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The Olympus Camera
Photo Course

Exposure, Composition, Lens use,
Electronic Flash, and more ...

and LEARN and USE
the exciting features of the
latest Olympus and OM-1 Cameras


Using your OLYMPUS equipment!

at the
Hoot Hollow
DIGITAL Institute

mfog and forest
Learn Focus Stacking ... and mastering exposure!

The latest Olympus cameras offer incredible features that can take your photography, and your CREATIVE POTENTIAL, to an entirely new level. In this course, we'll not only be teaching the important fundamentals of photography but we'll also be concentrating on the features these cameras have to offer.

Many photographers do not know or recognize the incredible opportunities Olympus presents and are not exploiting the incredible advantages they haveto offer. We'll show you how to get the most out of your photography by incorporating these cameras full potential!
Read an Interesting Interview with Joe


Jumping Gray Squirrel using ProCapture

Olympus NPC - Mini
Dates: May 26-29, 2024
Price: $ 1695 - includes lunch, one dinner, and lodging!
(single occupancy)

Olympus NPC
Dates: June 2-7, 2024
July 14-19, 2024
Price: $ 2295 - includes lunch, one dinner, and lodging!
(single occupancy)

(Contact the office right away if you are interested in this course)

Please read some of our testimonials for our Courses.

But here are some excerpts if you don't wish to read all of the texts:

Most importantly, I wanted to convey that I was elated to discover that two of the giants in wildlife photography whom I have long admired from afar were indeed “real” people without ego. You both should be made aware of how approachable and open you are. I never felt like the course was a money grab and your hearts were not in it.

I learned so much and can't wait to practice it all. Joe - you are a great teacher and have a natural way of explaining things that just makes sense. That is a gift.

It was definitely a superb week of learning. And it was great fun being part of the group. I definitely left the week feeling like I learned more than I would have thought possible.

I want to thank you and Joe for an amazing week. Not only for your incredible patience and the invaluable knowledge you shared with us but also for the fabulous food and hospitality.

You both have a very refreshing teaching style, that allows people to absorb and actually learn what you are teaching. As I stated to Joe, before coming to your course, I could not even spell meatr-rring! And now I can't see myself shooting any other way than manual mode. This has been the best spent money, I have invested into photography….should have done it years ago!

No matter what the skill level, students have an opportunity to practice every aspect of the course through field assignments and class review.  All of this is conducted in a comfortable and friendly, fun setting.  I would highly recommend the DCNPC to anyone looking to improve their craft or even as a refresher.


Fireflies (Lightning Bugs) using Live Composite



For the last thirty years we have been offering THE DIGITAL COMPLETE NATURE PHOTO COURSE here at Hoot Hollow. And for the last eighteen years, those courses have been digital-based. The digital world is now the norm and we are excited about the photographic possibilities this provides.

We wish everyone that did our photo tours and safaris would take this course to maximize their experience and photo opportunities. This course would be a great introduction for a later tour to Kenya, India, Tanzania, Brazil's Jaguars, or Rwanda's Gorillas.

The Olympus-DCNPC is unique. Although the course stresses the importance of sound photographic techniques, emphasizing exposure, composition, and flash to make THE BEST IMAGES YOU CAN, RIGHT IN THE CAMERA, we'll be focused on all of this with the Olympus cameras. You'll see photography as you never have before, developing a competence in your skills while learning exciting new ways to further your artistic vision.

Limited to 8 participants, with two instructors for all field sessions, our people enjoy quality, personal care in this fast paced, challenging week.

Mastering the Menu -
what items you really need and
how to use them.
Special techniques-
Focus Stacking, Live ND, Live Composite, focus options and more
Master Exposure - Learn how to make a great exposure and forget all the guesswork! 
Composition - Learn the fine points of effective compositions - in Class and in our Field Sessions! 
Master TTL Flash - Everything YOU need to know, including how to balance flash with daylight as YOU control your lighting.
Lenses - Know what they do and how to use your lenses effectively, from powerful wide-angles to close-ups via macros or telephotos.
Digital Workflow - Make and keep order with your digital files.
RAW Conversion - Maximize each digital shot and eliminate/reduce any need for Photoshop!

If this interests you, PLEASE READ ON!

Learn Live ND for slow shutter speeds, and ProCapture for capturing action


Focus Stacking for great depth of field, and flash for macro and more!

About the Course...

Time Frame: Each course is intense, requiring commitment and long hours on everyone's part. Depending upon the weather, some 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 image sharing via digital projection, and further instruction. On most days we are often ending after 9PM!

