Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

The Complete Nature

Photo Course

in beautiful rural mid-state Pennsylvania

June 11-17, 2005



Landscapes, Farm-scapes, Wildflowers, Farm Americana ....
Birds - bluebirds, hummingbirds, ....
Wildlife - flying squirrels, frogs, toads, snakes, and more
Macro Photography - insects, spiders, landscapes*

*If these subjects capture your imagination, then read on! These were just a few of the many subjects filmed on our summer courses! Please read a recent Testimonial. Check out the testimonial and website from one of our former participants.

This is our fifteenth year offering THE COMPLETE NATURE PHOTO COURSE here at Hoot Hollow, and I'm even more excited this year than ever before. Ten years ago we changed the site of the course from eastern to mid-state Pennsylvania, where subjects are abundant and close to our home.

On our tenth anniversary, we introduced something complete new and unique ...

The Hoot Hollow Institute of Nature Photography!

This, our brand-new building, is devoted exclusively to wildlife and nature photography. With plenty of meeting and floor space, set up for both lecture, slide-viewing, and, most importantly, photography, participants will be treated to one of the most unique learning environments in the country!

The course speaks for itself -- participants' feedback convinced us that our CNPC is the most unique, comprehensive, and intense instructional program offered anywhere. Limited to 15 participants, with two instructors for all field sessions, our people enjoy quality, personal care in this fast paced, challenging week.

If this interests you, PLEASE READ ON!

About the Course...

Time Frame: Our courses span the diversity of Hoot Hollow's most productive photographic season. Each course is intense, requiring commitment and long hours on everyone's part. Depending upon the weather, many days begin before sunrise, to capture the magic of early-morning light, and continue throughout the day. After the evening's break for dinner, we meet for slides and further instruction, with days often ending after 10PM!

This sounds incredibly long, but the days are fun, and extremely productive, and in truth, the time speeds by in an incredibly fast and enjoyable week.

Our Format: The CNPC is divided into both lecture and practice sessions in a flexible schedule that accommodates the group's needs and accounts for the vagaries of weather. Most lecture and in-door instruction occurs in the late-morning, early afternoon, and after dinner -- times when the light is NOT at its peak. Photography can occur at any time, but generally occur before and after breakfast and late afternoon, except for our special project days where you'll shoot all day! This schedule results in nearly three full days of shooting, plus additional time on our 'teaching indoors' days. You'll have plenty of time to practice your new skills!

Our Participants: This course is designed for any photographer seriously interested in improving his or her skills. This course IS NOT for beginners who have not read their camera manuals or who own simple point and shoot cameras.The course is designed for 35mm SLR shooters, amateur or professional, who want to advance their skills in the most productive manner possible.

This special course is limited to 15, with at least two instructors for all field sessions. I generally conduct the in-class lecture sessions solo, with Mary covering compositional topics and exposure reviews.

Evaluating Your Skills: Participants are given a pre-course homework assignment designed to test your skills and provide a base-line for our assistance. Although doing the homework isn't mandatory, it's a fun exercise that assesses your abilities and helps us help you. We'll also have at least two (often 3) E-6 runs for overnight processing. With these, we'll observe your photography progress to critique your work.

During the week, you'll have several shooting assignments to complete -- a week long portfolio (easy to get as we shoot during the week), a short personal assignment, and a photo scavenger hunt where, in a 24 hour period, you shoot a variety of subjects to illustrate an imaginary magazine article. Fun, challenging, and aimed at making you the best you can be -- you'll love the shooting!

Preparation: Prior to arrival you'll be sent a full list of equipment and suggested clothing, as well as your homework assignment. A large amount of photo gear is NOT required for the course. In fact, I'd rather you purchase gear after you do the course, so that you'll buy right based upon your needs.

However, if you need help on buying equipment for the course, please feel free to call us for our best recommendations. Basically, though, you'll need a SLR 35mm camera, an 80-200 (or 75-300 or similar focal length), some macro capability (either through closeup lenses, extension tubes, or a true macro lens), and some telephoto reach, via a converter or fixed lens, of 300mm or longer. An electronic flash is helpful, but not mandatory. However, a tripod is required. We recommend either a Bogan 3021 or 3022 tripod, with a ballhead, or a Gitzo tripod (your choice of models) and a ballhead.

Location: The CNPC is based out of our Hoot Hollow Institute, located on the grounds of our rural home in central Pennsylvania. Hoot Hollow is mid-state, northwest of Harrisburg, east-south-east of State College, near RT 522 between Lewistown and Selinsgrove. The nearest full-service airport and car rental is the Harrisburg airport.

Lodging is included, but we haven't decided yet where we will be housing students. Details will be forwarded to all participants.

All meals are included. Lunches, usually, are served at Hoot Hollow. The food is delicious. Don't plan on dieting that week!

Price: The tuition for the CNPC is $1,395 and includes all meals from Sunday dinner to Saturday breakfast, lodging (based upon double occupancy from Sunday to Friday),and instruction. The fee does not include transportation to or from the course, optional E-6 processing or film.

