Thursday, January 01, 2015

Top 11 of 2014 - welcome 2015!

Hey everyone and Happy New Year!!!
For those of you who aren't also my friend on fb, I thought I'd fill you guys in :)
Counting down to the new year I picked my 11 favourite photo's that I'd taken over the past year. So here they are!


I like this one because of the contrasting colours on the ice; the bright gold from the setting sun against the dark blue shadows of the water through the thin layer of ice is really awesome! The way the ice created the "wave" to begin with is pretty cool too!


I took this one at Lockport, New York. I love the autumn colours just starting to appear and how the blue boat really 'pops' against the background!

#9. I love macro photography because it allows you to peer into a whole new world - the world of the tiny. My favourite is when you take a photo of something, and then afterwards notice something really cool that you couldn't even see before! 

That is what happened with this photo. It is a macro of a closed Dandelion bud that I took while demoing at Hillcrest Mall for the Richmond Hill Studio Tour & Art Sale. I hadn't noticed the tiny little bits protruding with my naked eye, so when I saw them all lit up it was a neat surprise. Even better though is that if you look closely at this photo you can see several of the protrusions are exploding! Pretty amazing huh??

#8. Animal photography (or any photography really I suppose) really requires two separate things - good technique and a moment. You can have the best lighting, focus, composition etc. ever but unless the animal does something special, it is hard to get that emotional connection. This is what I really strive for in my photos; I want to capture the soul of the creature - is it mischievous? Sleepy? Powerful?

This is why I love this photo so much. While it certainly isn't technically one of my best photos, I love the story told through it. This squirrel repeatedly steals the apples from our apple tree and hurries with them across the garden and off to wherever he lives. Often times the apples are bigger than his head as you can see below, and he'll trip over them as he runs. He never gives up though, and is always soon back for more!

#7. This one was taken at The Toronto Zoo on a school field trip at the end of the last school year. The droplets were from a misting machine, and I love how they distort the scales seen through them. The colour of the snake is pretty cool too - if you look closely you can see more than just green that the camera picked up! 

#6. Another one taken at The Toronto Zoo. I love this guy's expression - it makes me laugh every time. It's amazing how you can really connect with an individual of a completely different species just through their facial and body language!

#5. This photo was taken at the Lake Wilcox Park Opening during the summer. It was actually quite a stormy day (by lunch time it was pouring rain on us!) but I managed to grab this just as the clouds peeled away for a few moments - it was literally the only sunshine we had the whole day and it only lasted about 5 minutes! So that's one reason I like this photo - because I managed to actually be in the right place in the right time (which for those of you who know me, know is quite a rarity!  )

Also I love the composition I got with this photo - the head and arm all fall across the diagonal which I find adds some motion to the photo. Sometimes I imagine that this frog statue is about to come alive and leap right out of the photo! I always love looking for unusual or different ways of composing my photos - it's amazing how you can find so many different interesting things about one subject just by looking at it from a different angle or focusing in on a different part!

#4.  I like this one because it really shows the Fibonacci sequence in the center pod of the flower. I also love how the bright pinks stand out against the green background. Normally when your taking nature photography your photos are filled with muted greens and browns. Flowers (and to some extent insects as well) are always fun since they come in the most brilliant colours and patterns. (plus flowers have this great habit of not running away!

#3. You probably already know that I'm always complaining about having the wrong lens. It seems to be some kind of law - if you take a macro lens out all the mammals and birds will come out and taunt you from far away, but when you bring the telephoto lens out every insect and flower just decides to look extra awesome. (Clearly someone rich just needs to buy me another camera - duh...  )

Anyways, back to my point. I love this photo because that's exactly what happened. This was actually taken with my 100-300mm zoom lens - I know, pretty much the worst lens for the job! And yet I was so determined to get a good photo because I'd never actually seen a dragonfly eating anything before. So there I was backing further and further away on my stomach with this ginormous lens, trying to get the whole thing in the shot and focus, feeling kinda like an idiot, but hey - it worked!! Perhaps not the best focused shot I've ever taken, but considering the lens, pretty darn good. xD

#2So here's my second favorite for the year!!!! It's definitely been a really awesome year, what with the Richmond Hill Studio Tour & Art Sale and now my show at Citro Italian Restaurant! I took this photo at Lake Wilcox during the summer, sold one copy at the Studio Tour and currently have another copy on display at Citro! I love how the white feathers practically glow under the warm summer sun, and the amazng curves the duck creates with his neck as he cleans!

