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for our D CNPC and Advanced D CNPC

Hi Mary Ann and Joe, I’ve been home for a few days now and settled into the work mode once again, which has given me some time to reflect on last week. I just wanted to say what a pleasure it was to get to know you both, as well as the others from the group, and what a great time I had. The course is very well executed with a proper amount of material from the various areas of photography and post-production. I personally could have done a whole week on post-production alone, but what I learned will serve me well for a long while. 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. For future reference, please continue with the exposure quizzes. While some might not appreciate being put on the spot, this was an effective way to learn as well as reinforce the material we were learning. Having the instant feedback coupled with your additional input, regardless of whether our answers were correct or not, was critical for retaining the material. I feel confident that I will miss fewer opportunities, particularly those involving wildlife, as a result. 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. It was very clear to me that you thoroughly enjoy what you do and love to interact with people. Regarding cost, the course is very reasonable. During the past few days, I’ve informed everyone at work that the course was worth it for the food alone (please thank Sally and Roy for me once again!). Costs are costs, but for the benefit of future participants, I hope you are able keep prices similar. Some people attend such courses and workshops for the material they can take away with them, but for me it’s far more about the whole experience. And my experience was excellent! I wish I was still there and look forward to future adventures together! Thanks for a great experience!

"Most of the people in this course were interested in wildlife photography. I am not. Their idea of a macro shot is one of a bee in a flower, mine is a shot of a little kid's latest Lego creation. You would be making a mistake not to take this course not matter what subject matter you like. Having done other workshops, I can say that I learned the most from this one. Unlike some others which are almost more about travel than photography, this is an intense course about flash and the travel is very limited -- basically from the farm where you stay to Hoot Hollow. The learning is done in the classroom and on site, which is exactly what I wanted as I want to learn techniques to apply anywhere I shoot. Some of the concepts (for example the inverse square law) take a little time to absorb but are so important that it is worth the investment. Mary Ann did not participate much due to a recent surgery, but Joe made himself 100% available and is a fantastic teacher. No offense to Mary Ann, but I am not sure how much more she could have added. Also, the team assignments were really fun and led to the group working together and learning from one another. I could not recommend this course more highly and it will open up a new arsenal for anyone." Peter Brock

Hey Joe, I had a tremendous experience on your last course.

Hey Folks! I'd like to express my gratitude for the fine course you presented last week. I gained a lot from it. I'm impressed with the hospitality and graciousness shown by everyone Liz and I came in contact with while we were there. It was truly a great time; too bad it had to come to a close.

Joe and Mary Ann, I wanted to thank you both so much for a wonderful day of instruction and conversation. 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. Although I loved the personalized instruction, I kind of wish I had been able to take one of your workshops and stay the entire week. Your property is beautiful and the life you both have created is so amazing! I have been looking more at your website this morning and your trips - they all sound perfect! I'm definitely going to tell my friends about you and hopefully some will join you on your trips. I also can't stop telling my friend here how great it was, so hopefully you will be meeting her sometime in the future.Thanks again and I'll try and send you some shots once I get a hang of the manual thing :) I'm hoping it clicks (no pun intended) sooner than later. I'm also starting to save for the new camera gear....ahhh...the never ending desire for gear :)Best,

I intended to get a more formal thank you note sent to thank all of you, but knowing the hectic pace of life I’m not convinced that’s going to happen. 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. Looking back it was probably a very good thing that I didn’t have access to my cell phone and didn’t have time to sit at the farm late at night answering emails. It was a great mix of learning venues between the farm, the forest, the classroom etc. I think we all appreciated the great effort on the food as well. I felt like I was on safari and being treated to lavish lunches! Great recipes. You’ll have to let us know when you recipe book is finished, Mary Ann. I don’t know how I managed to still fit into my clothes by the end of the week. Mary Ann, I do hope you continue to bounce back from your knee surgery. What a trooper to put up with all of us so soon after the surgery. And Joe, you must have been a grade school teacher because you were certainly able to communicate to us on our level!! And the patience shown by both of you . . . terrific. It was a great experience all in all. I promise to put the learning to work (I already have) and when I feel ready to take on a moving subject I hope to book one of your trips. And I know I’m not alone in that desire. To faster swimming, faster convalescing, great shooting, and more great cooking. Many, many thanks to all of you!

Hi, 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. I know it can be difficult to have a vegetarian in your midst so I particularly want to thank you for all the wonderful options you prepared for me. I understand the extra effort that it required and I appreciate it. I also want to apologize for "cheating" on the rolling object homework. I truly didn't think I was cheating at the time. I guess I latched on to that last part of the description and convinced myself that "conveying the sense that it was moving" was okay. I feel bad about how that turned out. Please accept my apology. Thanks again for everything! Hope you're on your way to a pain-free recovery! All the best

Hello MaryAnn….and Joe, I am forwarding you my favourite shot of the week. 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! Don't be surprised if you see me joining you on one of your outings in the future. Again thank you very much for all that you taught us!

I’ve been an avid flash photographer for many years and thought I understood it very well until I met Joe and Mary Ann McDonald and attended their Advanced Digital Nature Photo Workshop. Up until then, I had determined my flash exposures by trial and error and missed a lot of images while calibrating my histogram. This workshop really opened my eyes to what I’d been missing. We learned to use flash TTL to potentials I never knew existed. Furthermore, Joe lectured and provided reinforcing hands-on exercises to drive home his information. We also learned manual flash operation and how to visualize layering lights in night-time photo-traps scenarios. Our classes went from early morning to late nights and there wasn’t a boring moment in the whole class. Joe is a natural instructor and explains complicated subjects with an air of simplification that only comes from a mastery of this subject. In short, I’m leaving this workshop with tons of new information and capabilities. This was time well spent.

