Everybody go exploring! Also visit your local museum.
Ward’s Island- Toronto’s Arctic Wonderland
Polar vortex or not, sometimes you just need to go exploring. My wife, Anastasia and I, along with our iPhones, took a trip in February to the Wards Island (the best of the Toronto Islands), maybe our city’s most underrated destination. We visit the Island all through out the summer, but strangely this was our first time in the winter. We were immediately rewarded.
The Old Normal
Recently winters in Toronto have been on the warm side. Winter 2012/2013 seemingly had the first major snow that any 4 year old child had seen in the city. This year however has been a bit closer to what I remember as a kid. For those not in the area, we had a serious ice storm right before the December holidays, which was followed by sub zero temperatures and plenty of snow, for over 2 months now.
The Great Frozen Lakes
This year the Great Lakes nearly all froze over, reaching a rate not seen since the early 90s. However, and contradictory to what we saw out on the water, Lake Ontario has very remained rather unfrozen. While Lakes Superior, Huron and Erie have all frozen nearly 95% of their surface (and Michigan 80%) Lake Ontario has only hit 40%. The best guess to why this is has to do with the depth of Lake Ontario, which holds on to heat better than shallower bodies of water.
- Image 1: What it looked like to leave Toronto. We adventured with the idea of talking photos of the winter wonderland that is Ward’s Island. Turns out the snow was a bit too heavy for us. It did however give off the air of an early Arctic journey, or a voyage to an unknown island. Very spooky. Very awesome.
- Image 3: One of the coolest parts of our trip was seeing Lake Ontario in all her icy glory. In parts, the ice gives the dangerous impression that you could walk across it. In fact I overheard one of the sailors in conversation with a skier that he saw someone ski across the lake over the holidays. Here we are in the icy wake of an emergency response boat. This is one of my favourite captures from our adventure.
- Image 7: Taking the ferry to the Island is more like taking a jet to the Arctic- you lose all sense that you’re in a major metropolis, and instead feel like you’re lost in an icy wasteland. It’s a really remarkable feeling. The Island is so much more than just a summer getaway.
- Image 10: A view of Toronto through the snow. Even with many trips by the ferries from the City and the Island, the ice freezes quickly. In between the plates a thin film of ice forms that looks like plastic wrap across the surface.
- Make sure to check out a few of the photos I took this summer here, Get outside with photography: Merging technology with nature.
- Anastasia, a real life proper photographer, took some stellar shots. Make sure to give them a look HERE!
Written by @kironcmukherjee. Last update: March 1st, 2014.
Wildlife Photography: When Science Meets Art
The huge number of colours, shapes, and sizes of living things always amazed me. So I decided to dedicate my life to study this amazing mega diverse world of life. After graduating in Biology I have worked at the Museum of Zoology of the University of São Paulo, Brazil. There I had the amazing opportunity to be part of the biodiversity survey team and to travel to all kinds of environments across South America, ranging from the arid Brazilian Cerrado to the biodiversity hotspots of the Amazonian Rainforest and the Atlantic Forest.
Because we often didn’t know to what species many of the specimens we collected belonged to, my job was document every single specimen we collected with photographs. These photographs would then later be used as a record of important details for later species identification; which was all the more important when we would discover a species that was new to science. I felt (and still feel) that being the only person to have photographed that new species was a big responsibility, and one which I am proud to bear.
When we return to the lab, our work continues and more photographs are taken, as we try to record any additional information we can about a given species or environment. These are photos of morphological features, organs…even skeletons! These are the photos which, in the end, will be used to produce the guides, scientific articles, conference presentations etc. that will inform the rest of the world at large about these species and our work.
At some point I fell in love with these amazing creatures, hidden away in such remote places, and I wanted to share their incredible lives with everyone; to share the wonder that I was so fortunate to see first-hand, whether it be in the middle of the Amazon or on the top of a mountain in the Atlantic Forest. Some animals are so photogenic and beautiful that I couldn’t help but want to explore the artistic side of these beautiful animals.
