Mary Ann and Joe McDonald are professional wildlife photographers who, together, lead photography tours around the world and teach photo workshops at their home, Hoot Hollow, in central Pennsylvania. Their images appear in many national and international nature magazines, calendars and books. Mary Ann is the author of 29 natural history children’s books. She has gone to many elementary schools as a visiting author and has written a coffee table book on the Amish. Joe is the author of six how-to photography books. He is co-author of a book on digital nature photography with Mary Ann and fellow photographer Rick Holt, and he and Mary Ann have written a book and produced a video for Photographing on Safari. Joe has written several coffee table books on jaguars and tigers and is currently writing books on Indian wildlife, creatures of the night, world’s deadliest creatures and camouflage in nature. Mary Ann’s photography awards include two first-place awards and several other awards in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, first place in the Nature’s Best Photography competition and first place in the old AGFA competition in South Africa. Joe has won first place in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition as well as several second and third places. This will be Mary Ann and Joe’s 28th year leading photo safaris to East Africa, and next year they will celebrate 100 treks to Rwanda to photograph the mountain gorillas. Joe became a NANPA Fellow in 2002 and Mary Ann in 2010. (Note: The following questions were answered by Mary Ann.)
Do you have a “day” job? What do you do?
We are full-time professional wildlife and nature photographers who have been doing this together for 28 years now. We teach photo workshops at our house, Hoot Hollow, in central Pennsylvania. We lead photo tours around the world. We sell images both through photo stock agencies and out of our office. We give evening lectures to different organizations as well as public lectures on wildlife photography, ecotourism and conservation issues, such as saving biodiversity. We write magazine articles as well as photography how-to books, coffee table books and natural history books for children. As you can see, wildlife and nature photography is our passion, our life, our career and just about everything for us.
How have you been involved in NANPA?
Joe is a founding member of NANPA and we are both NANPA Fellows. Joe has been on the Board of Directors and has taught workshops at some of the Summits. We were keynote speakers at one Summit, and I was the Master of Ceremonies at several. I’ve hosted both a live auction and a silent auction at the Summits, and I’ve had the privilege to auction off Jane Kinne’s favorite jacket. Both Joe and I helped to mentor the high school students by spending a day with them at several different Summits. We also worked with the college students by volunteering to look over their portfolios at a Summit. I helped to research and draft a proposal for NANPA way back when the airlines were changing their checked luggage policies. We both helped with a regional event in San Diego a few years back.
What were your greatest accomplishments or the highlights thus far of what you have done for NANPA?
Even though we were never on a committee (due to our hectic travel schedule), we’ve helped with projects throughout the years on a more unofficial level. Working with the high school kids was a highlight for us. We both love teaching, so we felt that working with the students was one of the most rewarding things we have ever volunteered to do with NANPA. Their talent was unbelievable and their ideas were so refreshing, so real and so passionate. It was fun to teach them different photography techniques and watch the light bulb go off and then for them to take the concept, the new technique, and take off with it to make it their own by creating some unique images. We usually worked with them in regards to flash photography. It was challenging but very rewarding as well.
Give me a stage and I am happy! It was fun emceeing the Summits and getting to meet some of my photography idols and then to introduce them to the crowd. I loved getting crazy and doing whatever it took for the cause. I played Marilyn Monroe at the silent auction, and for $100 I sang Happy Birthday to the highest bidder just like Marilyn did to JFK. I wore 22 or so items of clothing for the live auction and for every $500 we made, I took off an item. Luckily I didn’t have to go down to my bathing suit, but it was close. And of course there was the time I channeled some of Lucille Ball’s best comedic moments for my introduction.
Another of Joe’s accomplishments was serving on the Board of Directors.
How long have you been a NANPA member?
Joe is a founding member and I joined either in year two or three.
Do you have a goal as it pertains to NANPA?
As I said, we love to teach and want to continue to share our knowledge. Joe and I hope to be able to help with more regional events. We would like do a workshop at the next Summit or, wishful thinking, another keynote speech. We are hoping to have the time to do a webinar for the NANPA membership. And yes, I would love to emcee again sometime. It’s so much fun to get everybody revved up for a great Summit and to keep that energy going throughout. Who knows, maybe someday one of us will serve on the board again.