Great blue heron at sunset

Great blue heron at sunset - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Great blue heron at sunset – Photograph by Laura Lecce

I love the warm golden colors that the setting sun has painted across this landscape. This magnificent great blue heron was photographed in Zion National Park in Utah. I have seen many herons since moving to America, and even though we have herons in Australia I never really noticed them before. I am always amazed that for such a large bird, herons are incredibly shy and skittish. No matter how slow I try to creep up they never let me get very close at all, but I have seen these birds get courageously close to some pretty massive alligators! The photo below is the original before cropping which has a very beautiful arch created by tree branches. A dry looking landscape hiding a trickling stream just behind the tree line, and a dusty red path occasionally dotted with a green firework – sometimes nature creates its very own artworks.

Heron under tree arch - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Heron under tree arch – Photograph by Laura Lecce

A fleeting season

A fleeting season - Art by Laura Lecce
A fleeting season – Art by Laura Lecce

So this past weekend I woke up and realized I had completely missed Autumn. I remember at the start of Autumn (when the weather was still warm) I had this fun idea that I wanted to hire bicycles and ride from Manhattan to Randall’s Island (not that far away from where I live) and have a wonderful picnic on the water under the sun. Randall’s Island is a beautiful little area covered with green grass and flower gardens along the water. Mind you I don’t actually enjoy riding a bike, and absolutely hate doing it on Manhattan streets when taxi drivers are actively trying to kill you, but I thought the picnic worth the ride. So this weekend I decided that my husband and I absolutely must do this before the weather got any colder (8 degrees Celsius, 46 degrees Fahrenheit is by no means warm!). So we hired bikes and rode one block to the bike lane on First Avenue which to my dismay was closed for construction. We rode two more blocks to Riverside Park which has a paved bike path….also closed for construction (typical Manhattan). Even having only rode three blocks my ungloved hands were already frozen and I was in no mood for a picnic, especially not on a cold and unwelcoming island where the trees have been stripped of their leaves, leaving an expanse of colorless concrete (wow, it’s incredible how weather can change your mood so quickly!). So we walked the bikes back to the store, sheepishly returning them after only 15 minutes, and went back to our warm home and I sat down and painted Autumn instead.

Spot the Emu

Spot the Emu - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Spot the Emu – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Can you spot the emu? This photo was taken on a Western Australian highway on a road trip from Exmouth to Monkey Mia, with a stop at Coral Bay. Coral Bay is a beautiful area where the Ningaloo Reef stretches along the coast just a short swim off the beach – a must see location for snorkelers. Monkey Mia is a famous location in WA where dolphins swim into incredibly shallow waters to get fed and interact with humans. On this remote stretch of road you will witness a very dry landscape with expanses of red dirt to either side. You may see small leafless shrubs with adorable tiny goats huddled underneath trying to seek refuge from the hot sun. Closer to the coast the shrubs get larger and slightly greener, and you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of some emus running across the land, darting in amongst the shrubs after being spooked by your car. They remind me of the Looney Tunes character the Roadrunner (with Wile E. Coyote), except that real roadrunners run at a speed of 20 mph (32 km/h), whilst emus can run at 31 mph (50 km/h). Below is a close up photo just in case he ran so fast you missed him!

Click here for posts on other Australian wildlife.

In case you missed him
In case you missed him

Autumn Colors

Autumn Colors - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Autumn Colors – Photograph by Laura Lecce

The Autumn season is upon us, and many trees in Manhattan are showing signs of changing color. Have you ever wondered how the trees know what season it is? Many trees and plants are photoperiodic, meaning they can detect the hours of darkness in a 24 hour period. In this way, trees and plants can detect the lengthening of nights into winter or shortening of nights heading into summer. This clever ability is achieved through pigments within the leaves called phytochromes, which can trigger a cascade of specific hormones and growth factors which regulate growth, flowering, and changes in leaf color during autumn. Leaves produce chlorophyll throughout most of the year, a green pigment critical for photosynthesis which allows trees and plants to absorb energy from light. Chlorophyll masks other pigments present within the leaf such as carotenes and xanthophyll, which are responsible for orange and yellow coloring, respectively. As the length of night increases during autumn, it triggers a cork-like membrane to form around the base of the leaf stalk called an abscission. The abscission slowly cuts off the supply of nutrients to the leaf, thus limiting the production of chlorophyll and allowing the orange and yellow colors to be visible. Anthocyanin is also produced in autumn, which gives leaves a red and purple coloring. Eventually nutrients to the leaves are completely halted causing the leaves to fall off. After accumulating a certain amount of time in the cold during winter months, which is referred to as the number of chill hours, trees can then respond to the increasingly warmer temperatures and shorter nights of Spring. During this time there is an upregulation of genes responsible for producing antioxidants and vitamin C to rid the tree of hydrogen peroxide which has built up during the winter dormancy. Trees are now able to produce the hormones and growth factors necessary to begin flowering and making new leaves again. Happy Autumn Everyone!

