Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's


Reptiles of the World

Photo Shoot!
Truly one of the most unique photographic opportunities available anywhere...

featuring venomous snakes as well
as a variety of nonvenomous herptiles

This may be the LAST TIME we offer this incredible photographic opportunity.
My principle reptile supplier/handler is retiring his collection so my main source
for specimens will be gone.

This year's shoot may offer the greatest diversity ever, as I'm borrowing specimens
from a zoo specializing in reptiles, and another good friend is bringing in specimens
from his collection as well, in addition to those supplied by my usual reptile guy.
The shooting opportunities, not only in terms of specimens but also in how we do
this shoot are unparalleled.
This year I've constructed an eye-level 8x12 foot water set
for photographing some of our water-dwelling subjects, like Saltwater Crocodile,
American Alligator, tree iguana, and more. All of our subjects are shot without
glass -- and with our flashes to provide the sharpest, most detailed images you
can imagine. As I write this, I'm saddened to think that this may be the end
of one of the most unique shoots offered anywhere. So ... don't miss this chance!

July 13-18, 2009


Imagine obtaining a subject-level, full-frame portrait of a tropical rhinocerous viper, one of the most deadly snakes in the world. Imagine being eye-level with a hooding Indian Cobra, reared up in a threat display just feet away from your camera.

Imagine the compositional potential of a rattlesnake's head and tail, juxtapositioned together in a natural pose that combines the essential elements of this unique group of snakes.

Imagine ... caimens, alligator snapping turtles, king snakes, Argentine horned frogs, and more, filmed closeup, with great depth of field, razor sharp!

Imagine attending this very, very unique photographic opportunity, our reptile and amphibian photo shoot in studio, where you'll have a safe, and exciting, opportunity to film a variety of subjects generally unattainable to the nature and wildlife photographer.

The Following is the complete brochure. It will take a few minutes to read. If you'd like, click here to View a Reptiles of the World Portfolio, or
to return to
HomePage. or to photo tours general information.


Here's the details:

We'll be shooting in studio conditions, that is, using recreations of natural habitats and using electronic flash units for illumination. You'll be using our lighting setups, with studio lights that will you to enjoy great depth of field while still having a reasonably fast flash duration. Our habitats will as closely match that of our subject's natural habitat as is possible. Further, we make natural and exciting lighting setups, so your images won't look flat and will not look like your typical (read boring, unnatural, flat) flash photographs.

In contrast to other reptile shoots being offered, you use our flash equipment for guaranteed great lighting. And our groups are small!

Our habitats will as closely match that of our subject's natural habitat as is possible. We'll use 'generic' dirt, sand and gravel to recreate the substrate for our cobras, sand-dwelling vipers, and similar species, and a mixture of tropical and deciduous leaves and branches for a recreation of a jungle floor habitat for tropical species. I've done this often, and by carefully composing so that an individual leaf does not appear, the substrate that is visible becomes 'generic' and truly could have been filmed anywhere. Since I've started doing this shoot I've had the opportunity to visit many of the habitats where our subjects live, and had the chance to confirm what I already knew -- our sets are authentic!

Because you'll have the opportunity to use our electronic flash units, you won't need to worry about lighting or about understanding flash technique. We'll set up multiple units to provide even, natural-looking lighting that will bring out the best color in our subjects, and allow you to use your fastest flash synch speed and smallest apertures for greatest depth of field. My primary flash system is a three flash head Dynalite, complete with modeling lights. This system provides a 0.9 second recycling time, modeling lights for accurate lighting ratios, and a fast enough flash duration to freeze a snake's exploring tongue. As a backup we'll have Sunpak flashes - a flash system I used professionally for years. Setups are double-checked by both a light meter and by a digital camera to insure that everything looks just perfect -- and it does.

Additionally, you'll also be perfectly safe. Many species of venomous snake are lethargic, as if they're merely waiting for you to come in close enough to 'make their day'. We'll stay out of the danger zone for these species and all other potentially dangerous snakes.

You'll also be under our complete control and command. This workshop will be limited to only six photographers who will take turns shooting the subjects we have displayed. Because these animals are potentially lethal we will demand your total and complete cooperation. There will be no horseplay or fooling around, and anyone who does not take this seriously will be immediately removed from the shoot, before a snake removes that person from this world. I'll have liability release forms, and a contract drawn which states that anyone not following our instructions and safety precautions will be excused from the shoot and will forfeit their fee in doing so. If this sounds hard-nosed, it is, but we'll be responsible for your safety and the groups, and we're taking this very seriously.

We'll have a variety of subjects on hand, actually far more than your time may allow you to shoot. The venomous subjects may include a few species of copperhead, rattlesnake, cottonmouth; Indian cobras; Gaboon vipers; rhinocerous vipers; puff adders; tree vipers; and perhaps a few extras. The nonvenomous subjects may include rat snakes, tricolored king snakes (the coral snake-like mimics), terrestrial and arboreal boas, and small pythons. We may also have a few species of amphibian, including Argentine horned frogs (extremely colorful), and treefrogs. We may have a tank or pond setup for water-level shots of alligator, caimen, or aquatic turtles.