#1So here it is - my favourite photo from this passed year. 
Its a macro of this polished stone I have, but I always think the tiny bubbles along the edge and ripples of red running through the middle make it look like a ginormous lava wave!! 
I also like how I had a plan for this photo and after a few tries I got exactly what I wanted. Often times when taking pictures I have to pretty much take whatever is thrown my way (since you cant exactly plan what an animal is going to do - grin), so it was satisfying to be able to have a solid plan in my head and actually recreate it in the photo! 

So that's MY favourite photo for this year - but you don't have to agree with me! Tell me which one you like the best! It can be any of my top 11, or any other photo I've taken this year!! Can't wait to see what you all think 
Hope the new year will be just as awesome as the last!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Toronto Wildlife Centre!!

Hey Guys,
So today for my school Biology Club we had two amazing guest speakers, Julia and June from Toronto Wildlife Centre (TWC)!!

 They did an amazing presentation all about urban wildlife biodiversity; specifically the challenges these animals face and what TWC is doing to help them!!

Everyone enjoyed Julia's amazing power point presentation. She conveyed so much important information while still making it really fun. Her stories were hilarious! For example they brought along this funny looking stuffed toy skunk with a plastic ice cream lid around it's neck. After Julia asked who liked ice cream (everyone's hands went up - duh) she explained that skunks do to!! Apparently TWC once found a real skunk with 8 of these trapped around it's neck! The skunk would stick it's head into the cup to lick out the ice cream left behind and when it was finished find that it couldn't get it's head back out! TWC carefully cut the ice cream lid's off and luckily the skunk was soon back in the wild (hopefully slightly the wiser lol!)

Toronto Wildlife Centre (TWC) is a leader in the field of wildlife rescue, veterinary care, rehabilitation and education, providing a vital and unique service in Southern Ontario. A registered charity supported primarily by donations, TWC has grown into Canada's busiest wildlife centre – since opening in 1993, hundreds of  thousands of people have received help on TWC’s Wildlife Hotline, and over 74,000 wild animals representing over 270 different species have been admitted for careTWC’s work is carried out by a small group of highly skilled paid staff, and several hundred dedicated volunteers working in all areas of the centre, from wildlife care to administration. (

Just a small selection of the variety of animals TWC cares for all the time. You'll notice the snapping turtle on the far right is pretty badly beaten up. Apparently he got run over by a car and TWC was notified by a vet who was going to euthanize him but didn't know how to. TWC took him in, and below is a photo of him about a year later all healed up! The staff at TWC really are hero's!!

It was really interesting to see the different people who all work at TWC. Veterinarians, Veterinary technicians, Rescue staff, Hotline staff, Wildlife care staff, and so many more! Julia told us about the various programs these people studied, but also explained that the one thing all the people had in common was volunteering!

Toronto Wildlife Centre (TWC) is only able to carry out its work thanks to the time, expertise and dedication of hundreds of volunteers. Volunteers are involved in every facet of TWC operations, including administration, education, wildlife rehabilitation and much, much more.  (

It was an amazing inspiring presentation, but Julia and June had one more surprise for everyone....They hadn't come alone! Meet the snapping turtle nicknamed 'Hotdog'!

