EarthArt Mystery: A Leafy Landform

By Tom Yulsman | March 2, 2013 7:17 pm

Erosion has carved a leaf-like form into the landscape, as seen in this satellite image accessed with Google Earth. Can you guess where it is? (Image: © 2013 Google)

When I spotted this landform on one of my regular Google Earth tours around the planet, I was struck by how much it looks like an aspen leaf — in autumn, just as the leaves are beginning to turn.

Where do you think it is located? I’ll give you one hint: The prominent reddish tones are indicative of fire scars. [Update: In a comment below, Ron Broberg seems to have guessed correctly where this is. I’ll come back later with further details.]

Some information about the image itself: It is s screenshot from Google Earth. And I brought it into my Aperture photo application to process the image just a bit.

First, I played with the curves to deepen the image. Next, I added a little sharpening and definition (local contrast) to make the relief stand. To emphasize the leaf-like structure, I darkened the corners of the image (with a vignetting tool), and did a bit of dodging (lightening) on the mid-tones of the leaf itself.  Lastly, the reds in the original Google image were unnaturally intense, so I toned down their saturation and luminance.

The result obviously is not what the scene would look like to an astronaut aboard the International Space Station. But this is, after all, Earth Art, so I think a little artistic license is warranted. My goal was to enhance the essential features of the scene — and then let it speak for itself.

Where in the world do you think this is? Take a guess, let us know, and good luck!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: EarthArt, Remote Sensing, select, Top Posts
  • Plantastic

    I have no clue but it looks cool! As a plant lover I am growing a real house plant that closes its fern like leaves when you Tickle It!. Still scientist seem to have mixed opinions on how the TickleMe Plant reacts to being Tickled.
    See’s not your typical house plant.

  • Ron Broberg
    • Tom Yulsman

      Ron, if you’re guessing Mesa Verde — you are correct! I’ll be back a bit later with some details.

  • Traci M. Richards

    Considering that leaves deteriorate quickly, this one must have been buried
    by maybe ice. Looks like there is a lot of clay in the soil as well as ash. I would guess maybe somewhere in Iceland? Oh wow! just noticed that it is a picture from a Satellite..oops. Still think it is Iceland.

  • Traci M. Richards

    Think I was biased by a recent study on the glacier flood there. Ah well, wounded pride is nothing new to me!! :) Thank you for enlightening me

  • Marge Fitzgerald

    where is the leafy landform located?



ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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