The Subjects: I don't own the animals we'll be shooting. Mike and Gary, two good friends and excellent herpetologists, do and it's their herptiles we'll be using. Exactly what we'll film depends upon the feeding or shedding schedule of a specimen, or upon its general health or temperment. Mike or Gary brings the best they have to offer, and brings along more than we have time to film. This guarantees that your time will be well spent in filming, even if you're a bit frustrated if we do run out of time before you run out of subjects. Typically, these shoots consist of a few species of rattlesnakes (2003's shoot had 22 species or subspecies of rattlesnake available), copperheads, tropical Old World Vipers, New World vipers, and a few nonvenomous snakes, lizards, and amphibians. The latter might include boas or pythons, iguanas or geckos, treefrogs or venomous toads, or more.

You'll note that in this brochure's introductory paragraphs I mentioned 'hooding cobras, caimens, alligators, and other species.' We have filmed all of these animals in the past, but on your particular shoot please be aware the cobras, or caimens, or some other species may not be available, for the reasons noted above. This shouldn't adversely affect your shoot, as there will be plenty of subjects available and you'll have more than enough species to shoot. I just don't want anyone to be disappointed because they read that we shot a species, like cobras, but on this shoot we will not be. To give you an idea of what is filmed on a typical shoot, please look at our trip update for our 2002 shoot.

No matter what, we always have more subjects than you have time to shoot. We do this for several reasons. One, we do not know how quickly some groups will work, and how many subjects they may potentially shoot. We have averages, but we always want to be prepared for any eventuality. Two, some subjects may not cooperate. For example, we may have three or four cobras on hand, but only one may decide to cooperate and to stand up and hood. The others, try as we might, just try to crawl away. By having several specimens available, we maximize our chances of success and you won't be frustrated or disappointed by not being able to shoot a subject.

The Opportunity: The opportunity is truly unique. Personally, I've never bothered to film reptiles or amphibians in a public zoo because poses, lighting, glass clarity, or just the crowds have prevented me from really shooting film the way I'd like to. Accordingly, up until the time I began doing these snake shoots, my file of exotic reptiles was very limited. It is no longer. In our reptile shoots we've filmed arboreal emerald tree boas, colorful and dramatic arboreal Wagler's tree vipers, rainbow-hued rhinocerous vipers, hooding albino Indian cobras, cute-eyed treefrogs and lizards, and much more. All under the very best of conditions, with flashes that created exactly the type of lighting that was required, in poses that are visually interesting and dynamic. You simply cannot film these animals in a zoo in this way, and after this shoot you won't even wish to try!

The Price: The workshop fee is $TBA and includes great food and lodging for the 5 day shoot.. The workshop will begin at 8PM, on the first day of the shoot, where I'll cover the basics of shooting our subjects by reviewing the studio shoot and by projecting slides that illustrate animals and techniques we've used on our previous reptile photo shoots. On subsequent days, we'll shoot from 9AM until 5:00PM, with breaks for lunch and dinner (2 hour dinner break). After dinner on our first full day of shooting, you're invited to bring along 50 images (35mm slides are preferred) for group projection. This is a welcome, relaxing break where new ideas are shared after an exhausting day shooting film. Typically, on our second full day we take the evening off or we do a mini-shoot of nonvenomous species like lizards, frogs, and treefrogs -- subjects that do not require the same focused energy.. On your last day we'll shoot from 9AM until 3:30PM (lunch break only). A complete list of suggested equipment, directions, room reservation forms, liability release forms and the 'contract' will be forwarded to participants. Participants are limited to six.

Because of the potential danger of this shoot, we reserve the unquestioned right to either remove a potentially dangerous or reckless individual who poses a risk to himself (or herself) or to others either during the shoot or prior to registration. Participants must sign a full waiver-release form prior to arriving at this shoot.

The Location: McClure, Pa. at our shooting studio at Hoot Hollow. Directions will be supplied to registered participants. McClure is located in central Pennsylvania about 45 miles southeast of State College (home of Penn State University), in the center of the state, between Lewistown and Selinsgrove on US route 522.

For those flying in, Harrisburg is the nearest airport served by United, Delta, and Northwest Airlines among others. Car rentals are available here. Both bus and train service are available to Lewistown and arrangements can be made for your pick-up there.

Participants will be staying at a nearby Farm Vacation home, where you'll have the choice of either a private cabin or a bed and breakfast style room in the main farm house. Breakfasts and Saturday dinner will be served at Mountain Dale Farm, and lunches here at our home.

Finally, this is an exclusive photo shoot limited to only six photographers. This shoot is very popular, so if you're interested, please place your $500 deposit as soon as possible. Thanks!

Contact us by e-mail at

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

About Your Leaders

Contact our Office to REGISTER for this Photo Shoot

View a Reptiles of the World Portfolio


Return to HomePage or to photo tours general information.