- Eyes: all kinds of colors, shapes & sizes.
- A Spotted tree frog (Scinax fuscomarginata) that can’t wait to be photographed.
- (Clockwise from top left) - Discovery of parasites under the skin in the White-Eye treefrog; Internal organs of a live Glass Frog; Details of a snake’s head-scales; a newly discovered species of Velvet worm; the skull anatomy of the Grey Tree Frog.
- Mosaic of colorful and unique animals.
- All Photos by Pedro Bernardo.
- If you enjoyed this, you’ll also like “Get outside with photography: Merging technology with nature”
- Original post here.
Guest post written by Pedro Bernardo, PhD Candidate and ROM Biodiversity researcher. Last update: January 21st, 2014.
Get outside with photography: Merging technology with nature
Kids are naturally fascinated by the world around them. They jump in puddles, chase squirrels and make piles of rocks for no apparent reason. But as children grow, they start to lose this connection with nature if it’s not reinforced, and in the process they get less physical activity, trade sunlight for that blue computer glow, and lose their appreciation for what I consider to be the greatest classroom.
I’m a huge advocate of encouraging our children’s positive relationship with nature. It can be cheap, active, fun and easy.
Don’t get me wrong – we all know I’m a huge fan of technology, but sometimes it can really disconnect kids from the wonder and fun of nature. So, rather than kids abandoning one fun thing for another, why not bring the two together?
Make it practical with photography
Simply going for a walk isn’t always enough to keep a child engaged with the outdoors. No doubt, nature is super interesting and there’s so much cool stuff to see, but sometimes kids need a task to focus on to stay interested. By offering photography as a thing “to do” outside, we can keep kids interested in nature walks and in engaging with the world around them!
What you need
- A camera. I use my iPhone, but anything you have at home is good. Keep in mind the younger they are, the more likely they are to drop it.
- With the advances in digital zoom, you can more easily take photos of potentially harmful animals like bees from a safe distance. It will also show your kids that these animals aren’t out there to hurt you, but to pollinate, nourish their hive and exist happily. It’ll give them a deeper appreciation for the nature all around them!
- Editing tools. You don’t really need this, but I find it really fun. I use apps like Snapseed (it’s free!) and then export my edited photos to Instagram. Remember, your kids don’t have to do the online social component. Just take a photo, edit, and then email it to Yiayia, or print and hang it up on the fridge.
What to do
- Decide on a location. You can take photos anywhere: a park, ravine, your neighbourhood, or even your front lawn – You’ll be surprised how many small, furry and interesting organisms live where you do.
- Photograph whatever looks interesting! This could be a weird bug, a neat plant, other wildlife… anything!
- Nurture, and demonstrate. Do it with your kids. Take your own photos, and show them just how easy it is. You might find you enjoy it as well!
Other fun extensions
- Go to the beach, or somewhere with clear horizons, and photograph the rise and fall of the sun (remember sun safety!) or moon. It’ll make a great collage.
- Learn more about your photo subjects by Googling them on your smart phone or at home later! – Another way to merge technology with nature in a meaningful, engaging way.
Time sink to Creative Propeller
Let’s be real. Our kids are using computers and apps all the time. Not to date myself, but the Internet only truly became accessible when I was in elementary school. Now, babies are practically born with iPads in their hands!
Instead of always fighting your kids to play less Angry Birds (sometimes regarded as a time sink), redirect their time on their devices and teach them how to get functional use out of them. Photo editing apps are a great example; they allow kids to develop their creative skills while encouraging them to get outside… all while still playing and having fun. Turn that time sink into a creative propeller!
Go! Get exploring!
With summer almost at an end and school just starting, your window is closing this year to get outside and photograph green and colourful nature. But don’t worry, next up is winter, the best time to take photos of animal tracks!
