McDonald Digital Nature Institute


Over the last several years as digital photography has become more and more
accepted and prevalent our Intro to Photoshop course - our beginner/intermediate
level course - devoted a lot of time to digital workflow and image management.

We think photographers are beyond that now, with Lightroom and other image
management programs (including Photoshop's Bridge), and we are extremely
excited about returning to our roots - the How To's of Photoshop.

This course, while addressing RAW conversation to maximize a digital image,
will be centered on the fun and productive features of Photoshop.

You will learn and master and understand the importance of Layers,
of Masks, of Selections, and of Targeted Adjustments. CS4 offers so
much, and we're very excited about teaching you WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW!

 Please read some of our testimonials for our Courses


Our digital lab - rear view

Our digital lab - front view

Warning - our hours are your's. Our class session goes from 9 to 5, with all meals included and with the group. After dinner, students return for more activities, and sometimes students do not depart until after 10!

 Update - our CRT monitors have been replaced
by LCD monitors!

Rick Holt, our primary instructor for the
Beginner's Course - Introduction to Photoshop
for Photographers, working on a demonstration

Our courses are limited to ten, with 3 instructors
for a full class.


Introduction to Photoshop
Optimizing the Digital Image in the Digital Darkroom
For beginners and part-time users of Adobe Photoshop CS4...
and for anyone who 'thinks' they know Photoshop but
are not convinced that they are an expert!

June 21-27, 2009**
**Our high-speed flashes will be set up to take advantage of the abundance of
Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds for our Participants!

Limited to ten Students
With 3 Instructors
Fee: $1,795 includes
All supplies,
Spectacular Food, and Lodging
at our Photographically-rich Farm B&B


Who should take this Course

This course is designed for those who either have no experience with Adobe Photoshop and for anyone who wants a thorough understanding of the necessary tools and techniques a photographer should know when using Photoshop. We'll start with the basics and build up, explaining the Menus and the Toolbox tools, and how, why, and which tool, technique or menu is important for you. Whether you've never used Photoshop before, or you're familiar with it but frustrated and intimidated, this basic course will teach you everything you need to know to get started with Photoshop, and feeling accomplished and competent with the procedures and level that you have attained.

If your goal is to know enough Photoshop to produce a great looking print, to be able to fine tune, correct, and manipulate an image for web site use or digital programs, this introductory course will provide you with all the tools you'll need to know.

If your goal is to know enough Photoshop to truly know what you are doing, to know what tool or technique to use when, and to be able to effectively work with Photoshop without feeling lost or frustrated - this is the course for you!

The Course

A brief bit of history first: For the past eighteen years Mary and I have been teaching our Complete Nature Photo Course and Advanced Nature Photo Course, creating what we believe to be the most intensive and complete instructional course on nature photography anywhere in the country.
In the last few years, however, as Adobe Photoshop and other imagery programs developed, and as digital cameras became more common and more sophisticated, we came to a realization - photography is changing to digital.
To some this is viewed as an abysmal turning point for photography while for others it is correctly viewed as a new frontier, one which will allow photographers to produce a whole new spectrum of images. While there is continuing debate about 'digital enhancement' or 'digital manipulation,' one thing is clear - digital imagery allows a photographer to truly capture all the tonal values of an image, something that film cannot do because of its more restricted exposure latitude. For that reason alone, digital photography has tremendous merits.
Embracing this new technology, and realizing not only the importance of Adobe Photoshop's powerful image editing capabilities but also its very real intimidation, we are offering several courses DESIGNED WITH THE PHOTOGRAPHER in mind. Although Adobe Photoshop is an extremely powerful and complex piece of software, and can seem frighteningly complex and intimidating to beginners, the fact is there are a rather limited number of tools and procedures a photographer must or should know to produce great prints, images for a web site, note cards, or even composites where two or more images are combined.
Our Digital Photography/Photoshop courses here at Hoot Hollow were designed with the photographer in mind, and are fine-tuned to provide the information you'll need to know and to master Adobe Photoshop.

About the Course…

Time Frame: Photoshop can be demanding, mentally, and for photographers accustomed to being afield shooting images, time spent behind a computer might be drudgery. Our time frame will hopefully alleviate some of this, by providing plenty of time at the computer while still giving you, the photographer, some time to shoot or relax, or if you wish, to use the computer lab to your full advantage.
Our formal classroom instruction will begin at 9AM and continue until noon, where we'll break for lunch (served at Hoot Hollow), and followed by an afternoon session that will continue to 5PM or so.
There will be a break for dinner (served, along with breakfast, at your farm bed and breakfast, the Mountain Dale Farm), followed by 'open computer lab time' every evening back at Hoot Hollow. Our instructors are always at the Lab, so even during our open computer time in the evening we'll be helping and assisting you, and occasionally presenting new material.

