MEET OLYMPUS EDUCATORS JOE AND MARY ANN MCDONALD
WHO ARE YOU?
Since 1984 Joe has been a full-time professional wildlife photographer, joined by his wife Mary Ann in 1987. For the last twenty years they have spent at least half the year leading photography tours and workshops worldwide, with many of their trips specializing on the world’s big cats.
Both Mary and I are from Pennsylvania. Joe grew up in the Lehigh Valley, just a few miles from Olympus’ US headquarters. Mary grew up in central PA.
We specialize in wildlife photography, particularly the big cats and action shooting. In this field Joe may be best known for his high-speed flash and camera triggering work, although both of us enjoy shooting live, in the field.
WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU WERE A PHOTOGRAPHER?
a. Having an interest in reptiles, Joe began photographing reptiles and other animals when Joe was 14 years old. Joe began selling images to the National Wildlife Federation’s film library while still in high school, and during college had numerous features in National Wildlife magazine. Stock agencies came next, and soon after turning pro full-time Joe began leading photo safaris.
Mary began her photo career after taking one of Joe’s workshops in the Florida Everglades. Published images from that trip and the trips to follow occurred soon after. In 1988 Mary joined Joe in leading photo tours around the world.
Both Joe and Mary Ann have always been interested in wildlife and nature, and although Joe has photographed weddings, portraits, and some commercial work, their hearts and interests lie with wildlife.
Joe was influenced by a National Geographic photographer, Frederick Kent Truslow, who wrote a how-to article in that magazine that changed his shooting style and method of working. He was a freshman in college at the time.
How did you get started with the Olympus system?
We tried out the E-M1 Mark II and some lenses on a pro loaner program. We took the gear to Yellowstone and we were impressed. We continued our tests in Kenya and in Chile, and after those tests we were sold and completely switched our systems.
What’s your go-to Olympus setup?
Both Mary and I have the same kit. We both use E-M1X and E-M1 Mark II camera bodies, M.Zuiko 300mm F4.0 IS PRO, 40-150mm F2.8 PRO, 12-100 F4.0 IS PRO and 7-14mm F2.8 PRO zoom lenses, M.Zuiko 60mm macro lens, and FL-900R flash. This kit goes with us everywhere we photograph.
How does Olympus help you do your job?
I tested the M,.Zuiko 300mm F4.0 IS PRO against several different manufacturer’s lenses before I made the switch, and I was sold. The image quality is superb, with a sharpness I don’t believe I’ve ever seen previously.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT BEING A MEMBER OF THE OLYMPUS FAMILY?
The support we’ve received from Olympus has been the best we’ve ever had, and we’ve been in the pro programs of several of the top camera manufacturers over the years. We’re also extremely happy with the innovations and cutting edge technology that we’ve been able to incorporate into our photography.
TIPS FOR OTHER BUDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS
Since the Olympus gear is smaller and lighter than most competing brands, especially the full-frame DSLRs, one could be dismissed and not considered a ‘serious’ photographer. Ego and, I hate to say, ignorance on the part of photographers lugging around heavy, huge lenses have those shooters ‘missing the boat’ as well as missing great shots simply because they cannot react or move nearly as fast as we can with our lightweight gear. Our advice: don’t let ego get in the way of great images. We didn’t, and we’re shooting better than we ever have before!
TIPS FOR OTHER PRO PHOTOGRAPHERS
Our tip to our other pro-photographers, particularly those with Olympus is this: Try experimenting with all the neat features that these cameras have to offer. At this point I couldn’t live without Pro Capture, but Focus Stacking for macro, Live Composites for incredible images, and Live Boost and Focus Assist have all been incredibly useful for both of us.