McDonald DIGITAL Institute



PHOTOSHOP 1: INTRODUCTION TO PHOTOSHOP - Optimizing the Digital Darkroom

If you are contemplating learning Adobe Photoshop, OR if you have Photoshop and feel lost with the program, OR if you use Photoshop in a very limited way and would like to learn more, this is the course for you. We'll give you a complete beginner's course that will make you completely familiar and comfortable with this exciting program. You will know, and more importantly, you will UNDERSTAND Photoshop! If you think you know Photoshop -- you still need this course. We highly recommend this course for everyone except those who absolutely know Photoshop.

June 21-27, 2009

The DIGITAL Complete Nature Photo Course - The Digital CNPC!

While similar to our film-based Complete Nature Photo Course, the Digital course will not only teach the critical photographic skills necessary to make a great photograph, but will also emphasize the power of DIGITAL imagery in doing so. Workflow -- what do you do with a digital image once it is captured; Exposure -- what the heck does that Histogram do?; basic Photoshop and RAW image conversion via Photoshop and Capture 1 programs-- there are simple adjustments that will make a good image even better, without requiring you to be a Photoshop whiz; and perhaps most exciting ...

You'll learn to use your digital camera to go beyond the limitations one has with a film-based image. You'll see how easy it is to make a digital composite to solve exposure-contrast problems and to make broad panoramas. Our Hoot Hollow-based courses at the McDonald Digital Institute in central Pennsylvania features state of the art computers and the latest software, with a limit of only TEN students.

May 24-30, 2009
June 14-20, 2009

Special Offering!

April 5-11, 2009
April 19-25, 2009
Hoot Hollow West!

Each April, we conduct two special D-CNPC classes at the Santa Rita Lodge, Madera Canyon, southern Arizona. This is an extremely target-rich
environment where in addition to landscapes and wildlife, you'll have the opportunity to photograph hummingbirds using our high-speed flash equipment!

NEW Hummingbird/Photoshop Special Two Day Course in Southern Arizona
May 5-8, 2008

This special two-day course will provide you with all of the necessary skills to make convincing, realistic photo composites, incorporating flower props with free-flying hummingbirds captured with high-speed flash. We'll cover all of the necessary tools, from picking brushes, brush sizes, and opacities in the various tools and we'll thoroughly cover Layers and Layer Masks. You'll also shoot hummingbirds so that you have some images to work with. You'll need your own Laptop and either CS2 or CS 3. Lodging, lunches, and two diners are included. Participant Limit: 8, non-photo spouses welcome.
Fee: $995 NOTE: This course is sandwiched between our 2nd and 3rd hummingbird shoots.

NEW! The Digital Edge, Beyond the Basics
aking Photoshop and Digital Photography to THE NEXT STEP

July 19-25, 2009
This workshop is designed to help you take full advantage of digital - both in the field with your camera, and in the digital darkroom on a computer.   Knowing what's possible in the digital darkroom affects how you shoot in the field. The digital era enables us to go beyond the limitations of cameras in many ways. For example if there's too much contrast in a situation, we can shoot several different exposures and combine them to create an HDR image closer to what our eyes can see - or even better! Similarly if we need more depth of field than what we can get using a single shot, we can shoot several images and combine them into one shot with an impressive range of focus. But there's still more that's possible on the computer. For example we can use various techniques to simulate studio lighting after the fact for nature photography!  So if the lighting is less than ideal on your subject, but you're not sure you'll be able to photograph the subject in better light another time, take the shot and then improve the lighting in Photoshop using one of the filters least used by nature photographers and/or by painting with light.
This course is designed for people who have already taken at least a basic course in Photoshop (or Lightroom or Aperture) and who are familiar with the basic operation of their camera.  We'll be spending some time in the field shooting as well as some time in the lab learning various ways to add impact to your images and take them to the next level. You'll be amazed at what you can do that's beyond the basic exposure adjustments you may be currently making!  We're going to have a lot of fun as you make your images come alive!  Everyone always wants their images to be just a bit better than the next guy's who was photographing a similar subject ... this course will give you the know-how to have the edge!

The Complete APERTURE Course

Contact us for this course

Digital image management and workflow takes on a whole new life with this Mac-based software program, Aperture! Aperture provides an efficient workflow that's also fast and refreshingly productive We'll cover importing images and making an Aperture Image Library, Stacks, and image Versions; sorting and comparing multiple images, and optimizing your favorirte images in a nondestructive workflow; learn Aperture's powerful tools for color and image correction; and learn how to create ready to load Webpages and ready to publish books. We'll also cover how you can best use Photoshop in conjunction with Aperture to make selective adjustments to an image. You'll have a photographic assignment to work on as well which we'll incorporate into your workflow and slide show projects.

Digital Workflow using Adobe LIGHTROOM and PHOTOSHOP

May 31-June 6, 2009
September 12-18, 2009

We'll show you, step-by-step, how to use Adobe's new LIGHTROOM to manage and edit your digital files as well as to fine-tune your RAW images with the Lightroom's powerful RAW converter. Lightroom won't replace Photoshop, however, and you'll learn when and why you'll still need Photoshop for particular tasks -- if indeed your workflow requirements require further tweaking! This course will include some shooting time in the field so that we can apply your new skills in a real-time, practical way.

