Father Dan McLaughlin, osa | Digital Photo Academy Photo Essay Honor as Star Student

Digital Photo Academy Photo Essay Honor as Star Student

October 12, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

The following photo essay can be found on the WEB at:  http://www.digitalphotoacademy.com/DpaObjects/viewObject/37653


Star DPA student from Philadelphia Dan McLaughlin - Interview and Photo Essay

Father Dan McLaughlin

Interview and Photo Essay


Father Dan McLaughlin is an ordained priest and a member of the Order of Saint Augustine. He presides over the Eucharist celebration known as Mass at the National  Shrine of St. Rita on Broad Street in Philadelphia, PA. He is a longstanding DPA student and a wonderful photographer.


Following is an interview with Father Dan as well as examples of his photographic works.


Digital Photo Academy: Tell me about your experience with the Digital Photo Academy. What is the best class you have taken so far? What teachers have you worked with? What photographic skills have you learned?


Father Dan McLaughlin:

·      I have attended DPA classes for advanced students with Hinda Schuman.  During the class she spends time with each student while they photograph, observes their technique and makes recommendations.  After the photo-shoot the class meets at her studio where they download their photos onto a computer.   The images are projected on a screen and the class members learn how to improve their photography as Hinda offers helpful comments on their work. I have learned much by attending DPA classes and, always, I leave the class feeling eager to learn more about photography.


·      My best class with Hinda was a nature-walk photo shoot in Fairmount Parkin Philadelphia, Pa.  When Hinda saw my photos during the photo review session she saw some of my first serious attempts at capturing glimpses of what I think is beautiful in nature.


·      John Bentham is a DPA instructor who often taught via the school sponsored Webinar class held in the evening.  DPA students from across the country were encouraged beforehand to submit photos that met the criteria for the theme of the Webinar.  John used three of my photos for his Webinar classes.  The photos used are: Trees in the morning mist, Little Round Top at Gettysburg battlefield, and a parade photo I call “flag boy” of Civil War re-enactors.  I made the civil war photos look antique using NIK software andPhotoshop.


·      I have learned many photographic skills through DPA instruction.  I better appreciate the maxim of John Bentham to “get it right in the camera.”  The pain of trying to remove my photo mistakes with editing programs taught me to never forget this rule. I always try to remember the relational balance of ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Also, Hinda Schuman taught me to remember what should not be in the photo so that one could better appreciate its subject. 


Here is Dan's photo of Civil War re-enactors that he digitally manupulated to look as if it were taken during the civil war



DPA:  What steps did you take to turn a modern day photo into one that looks as if it was taken during the civil war?


Father Dan McLaughlin

·      The 2009 photo of the civil war re-enactors on parade was taken at the annual Remembrance Day parade.  The parade commemorates the dedication of the Gettysburg War cemetery by Abraham Lincoln in the third week of November just months after the famous July battle of 1863.  Re-enactor soldiers of the north and the south travel to Gettysburg to honor those who died not only in the famous battle but at any time in the civil war. I took photos of the parade in 2008 but at a part of the parade route there was a restaurant, a gas station and a motel in the background of all of my photos.  The next year I decided to move to a place on the parade route in an older part of town, where many buildings were built in the years before 1863.  There was a long sweeping hill that descended to the place where I took the photo.  I knew the hill would give one the sense that the re-enactor soldiers were coming towards the onlooker as if in an endless procession.  This feeling would be intensified by the vast array of rifles, flags, and uniforms.  When I saw the right combination of marchers for my photo I stepped off the curb and walked a few feet into the street.  I was able photograph the scene as I imagined it.  On my computer I was given an added surprise when I noticed the faces of the marchers had facial expressions clearly showing the solemnity of their task in remembering the dead.  In addition the young flag-bearer was looking up at his the United States flag –in seems in reverence - hence I call the parade photo “flag boy.”  For this photo I used the filter Antique Plate II found in NIK Silver Efex Proto give the photo a washed-out look of a old faded black and white photograph.  To further create the illusion of a civil war era photograph I edited the photo in Adobe Photoshop CS3 where I used the healing brush tool to “erase” the telephone wires, the painted lines on the street, signs on the sidewalk. I used the editing tool, content aware in Photoshop CS5 to remove a person watching the parade dressed in modern clothes.

·      Many people think the photo was taken during the civil war era.  I later found out from the people of Gettysburg that civil war buffs become very offended if someone tries to pass-off a modern photo as an authentic civil war era photo.  I was told it is best to leave something modern in a photo to avoid the anger of professional and amateur civil war historians.   My “flag boy” photo has two American flags - one is a civil war era flag, the other is modern.


