Jane O’Neill of Hillsboro headed out the door of her home Tuesday, excited to take photos of icicles hanging from a shrub.
“You would never see this in Australia,” she said.
She and her partner, Clyve Herbert, are from Australia and have maintained a home in Hillsboro since 2010.
They live in Victoria, the southernmost state on the island continent. They do experience the four seasons but not the weather extremes seen in Kansas.
“We might have a half-inch to an inch of snow a couple of times a year,” Herbert said, “but it’s a wet snow, and it’s gone in a day.”
“You don’t have to shovel,” O’Neil added.
In an average year, the temperature drops into the 20s for lows. Occasionally, it gets as cold as 15 degrees.
The couple usually spends February through June in the U.S. They decided to come to Kansas last September to photograph and experience fall and the Christmas holiday in Kansas. They haven’t been disappointed.
“We’ve always wanted to see a white Christmas,” O’Neill said. “We’ve never had a white Christmas before.”
They also are experiencing one of the coldest weather outbreaks in Kansas in a while. They’ve photographed a blizzard blowing over the land, snowdrifts piled against fences, and ice on Marion Reservoir. They’ve learned about minus-20 wind chills and how quickly skin exposed to extreme cold can experience frostbite.
The Australians are surprised at the abundance of wildlife in the area. Herbert said he once spotted a coyote walking down an alley in Hillsboro. He recently took photos of a bald eagle in the area.
Squirrels, Canada geese, and birds also are objects for the couple’s cameras. A squirrel visits the bird feeder outside their dining room window every day, eating seed while hanging from an overhead branch.
Herbert is a retired railroad engineer, so he enjoys taking photos of trains and railroad tracks in the area. He also is attracted to old barns and old-style homes.
The couple uses their home in Hillsboro as a base for their travels around the country to capture storms and landscapes on camera. They take the photos back to Australia, where they give talks and present videos of scenes from the U.S.
When they aren’t on the road, they work at restoring their home at 315 Washington St. to its original state. It’s a work in progress.
To view some of their area photos, log in to their Facebook page, Australian Sky & Weather.