Niagara Butterfly Conservatory

Having already been to and loved our experience at Wings of Paradise, we thought it might be cool to check out another butterfly conservatory and compare the two.

We won't do a full separate write up since they were both lots of fun and had so much in common...but there was one huge difference. Unlike the conservatory in Cambridge, most of the butterflies here didn't seem afraid of us at all.

We were free to sneak up as close to them as we wanted and take as many pictures as we wanted. Actually, it wasn't an uncommon sight to see them land on visitors. At one point, Nancy had a "friend" on her pant leg!

Of course, this friendly behaviour made for some interesting possibilities. I scooted back to the car and grabbed an extension tube, which allows me to get a lot closer to the object in question and still focus. The only problem was because it's so close, the depth of field is pretty small. We will be doing a special on Macro Photography in the next few months, as I find it totally amazing!

Here are some of the pictures from out trip:

We didn't cut this guy out of his background... He was against a white screen, and I knew if I shot it on total manual, he would probably come out way too dark. So, I set the exposure compensation to +2, and here is how it looked. I never used to bother, but I'm just starting to get the hang of when to use it, and it works great!
This guy was against the same screen, about 2 feet away. I dialed in a little less compensation for this one.
Here is a closeup of the butterfly cocoons. The more I study bugs up close, the more I begin to think they would be a nighmare to look at if they were our size...
Some butterflies eat rotting fruit.
Here was one of the many feeding stations. It was a great place to see some of the larger butterflies.
Other Butterflies like licking the nectar out of flowers with their long Proboscis (tongues)
Here's a weird piece of information... If you blow up the picture on the left to full size, his eyeball looks like a smiley face! I over sharpened it to make it stand out more... but I didn't manipulate it at all otherwise.
Here is a guy where you can see his curly Proboscis.

It's easier to keep a butterfly in focus when they are positioned this way, as opposed to head-on, as most of their body stays in the plane of focus. (His front legs and antenna are out of focus, as they are closer to the camera)

If he was facing you, his eyes would be in focus, but everything else behind him would be blurry.

One thing I would have done differently working with the extension tube, was to bring an external flash for off-camera shooting. This would have allowed me to increase my depth of field. In a lot of my pictures, I noticed I could barely keep the eyes in focus, let alone the body and wings. It was a little disappointing, but a learning experience.
For more information:

Wings of Paradise - Our page

There are some other places you can go to view butterflies. Check these other options out:

Niagara Butterfly Conservatory (Niagara Falls)
Toronto Zoo (
Malayan Woods Pavilion)

The following places are seasonal:
Humber Nurseries (Brampton)
Naturium (Between Kitchener and Guelph)