To see my other post on Autumn in New York, please click here.

Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Moraine Lake – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Moraine Lake was one of the destinations on my trip to Canada last year. The purpose of this trip was to see some of Canada’s natural wonders, the beauty of the mountains and the amazing wildlife that call this country home. This lake was one of the many highlights of my trip. There are few places in the world that are as photogenic as this turquoise lake, surrounded by snow-capped mountains which provide a stunning backdrop. Located in the Valley of Ten Peaks, the lake is filled with glacial runoff which gives the water its signature color. As the glaciers thaw, the trickling water collects rock flour (sediment) on the way to the lake, formed by erosion of the rocks as the glaciers grind against them. This is a place in the world where photography cannot live up to actually being there. The crispness of the air, the tranquility of the forest, and the magnitude of the mountains all contribute to the magnificence of Moraine Lake.

Turquoise Water - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Turquoise Water – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Tasmanian Pond

Tasmanian Pond - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Tasmanian Pond – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Since Tasmania has gotten such a great reception on my website, I thought I would continue this week with some more photos from the same area. This small pond that I came across on a walk, was clearly the perfect meeting place for numerous wildlife and insects. Looking into the water you could see millions of tadpoles at various stages of metamorphosis, even some having both legs and a tail, almost ready to fully transition into a frog. The grassy bushes were filled with damselflies chasing each other, interlocking, and forming their heart-shaped mating pose. Snaking through the shrubs are the favorite trails of the wombats who live here, the plants trodden down by the weight of these stocky creatures. A few times I was lucky enough to see them out for their late afternoon dinner, and they were quite happy to pose for some photos (see wombats here).

For other posts on Tasmania, please click here.

My Tasmanian Affair

Tasmanian Grasslands - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Tasmanian Grasslands – Photograph by Laura Lecce

I will always be a Sydney girl with a love of visiting the tropics as often as possible. However, I cannot deny that there is something alluring about Tasmania that I don’t completely understand. I feel like it’s the perfect destination of an aspiring farmer, or a lover of camping, a retiring couple, or at the very least, a cold weather tolerant person….all of which, I most certainly am not. Despite this, I am drawn to this part of Australia in admiration of the rugged beauty that this tiny state possesses.

In the photo above, I especially love the sense of loneliness that this landscape depicts. The blue sky being invaded by clouds that change in mood across the photo. The golden tufts of grass, creeping up to the gnarly dead tree that commands your focus. It has a sense of space, of freedom, even if you will spend it alone…it is beautiful.

(Click here for more posts on Tasmania)

Canadian Road Trip

TransCanada Highway - Photograph by Laura Lecce
TransCanada Highway – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This is a photo from last year while on a mini road trip from Calgary to Banff in Canada. Barely a road trip, it took only about 1.5 hours to drive, but there was just so much to see along the way that it felt like a road trip. Driving in Australia you almost never see scenery like this…a stunning backdrop of snow capped mountains, and a row of Christmas trees (I know that’s not their real name), behind these cute little highway arches. It took me a few tries to get this photo right, sitting in the passenger seat, camera pointed out the front window while my husband drove. Not all the bridges had a backdrop of mountains and I had to get the distance just right before the mountains were obscured behind the bridge. Not bad for highway speed photography!

A Dark and Moody Sunset

A Dark and Moody Sunset - Photograph by Laura Lecce
A Dark and Moody Sunset – Photograph by Laura Lecce

As I was scrolling through my photo collection for todays post, this particular photo resonated with my current mood. I have a cold at the moment which is draining my energy, much like the waning sun at the end of the day. This image is dark and angry much like my thoughts at having to work even when I am sick, and not having the motivation to do any of the things I love. However this image also brings hope, hope that my cold ends with this closing day, and that maybe tomorrow I will wake up bright and happy again with the new sun.

The Pinnacles

The Pinnacles - Photograph by Laura Lecce
The Pinnacles – Photograph by Laura Lecce

The Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park, Western Australia is a unique and bizarre landscape marked by incredibly yellow sand. The Pinnacles themselves (in the top photograph, and seen in the distance of the bottom photograph) are ancient limestone formations, which range in height from only an inch to 16 feet tall (5 meters). They formed millions of years ago from broken down shells, but exactly how these limestone towers came about is still debated. A three hour drive north of Perth along a picturesque coastline of stunning beaches is a wonderful journey to this alien landscape. In the early mornings or late afternoons you even have the chance to see emus and kangaroos amongst the shrubs. Different times of day can completely transform this landscape, with the sun and pinnacles creating large, interesting shadows all around them. Most definitely a landscape photographers dream. It might have been a very different photograph to the middle of the day in summer when I went, dripping with sweat in a dessert with no hope of shade! Perhaps the feeling of being on another planet was just a delusion from heat exhaustion, but either way, a very cool place to visit.

Pinnacles Desert - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Pinnacles Desert – Photograph by Laura Lecce