McDonald DIGITAL Institute


Ten Student stations

State of the Art (and fast) PCs

 Introduction to Photoshop CS2
Beginner-lower Intermediate level

 Adobe Lightroom
Digital Workflow in
its entirety

The Complete Aperture -
the MAC-platform -
Digital Workflow Course

 Digital Complete Nature Photo Course - a complete course on photography designed to maximize your creative potential with a digital camera and including basic Photoshop techniques.
Hoot Hollow WESTDigital Complete Nature Photo Course - a complete course on photography designed to maximize your creative potential with a digital camera and including basic Photoshop techniques. We cover the same topics, but this course is conducted in Arizona, and includes an opportunity to Photography Hummingbirds with our high-speed flash setups.
The ADVANCED Digital - Complete Nature Photo Course -
For all of our graduates from the D-CNP and for those who want to go a step further with flash, here's the perfect follow-up that takes what you've learned one BIG step further. We review great workflow and image management techniques and RAW conversion, but a large portion of the course will be involved with FLASH Photography - mastering electronic flash and lighting techniques. There'll be plenty of shooting, projects, and evaluations.

 Hummingbirds and Photoshop SPECIAL 2 DAY Seminar 2008

Learn how to make masks, use extraction tools and make extractions, use Edit>Transform, and selectively sharpen and blur layers for extremely realistic digital composites, while having an opportunity to photography wild hummingbirds with our high-speed flash setups!

Amish hay bales, a few miles from the Farm.

One of the real attractions of the area is the lack of traffic, and it is so easy to pull over, practically anywhere, to take a farm-scape, landscape, or panorama. Our students are housed in an extremely 'target-rich' environment, filled with antiques, objects of art and Americana, and the surrounding countryside is just spectacular. Within a few minutes drive there is a wonderful location for sunrise and macro photography, and, of course, our location at Hoot Hollow always has animals.



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 as well as much of eastern Canada. 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.

Panorama, by Ron Lucas, shot within three miles of the Mountain Dale Farm. The original is 60 inches long!


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.

Panorama from Big Valley, about ten miles West
of the Digital Institute.

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 -- 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. Lunch is served on-site, and is usually buffet-style. Our classes resume after lunch and continue until approximately 5PM or later. Dinner is served at 6PM at the Farm where most students stay, 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.

Phone or FAX us at: (717) 543-6423.

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