Humpback Whales Digital/Photoshop Photo Tour

July 31 - August 9, 2009

We'll be photographing bubble-net and lunge-feeding of this, the most photogenic and accessible of all the great whales, as well as coastal black and grizzly bears. In our off time we'll be doing mini workshop/seminars on Digital Photography, Workflow, and tips and techniques in Photoshop to maximize our time in this very productive area.


Brown Bears of Katmai and Digital Photography Workshop

August 9-15, 2009
August 14-20, 2009

Imagine being within yards of the largest land carnivore in North America, the Brown Bear! This subspecies of the grizzly will be patroling the mud flats and fishing tidal creeks for spawning salmon, and we will be in the thick of it. In our off-times, weather time-outs, and evenings, we'll conduct the digital photography workshop where we'll be discussing workflow and image management, RAW conversion using Photoshop, Lightroom, and Capture One, and various ways to maximize your digital potential, including panorama stitches and exposure composites. You'll also learn how to use Layers and Masks for spot and fine-tuned adjustments for sharpness, color correction, and to control contrast.

The ADVANCED DIGITAL Complete Nature Photo Course -

TBA 2009

For all of our graduated of the D-CNPC, here's the perfect follow-up -- a course that takes what you've learned one BIG further step. In this course we'll delve further into both TTL and manual flash exposures, where you'll actually do a few setups yourself to master electronic flash lighting indoors or out. We'll be spending more time shooting -- working on compositions in the field, mastering exposure in real-time, and difficult to shoot subjects, including macro photography, panning, and exposure/focus/contrast composites. Once again, we'll cover Digital Workflow, and specific Photoshop tasks that will allow you to maximize your images' digital potential. We anticipate this Special course filling quickly, so contact our office ASAP!
Price includes great food, lodging, computer supplies, and a wonderful portfolio of photographic subjects. All the courses include FOOD and LODGING and all materials necessary for the course.
Each course is Limited to 10 students and with TWO INSTRUCTORS. Fee: $1,850

The complete brochure for this course will be posted in February.


PHOTOSHOP CS3 Refresher Course - Field Shooting and Lab Application!

This course is the product of our students' requests -- graduates of our Photoshop 1 and Photoshop 2 courses have repeatedly asked for a refresher course that would review important concepts and, more importantly, allow students to do some shooting and then apply that photography to projects we work on in the lab. This, we feel, is an incredibly exciting opportunity, because it is truly the best way to not only maximize the creative and visual potential of your digital photography, but also to learn meaningful, applicable, and fun Photoshop skills. And, if CS3 has been introduced by the time of this course (a rather remote possibility), we'll be showing you the very latest opportunities Photoshop offers!
TBA for Summer 2008


PHOTOSHOP 2: UNLEASHING THE POWER OF PHOTOSHOP - An Intermediate-Level Course to Unleash Your Creative Potential

This course is designed for those already familiar with the basic operation of Adobe Photoshop, and with the basic tools one can use and the basic adjustments one can make to an image. This course will take you beyond these basics, allowing you to fine-tune an image in multiple ways, as well as showing you ways to create images of your own -- including panorama composites and high-contrast composites -- that will allow you to depict what you have really seen, or what you truly had envisioned.

Our Travel Schedule in 2008 precludes offering this course. We will be offering our Intermediate Level courses again in 2008, using CS3!

Our Location

Our Digital Lab is located near McClure, Mifflin County, an extremely photogenic area of central Pennsylvania, about 45 miles SE of State College (home of Penn State University) and 90 minutes NW of Harrisburg, the state capital. All major airlines serve Harrisburg, where car rentals are available for anyone flying in for our courses. By car we are about 3 hours from Philadelphia or Baltimore, 4 hours from New York City or Pittsburgh. Our location is within a day's drive of much of the eastern, southeastern, and mid-west states. For example, the North Carolina border is around 8 hours away, and Indianapolis around 10. If you prefer to drive, rather than fly, we're really not that far away from much of the eastern US. Leaving the main highways, as you drive through the rolling farm country or cross over mountain ridges, one might think we are in the middle of nowhere, but I can assure you that our Digital Lab is absolutely state of the art. The scenic possibilities in the area are fantastic. The farm and our Digital Lab are located in a broad valley framed by Jack's and Shade Mountains, and within a few minutes one can be filming within a hemlock forest, or driving along ridge top roads through miles of deciduous forests, or wandering the country roads through rolling hills in Amish and 'English' farm country.

