Nat LeDonne will graduate Saturday with a double major in art and communications. Her passion for the art of photography began in her senior year of high school, when she got a camera and started shooting portraits. “I like that, through photography, you can learn about other people’s lives,” LeDonne said.
During her first semester at University of Lynchburg, LeDonne began giving free photo shoots to explore her photography abilities. In her second semester, she started working as a student assistant under University of Lynchburg photographer John McCormick. Through her work with McCormick, LeDonne discovered her love for sports photography. “I like sports photography,” she said. “It keeps you on your toes. There’s always something new and exciting.”
As a graduation gift, McCormick reached out last fall to colleagues at Virginia Tech and arranged for LeDonne to photograph a Tech football game. “The environment was so different, and walking onto the field was mind-blowing,” she said. “It was cool.”
While in Blacksburg for the football game, the university’s chief sports photographer scheduled LeDonne for two women’s basketball games, a wrestling match, and a volleyball game.
LeDonne also spent two summers photographing animals during internships at the Minnesota Zoo, in 2016, and the North Carolina Zoo, in 2017. At the North Carolina Zoo, she served as head photographer, because she was the only one hired.
“I learned about what it takes to be head photographer, what photos zoos are looking for, how you need to act around animals when you’re in an exhibit with them, and that you have to wait for animals to do what you want,” she said. “So it really teaches patience and I had a lot of fun.”
LeDonne has earned many awards for her photography, including first place in the 2016 Kappa Pi International Art Honor Society Scholarship. She also was a finalist in 2016 and 2017 for Photographer’s Forum Magazine’s award for Emerging Professional Best of College and High School Photography.
Recently, she provided freelance photography for athletic events at Virginia Tech, Duke University, and Liberty University. After graduation, she plans to launch a career in freelance sports photography for colleges and universities in Virginia and North Carolina.