Ellen Zangla has been photographing Loudoun’s pets and their people for more than a decade, known for her ability to bring out the best in four-legged kids of all shapes and sizes.
Zangla’s new book “Tails of Loudoun County” features some of the cutest pets around and has raised nearly $30,000 for area animal welfare organizations. And at the heart of her work, and her latest fundraising project, is her own love of animals.
“If I’m at your party and you’ve got a dog or a cat, I’m the one on the floor with the cat in my lap or petting the dog,” Zangla said. “I feel like you just have to do what you love… [Pet photography] is a way of combining two things I’m really passionate about.”
Zangla, who was born in Brooklyn and grew up in New Jersey, got into photography early in life but initially pursued a career in public health. Zangla’s father, a teacher in Staten Island, was an amateur photographer who set up a darkroom in the family home. Her dad was also allergic to pets, Zangla said, so she didn’t grow up with animals.
Zangla earned a master of public health degree and worked as a health educator for years. A job with the National Institutes of Health brought her to the DMV, and she ran the AOL Health Channel for several years. Zangla moved to Loudoun with her husband Mario, who grew up in Leesburg and works as a high school teacher for Loudoun County Public Schools. They live near Hamilton with their son Tommy, 17, two dogs and four cats.
Zangla stepped away from her public health career when Tommy was born. When her son went to school full time, she decided to shift gears and pursue her longtime love of photography. Zangla started photographing children and families while taking continuing education classes and earning Master Photographer and Certified Professional Photographer credentials. As she moved forward in her new career, she realized that photographing animals was where her passion truly lay.
“The more I did it, the more I realized what I truly loved was pets,” she said. “I feel like when you specialize, you get really good at one thing.”
Zangla built her pet photography business through word of mouth referrals and connections with local pet-related businesses, developing a special skill set for working with animals and a stellar reputation among pet parents.
“Understanding animal behavior, understanding how to pose them so they look the most attractive, understanding how to get the best expression for them, understanding if they’re nervous or scared or need a break—knowing all that helps make me a better pet photographer,” she said.
Zangla’s own pets are all from local rescues, and she’s been an active fundraiser for years for local animal welfare organizations. In 2018, Zangla came up with the idea of creating a coffee table book to benefit a pair of Loudoun nonprofits while showcasing her knack for capturing animals outdoors.
“Our county is really beautiful and it’s so diverse from downtown Leesburg to the wineries. … I thought showing off the animals of Loudoun would be a fun way to do a more unusual type of fundraiser but something that also potentially could have a lot of impact. … It was really fun—a lot of work but fun.”
“Tails of Loudoun County” was released last fall. and has already raised nearly $30,000 for Friends of Loudoun County Animal Services and the Loudoun Community Cat Coalition. Earlier this month, Zangla was honored by state Senator John Bell at the state capitol with a commending resolution for her work. The hardcover book, available at Zangla’s website for $95, is packed with images accompanied by stories of rescue, adoption and love.
Highlights include action shots of an Australian Cattle Dog named Wallace jumping for a frisbee, a fun-loving Basset Hound named Quincy—captured in the snow up to his chest with ears flying in the wind, the LCCC “spokescat” Mystic photographed at local breweries and a groups shot of the dogs of Hillsboro photographed at the town’s historic Old Stone School. The book focuses mostly on cats and dogs of all shapes and sizes but also features a 15-year-old leopard gecko named Mo’o, a 20-year-old African gray parrot named Alex, a Mandarin rat snake named Jack, a miniature horse named Moonshine, a goat named Thistle and a dog-loving chicken named Debbie.
Zangla’s pets are also featured in the book: her dog Lola is the book’s cover girl, a striking rescue pup with heterochromia (one brown and one blue eye). Lola’s canine playmate Aeneas and the family’s cats Alfie, Griffin, Panther and Storm finish out the book.
“My pets are my world,” Zangla said. “They say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. It’s trite but it’s also true.”
For more information about Ellen Zangla Photography or to order a copy of “Tails of Loudoun County,” go to tailsofloudouncounty.com.