This sounds like an incredibly long day, 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 Olympus-DCNPC is divided into lecture, computer lab time, and field camera sessions in a flexible schedule that accommodates the group's needs and accounts for the vagaries of weather. Most lecture and in-door instruction and computer lab time 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 occurs before and after breakfast and in the late afternoon. This schedule results in some shooting every day, so 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 in photography and digital photography. 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 digital SLR shooters, amateur or professional, who want to advance their skills in the most productive manner possible.

Basic Computer skills are required. You must know how to create a folder, and have a basic familiarity with such basic tasks as dragging files or folders. By this I do not mean you need to be a computer whiz by any means, but we cannot spend time teaching the basics of working a computer. If you have questions on this, please call and we can guide you on your decision.

This special course is limited to eight, with at least two instructors
for all field sessions.

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.

During the week, you'll have several shooting assignments to complete -- a week long portfolio (easy to get as we shoot during the week) and a short personal assignment, where some of these shoots will require computer manipulation as we composite images of varying exposure latitudes or composite for panoramas. Fun, challenging, and aimed at making you the best you can be -- you'll love the shooting.

jPreparation: 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.

Equipment: However, if you need help on buying equipment for the course, please feel free to call us for our best recommendations. The course is limited to digital SLR shooters -- since we'll be discussing TTL flash, using varying focal length lenses, etc. We feel that point-and-shoot digital camera users would not obtain sufficient benefit because of the topics we'll be covering.

Your basic equipment should include an Olynpus DIGITAL SLR camera (like the OM-1, M1X, OM-D-E Mark II or Mark III), a few lenses (12-100, 40-150), , and you might consider some telephoto reach, via a converter (1.4X oe 2X) or a fixed lens (300mm) although a telephoto will not be necessary for the course.
An electronic flash is extremely helpful and we'd recommend having one along. Olympus flashes, including the tiny hotshoe flash that was supplied with the Mark II camera will work for our purposes here, as will a variety of off-brand flashes like Phottix, Godox, etc. Please call our office if you need advice on models. However, a tripod is required and if you don't have one, call us for advise on a purchase.

bLocation: The course 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, at a farm vacation home, which we have been using since the inception of our courses here at Hoot Hollow. The Farm is an extremely target rich photo environment filled with interesting subjects, including Americana, farm animals, tools, and, nearby, wonderful Pennsylvania scenics.

Lunch is included. Lunch is served at Hoot Hollow. The food is delicious. All refreshments, including snacks, soft drinks, wine, and beer, are included. Don't plan on dieting that week! Although the objective of this course is not based around food, you wouldn't know it, for the meals are terrific and they are always a 'highlight' of the week, regardless. We will also have a Welcome Dinner.

Price: The tuition for the Olympus DCNPC is $2295 and includes dinner on Sunday, lunches Monday through Thursday, Wednesday breakfast in the field (if the weather permists), lodging (based upon single occupancy from Sunday through Thursday), and instruction. The fee does not include transportation to or from the course or during the course.
The tuition for the Olympus DCNPC - Mini is $1695 and includes dinner on Sunday, lunches Monday through Wednesday, Tuesday breakfast in the field (if the weather permists), lodging (based upon single occupancy from Sunday through Tuesday), and instruction. The fee does not include transportation to or from the course or during the course.
Some of what you'll learn...

b1. The Olympus Menu - What you need to use for effective nature and wildlife photography. We'll be putting those items on the favorites (Star or My Menu) menu for easy access.

2. The special features of Olympus - like Focus Stacking, Live ND, Live Composite, and more, that makes this system unique, and so useful!

We'll also be covering the basics of
photography, the essentials every good
photographer should master.

3. Exposure - You will become masters of your photography.
Here's a testimonial:
While most pros will tell you to just use your camera on Evaluative Metering and either Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority (or even Program), Joe and Maryann ACTUALLY teach you how to see light and how to evaluate it.  Even though 90% of the time, your camera will get the right exposure in evaluative metering - what about the other 10%?   If you know how to read the light - then you can get 100% of the shots 100% of the time! 

d4. TTL Electronic Flash - Flash imagery will no longer disappoint you. Many students feel this is one of the most important items
that they learned during the course, but knew nothing about before
they began the course!

Here's a testimonial:

The flash material is also going to prove invaluable. I have always been apprehensive to use flash in my photography. No more! I’m seeing all sorts of new possibilities now.

5.Workflow - Most digital photographers' image files are chaotic. We'll teach you a meaningful system, our system, that really works!4. RAW Conversion - You'll understand the power of RAW and be able to convert images so that no Photoshop work is required.

l6. File Management
While there are plenty of programs to manage your digital files,
it makes plenty of sense to use one program that covers all of
your needs. We'll introduce two that we think are extremely useful.
Our goal here is for you to easily find your images, and if you're competent with a particular system, that's OK with us!

