Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

Predators in the
Red Rock country of Southern Utah

April 9-14, 2005


Limited to Eight Participants
Fee: $2,399

This photo shoot/tour is the most interesting and exciting predator shoot I've ever done. We loved it, for not only are the subjects great (the predators always are) but the scenic locations are spectacular, allowing us to truly make art. Instead of just portraits, we zoomed out to incorporate landscape and rock formations that were absolutely wonderful, making great landscape shots that included animals in the scene. This is a great shoot!

One of the most photogenic locations in the United States is the sandstone/red rock country of southwestern Utah. Here, in the land of Zion, Bryce, and Cedar Breaks, the land is twisted, split, eroded, and worn into fantastic shapes, much of it painted with the unique pigments of this ancient seabed's red sandstone. Now, imagine in this grand landscape some of the most elusive but photogenic wildlife subjects in North America - cougars, gray fox, bobcat, bear. If you can imagine that, you'll have an idea of the types of photographs possible on this unique wildlife model shoot.

We'll be shooting for three days, with a fourth for a special falconry and small animal session. We'll be doing a total of 8 shooting sessions in the three days of shooting, averaging almost three shoots a day. Our subjects will include a cougar (hopefully with young kittens!), bobcat, red fox, gray fox, coyote, wolves, black bear, grizzly bear, badger, raccoon, striped skunk, and possibly even more.

We'll be filming our subjects in habitat appropriate for the species we're shooting. Our cougar will be filmed in a red rock setting, as will the gray fox, as these species are typical of what is found in these habitats. Others may be filmed in brushy, semi-wooded, or wetland habitats. In short, your images will look authentic, but some of them, by virtue of the landscape, may look downright beautiful!


Our Subjects

You will be shooting a smorgasbord of North American predators, including wolf, coyote, puma, bobcat and also including smaller major predator, like badgers, skunks, raccoons, and two species of fox (red and gray).

We'll also be filming at least one black bear, either a black phase or a brown phase. Black bears are common to the wild lands of Utah, both in the coniferous high country as well as in the high desert, provided there is some cover and water available. Of special interest to me is the cougar. Not only is this large American cat my personal symbol for this region - I can't drive through that country without thinking and hoping I'll see one - but Triple D is timing the breeding cycle of their cat to hopefully have kittens in time to be used with this shoot. I drool at the thought of shooting a mom cougar with kittens in this landscape! If the cougar has kittens (hard to predict months in advance!) we'll get the shots (and we've done so on previous Utah shoots!).

Our shoot will be divided among a variety of 'primary' and 'secondary' animals. The secondary species include striped skunk, porcupine, raccoon, and badger. We'll be shooting several of these, in addition to the primary species which are our primary focus.

Our Time Frame

A mandatory orientation meeting conducted will be held on the first evening of our photo shoot, on April 9th . Mary and I will also do an introductory slide presentation (or a power point presentation on computer) where we'll review the subjects and, far more importantly, the techniques we'd suggest you use for a successful shoot. We'll discus metering, composition, AF concerns, and group dynamics and protocol.

The group will formally meet at The Best Western Lamp Lighter in Hurricane, Utah on the first evening of our shoot (April 9th). Hurricane is approximately 22 miles from St. George (which has an airport, but the airfare costs would be high) and 138 miles from Las Vegas (which has some of the cheapest airfares in the country). If you fly, you'll have to rent a vehicle and drive to Hurricane. We will provide a pretrip participants' list that you may wish to use for carpooling or for sharing a car rental. Plan on arriving in Las Vegas (if you fly) by early afternoon for the 2.5 hour drive to Hurricane in time for our welcome dinner and our orientation meeting.


We'll be photographing the next four days, with our shooting times determined the evening before by the Triple D staff. Depending upon the location and the subject, that starting time will usually be at dawn, but a special site could be as late as 8:30AM. Shoots will continue throughout the day, with a break for an on-site lunch at the Triple D base camp. Our last shooting session of the day may conclude by 6PM or 7PM or even a bit later, again depending upon the subject, the lighting we desire, and the location of the shoot.

