.  This career allows me the opportunity to meet a lot of really interesting people in this great state.  Yesterday we travelled to the northeast corner to visit a ranch woman who has lived her life in the Coteau Hills near Sisseton, Waubay and Ortley.

Verna Knapp still lives on the ranch that her husband's parents homesteaded.  She's been working here since 1945, when she married her husband.  Verna doesn't call herself a chef...  she says she's just a country cook.  Still, she's been gathering recipes for several decades and likely has advice that cooks and pastry chefs alike would salivate over.


Verna's sunken garden is located in the foundation of the homestead's claim shanty.  Flowers are shared with local senior centers and nursing homes.  Once a month Verna takes extra produce to a local farmer's market.

Several of the ranch's buildings are on the historic registry.  For now, the Knapp family is working to preserve this piece of history.  The barn in the background will be a century old in the coming year.  This building isn't open to public visitation now, will be around for future generations to enjoy.  Verna says that much of the work that she continues to do is for the benefit of the future.  Knapp enjoys planting a variety of trees to improve the habitat for wildlife.  She also points out that it's an activity less for the benefit of the gardner, but for those folks yet to come.

Verna came to our attention thanks to a cookbook that she published, My Recipe Roundup at the Knapp Ranch: A Collection.  She assembled the recipes that she had been collecting from her mother and a variety of other women that she'd known through her life.  Some of the recipes are county fair award winning treats.  Sprinkled throughout the pages of the cookbook are also stories inspired by local history, family anecdotes and tales shared among neighbors in Roberts County.

Cooking is a passion that Verna won't likely retire from.  She treated my coworker and I to venison sandwiches and potato salad.  Yum!!  I mean it!!  I don't often have the opportunity to eat venison.  My experience with it is that it has a gamey flavor.  This sandwich didn't have that flavor that I expected.  I went on the shoot expecting to purchase a cookbook.  That sandwich confirmed my desire to have game recipes on hand in case my husband did bring home a deer in the future. :-)

Verna emphasizes the importance of being able to cook with what you have on hand.  The venison was from a deer that her granddaughter harvested from her first hunting trip.  Verna expressed her appreciation of that lovely gift.

Pies are a favorite for a similar reason.  A home cook can produce a pie from any number of items that one may find in their pantry.  On this visit, canned gooseberries were available.  Verna demonstrated for some friends her pie making technique.

I had never sampled gooseberries before.  They are sour and sweet thanks to the sugar in the pie.  I enjoyed the tart aftertaste that I was left with. 

Cooking has sustained Verna and her family, both due to it's nutritional value and the commaradarie that comes with sharing a meal together at home.  This was a pleasant interview to organize and I'm happy that Verna shared a bit of her life with us on camera.  I don't know when this segment is scheduled to air.  Watch for it on Dakota Life on SDPB.