- One of my favourite palaeontologists, Scott Sampson, is big believer in getting outside. He’s an advocate for developing our children’s curiosity in nature through creative play and exploration, and is a personal hero of mine. You can read his series of posts (Nature Tips) on this philosophy here!
- You can also follow me on Instagram @kironcmukherjee! I like to take photos of insects, what our campers make at the Museum, and behind the scenes photos!
THE MOST MAGNIFICENT PHOTOS EVER TAKEN?
Perhaps nothing can compare to Carl Sagan’s great monologue, ‘Pale Blue Dot’, spoken in response to the first far off photo of Earth (second photo) by the Voyager 1 probe, but I still feel the need to speak about the latest photograph of our planet.
A photo of Earth, taken by a machine built on Earth, sent off so far away, operated on Earth, instructed by Earth to take a photo of Earth. I can’t help but be completely amazed by the brilliance and magnitude. The preparation, the adventure, the joy, the scale and the distance. The moment. This single photo, but a moment in a series of other moments, is seemingly so simple and so mind boggling. I’m filled with a deep appreciation for everything we’ve ever accomplished here on Earth, and everything that I’m hopeful for in the future.
- ‘Humbling Views of Earth from Distant Spacecraft' Learn more about another amazing shot of Earth from Mercury!
- ‘NASA Releases Images of Earth by Distant Spacecraft' Check this out for Even more great photos of Earth from the Cassini probe!
- ‘Earthlings wave to Saturn as Cassini probe snaps faraway pics’
- Follow the Cassini Probe, the amazing machine right here on Earth, by some of our greatest minds, HERE.
- Follow Carolyn Porco, one of the awesome scientists behind the #waveatsaturn moment, and Cassini itself HERE!
#ROMPhotoTour with Wesley!
Every now and again we’ll post a ROM Photo Tour with one of our staff or campers. Our guide will take us to their favourite galleries, specimens and spots of the ROM, and tell us why they love it so much. It’s a special look at our favorite place, the Royal Ontario Museum!
I was given the task of finding 10 artifacts or displays I liked the most. There weren’t any restrictions or guidelines I had to follow; only to pick 10. So I set off on my journey around the ROM. I ended up taking 169 photos, through which I sorted through. I tried to pick items on display that weren’t really well-known. The iconic images of dinosaurs or the extensive armoury are world-famous, they speak for themselves, I want to bring the other exhibits to your attention. I also tried to address as many parts of the world as I could so that there isn’t really a “eurocentric” bias or anything. History is history, every part of the world is important.
I feel like I have my David Letterman on today as I present to you my top 10 list of items on display at the Royal Ontario Museum.
In no particular order:
I’m kinda cheating here, but this is a picture of three images by Rex Woods between 1935 and 1943 in Canada. The top is of Mother Britannia in all her propagandic splendour. The right is a poster that encouraged Canadians to help finance World War Two by buying victory bonds. The bottom is a beautiful yet haunting image of the lives lost in the First World War. It is a stark reminder that our freedom today is at the cost of human lives, lives cut short by politics, lives ended without closure. First floor, Sigmund Samuel Gallery of Canada.
This is a replica of a Japanese tea room. Traditional tea rooms in Japan were very small like the one here. I like this room because it is just so simplistic and natural yet the significance of a tea ceremony is very serious. Elegant, yet powerful. First floor, Prince Takamado Gallery of Japan.
From the Qing period of Chinese history, this is a written copy of the Qu’ran by Muslims living in China. It shows a mix of cultures with Arabic calligraphy being written in China by Chinese people. It’s an important piece of Chinese as well as religious history. First floor, Joey and Toby Tannenbaum Gallery of China.
This is a full-size model of the Imperial Palace Hall from the Qing period as well. It is such a detailed piece of artistry and was built entirely in China before being transported here in 2005. Traditionally, these Halls were painted with pig’s blood as red dyes were not readily available yet. Very spooky, but so interesting! Panda diplomacy’s got nothing on this. First floor, Joey and Toby Tannenbaum Gallery of China.
