GHOST ORCHID 1 © 1999Fakahatchee Strand, FL
Finding and photographing the elusive ghost orchid in 1999 was special, but finding it three years in a row was a unique experience. In 2001, a film crew for the PBS documentary, The Wild Heart of Florida, joined Oscar Thompson, Jeff Ripple, biologist Mike Owen, and I as we explored the Fakahatchee Strand and searched for the rare plant. The only ghost orchid we could see was 13 feet up in a tree, so we hauled several ladders into the depths of the swamp, and I got the shot! One of the Rarest Orchids in the World Poaching is the main reason rare orchids, like the ghost orchid (dendrophylax lindenii), have diminished to fewer than 2,000 plants in the wild. A mature epiphytic orchid’s delicate, spider-like root system securely clings to the bark of a tree. A poacher will often saw that portion of the tree to a manageable size for easy transport, leaving the tree damaged. The destruction of the tree disrupts the fungi-containing lichen, and the rare plant soon dies. To compound the difficulties of its survival, only one insect, the giant sphinx moth, can pollinate the ghost orchid. Ghost Orchid 1 was taken with a Clyde-O-Wide 4×5 (hand-built by Clyde) camera on T-Max 100 film. This photograph is hand-printed in Clyde’s darkroom on fiber-based paper, selenium toned, then mounted and matted to current archival standards. The photograph is a limited edition and signed by Clyde. Camera settings f/32 | 47mm Schneider Super-Angulon XL lens | 2 minutes. Disclaimer – Cropping, contrast, and image density may vary. To learn more about the darkroom printing process, click here.