Our lab is located on our property where we also conduct our various nature photography courses in the Hoot Hollow Institute, a separate building located deeper in our woods. Our property, and the farm vacation lodge where our participants stay are both target rich environments for photographers. Our property is a mix of flower gardens, wild fields, streams, ponds, and forest; the home to flying squirrels, bluebirds, goldfinches, treefrogs, and more. We've recorded 100 species of birds on our property and virtually every species of nonvenomous reptile and amphibian recorded in central Pennsylvania, as well as most mammal species. It's not unusual to see six or more species of mammal in a single day. In summer there are a variety of insects, including swallowtail and tiger butterflies, and in spring and fall the foliage change (the green wave of spring, the vibrant reds of autumn) makes for dramatic images. The location and landscaping is perfect for breakout sessions and for shooting images that you may wish to incorporate into your digital imagery.

The Mountain Dale Farm is a working farm, with chickens, horses, dairy cows, cats, dogs, peacocks, and more. It is a farm filled with 'Americana,' antiques, statues, old wagons, etc., etc. -- so filled with potential images that the participants of our Complete Nature Photo Course shoot their 'scavenger hunt' final exam on the property. The countryside around the farm, with rolling hills overlooking farm fields and barns, as well as the deciduous forest surrounding the farm, offers the potential for forest, fern, fungi, and macro images.

Participants stay at the Mountain Dale Farm, a farm-vacation facility similar to a bed and breakfast. Breakfasts and dinners are served at the farm where our participants eat AS A GROUP family-style. Lunches are served here at Hoot Hollow (the name of our property). We feel this aspect of our course is unique and special -- people traveling alone are not alone once they arrive, and the time spent together as a group provides participants with the opportunity to share information, have fun, and build friendships. One warning, however! The meals both at the farm and at Hoot Hollow are tasty and filling. and we cater to special diets as needed, so don't expect to go hungry during your stay! You will not lose weight! One of the advantages, we feel, that we offer is simply the fact that everything is self-contained and included -- the lodging, all meals, drinks, etc., both at the Digital Institute and also where you spend the night at the Mountain Dale Farm. We feel that the camaraderie and 'family' that developed from sharing meals is an important aspect of the entire experience. Students get a chance to unwind, of course, but to also ask questions and discuss PS or photography outside of class.

Our Lab

Our lab is set up with PC/Windows computers equipped with 1 gig of RAM, 120 gig of Hard Drive, Pentium 4 processors, 19" flat screen CRT monitors, all networked together with a server where images can be downloaded, uploaded, and shared. Each student has a memory card reader and shares a printer. Epson and Canon have both supplied printers (Epson 1280s and Canon S9000s) that allow students to see the color differences, speeds, and quality both deliver. A large printer will be incorporated into the lab in 2004.

Our Digital Lab hours and class time generally begin at 9AM and continue until around noon when we break for lunch. Our classes resume after lunch and continue until approximately 5PM or later. Dinner is served at 6PM, and students return to the Lab by 7:30PM for an optional lab session. Our instructors are present throughout the day and evening sessions. During the day the formal teaching is done, with two assistants present to assist with the teaching and with helping students. In the evening, the instructors are present and available for helping the students as they work on personal projects, applying what they've learned in class. On some evenings, additional instruction and classroom sessions are conducted if the need arises.

Our lab is designed for NINE students with, of course, each student having his or her own computer. Each course has either one primary instructor or a dual instructor for a team-teaching approach, with a third instructor (usually me, Joe) as an additional assistant. Our instructors are on-site and available both during the day when most formal teaching is conducted and in the evening when students generally practice their skills.

Unless noted specifically in a particular brochure, your time at the Digital Institute is spent at the computer. For some courses there are short breaks or shooting sessions where students work on making images for a composite or a portrait, but most of your time is spent in the computer lab. Some additional courses are offered that involve more time afield in shooting digital images, but those courses are clearly noted. For the most part, expect to spend quality computer time while you are at our courses.


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 'Focus on 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 for both Joe Van Os's web magazine, and the Nature Photography Network, 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.
Mary Ann McDonald, who runs the business end of the Digital Institute as well as food-kitchen-cooking team, has been a full-time professional photographer since 1990. Mary is the author of 29 children's books on natural history, including titles on Leopards, Flying Squirrels, Jupiter, Horses, Mosquitoes, and other diverse topics. Mary Ann is a Field Correspondent for NATURE'S BEST Magazine, and is co-author for photography columns for both Joe Van Os's web magazine, and the Nature Photography Network.

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 involved with photography for over twenty years. In the last three years he has become a Photoshop junkie. 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 as just the beginning. Rick now teaches "Photoshop for Photographers" classes at local colleges in the Lehigh Valley. He continues to attend workshops throughout the country to "keep up." In the last year he has attended workshops with industry leaders like Tim Grey, Sean Duggen, and Dave Cross. 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. You can go beyond the limits of film and recreate what you saw and felt when you recorded the image. In Rick's past life he was co-founder and CEO of Fiberoptic Medical Products.
Rick is a member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals.

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. In this role I've been a full-time professional photographer and instructor since 1983. Ellen has taught college level courses as well as individual instruction, and has been assisting Art Morris with his birding workshops for years. Rick teaches Photoshop at a number of colleges in eastern Pennsylvania, 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. Our first year, 2003, was a resounding success and I feel we accomplished these goals in spades. We only expect to do even better in the years ahead.


Contact us by e-mail.

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

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