They explained that Hotdog had been taken out of the wild by someone who didn't know much about turtles. This person had kept him in the house for a few weeks feeding him hot dogs before they realized that snapping turtles don't make good pets. (Unfortunately this story far too familiar to me from stories I hear all the time at Reptilia). Hotdog was taken to TWC but since they don't know where he used to live they can't release him back into the wild encase he carries any diseases which animals in the new area might not be used to. There's also the small problem that he is really tame so if he was out in the wild he'd just walk up to anyone he saw and ask for Hot dogs lol!

Thanks so much for coming in Julia and June! We loved your presentation and I think everyone agrees Hotdog was the best! Lot's of people took brochures so maybe you'll be seeing some familiar faces in your co-op and volunteer programs in the future!

 I know I'm even more excited than I was before to volunteer there next summer  (which is saying something since I've been waiting for it since grade 9! Grin!) Finger's crossed!!!! TWC is definitely on my list of places I would happily work at for the rest of my life!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

McMaster Engineering & Science Olympics!

Hey Guys,
I had an awesome day out at the McMaster University Campus for their Engineering and Science Olympics today! Besides competing with an amazing team and representing the best school ever (go RHHS!) there was tones of other really cool stuff to see and do. I mean for one the campus is just gorgeous!

There was even this random guy driving with this for no apparent reason (well other than it looks fun)

There was also a really cool Planetarium that we got a demo/show of. I didn't manage to get any photos (since it was obviously very dark) but here's a photo from the McMaster Website of it.

Lastly, throughout the day there were lots of Lectures and Demo's that we could choose from. Here's some photos from a very interesting lecture on Engineering and the Brain by Dr. Hubert deBruin! He made the lecture both fun and informative. 

We also sat in on a Lecture/ Demo on Robotics by Dr. Ishwar Singh. The different examples he showed us were super cool!

Dr. Ishwar Singh showing us a robotic hand a student of his is making

This robot had a sensor that detected the dark line and followed it :)

For more information about McMaster University go to  and any students reading this - if you ever get a chance, this is definitely an event to sign up for!


Friday, August 08, 2014

A Walk around Lake Wilcox

Hey Guys

I had today off from work so me and mum went for a walk around Lake Wilcox. We're both going to be there for an 'art in the park' event on the 16th (next Saturday) so were curious what was around the area. Here's what we saw

There was some kind of Kayaking lesson going on

Along with some larger boats tied to a dock

Of course, I quickly gravitated towards the more natural scenery.

This Crested White Drake caught my attention for a while. It allowed me to actually get quite close while it was cleaning itself.

Interestingly enough the Crested White Duck "is a duck breed descended from the Mallard. It has its appearance because it iheterozygous for a genetic mutation causing a deformity of the skull." (

If a duck is homozygous for the mutation (meaning that both of the alleles it has have the mutation rather than just one) then the mutation is fatal and the duck will never be born.

Pretty crazy huh??

I also saw some cool looking pink cone flowers

I have seen this flower before, but the name is evading me - help anyone???

It certainly shows the Fibonacci numbers well though!!

This feather floating in the water caught my eye too. It's amazing how small things can look so cool when you really think about them.

I wasn't the only one taking photos though - look who I spotted!! :D Love you mum!!

It's ok though - she started it!!

It was a great couple of hours and I'm looking forward to having another go next week. If you're in the area why don't you pop by and say hi?!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Interviewing Zookeeper Rick Schwartz

Hey Guys, 
So earlier this year I met this amazing guy called Rick Schwartz on Facebook, who is a Zookeeper and Ambassador for the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. After enthusiastically watching his TV appearances and loving the behind the scene photos, I started wondering how different life might be working at a big zoo like the San Diego Zoo compared to Reptilia. So I asked Rick a few questions and here's the result.

Rick with a double yellow headed amazon called Rio (photo credit: San Diego Zoo global staff)

What type of education did you get/ what would you recommend for someone interested in this field?

