Things have been a little crazy around our house with birthday parties, illness, ballet, etc. so I haven't gotten a chance to write up anything about my event this weekend. Most of you who know me pretty well have probably already seen my gorgeous (if I don't say so myself) butterfly photos over on my new photography portfolio blog. I've actually gotten many kind words about my new hobby and I'm enjoying myself. That blog's my "for-now" home for the non-family photography I'm doing. Not super-professional (and it's a bit of a 3rd choice) but serves as a nice place to showcase the bird and flower photos I'm taking.
My early morning on Saturday was my Christmas gift from DLP. (She's so thoughtful!) For about $15, every now and then the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park hosts a unique session before they open to the public. Limited to 15 photographers or so, the doors open--they were locked and you must ring the buzzer--and those on the guest list are let into the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven for 2 hours with nobody else around.
The rest of the museum was dark with only cleaning crew, security, and other early staff, but there was plenty to see and take photos of still. There weren't a lot of elaborate instructions and I debated whether or not it would be ok to bring a tripod...for the record, nobody did. There was just a cart with some coffee and ice water, we dropped our coats and bags on the few benches, and we were free to shoot until we were bored. I gave up at nearly 150 photos and 1.5 hours. It's hot and humid, don't forget. But the payoff is worth it.
After a set of special doors to keep the butterflies in, you're inside a greenhouse-type room with meandering paths, rock structures, waterfall, fountain, and tons of flowers for the insects. It's kind of a mini-ecosystem complete with birds scavenging the dead butterflies, a turtle, multiple species of butterfly, and a few other little insects who thrive under the conditions. Nothing too creepy crawly...aphids and such. They put fruit and water out for the insects and feed for the birds. So there are natural areas to see the animals congregate and get good shots.
The lighting was adequate though a nicer flash probably would have been handy. I used both my 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses for various reasons. I probably could have used a good macro lens if I'd do it again (and I would). My little Nikon d3300 was right where you want to be in the middle. A couple of higher end DSLR setups. But also a couple of camera phones and point-and-shoots. So I didn't feel out of place.
A couple of staff members are there to answer questions and they have out several informative sheets if you need help telling the species apart. The butterflies are actually hatched next door at the exit room. The room doesn't have any host plants since the hatched caterpillars would eat through them as fast as staff could plant new. The butterflies in the main room fly, land on rock ledges, cling to a net on the glass, and even land on the floor so watch your step.
Overall, it was a fabulous bargain for some relaxing time to myself taking photos of magnificent creatures. As the weather gets warmer, I hope to have more wildlife photos to share. I'd highly recommend taking advantage of this event in the future!