The Flash Course with Joe McDonald was educational and inspiring.  The course began with a homework assignment that was due on the first day of class.  This was very valuable to me because it got me thinking about the issues we would be working on months before the workshop began.  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.  I agonized about spending my money on better equipment or instruction.  I made the right choice, and I look forward to another workshop with Joe and Mary

This is the second Complete Nature Photography Course I have taken with the McDonald’s, and Joe and Mary Ann have continued with their superior level of technical expertise, classroom instruction and expansive knowledge of everything nature and photography.  With the enormous change that digital technology has brought to the art of photography, and nature photography in particular, the McDonald’s have incorporated the latest techniques with time proven basics in exposure, composition and thinking through the shot.  Joe has included fundamental workflow techniques for digital image handling - from cataloging images to to cleanup and presentation.  Mary Ann provides the artistic touch to composition and ensures each student understands scene content to get the right shot settings for fast moving subjects.  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.

I attended the week long Nature Photography Class (workshop or dubbed “camp” by my group) this year at Hoot Hollow.   What an amazing class with great students!  Joe and Maryann’s teaching style is excellent…they will work with you until you understand the concepts and until you can put them into correct use.   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!   Even though I’m fairly well-versed in Lightroom and Photoshop and digital workflow, I learned a lot in the second half of the class.    The entire week was full of great information, great feedback and a lot of improvement and learning.If you want to bring your photography to the next level, you must take this class!

More Testimonials for our Classes and our other offerings
THANK YOU for all you put into making your photo tours/workshops/safaris so very special.  The amount of preparation you do is very clear ..never have I got so much detailed, useful and essential information before a trip.  It sure helps with the packing, gear choices, and peace of mind.  I’m also impressed with the follow-up ..Joe’s trip reports are fantastic for getting details straight for labelling images, locations etc.  Then there is the actual tour ..instant rapport with everybody.  Everything works smoothly and your vast accumulated experience allows you to role with whatever nature, tourists, wardens, and participants throw your way.  The conversations in the van are always interesting, enlightening, and worthwhile.  Then, there is Mary’s phenomenal field kitchen ..first class, healthy food, filling, and most importantly, served with a smile.  That provides for a great deal of flexibility.  Clearly you have been impressing many others equally, as you have a lot of repeaters ..the greatest  vote of confidence. [ Last, but certainly not least, there is (was) John.  What a special guy he is (was)! ]  I’m now part of your large  ‘Hoothollow Family” and that’s a pleasure and an honour.

"Most of us know the basics of photography but this course really provides the detail to take your ability to the next level. If you ...fumble with frightening flash ....then you'll love this course,  Joe provides the no nonsense approach to TTL and Manual flash so you understand what you are doing and why. I just adored the high speed flash sections and the hands on set-up to take cool photos of birds in flight and animals at night. This is the course I always wanted"

The Advanced Digital course definitely gave armed me with new tools to take my photography to the next level. From TTL and manual flash to fill flash to macro, most of us in the class had "dabbled" with these techniques but never formally learned or practiced them. The class instruction, field assignments and group review sessions really drove home how to use these tools and improve composition. We all learned so much from Joe, MaryAnn and the great interaction with other photographers for a week. Randy Gebhardt

I want to take this opportunity to thank you immensely for the opportunity to participate in Hoothollow's Advanced Flash Course. I found your presentation and coverage of TTL, manual and high speed flash in general to be professional, thoroughly covered and very well supported by supplementary course notes.  Your method of presenting theory and the requirement to conduct hands on practical assignments provides a wonderful opportunity for learning flash photography. No doubt, flash photography opens up a world of new photographic opportunities for me and it has been a revelation to have attended this course.

The advanced flash course was great and helped me a lot. It really brought together the interaction between conventional ambient light photography and flash photography. I was really comfortable with each used alone but this course taught me to look for the interplay between them and taught me how to control both to get great images in all those situations that were troublesome before. Thank you for once again expanding my knowledge and horizons in the vast world of photography. Chuck Rohn

Dear Joe and Mary Anne
I just completed your really outstanding Digital Complete Nature Photography Course and wanted to thank you very much for your energy and drive and how much I learned. You are natural teachers with the gift of teaching at multiple levels and getting your knowledge and experience across in a charming and wonderful way. I have already recommended your course to several freinds who think they are proficient photography but in all honesty need to  have their eyes opened to the techniques and composition you taught so well. I plan to come back for more! Thank you once again,Peter

Dear Joe & Mary,
Thank you so much for the updates and pictures!! The trip to Kenya for me , was certainly the most  amazing trip of a lifetime!   I will never forget what an extraordinary experience I had being with our very colorful  group , as well as our wonderful and most knowledgeable guides , and last but not least , you and  Joe for being there to protect as well as educate us, on the most beautiful jewel in the world.  I am so grateful and feel so fortunate to have experienced what a slice of heaven must feel like.  . This  trip would have never been the same without you , or the guides and people,  who so willingly,  shared their lives and experiences with us.  Kenya will always have a special place in my heart. I will never forget what I felt, learned,  and experienced during our amazing journey together. Thank you for introducing  me to a world that most people don't know or will ever understand. Fondly, Cynthia Chalfin


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