Our Format: The Introductory Course is divided into several segments that will make learning fun and palatable and extremely productive. Our morning session will be devoted to lecture and demonstration, which will also include hand's on practice by our students. Afternoon sessions will include instruction and practice time, although the exact format will be flexible to accommodate the needs of our students.
Some topics are simple to cover and to demonstrate, and for students to practice. Others, we realize, are more complex and may require several small doses before the concept is fully realized. If you are familiar with how we run our Digital Complete Nature Photo Course you know our dedication and commitment to your understanding of our subjects, and we followi the same philosophy and teaching methods of the D-CNPC in the Introductory Course on Photoshop.
Breakfast is served at 8AM at the farm, which will give participants time in the morning to photograph, if they wish, or to review handouts and reading material before class. We will take at least one afternoon for a 'break out session' to shoot a few subjects (defined below) that you'll be able to work with, digitally, during the course of the week.
Evenings, most days, will be 'free' in the sense that students can come and go, to work in the computer lab (which is likely) or to simply crash (which is possible) on any given day. Since everyone attending will be photographers, we will devote one evening, and perhaps a part of another, to print or digital image sharing - a digital slide show of some of our work and THAT OF OUR PARTICIPANTS. You'll need a CD of your work compatible with Power Point, Pro Show Gold, or just a collection of images on a folder that we will open with Adobe Bridge, or if all else fails we can use your own laptop.
In short, between our class time, your practice time, the intermittent shooting times, and our slide sessions, you will have an extremely complete week. One added advantage all of our Digital Photography and Photoshop students have enjoyed and commented upon was the unity of our groups, since all meals are shared either at the Mountain Dale Farm or at Hoot Hollow. These informal group times provide the opportunity for a tremendous amount of information sharing - on other workshops, on techniques and equipment, on places to photograph, and other diverse topics.

Our Participants: This course is designed for photographers who are seriously interested in mastering the basics of Adobe Photoshop CS2. Photographers who use Photoshop Elements or an earlier version of Photoshop will benefit, of course, but we'll be teaching the latest, state-of-the-art developments which we suspect all digital-oriented photographers will eventually incorporate.
This is a course for those with limited experience with Photoshop, who are frustrated by their attempts at working in Photoshop, and for those being introduced to Photoshop for the first time. We will build your expertise from the ground up, explaining every step and every technique as we go along, and often showing the cross-referencing Photoshop has for doing any procedure in more than one way.
Photoshop can be intimidating, but only because it seems so vast and complex. You'll discover this tiger is really a kitten!

Preparation Beforehand: Although we'll have all the material you'll need to learn Photoshop, we suspect that you'd like to work on your own images the other projects we will work on. Participants should bring with them an external portable hard drive, a thumb drive, or a personal CD or DVD with images that can be opened in Photoshop on a PC platform. Most CDs, if written in one session, should have no problem being opened on a PC if written on a MAC, or vise-versa should you write a CD at Hoot Hollow and take home with you.

Location: All of our courses are taught on the grounds of the Hoot Hollow Institute of Nature Photography, in either our studio or in our computer lab. Hoot Hollow is located in central Pennsylvania, northwest of Harrisburg, east-southeast of State College, and near RT 522 between Lewistown and Selinsgrove, Pa. The nearest full-service airport and car rental is in Harrisburg.
Lodging is at a farm vacation bed and breakfast located about six miles from Hoot Hollow. It is a 'target-rich' shooting environment in a rural area rich with landscapes, farm scenes, farm animals, and nature subjects. Breakfasts and diners are served at the farm.

Price: The tuition for the Digital Photography Courses is $1,795 and includes all instruction, lab fees and supplies, meals (you will not go hungry!), and lodging based upon double 0ccupancy from Sunday through Friday nights. The fee does not include transportation to, during, or from the course.


In the Introductory Course you will not only be 'introduced' to the tools and menus and palettes necessary to master Photoshop, you will become intimately acquainted with same. Through lecture, drill, quiz, practice, and application in an interactive, hands on computer environment you will learn the tools and techniques required to work with Photoshop in a satisfying and productive manner. In short, you will learn, really learn, what you need to know to get started in Photoshop! Some of the topics we'll cover include:

Setting Up for Photoshop - What you'll need for your own digital darkroom. While we realize that many students may already have their computers, scanners, and printers, we'll give you our input on what you should have, or what you can do to improve your system. We'll cover memory allotment and RAM, monitors, calibration, and color management, setting up Photoshop's preferences for maximum efficiency, and desktop arrangement of your workspace.
The RAW Converter - Digital photography offers almost unlimited photographic potential, especially if you shoot in the RAW format, as you should. We'll cover the RAW converter and its various tabs for maximizing your photographic capture. For most of your work, mastering RAW is all that's needed, so this is an important aspect of Photoshop and your workflow.
The Photoshop Menu - There are eight menu items, some which have little applicability to your work and others with most, or several submenus of critical importance to you. We'll cover these menu items, demonstrating their use and applicability, and relate them to your imagery projects.
The Photoshop Tools - There are over 22 tools, with many of these tools having several versions. Some of these are vital to your work, and some have no application. You'll learn and use the tools you need.
Photoshop CS4's Adjustment Panel - There are so many new innovations in this panel, including powerful and easy Mask options, as well as an entire new arrangement of Adjustment subsets and presets which can truly speed up your workflow. This is the heart of the new CS4.
Masking: Many Photoshop courses save Masking for intermediate and advanced courses, but we consider it the absolute key to successfully using Photoshop, and we start our students right, right off the bat! You'll be amazed at the control and creative opportunities mastering Masks provides.
Layers: The exact same statements can be made about using Layers, Layer Masks, and Adjustment Layers, and you'll learn and be comfortable using layers to maximize your control of Photoshop. It is a wonderful thing!
Importing Images - There are several ways images can be brought into Photoshop, from Photo CDs to digital cameras to scanners, and we'll cover the methods to input your images.
Working with Images - Once imported, what do you do with them? That's where Photoshop's tools and menus come into play, and we'll work with the tools required, including using color adjustments, using layers and adjustment layers, cropping, sizing, and fine-tuning your images.
Taking Photoshop One Step Further - One of the greatest benefits of Photoshop for photographers is its ability to make images as our eyes sees them and not as conventional, traditional photography allows. Panoramic images can be made with 35mm or digital cameras more effectively than with wide-angle lenses or with panoramic cameras! Digital manipulation allows us to combine two or more images to balance exposures in scenes of extreme exposure values, just as our eyes can. We'll do several projects using either our images, or your own, to combine images with a wide range of exposure values and also for a panoramic perspective.

Your Course Syllabus, in brief…

Day 1, evening: Welcome dinner and orientation. Introduction to Hoot Hollow and a review of the objectives for the week's course.
Day 2: Introduction to Photoshop and the tools and Menus that will be covered. Digital workflow, if required. Setting up for Photosho's Preferences. The RAW converter.
Day 3: Review and explanation of the toolbox.
We'll begin covering the Photoshop palettes and the key to Photoshop - levels, curves, and color balance. Introducing Masking.
Day 4: Levels, Curves, and Color balance. We'll review these again as we incorporate Photoshop's other most powerful tools - layers and adjustment layers and the History palette. Some photography to apply the techniques we're covering.
Day 5: Working with Layers, as well as further coverage and practice with levels, curves, and color balance. Masking for selective color and focus adjustments.
Day 6: Composites. Making the perfect image via two bracketed exposures, using HDR, using the RAW converter. Making panoramics. A good portion of the afternoon will be involved with fine-tuning several images for the graduation slide show held either Friday evening or Saturday morning.
Day 7, morning: Student Show of 3 images that involve the workflow and techniques learned this week. Question and answer session followed by graduation. Conclude by 11AM.

On at least one evening we'll break from Photoshop and have a student portfolio of digitally projected images or of prints. Students will have the option of doing a show and tell -- always a popular and informative session where students show their best, and often share great places to photograph, or of projecting images that they want a critique -- soft or brutal, depending on your choice or the image!

Please note - the exact, daily itinerary is subject to some change and modification based upon the group's progress. All of the above topics will be covered, but we do not want to be held to a fixed timetable - your comprehension and understanding is more important to us than a set schedule.

YA Personal Note …

Years ago, on a trip to Chile and when I was still shooting with film I photographed my trip with the knowledge that my final image would be produced in the digital lab, in Photoshop. I wasn't shooting poorly and needing an image doctor, but I was shooting knowing that I could now do panoramic images, or images that combined extremes in exposure and contrast that could be melded into an image that reflected exactly what I saw, and not what my film's limitations could record. Things have only improved since then.

Obviously, over the last several years we've completely switched to digital, and our photographic experience has only been enhanced by doing so. We use Photoshop not as a crutch or a tool to repair poorly executed images but as a means to make a good or even a great image even better, using Photoshop to allow me to illustrate what I truly saw.

We've been doing our courses for about five years, and we're one of the first to have implemented a digital lab. I am absolutely convinced that we offer the best course in the country for the best price, as our dedication is without question and our hour's are unrivaled by any other lab. We are dedicated to providing the best experience possible, and feedback from our participants certainly verifies our claim. We hope you'll join us.

