Butterfly Rainforest – Gainsville, Florida


I’ve been wanting to visit the landscape photography exhibit at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art . I decided to go up yesterday, since it will only be there through the end of August. I very much enjoyed the photographs, which included several by Ansel Adams.
The Florida Museum of Natural History is right next door to the Harn Museum, and they have an excellent butterfly exhibit, called the Butterfly Rainforest .

Mary getting ready to enter the Butterfly Rainforest

Although I didn’t write about it at the time, I was there once before in 2007 with my daughter Mary, and I’ve wanted to document it as a Central Florida Photo Op ever since.

Butterfly on flower

The Museum is located on the University of Florida Campus in Gainesville, just off of I-75.  For visitors to Florida, it might make a very nice 2 or 3 hour stop along the way to Orlando or Tampa.  For Orlando area residents, it’s about a 2 hour drive.


The web sites above have directions and entry fee information.  You should consider the weather before you go.  When I went on June 20th, it was very, very hot and humid and this might be easier to put up with in the cooler times of the year.

There’s also quite a lot of pretty tropical and sub-tropical flowers to take photos of, which supply nectar to feed the butterflies.


And there are several smaller birds that are flying free within the exhibit.


So, as you can see – this is a target rich environment for the photo sharp shooter!

Photo hints

Tripod/Monopod :  They have a pretty strict policy on what you can bring in.  Tripods and monopods are not allowed.  The pathways are narrow and restricted.  You also have to check strollers and bags (including camera bags) so plan ahead.  I brought a single camera on a strap, a filter case in one pocket and a flash in my other pocket.

Lenses :  Without a tripod or monopod, vibration reduction is pretty important.   Since you’re restricted to the paths and you can’t bring a camera bag in to switch lenses, a zoom lens is a necessity. Maybe you could wear a photo vest with some lenses in it (although I don’t know if they’d let you bring it in).

I used my 70 – 300 VR zoom on my Nikon D700 and also used a close up filter at times. This seemed to work out pretty well.

Other :  Some of the butterflies will be still for you and some won’t.  Most don’t seem to mind the people.  In fact some of them will land on you!

My SB-600 flash came in handy at times to fill in shadows.  The light was variable.  There’s a lot of shadows from vegetation and the cloud cover can also make a big difference in a small amount of time.

The museum also has a page that can help you identify Florida wildflowers and Butterflies .


The Butterfly Rainforest has a lot of photos waiting to be made.  The conditions are a bit challenging, especially in the summer.  But if you can put up with the heat or go by in the cooler part of the year and deal with the lighting conditions, then this is a good place to visit.

My Gallery (34 total photos): https://edrosack.com/090620_Butterfly/
Website: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/butterflies/rainforest.htm
Address: University of Florida Cultural Plaza
SW 34th Street and Hull Road
PO Box 112710
Gainesville, FL 32611-2710
(352) 846-2000
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: Hot! Humid! Lots of Photos!

©2009, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

4 thoughts on “Butterfly Rainforest – Gainsville, Florida

  1. Pretty cool post. I just found your blog and wanted to say
    that I’ve really liked reading your blog posts. Any way
    I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  2. I do have a couple more posts in the pipeline (one is a follow up to the Animal Kingdom post, and the other is the second TAS post). I try to post at least a few times a month, but it depends on whether I can get out and shoot some photos! I try to only write things I would want to read.

    Anyway, thank you very much for your kind words.


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