Oscillations of the Landscape

A September road trip, Part 2 ~ Coming & GoingColourField_Trees1


ColourField_Flowers2There have been only subtle colour shifts in the trees and shrubs so far but the crisp autumn winds seem to be settling in and over the landscape. The autumn metamorphosis will be hastening now.

[Drive-by photographs made from a moving vehicle.  *People sometimes ask if I make these images while driving and the answer is ‘no’ – This technique requires both hands and my full attention!]

© Karen McRae, 2014

Singing Sands

A September road trip, Part 1 ~ PartoftheLandscape2


TakingOff_Ring-billedGullIt’s hard to think of a more beguiling name for a place than Singing Sands. Who could resist going when you find those words on a map? It’s here where the great Lake Huron breathes its cool water in and out, over the sands and the expansive fen, pushing and pulling like a small tide. Taking and leaving. Creating a landscape of rich and diverse flora and great beauty and peacefulness.

[Multiple exposures – some with camera movement – and layers of the landscape. Images made at Singing Sands (Dorcas Bay) in Bruce Peninsula National Park]

© Karen McRae, 2014

World Wildlife Day

Rock-Iguana1Since today is the first(!) official World Wildlife Day I thought I would post some photographs of an at-risk species I was introduced to on my trip to the Bahamas. These are Bahamian Rock Iguanas that live on many of the small islands in the Exuma Cays. These iguanas are on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List as a threatened species. On some islands there are a number of factors putting them at risk such as poaching and other (introduced) animals including cats, dogs and feral pigs (more about the pigs later!), but I was particularly interested in the impact of ecotourism (since I was there as a tourist myself) and the fact that they are often fed by people visiting the islands.

As our boat pulled up to the sandy beach one could see many iguanas sitting there on the sand, and oddly they didn’t move away when our small group stepped out of the boat and walked to the shore. These wild reptiles are now quite familiar with human intrusion and have little fear. They were waiting for food. As honoured as I felt to be walking among these beautiful creatures their lack of fear left me kind of unsettled.

If you want to delve further into the complicated relationship between tourism and conservation here is a paper evaluating just that: Effects of ecotourism on endangered northern Bahamian Rock Iguanas (Cyclura cyclura)
Hines, K. 2011. Herpetological Conservation and Biology Vol 6, No. 2:250–259]


And here are some interesting facts about the Northern Bahamian rock iguana from the Bahamas National Trust website:

  • Rock iguanas used to be eaten by early inhabitants of The Bahamas. Today it is illegal to harm or capture a Rock iguana.
  • The Andros Rock iguana is the largest iguana in The Bahamas and can attain a length of nearly five to six feet.
  • The most threatened Bahamian iguanas are the San Salvador iguanas.
  • The serrated ridge along the spine of the Rock iguana radiates excess heat from the iguana’s body. In territorial displays this ridge makes the iguana appear larger to its adversaries.
  • Iguanas are equipped with breakable tails which cleave off neatly when seized by a hand or a predator.A new tail begins to regenerate immediately.
  • Rock iguanas can live for up to forty years!


© Karen McRae, 2014

An Urban Breathing Space: Evergreen Brick Works, Toronto

A wonderfully creative and sustainable use of retired industrial land in the city, the Evergreen Brick Works is an extraordinary community environmental centre located on the site of the former Don Valley Brick Works (1889-1980’s) which produced many of the bricks that built Toronto. Old and new is beautifully integrated, creating an eclectic and vibrant space that makes full use of its central location on a swath of green space along the Don Valley ravine that runs through Toronto.

If you arrive on a Saturday you will find a bustling farmers market, selling local seasonal food, and buzzing with the energy of creative and interesting people. We brought home some fresh fish, garlic scapes, new potatoes, swiss chard and multicoloured heirloom carrots, which were all put to good use.
An interesting little shelter where you can wait for a bus or a free shuttle to take you to the subway system for a convenient commute. Note the industrial pieces on the ceiling re-purposed as integrated art.

A central garden space showing both new and old buildings.

Above: A small section of the children’s garden. There are children’s day camps that run out of some of the buildings.

The open rafter area inside this building above,  marks the Koerner Gardens, which are planted with native species. There is also a garden shop where you can learn about, and purchase, native plantings and many other products.

The large artwork on this wall is called Watershed Consciousness and was created by artist Ferruccio Sardella. It represents a map of the rivers that flow through the city and gently flows with water itself to sustain the plants tucked into the crevices that mark the waterways. The structural metalwork acts as a support for the both the building and the artwork.

Much of the old graffiti has been left on the surfaces and somehow it adds to the dynamic community feel of the site.

The interior space of Koerner Gardens. In the winter this area is transformed into a skating rink where you can wind your way around the raised beds under the open rafters. The skating rink is equipped with a refrigeration system and the waste heat produced from this system is directed to heat the adjoining cafe.

An image of what the clay and shale quarry used to look like before it was filled with water and turned into a vital habitat for native flora and fauna.
Below: A cross-section representation of the rock layers found in the quarry.

You just have to turn away from the buildings to see what is, essentially, the back garden to the Brick Works. A green space so vast that it’s hard to image you are in a huge city. There are winding walking trails within the 40 acre site that take you to lovely ponds, boardwalks and sitting areas. And beyond that the continuation of the ravine system and its huge network of paths.

There are many interesting businesses, events and features within the Evergreen Brick Works that I haven’t even touched on here. If you are interested in more information you can visit their website here: www.ebw.evergreen.ca

All images © Karen McRae

East to West

Tomorrow, the first of July, we celebrate Canada Day and I was thinking about how fortunate I have been to recently travel to both the east and west coasts. It’s an expansive, diverse, and beautiful country, and I am grateful to live here.

Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians, and if you live south of the border, happy Fourth of July!

Boundary Bay, British Columbia

A silky Cape Breton sky.

Cape Breton bog flora. Below: Pitcher plants

All images © Karen McRae

Okanagan Dusk & Dawn

Since posting these images I have done a little research and found out that this  sturdy looking boat has the eloquent name CN No.6 Tug. There is an interesting write-up about the tugboat here.

The Romp by sculptor Chong Fahcheong

Photographs from the Lake Okanagan waterfront in Penticton, BC

All images © Karen McRae