Here is a before-and after of another photograph that Dan digitally transformed from modern day to Civil War era









DPA: Can you talk about your photography at the Mummers Day parade? 


Father Dan McLaughlin:  The photo of a woman mummer with a big smile wearing a red wig is important because you can see sidewalk spectators with hands clasped and with big smiles to show their joy at the end of the performance.  I am pleased with this photo because it reflects the advice given by Hinda Schuman who said that photos of a parade should show the expression of the crowd participating in the parade event.

·      The photo of mummers playing saxophones and dressed in costumes adorned with deck-of-cards decorations is a parade image I have been trying to capture for several years.  The photo is more like a collage and is abstract in appearance.  It shows mummers at oblique angles to one another, toes tapping, with the color of their costumes filing the frame.  The viewer can almost hear the sounds of the lively music played by the band.  I believe the photo stirs the viewer to want to attend a mummer’s parade to see and hear firsthand why it is such a wonderful and happy event.

DPA: Do you have any tips on how to photograph the mummers – or parades in general?


Father Dan McLaughlin:

·      One has to think of the weather conditions for a parade and how it will affect their photography.  The mummer’s parade for 2012 was a cloudless day.  To modify the bright light I used a 4x neutral density filter stacked with a polarizer filter.  I used my histogram to make adjustments to ISO and exposure compensation.  To prevent blurry photos I made sure I used a shutter speed of 1/125 of a second or faster.   A telephoto zoom lens is necessary.  This year I used a 50-200 mm Nikkor lens with vibration reduction.  In addition, I used spot-metering since I did not want the camera to meter the sky and the buildings or the spectators along the parade route.  A flash is helpful for locations that are backlit.  Other personal matters need to be considered such as wearing proper clothing and shoes that have good traction since one’s body will become a “human tripod” for a long period of time.  Wearing good shoes will reduce body fatigue.  For most photo-shoots I wear an all-terrain sneaker used for hiking.   It is good to bring water and high-energy snack foods, but remember not to drink too much before and during a parade.


DPA: I’m interested in the photograph you took of the giraffe. Where did you take it? Did you to any post-capture work on it?


Father Dan McLaughlin: 

·      The photo of the giraffe was taken at the Philadelphia zoo.  I remembered the advice of Hinda Schuman to “fill the frame with the subject.”   I waited for the giraffe to give me a profile and to be near background that looked natural to its habit in Africa.  The photo had two bright spots I darkened using NIK software.  Other editing was done inAdobe Lightroom 3.  In the Develop module I edited the photo with adjustments to recovery, clarity, contrast, and vibrance.



DPA: What sparked your interest in photography?


Father Dan McLaughlin:

 ·      When I was 9 years old I asked for and received a camera for Christmas.  It was an unusual gift request for most boys my age in my neighborhood.  I suppose at that young age I began to express a desire to record the meaningful things I saw.


·      I have owned several film cameras and have thousands of photos of many events in my life.  I always looked forward to the day I could own a high-resolution digital camera because I understood how much it would help transfer images to many applications.  As a high school teacher I used photographs in slideshows displayed on a large-screen Smartboard via a computer and LCD projector to illustrate my classroom lessons.   My students appreciated my use of visual aids.  Their interest motivated me to create more advanced slideshows combining movie and still images.  The subject matter for slideshows began to go beyond the classroom curriculum.  I began presenting visual stories of art and important experiences of life that I showed to adult audiences.  An example of one such slideshow movie was based on Thomas Cole’s, Voyage of Life - a four-painting allegory depicting the stages of the life from birth to death.  I used a Fuji digital camera to take photos of all of the characters and scenes in the paintings and arranged the photographs timed to the four movements of Keith Emerson’s, Piano Concerto.  The presentation was well received and viewers understood I was using visual images to describe the mysteries of life.  My photographic style has been described as journalistic storytelling.


DPA: Who are your favorite photographers?


Father Dan McLaughlin:

 ·      DPA instructor, Hinda Schuman, often asks the question: “what is your vision and how do you want to express it in your photographs?”  At first I was at a loss for words as to how to answer the question.  I began reading books by photographers David duChemin and Vincent Versace who say their aim is to answer the question about vision and to help others do the same.     I’ve learned that growth in skill takes time and is a natural part of learning.      


DPA: How long have you been experimenting with photography?