The Star of Lanka is the lone 2nd floor representative in my top-10 list. It is an amazingly beautiful gem in the Mineralogy gallery. It is a blue sapphire cut so that a six-rayed star can be seen when light is reflected off the sapphire. It is my favourite item on display on the second floor by far and in a gallery full of inanimate rocks, this one’s a “star” (get it? =P). Second floor, Teck Suite of Galleries: Earth’s Treasures.
Moving up to the third floor, I’ve walked by this display a few times not really knowing what it was until I decided to look down and read the darn sign. Turns out, it’s a Mercedes-Benz coffin from Ghana by Paa Joe. Mind. Blown. I’ve seen sarcophagi, and the Terra Cotta burials, but I never thought of “coffin” when I saw this white car. The Ga people believe that death is a passage from the world of the living to the world of the ancestors and so the vessel they are buried in is meant to underline the individual’s achievements. Third floor, Shreyas and Mina Ajmera Gallery: Africa, the Americas, and Asia-Pacific.
This is an image of a standing bodhisattva. It is unknown which bodhisattva this sculpture is depicting, but many historians have theorized that this is none other than Siddhartha Gautama, before he became Buddha. There is a rich history both in South Asian culture as well as the Buddhist religion and the meticulous effort it took to carve this out is unrivaled. Third floor, Sir Christopher Ondaatje South Asian Gallery.
This item is a Glass Cinerary Urn with the cremated remains of a Roman child. The ROM is said to be haunted by ghosts; the Gray Lady, the ghost of Charles Trick Currelly (the first director of the ROM) himself, and the ghost of a child. Maybe this is the child that is said to roam the halls of the museum? Chalk that one up as another weird-yet-interesting find in the museum. Third floor, Eaton Gallery of Rome.
The replica model of The Athena Parthenos is simply divine. The real one was made out of gold and ivory and the extensive efforts to preserve it were just incredible. The real statue was unveiled in 438 BCE. Ivory is heavily dependent on humidity so not only was the pool of water in front of the statue an aesthetic piece, but also for the statue’s preservation. This replica is exact to scale based on the information and written records from the time. A truly impressive piece located in a corner of the third floor. Third floor, Gallery of Greece.
This is a picture of Marie de Medici, Queen of France (1573-1642). We always see the products of the Renaissance, the frescoes, the sculptures, the music, and the beautiful architecture. But it isn’t really mentioned how artists were able to pay for their creations. Cue the Medici family. They were the money. Marie de Medici’s father, the Grand Duke of Tuscany helped finance this explosion of artistry to spark the Renaissance. Third floor, The Samuel European Galleries.
And there you are, 10 stunning and historically significant pieces that are my personal favourites right here in Toronto, at the Royal Ontario Museum. Each exhibit is beautiful in its own distinct way. Each artifact and replica based off historical records have all withstood the test of time and its legacies have survived since the time it was created. The ROM is the melting pot of all distinct cultures, histories, and unique artifacts able to be viewed at an arm’s reach.
As part of his placement, Wesley will be blogging his adventures with our special feature “Wesley goes to the Museum”! He’ll also lead our initiative to digitize and blog our campers work from Museum 101.
Q:Hey! Love the blog, obviously. I was wondering where you get the photos that you post. Are they you're own, or do you have access to ROM photos? I'm asking because when I was there recently, I endeavoured to get some great ones from the archaeology and culture exhibits but the glass and overhead lights kind of thwarted my attempts. I solemnly swear to reblog and praise any anthro/archaeo photos you post! :) ps. You're the best. Internet bffs?
Except for the occasional reblog, or staff submitted photo, these are all mine. I really love to just go for a walk around the Museum, and take photos. Keeps me inspired!
I totally hear that, cases are the WORST for pictures. However, I’ve found that cases can be helpful, if you’re using your iPhone camera, for stability.