Many years ago I went thought Moorpark College's Exotic Animal Training and Management program. And then followed that up with a basic degree. Moorpark's program is a good one, but not the only way to get into a career of animal care and conservation. In fact most jobs now require a minimum of a bachelors degree in a field of study that is relatable to animal are such as biology, ecology, zoology and even behavioral sciences as well.
Though the book work & the education are important, just as important is hands on experience.  Working with animals is a science, but it is also a learnt art in some ways. Reading an animal and understanding the subtleties of animal behavior come with experience. A great way to gain experience is to volunteer at a local shelter, horse boarding ranch, vet clinic or even a wildlife rehabilitation center. Expect to start with the dirty work of picking up poop and cleaning up after the animals. That is after all a big part of animal care, keeping their environment clean. Last thing I recommend, ask a lot of questions. Especially when volunteering, its a great way to learn more.

Photo of the Cougar exhibit at the San Diego Zoo (photo credit: Rick Schwartz)

Wise words Rick. Cool to see that the things I've been doing such as volunteering at Canyon hill Animal Hospital and then working at Reptilia are good steps towards potentially working at a much larger zoo! He's not joking around though guys when he says to expect some dirty work. If there's one thing all animals seem to be too good at it's going to the bathroom! (Some animals go a lot and they have the worst timing - grin)

Rick with Cheetah ambassador Shiley and his amazing team on Good Morning America with Gio Benitz and Cecily Tynan (Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo global staff)

What does your average day consist of?

The average day for a zookeeper is usually very busy. Keeper work is physical labor that also requires good communication with other keepers, supervisors, vet staff and of course zoo guests.

First part of the morning is checking on all of the animals, then usually a quick meeting with fellow keepers to discuss the plan for the day. From there it is cleaning and feeding followed by record keeping. Some zoos use computers for daily records and others use a daily diary of hand written records. These records are shared with other keepers and vet staff, so written communication skills, computer skills and good hand writing are important. From there we usually do keeper talks for the guests of the zoo and some zoo's have formal presentations that the keepers do at scheduled times. There are also occasions where we have summer school kids visiting for special programs or we host local news media on grounds and so on. I guess you might say the average day is anything but average given all the different things that happen at the zoo! 

Rick with a baby Koala Bear (Photo credit: San Diego Zoo global staff)

On average we work 8 hours a day, but sometimes there are days we do overtime if there is a special event or if the animals need our care beyond the needs of an average day. And I think the biggest thing that a lot of people don't realize, we work weekends and holidays. The animals don't care what day it is, who's birthday it might be or what holiday we are celebrating. They still need fresh water, food and a clean home everyday.  Zoo keepers tend to have non-traditional days off like a Monday & Tuesday, or Wednesday & Thursday.  And you usually have different days off than your coworkers to make sure there are always keepers at the zoo to take care of the animals. 

Being a zoo keeper isn't just a job. its a way of life.

A Meerkat relaxing at the San Diego Zoo - while the keepers may be constantly on their feet this guy's taking it easy
 (Photo Credit: Rick Schwartz) 

Sounds remarkably similar to the work we do at Reptilia! Would love to hear more about Rick's experiences as an ambassador though. As I'm sure you've noticed from some of the photos he often makes appearances with the animal ambassador teaching the public about these amazing animals. Uh oh Rick - sounds like I've got more questions for you!! Grin.

What is the best part and the hardest part about your job?

I'd have to say the best part of the job is having the opportunity to take care of some of the most amazing animals on the planet. And with that, we become deeply connected with these animals,  and their species.  Usually we spend more time with these animals than we do our human family. And thus, the animals become like a family to us.  In a close second to that being the best thing about the job, is the opportunities we have as keepers to inspire and educate people about animals, environments & conservation. 

Rick with a Desert Tortoise filming for the San Diego Zoo Kid's Channel 

That said, it should come as no surprise that the hardest part of the job is out living the animals you take care of.  Many species live as long as humans, but many others naturally have a shorter life span.  We are blessed to have the deep connections that we have with the animals we care for, but it is never easy having to say good-bye.

Photo Credit:San Diego Zoo global staff

Thanks for the great info Rick and keep up the amazing work you do at the San Diego Zoo!!