Father Dan McLaughlin:

 ·      In several ways I have experimented with photography most of my life.  In 2007 I began a disciplined study of the art by taking lessons, reading, practicing and asking many questions of others.


DPA: Does your faith inspire your photography? If so, how?


Father Dan McLaughlin:

 ·      For me, photography is the attempt to illustrate what is beautiful and important in life.  For twenty-six years I was a high school teacher of Christian theology. For much of that time I illustrated the story of God using words. In 1998 I began using a multi-media computer and a large screen monitor as a visual aid while teaching.  I started using graphics and famous paintings, then started to add my own photographs and personal movie clips. For eleven years in the classroom I was able to learn how to perfect my visual presentation of the message of God.  On May 26, 2012 Pope Benedict XVI declared that all priests and religious people should use multimedia for proclaiming the gospel.  For me it was “a sign from God” saying, in effect, that my classroom efforts were blessed.  I believe I was given a new directive on how to cultivate my interest in photography. 

·      In the summer of 2011 I attended a three-day workshop to learn the method of “painting with light” photography as taught by Harold Ross.  My workshop project image of the statue of Saint Rita continues to stir interest in all who see it.  I consider this achievement to be inspired by God as it was far ahead of anything I had ever done in photography.  The desire to illustrate the beautiful is a desire we receive from God.  


Here are a few of Dan's photographs from St. Ritas Shrine. After the photos we discuss his involvement with St. Rita's.




DPA: Tell me about your involvement with St. Rita’s Shrine (not Cathedral). DPA is very excited and honored to have the opportunity to hold classes there and donate a portion of our profits to the church. 


Father Dan McLaughlin:

 ·      On Broad Street in Philadelphia is the National Shrine of Saint Rita.  It is a parish and a shrine.  St. Rita’s parish became a shrine when the lower church was converted as a shrine dedicated to Saint Rita.  Visitors ask her in prayer to intercede for them before God.  The Hebrew Scriptures teach about the role of intercessors in the accounts of Abraham, Moses, and the prophets.  The Christian Scriptures describe Jesus as an intercessor who shares this role with his disciples. 


·      The Shrine of Saint Rita is parish and shrine in the Diocese of Philadelphia staffed by the members of the Order of Saint Augustine who are known asAugustinians.  I am a member of this order and an ordained priest.  My duties are to preside at the Eucharist celebration known as the Mass, to hear confessions of sins, to lead prayer services, to give tours of the Shrine to pilgrim visitors and to tell them the story of Saint Rita. 


·      I arrived as a parochial vicar (assistant priest) two years ago after finishing 26 years of teaching in secondary (high school) education.  My years of teaching are an asset since much of my work is presentation work such as: giving homilies (sermons), and recalling the stories of faith in God for the sake of our visitors.  This advice is given during the hearing of confessions, or offering words of encouragement to the people who visit.  I enjoy my role because people who come to visit the Shrine of Saint Rita come with their personal needs. It is a special place where people ask God to intervene in their lives. 


·      Saint Rita had a difficult life and turned to God in prayer for his help.  After the murder of her husband and death of her two teenage sons she became an Augustinian nun. In the convent she received a stigmata – a wound from the passion of Christ – on her forehead.   Many miracles are attributed to her intercession before God.  People who visit the Shrine give testimony describing how Saint Rita helped them through her gift of intercession.


·      Our pastor, Father Joe Genito, was happy to hear of my interest in photography.  The internet and the media of our world requires dedicated people to use the best means of visual communication for the sake of telling one’s story. I take pictures of Shrine events and religious celebrations for the Shrine newsletter called the Peacemaker.  You can see my Shrine photos, especially the Virtual Tour, at www.saintritashrine.org.  My Augustinian brothers encourage me to attend DPA classes, photo club meetings, to contact professional photographers for advice, and to explore new ways of taking photographs. Recently I took photographs of the stained glass windows in the Shrine that depict the story of Saint Rita.  There is much interest in the photos from those who visit the Shrine.


·      My photography is becoming known in the Philadelphia area.  I have been invited to participate in two art shows.  My photos are selling in the Shrine gift shop, on our web site, and at a local frame shop.


DPA: In conclusion, do you have any advice for prospective DPA students?


Father Dan McLaughlin:


·      Students must be willing to ask questions, to admit when they do not understand an aspect of photography or the use of their camera, to go beyond general bits of knowledge, to read, and to experiment.



DPA would like to thank Father Dan for the time he spent answering our interview questions and commend him for being a great DPA student! Thanks Dan!


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