Winter photography can be beautiful: the soft blanket of white contrasting against the stark blue sky and sharp pines, the sun comes up later and the alpenglow can be seen against the white peaks rising into the morning sky. Winter photography can also be brutal: Brown grass growing out of the brown earth which is shading that brown patch of snow, sharp cold sucking the life out of your battery, fingers and toes. It's all in the mood your in and what your given to work with. When I start to get down on winter I find a trip to the tropics helps and, for much less than an airplane ticket, Denver has it's own portal to warm, green and colorful at the Butterfly Pavilion.
The Butterfly Pavilion is open to the public almost every day and, with it's huge variety of butterflies and tropical plants, provides a great escape from the winter doldrums that so often catch up with me in February and March. During regular hours tripods are not allowed and it can be difficult to juggle camera, kids, not stepping on the butterflies, not stepping on other people. Because of this they have an open photography tripod session where they open a couple of hours earlier and you can set up tripods and generally have the place to yourself. The last time I attended ( November 2009 ), I shared the place with 5 other photographers and 4 or 5 other staff. The staff were working on preopening things but were extremely open and helpful.
One benefit of attending so early on a cold morning is that, being cold blooded, butterflies cannot move around much before they get warmed up. This is great for photographers because, not only can you set up a tripod, but you can get fairly close to the butterflies without having them fly away before you get your shot. Although I tried not to hover around one butterfly too much in case their little minds couldn't take it. I ended up staying for roughly 3 hours and really enjoyed the experience. You can see the full set of photos I took on Flickr.
Tripod day appears to be every month on the third Tuesday according to the Butterfly Pavilion calendar and is coming up this Tuesday. It costs a bit more than the regular admission but you have all day access and is worth it.