The Workshop Topics
covered in class and afield

Exposure: Recognizing middle-tones; exposing for all tonalities, gray, black, and white; using your camera on manual and on spot metering mode; using the sunny rules. You will be shooting your camera on Manual Mode and on Spot or Center-weighted metering. For those students who have only used matrix or evaluative metering on one of the programmed modes (like A, S or Tv, or P) this is a radical departure but an extremely important step in mastering photography.

This topic, exposure, is one of the KEYS to successful shooting, and you will master exposure during this course! Everyone does!
We are convinced that we offer the most complete and thorough treatment on exposure anywhere. You will learn, and your photography will be changed forever.

Composition: Finding effective compositions, using lenses effectively; seeking the best perspective; understanding hyperfocal distance; knowing zones of sharpness; selective focus; and the rule of thirds. We approach this topic in several ways, in separate lectures on composition and on lenses, and through several in-field exercises where we review work in the field as classroom projects.

Lighting: Using natural light effectively; using diffusers, reflectors, and mirrors.

Electronic Flash: This is one of the most important topics in the course, second only to exposure in interest and popularity. We'll cover manual and TTL exposures and introduce you to multiple flash techniques; high speed flash; and remote flash setups.

The Art of Seeing: Many people have the technical aspects of photography mastered, but lack vision. We'll work on improving your personal vision and technique.

Wildlife Photography: Techniques for shooting birds, mammals, insects, and herptiles. Using blinds, game-calls, and set-ups.

Nature Travel Photography: How to pack, what to carry, how to deal with customs.

Brain-picking time: As I tell every group, consider me a bucket of water and yourself as a sponge. It's my sincere hope, and I make it my goal, to impart everything I know, and that you need to know, by week's end. Saturday's last session is devoted exclusively to this objective.


This syllabus is subject to some change as weather, the group's progress, or unpredicted photo opportunities cannot be anticipated. However, for most groups, most times, the following schedule applies:

Sunday: Registration and check-in at your lodging. Details as to where the group will be staying will be forwarded to participants. Introductory meeting begins at 5PM, followed by dinner at 6, followed by an orientation slide program and your homework assignment. Exposure is introduced.

Monday: Sunday night is a late one so we'll start immediately after breakfast where you'll do your first composition/technique exercise. In this exercise we'll review fine points of 'seeing' images as well as practicing and illustrating sound camera handling techniques. The afternoon will be devoted to exposure. That afternoon you'll begin your personal shooting assignment - due Wednesday. In the evening we'll finish up with exposure and begin a review of several participants' personal portfolios.

Tuesday: After an optional sunrise shoot, you'll have a few hours to continue your personal assignment before returning to the Institute for more classroom instruction, on composition and lenses. The evening will be devoted to reviews of portfolios.

Wednesday: Optional sunrise shoot. After breakfast you'll have a few hours to complete your personal assignments and continue with your 'Day in the Country' assignment. Your personal shooting assignment will be due by noon. Late morning will be devoted to an exposure review before you begin your Photo Scavenger Hunt. You'll be dismissed early to begin your 20 hour Photo Scavenger Hunt! In the evening we'll begin an introduction on TTL flash, and conclude with the remaining participant portfolios.

Thursday: You'll have until 1:00PM to complete your scavenger hunt. Afterwards, we'll continue with a thorough discussion and treatment of TTL electronic flash to round out the afternoon. By the late afternoon you'll receive your Personal Assignment film, which we'll review that evening.

Friday: After breakfast we'll meet here at Hoot Hollow for a very busy and exciting day. It begins with a Committeegraph (a fun group exercise), followed by a mental review -- your final exam covering the points made during the course of the week. After lunch we'll continue with a review of the final exam and, if time permits, we'll have a few subjects available for your field shooting, which may include some wild birds and mammals, and captive reptiles and amphibians you'll shoot in studio or in field conditions.

In the late afternoon you'll receive your E-6 films, covering the Photo Scavenger Hunt and the slides made for your week-long shooting assignment.

After dinner, we'll meet for a fun, marathon session where we'll review your week long assignment and your scavenger hunt. This evening runs long, but it is truly the highlight of the week and a great deal of fun.

Saturday: After breakfast we'll meet at Hoot Hollow for Graduation!, and a final session where we'll conclude by answering any and all final questions you have. For those who wish, you may wish to spend your final hours capturing our backyard wildlife.

A Personal Note ...

If you haven't experienced the infectious joy of nature photography, you soon will. And you'll discover this rewarding pursuit only grows more exciting and challenging as your skills increase. And that's the rub, for to get the most out of your shooting, your skills should improve. Unfortunately, on many of our tours and out of state workshops we've found participants lacking in the essential basics of exposure, techniques, procedures, and basic usage. That being so, we sincerely wish everyone who takes any of our tours or exotic workshops or safaris would first take the time to do this course. As you'll discover, it will become the foundation of your skills, and your future photography will benefit enormously from doing so.

Feedback from all of our participants is always great, and from their comments we are certain that our claim that the CNPC is the best photography course offered anywhere is a fact, not a boast. Many have compared it to a college-level course offered in a week, and almost everyone states that they haven't worked so hard in a very long time, BUT that they enjoyed the hard work! You will, too, and we promise you that you will learn quality photography!


About Your Instructors


Contact our Office to REGISTER for this Photo Workshop

Need further Biographical Information?


Contact us by e-mail.

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

Return to HomePage or to Photo Workshops