As a senior in high school, Natalie Ledonne ’18 got her first real camera to document a family trip to the North Carolina Zoo.
After two years of sharpening her photography skills at University of Lynchburg, she has returned to her roots of zoo photography. This summer, she is a photography intern at the Minnesota Zoo. In her first six weeks there, she has enjoyed the chance to document the fun, wonder, and curiosity of the zoo while getting hands-on career experience.
“My interest in photography started with a zoo, and now it’s coming full circle with a zoo internship,” Natalie said.
When Natalie arrived at LC as a freshman, she took pictures for fun at events and also started earning some money by shooting portraits. After one semester, LC Photographer John McCormick offered her a part-time job as a student photographer. He said that Natalie’s enthusiasm and natural talent made her stand out.
“She had an eye for her composition and lighting,” said John. “She may not have known why she was shooting things that way, it was just coming naturally. I knew she had potential.”
As Natalie began working on photography assignments, John noticed that she listened and learned quickly. She improved on her composition and lighting, and then she grappled the technical aspects of using a camera. “Once she put those two things together, her photography started to blossom,” he said.
Over the past 18 months, numerous photos by Natalie have appeared in the College’s social media feeds, website communications, and magazine.
Natalie said that working for the College helped her career goals come into focus.
“Without Mr. McCormick’s help, and without him giving me a chance, I would probably still be trying to find what I want to do in life,” she said. “He helped me figure out my goals in my professional life and put me on the right track.”
As one of three photography interns at the Minnesota Zoo this summer, Natalie takes pictures on assignment and, in her free time, roams the zoo to take stock photos of animals and visitors. “I like wandering around the zoo and taking pictures of people smiling and watching animals,” she said.
Taking photos in the zoo has helped Natalie develop skills and attributes that will become useful in her career — including the patience to wait on an uncooperative subject. “If I need to take a picture of a certain animal doing a certain thing, sometimes I have to sit there for two hours watching the animal play,” she said. “It definitely builds up patience.”
She said her mom, Pat Ledonne, deserves a lot of credit for fueling her interest and success in photography. “My mom has been awesome and has supported me through this whole photography journey,” she said.
After the internship ends in August, Natalie will return to LC and continue working on her art and communication studies majors. She’ll also resume taking photos for LC. Based on the zoo photos that John has seen on Natalie’s social media feeds, he said she will bring even more talent to her work at the College. “She has grown exponentially from her experience at the zoo,” he said. “She won’t be the same photographer when she gets back. She’ll be better.”