Nature on display – Marco Island Historical Museum hosts display of McDonald's Everglades wildlife photos

— Southwest Florida can be a wild, uncivilized place. But when he wants to get away from the cutthroat competition and dizzying ups and downs of the local real estate market, Don McDonald heads to the Everglades with his camera.

An exhibit of his nature photos, heavy on the native wildlife, is on display at the Marco Island Historical Museum, and Tuesday evening, patrons, nature lovers and photography enthusiasts gathered for the show's official opening.

McDonald, who goes by Capt. Don McDonald from his past as a licensed fishing guide, has gotten out into the parts of this area where few people seldom see, and even fewer have the patience, skill and cameras to bring back for the rest of us to see. He showed a wide-ranging group of photos, including roseate spoonbills, alligators, ibis, diamondback rattlesnakes and grasshoppers.

But one photo, a close up portrait of a ghost orchid of the type made famous by Susan Orleans' book "The Orchid Thief," demonstrated how the real uncivilized behavior in the natural world is that of men and women. McDonald said that the tranquil, lovely orchid in the photo, photographed deep in the Fakahatchee Strand where one must wade for hours to find it, was gone when he went back on a subsequent visit.

"The whole tree it was on had been cut down," he said. "The Park Service had a motion-triggered camera there, just to protect the orchids, and the tree that was on had been cut down as well."

Viewers standing in front of one photo, a group of wading birds titled "At the Bar," closely resembled the subjects of the photo, providing a sort of mirror image of the artwork. McDonald has often focused on wildlife reflected in the still waters of the natural areas where he shoots, and entitled a book of his photos "Reflections of the Everglades." The large blowup on display is available for sale at $2,800, but photos are available for much less, as well.

Keith Dameron of Iberia Bank, which underwrote the complimentary wines and hors d'oeuvres served at the show's opening, chatted with Collier Commissioner Donna Fiala. Lisa Marciano, the sole paid employee at the museum, talked with her boss, Collier County Museum Director Ron Jamro, who said he was delighted, as always, to see the turnout for such events.

"Marco Island always draws a crowd, even in August," said Jamro. According to head museum docent Louise Russell, the official tally of visitors for the opening was 160.

Many of the attendees stayed for the second event at the museum that evening, a presentation on the history of the Tamiami Trail at the adjacent Rose History Auditorium, which also featured the presentation of a restored Ford Model T truck, such as may have driven the road when it was new.

The exhibit of McDonald's photos will hang until Sept. 28, said Marciano, to be followed by a display of Seminole-inspired batiks by Naples artist Muffy Clark Gill.

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