Read our Classroom Report at the end of this page (blue type) that describes our very first class.

About Your Instructors

Joe McDonald has been a full-time professional wildlife and nature photographer since 1983. He is the author of six books on wildlife photography and another on African Wildlife, as well as a how-to video produced with his wife, Mary Ann, on Photographing on Safari. His work has appeared in every major nature and wildlife publication published in North America. Along with operating their own stock photography business, Joe is represented by over a dozen stock photo agencies worldwide, including Corbis, Animals Animals, Auscape, Okapia, and others.
In addition to maintaining an active and informative website,, Joe is columnist for OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHER, writing the 'Big Game' column, and Joe and his wife Mary Ann are Field Correspondents for NATURE'S BEST Magazine, and KEYSTONE OUTDOORS, writing a photography column, and Joe Van Os's web magazine, where they write a regular column on wildlife and nature photography.
For over fifteen years Joe and Mary Ann have been teaching photography courses and leading photography tours and workshops. Their very popular photo tours and safaris have them afield for over twenty-five weeks each year.
Joe has worked with Photoshop for several years, mainly for creating sales promotional material and for web site use. Now, with the advent of digital cameras, he is using Photoshop nearly daily. He is a member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals.

Ellen Anon is a freelance photographer who specializes in all types of outdoor photography. Her images are poetic statements, vivid in color and intent, imaginative in their portrayal, and comforting in their beauty, and are included in collections in several countries. Ellen earned a Ph.D. in psychology and is a clinical psychologist who evolved into a professional photographer in the mid 1990's. She is represented by a stock agency in Japan and her photos have been used in numerous books (including Sierra Club's "Mother Earth"), articles, calendars, posters, promotional items and billboards. In addition she has been Art Morris's teaching assistant for several years on his larger bird photography workshops.
In recent years she has become increasingly involved with the various aspects of digital photography from scanning film images to using digital SLR cameras to using Photoshop to enable her to make her gallery prints at home. She has attended courses at the Lepp Institute of Digital Imaging. She has begun sharing the knowledge she has acquired via individualized instruction and now these workshops, so that other photographers can make the transition into the digital world with ease and fun. Ellen is a member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals.

Rick Holt has been passionate about photography for over thirty years. He has worked as a professional instructor for the past 8 years. Prior to that, Rick founded an innovative medical business centered on applying plastic fiber optics for treating newborn jaundice. After selling his business in 1996, Rick taught courses at Lehigh University while, at the same time, dedicating his efforts to learning as much as possible about emerging digital technologies. After taking courses at the local art schools and colleges he found that many Photoshop courses were too oriented towards graphic artists as opposed to the photographer. Feeling unfulfilled, he took a workshop with George Lepp which was just the beginning. Rick now teaches "Photoshop for Photographers" classes at local colleges in the Lehigh Valley as well as several other digital institutes across the country. Nevertheless, Rick continues to attend workshops throughout the country to "keep up" and he has attended workshops with industry leaders like Tim Grey, Sean Duggen, and Dave Cross. Rick is a member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals.

Whie Rick still enjoys traveling the world and capturing images of the remote and often inaccessible, as he did on recent travels to Antarctica, India, South America, and Africa, he is also keenly interested in helping other photographers expand their own visions, better understand the complexity of Photoshop, and expedite their own workflow. His approach to teaching Digital Photography and Photoshop is to start with the basics and then continually build upon and expand those concepts in a logical and easy to understand fashion. He believes that each image is unique and by understanding the concepts of the digital darkroom you will not be confined by a simplistic 'cook book' approach. Rick believes that the digital darkroom has brought the creativity and control, once recognized by black and white photographers, to any photographer with a computer

Our Educational Commitment - a note from Joe McDonald

If you've read the above biographies, you'll see that all of us are dedicated photographers that are interested in sharing our knowledge and helping people. I've been involved in teaching my entire adult life, from teaching assistantships in graduate school to a six-year stint as a high school biology teacher before starting my career as a wildlife photographer and photo workshop instructor. Ellen has taught college level courses as well as individual instruction, and has been assisting Art Morris with his birding workshops for years. Rick is actively teaching Photoshop right now, and feels, as both Ellen and I do, that knowing Photoshop will take you (quoting from Rick's bio) "beyond the limits of film and recreate what you saw and felt when you recorded the image."

I intend to make our Digital Courses every bit as successful, in terms of the knowledge conveyed, the quality of the experience, the intensity, and, just as importantly, the amiability and fun, that we've done with our CNPC and ANPC courses here at Hoot Hollow.

Contact us by e-mail.

Or FAX us at: (717) 543-6423.

Return to HomePage