8. Learn From Your Shooting. You'll be making photographs all week - we won't. Except for instructional demonstrations with our cameras and lenses, we won't be photographing during your week. Instead, our creative energies will be devoted to helping you reach your creative potential.


Live ND allows slow shutter speeds even in bright light for special effects,
and mastering flash can reveal an entirely new world.

The Photography Topics
covered in class and afield

The Olympus Menu and Features: We'll be covering, in depth, the menu items you really need as a nature and wildlife photographer, and you'll be applying that knowledge in practice sessions and real shooting situations. We'll be focus options and settings, special shooting features like Live ND for slow shutter speed images, Live Composite for night photography, Focus Stacking for incredible depth of field images, and much more.



The techniques and lessons you will learn will allow you
to take images like these.

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! And everyone feels this is one of the most important aspects of the course and the most satisfying.

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.

mElectronic Flash: This is one of the most important topics in the course, second only to exposure in interest and popularity. Many photographers avoid using flash because their images look 'flashed' or artificial. You WILL learn how to balance ambient light with flash, and the wonderful control you can have by actually understanding how flash works and when you'll wish to need it. We'll cover manual and TTL exposures and introduce you to multiple flash techniques; high speed flash; and remote flash setups, as a foundation for even further work with flash.


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.We'll be doing this through traditional photography, reviewing all the important concepts, but we'll also show you how you can expand your creative vision through Photoshop. Our goal is not to have Photoshop correct a poorly made image, but instead to show you how digital photography can expand your opportunities, and produce images not impossible to capture before. Real images, not fake composites, but images that require your 'seeing' the digital potential before you incorporate Photoshop to produce your results. Spectacularly EXCITING!


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.

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.

The above statement is even more relevant, and important, for digital photographers. While digital photography seems easy, because of the immediate feedback it provides, an 'easy' image doesn't necessarily make a good one. Further, digital shooting opens up a whole new world of opportunity where a photographer is no longer hampered by scenes with varying ranges of exposure (within limits, of course!), or by the limitations of a lens's depth of field. Wide-view images that lose their impact as a wide-angle shot become dynamic, riveting images when shot as a panorama -- sometimes by using a telephoto! A whole new world of photography is now available, one that truly mirrors what our eyes see and not what our films have been able to capture. Now, we can capture what we truly see, using digital to capture the world as we see it.
Many have compared our D-CNPC to a college-level course offered in an entire semester, 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!

Our goal is not simply to present a thorough and enjoyable Digital Photography Course but, quite sincerely, to offer the most complete, most rewarding, and simply the best instructional program you will find, anywhere. Feedback from our participants tell us we've met that goal; one we intend to continue to meet.

Our Location

Hoot Hollow 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.

Participants stay at the Mountain Dale Farm, a farm-vacation facility similar to a bed and breakfast. 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. -- filled with potential images. 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.

Breakfasts and dinners are not included. The various cabins offer a refrigerator, mocrowave and stove for you to prepare these meals for yourself. Lunches are served here at Hoot Hollow (the name of our property). One warning, however! The meals 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!

A special treat is our 'Happy Hour' that wraps up each evening where the group has a chance to relax, have a beer or a wine or a soft drink and a snack, and we feel that the camaraderie and 'family' that develops 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.

About Your Instructors

jJoe 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.

Joe is a gifted, inspirational teacher.  What I love about Joe’s method of teaching is that he motivates us to think and apply what we learn in hands-on situations.  Joe teaches with patience, enthusiasm, grace and humor.  I appreciate his sense of integrity and ethics.  Teaching facilities are first class.

In addition to maintaining an active and informative website,, Joe is a columnist for OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHER, writing the 'Focus on Big Game' column, and Joe and his wife Mary Ann write a photography column for Joe Van Os's web magazine, on wildlife and nature photography.
For over eighteen 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.

Mary Ann McDonald, who runs the business end of the Digital Institute as well as thefood-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. Her work has appeared in many of the major nature and wildlife publications in North America and is represented by several stock agencies worldwide, including Corbis and the BBC Natural History Archives. Mary Ann has been honored by winning in the Nature's Best Photo Competition and has won several times in the prestigious BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. In 1994, she won two first places, the only time for a woman to accomplish this in the history of the competition and in 2005, both Joe and Mary Ann were selected as winners, the first time a husband and wife team have separately won in the competition in the same year. In 2021, Joe and Mary Ann will be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the North American Nature Photographers Association (NANPA).

Our Educational Commitment - a note from Joe McDonald

If you've read the above biographies, you'll see that we 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.

Our goal is simple - to offer the most complete, thorough, and rewarding learning experience available, in terms of the knowledge you'll gain, the quality of the experience you'll have, the intensity, and, just as importantly, the amiability and fun you'll experience.

Contact us by e-mail.

Phone (717) 543-6423