Beauty in death

Beauty in Death – Photograph by Laura Lecce

Yellowstone National Park is full of breathtaking scenery. You can drive from wildflower covered hills and grass covered valleys, to snow-scattered mountains such as the ones in this photo. I had to be prepared for significant changes in temperature along this trip, ready for just about anything. I often find myself pointing my camera at a dead tree as the focal point of my photo. There is something hauntingly beautiful about a naked tree, the branches reaching out and forming interesting shapes. No longer a living part of this world but a significant aspect of the current landscape in which it once lived.

Friday Fungi – A Mound of Magnificent Mushrooms

A Mound of Magnificent Mushrooms – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This giant family of mushrooms photographed in Rochester NY, have prospered by setting themselves up in this ideal location. Nestled at the foot of this tree, on the shady side of town, where they don’t have to deal with any hot sun. Even so, each mushroom still fights for it’s fair share of light by either climbing higher or further out than its relatives. They get their nutrients from whatever leaf litter that falls from the tree and degrades into the rich soil below. They will each make millions of microscopic spores in the gills hidden underneath their caps, and eventually release them into the wind to find a new home next year.

For other mushrooms please click here.

Acadia in color

Acadia in color – Photograph by Laura Lecce 

I certainly didn’t grow up with Autumn colors like this in Sydney, which is why I am in such awe when I get the chance to see them now. Acadia National Park was the perfect destination for a weekend getaway to see peak foliage colors painted across the most stunning scenery. This glorious day was the ideal combination of warm golden sun and chilly air – the best hiking weather. Climbing the steep Beehive Trail to the top of this small mountain provided an incredible vantage point with which to admire Mother Nature’s artwork. As a person who lives for color, even I could not have imagined that this many brilliant and intense colors could exist in a single landscape. Just incredible!

Friday Flower – Yellow magnolia

Yellow magnolia – Photograph by Laura Lecce

It is indeed cherry blossom season in New York and the Annual Cherry Blossom Festival is on this Saturday at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens…. Which is why I went to the gardens LAST weekend. The cherry blossoms were very beautiful, but while everyone was taking photos of the blossoms, with the blossoms, in front of the blossoms, around the blossoms, I was taking photos of this glorious yellow magnolia. This giant tree was covered in large, golden, sunny flowers, but could not compete with rows and rows of pink fluffy cherry blossoms. However, I concluded that it was well worth my attention, and the photos certainly brightened up my day. Have a golden weekend everyone!!!

For some pink magnolias please click here.

Friday Flower – Frangipanis in baby pink

Frangipanis in baby pink - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Frangipanis in baby pink – Photograph by Laura Lecce

One thing I miss since moving to New York is the sweet smell of frangipanis. In Australia they grow in abundance in all but the colder cities and the flowering season goes for months. There are close to 300 different colors of frangipanis and all are incredibly beautiful. These trees make their own perfectly arranged bouquet of flowers at the end of each branch. The flowers are so soft and delicate that it feels great to stick your face and nose into them and take a deep breath of heavenly scent. Even once the flowers drop off they still look perfect and can be used as a beautiful decoration in your home by floating them in a bowl of water. Enjoy the weekend everyone!!!

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

Survival against all odds

Survival against all odds - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Survival against all odds – Photograph by Laura Lecce

I came across this tiny Autumn colored tree growing in Central Park and it reminded me of a bonsai. I’ve read that the purpose of a bonsai is to evoke contemplation in the viewer. Looking at this tree, I couldn’t help but think how amazing it is that a seed managed to grow in such an unlikely place. This tree will forever have to grow against the odds, fight for the chance to survive, and I will wholeheartedly cheer it on. Why? Because I always fight for the underdog, I lend my strength to those who are overlooked, I protect people from bullies….. That is who I am!

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.

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.

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)