An East Tennessee nature photographer who has never published a picture has landed a spot on the cover of a calendar.
She captures the very essence of animals with her camera.
"We live in a beautiful, beautiful area and we're blessed to live in the foothills of the Smokies, so blessed. And everything around us is picturesque," Rhonda McClure said.
She appreciates the beauty in her own backyard in Kingston. In fact, she's captured it on camera.
Early retirement allows Rhonda McClure the freedom and the time to pursue photography.
"I have never had any classes. I'm self taught. Is there a learning curve to it? Yes, and it never ends. Once you stop learning I think you need to forget it and lay your camera down. Forget it. It's over," she said.
Several photographs on her wall were taken at Cades Cove, her favorite place to capture animals in their natural environment.
"Anywhere in Cades Cove away from the Loop back in the woods alone with the animals," she said.
That is her favorite time, being along with animals.
"They know you're there. I don't how far away or how close you are. They know you're there. But I think they also know when a person loves them and when a person respects them and is not afraid of them," she said.
Her pictures don't look like portraits. They show animals in action. They show animals in their natural habitat.
"If you just sit quietly with them for awhile they'll get used to you and them they'll start being their self and that's when you get the pictures that show who they really are," she said.
A buck stretched and raised his head and Rhonda McClure caught it.
Her knack for moments like that landed her not only the cover photo for theTennessee Wildlife Resource Agency's wildlife calendar but also the month of July.
The buck in Cades Cove is on the cover.
A juvenile hawk in her backyard is inside.
"You would not believe the personality that most animals have. They are so precious," she said.
The calendar is the first place her photos have been published and she would like to publish more.
The photographer also has another vision for her future.
"That's really my goal for right now is just to open a gallery," she said.
Until then she is content to sit quietly to capture the personalities of animals.