Thanks for the shout out! Coming this summer we have our very special Mesopotamia exhibit which sounds like something you’ll be SUPER interested in. I’m hoping to do a ton of behind the scenes photos like I did for #ultimatedinos!
Let me know when you’re next around the Museum and maybe we can go take some gallery photos together!
REASON 2 TO VISIT #ULTIMATEDINOS: DINOSAUR BEAUTY!
The following words often come to mind when thinking of dinosaurs:
- Terrible Lizard
- Dragon Thing
- Original Pokemon
And though I don’t necessarily disagree with any of those points, I think people often miss the fact that dinosaur were incredibly beautiful animals, you just need to get past their killer teeth, crazy claws and ridiculous armour.
- I find Amargasaurus to be just about the most beautiful sauropod I’ve ever seen. Those long spines are just so regal looking.
- I think Suchomimus is the most gorgeous theropod, with the long slender snout and lanky legs and arms.
And of course, with the discovery that many different types of theropod dinosaurs had feathers, the beauty of all this will become all the more understandable. Dinosaurs are so unique and seemingly unlike anything we see today. However, much of that is based in our limited understanding of their look and life style. I mean, just because an animal has sharp claws and teeth doesn’t also mean it can’t be a good parent, and I think there’s a lot of beauty in that too.
With our knowledge of birds being dinosaur descendants and that feathers frequently adorned many dinosaurs, I think, overtime, our view of these creatures will change to be something much more positive!
Have you visited? What’s your favourite part of #ultimatedinos?
REASON 11 TO VISIT #ULTIMATEDINOS: GREAT FOR FAMILIES!
This is like the easiest reason. What family DOESN’T want to be entertained What parent DOESN’T want their kids to learn AND have fun at the same time? What kid DOESN’T like dinosaurs? I mean Ultimate Dinosaurs: Giants of Gondwana has ALL of this.
- There’s tons of touchables in the gallery. Have you ever felt a Suchomimus claw? Or touched the skull of a Cryolophosaurus?
- We have a sweet graphic/scavenger hunt booklet you can pick up right when you enter.
- We even have a table with REAL fossils for you to touch. It’s out everyday!
- We have dinosaurs of all sizes for your kids to get up close with, from the GIANT Futalognkosaurus to the lil’ Pisanosaurus!
- And of course there’s that whole augmented reality thing going on.
And you don’t even have to take my word for it! Check out what these wonderful family sites have to say about #ultimatedinos!
- The Ultimate (and weirdest) Dinosaur Exhibition is at the ROM from Urban Moms and Sonya!
- Ultimate Dinosaurs are the Ultimate Family Fun! from the Yummy Mummy Club and Lisa Thornbury!
- The Ultimate Dinosaurs at the ROM from Toronto4Kids!
- Ultimate Dinosaurs: Visiting the Giants from Child’s Life.
Have you visited? What’s your favourite part of #ultimatedinos?
REASON 12 TO VISIT #ULTIMATEDINOS: ALL THE THEROPODS!
Let’s be real, no museum dinosaur gallery is COMPLETE without these TWO:
- You need some sort of a large predator. A Tyrannosaurus is the best. But anything else big will do. Really nothing smaller than an Albertosaurus or Allosaurus.
- You need a Sauropod. Now, most are big, even the small ones. No prosauropods. Sorry!
Why? Because these two giants have really come to exemplify dinosaurs. They are seemingly the yin and yang. The peanut butter and jelly. The pokemon red and blue. They are the mascots of the dinosaurs.
And I’m pleased to say that we have BOTH of these remarkable sets of dinosaurs on FULL display in Ultimate Dinosaurs: Giants of Gondwana.
So what do we got (from the top)?
- We got the stellar Abelisaurids, Carnotaurus and Majungasaurus!
- Tyrannosaurus rex
Have you visited? What’s your favourite part of #ultimatedinos?