The shoot formally concludes the night of April 13th, after our farewell dinner. You will be free to leave anytime on the morning of April 14th . This might be the perfect time to do a two or three day visit to nearby Zion National Park.

Benefits of this Photo Shoot

If you sell photographs you probably know that American predators are best sellers.
If you photograph for your own pleasure or for camera club competition or for prints, this shoot will provide you with an extremely wide range of subject matter.
If you normally photograph solo and haven't considered filming with a group, I don't think you'll find it compromising. On my personal shoots I often find I pick one spot and spend a great deal of time at that location, using a zoom for compositional changes. On group shoots, we encourage people to do likewise, but then to change positions with other photographers to get a different viewpoint and perspective.

After doing my first Utah Shoot in 2002 I discovered another major benefit of this shoot, in shooting with a group. Since these Utah shoots are group oriented, a leader is really required to take charge and to pick locations and scenarios that will work. I discovered that we picked spots that were never used before, locations that were not obvious but were extremely attractive in terms of lighting and landscape, and extremely beneficial to our subjects. You cannot do that on an unguided group shoot! Another real benefit of shooting Triple D for me was the close working distances I enjoyed. I used a 70-200 f2.8 lens for the majority of the shoot, sometimes adding a 1.4X tele-converter for increased length. I carried a 300 f2.8 lens with me, but I only used it with the 1.4X two or three times in two weeks of shooting. I did use fill flash quite often, and at the close working distances the flash worked great, especially on -1.7 fill.


I'll be conducting a series of informal digital instructional workshops in the afternoon 'off hours' of this shoot. Our shooting schedule usually provides several hours between lunch and our afternoon/early evening shoot which we use to show slides and review portfolios of our participants.

This year I'll be addressing DIGITAL concerns as well, including the all-important workflow -- what do you do and where do you go with the images you're shooting? I'll show you the BEST method to edit RAW digital files, and discuss options for cataloging images. Further, I'll demonstrate Photoshop techniques that you can use to maximize the potential of your images and for those you may make if you extend your stay for Zion or Bryce.

Laptops won't be required, as these discussions will be demonstrations via my laptop and digital projector, but you may wish to bring your laptop to download images and to try some of these techniques yourself.

Transportation concerns

A four wheel drive or other high clearance vehicle is required to drive to some of our sites. You can rent a vehicle from Las Vegas most economically for the trip to Hurricane, Utah.

You may wish to consider extending your visit in southern Utah. We're only 20 miles from the south entrance to Zion National Park at Springdale and only a 2.5 hours drive from Bryce National Park. Both parks are beautiful at this time of year. Zion, in mid-April will have many spring wild flowers and lemon-green new growth in the cottonwoods. Bryce may still have some of the hoodoos and erosion formations capped with snow. And, by mid-April, Bryce might be great for wildlife. The endangered white-tailed prairiedog may be out, and wild turkey and mule deer are common in this park. For any of these parks an SUV could be useful, especially if you drive to Bryce or to Page, Arizona for the slot canyons -- which are both within an easy half-day's drive from Zion.


Lodging is included. We'll be basing our shoot from the Best Western motel in Hurricane. Details will be forwarded to participants. The price of the photo shoot is based upon double occupancy. There will be a single supplement available for those interested.


We'll be providing a Welcome Dinner on our first evening and a Farewell Lunch or Dinner on the last day of your shoot. Lunches will be provided for the three days of the shoot.

Price: $2,399

The fee also is based upon a total of 8 shooting sessions including a mix of primary species, secondary species, and a special falconry shoot. The Photo Tour fee includes lodging in Hurricane based upon double occupancy, lunches during the three shooting days with predators, and two dinners.


Day 1, April 9: Arrival in Hurricane, Utah, by 5PM. Welcome dinner and orientation that evening. Overnight, Best Western Motel, Hurricane.
Day 2-4, April 10-12: Predator shoot in Utah's red rock country. Overnights, Best Western Motel, Hurricane.
Day 5, April 13:
Birds of Prey shoot. Farewell lunch or dinner. Overnight. Best Western Motel, Hurricane.
Day 6, April 14: Morning checkout from our motel. Departure from Hurricane. Return home, or go visit Zion!

Contact our Office to REGISTER for this Photo Shoot

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

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