The Niagara Butterfly Conservatory is one of those attractions in my own backyard that I have been intending to visit for years. I almost took my nieces and nephew there are few years ago, but an ill-fated encounter with a horribly congested highway, a punctured tire, and an obstinate husband kept us from reaching the conservatory in Niagara Falls, Ontario that day. So when Rob suggested that we go take a photographic expedition there, I leapt at the chance.
Getting off Auto
When I finally decided to upgrade to a DSLR, I was determined that I would learn how to use its features properly, and move beyond going around with it on Auto all the time. Luckily my friend Rob knows a thing or two about photography, so we combined our desire to be surrounded by beautiful butterflies with the drive to push our photographic boundaries. Niagara Butterfly Conservatory is a terrific venue for practicing photography.
I still only had the 18-55mm kit lens that came with the camera, so my ability to zoom in was very limited. I often had the camera, and my face, stuck in things to get closer, which seemed to amuse people, but by and large it was effective enough. We focused mainly on working with Aperture Priority and taking shots where the subject is in focus but the background is pleasantly blurred.
Rock Beats Butterfly: An Experiment
On top of our photographic endeavors, we staged an impromptu experiment. Rob had been to the butterfly conservatory before so this wasn’t his first butterfly rodeo. He dressed like a rock, wearing a light grey heather long-sleeved t-shirt. Coincidentally, I was dressed a bit like a butterfly, wearing a dark black hoodie with blazing turquoise satin accents and lining the inside of the hood. We wanted to see what the butterflies would be more attracted to.
The result? Rock wins! Butterflies were constantly landing on Rob and I think they truly did mistake him for a rock at times. Our methodology was somewhat compromised by the fact that I didn’t wear my hoodie the whole time. A word to the wise: it’s really hot inside the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory! It stands to reason, as the butterflies need those conditions and the conservatory is a lot like a greenhouse. I just didn’t think about it beforehand. The butterflies didn’t take much interest in me, aside from my Converse sneakers for some reason.
No One Said There Would Be Snakes
The butterfly conservatory is laid out so that you start by watching an introductory video, and then you’re started along a meandering path that winds through a greenhouse-like structure filled with all sorts of different kinds of plants and trees, and of course thousands of butterflies. Maybe it’s because we were too impatient to sit through the whole video, but it came as a huge surprise to me when I encountered a sign saying “Snake-Free Route” with an arrow pointing in a specific direction. Nobody said anything to me about snakes!
Afraid of missing out on something, we forged ahead on the snake-laden path. Luckily the snakes are in enclosures, and it’s not as though you’re going to randomly encounter one when you least expect it — such as the scenario that ran through my mind where a snake would fall on me from above leading to a hysterical freakout on my part. That’s not going to happen.
It also came as a surprise to me that once you exit the butterfly conservatory part of the building, you are let out into an exhibit space that currently houses a bonus exhibit called VENOM! featuring venomous and poisonous creatures (in sealed enclosures thankfully!) There was a guide walking around with a snake that you could hold, but I was gracious and let the kiddies who were queueing up have at it instead of taking up valuable time with it.
Finally there’s the gift shop which is almost as large as the conservatory itself and filled with every sort of butterfly product imaginable from rainbow butterfly lollipops to butterfly encyclopaedias to butterfly garden regalia and more. Being a colour junkie it was enormously energizing to be surrounded by so many colourful, pretty things.