My inspiration for this photo project is the wildlife that inhabits a pond just outside an urban area of New Hampshire. In the middle of the COVID pandemic, I had to move from a house on the edge of a lush marsh facing the sea on the coast of southern New Hampshire to a small apartment in the state’s capital city. To my surprise, I found a pond within walking distance bustling with a highly animated family of beavers. I was amazed that such a vibrant ecosystem exists just beyond the roar of a state highway and thought it would make for a good documentary. For this project, I have spent hours every day (and some nights) on the trails and the pond’s edge, tuning into the sounds and observing the movement of its inhabitants during the dramatic transition from colorful New England fall to the short and frigid days of December. The daily life of this pond has become part of my own and has served as a grounding force during this stressful time. It’s been a reminder that very often we can find not only peace but inspiration close to home. I hope you enjoy coming along on this journey with me.

Busy Bee
In late September, bees were swarming the edge of the pond for goldenrod, which is their main food source for the winter. For this shot, I used my M.Zuiko 60 mm as I knew I wanted a close shot of the bee on one of the flowers.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro
1/250s | F7.1 | ISO 200
I found a few grasshoppers on a small patch of tall grass on one side of the pond.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO
1/250s | F7.1 | ISO 200
One of my favorite amphibians to observe at the pond is the Eastern/Red-spotted Newt. The one I captured was an immature terrestrial ‘red eft’ as he was wandering the forest floor in his bright orange suit.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro
1/250s | F7.1 | ISO 200
On my way to the pond, I often stumbled upon snakes, the most common one being the Garter Snake. In time, I was able to pinpoint a few locations where I could find them daily.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro
1/200s | F10 | ISO 400
Heron Fishing
When I started my project, I thought the beavers would be the stars of the pond, but quickly realized that many came in hopes of spotting a Great Blue Heron. According to local birders, the herons had established a nest on the pond but were chased away by the ospreys.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS
400mm | 1/400s | F6.3 | ISO 1000
Fall Foliage
Even when I did not see a lot of wildlife, I always returned with pictures of the pond. Although the surrounding fall colors came early and were short-lived, they provided a spectacular show.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS
218mm | 1/100s | F6 | ISO 125
The pond hosted a variety of frogs from this Pickerel Frog to the iconic Green Frog I showcased in my first blog.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS
400mm | 1/250s | F7.1 | ISO 1600
Yellow Rumped Warbler
Mixed with the sounds of the frogs were the numerous birds living in the woods, like this little Yellow-rumped Warbler.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS
276mm | 1/250s | F8 | ISO 1000
Little mice often kept me company near or under the logs as I waited for the beavers to arrive.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS
400mm | 1/160s | F6.3 | ISO 200
Along with mice, the squirrels (both grey and red) were always busy gathering food for winter and their warning calls followed me along the trail.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS
400mm | 1/160s | F6.3 | ISO 200
Beaver Lodge
Beavers often build their lodges in the middle of shallow ponds for protection. Over this three-month project, I watched the expansion of the lodge as the beavers prepared for winter. What struck me the morning I took this photo was the steam rising up from the lodge. I imagined that these nocturnal creatures had just finished their night’s work and were all cuddled up inside the lodge catching a few hours of sleep.

OM-D E-M1X | M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS
123mm | 1/200s | F5.6 | ISO 200
Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vultures can soar up to 5,000 feet in the air, which is where I observed most of them. Except for this particular morning, when I saw one on the pond preening in the early morning October sun.

OM-D E-M1X | M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS
186mm | 1/2000s | F5.6 | ISO 200
Heron in Foliage
As this pond is near larger ponds, lakes, and the Merrimack River, herons do stop by for early morning or late afternoon fishing. This is one of the last photos I took of the heron before it migrated south to warmer waters.

OM-D E-M1X | M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS
186mm | 1/2000s | F5.9 | ISO 800
Over the months, I got to know the beavers on the pond quite well, so naturally I gave them names. This one beaver, Tyson, was so named because part of his tail looked like it had been bitten off in a fight with another animal. In time, this scrappy beaver got so accustomed to me that he would haul his ferns and branches within feet of my camera and nibble away while I was shooting.

OM-D E-M1X | M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO
150mm | 1/250s | F2.8 | ISO 1000
One of my favorite times at the pond was at twilight when the golden shadows reflect off the cattails and the sounds of crickets and frogs soften.

OM-D E-M1X | M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO
97mm | 1/2500s | F2.8 | ISO 200
Frost on Leaves
New Hampshire is famous for its vibrant fall foliage, but the forest floor and the edge of the pond covered in brown frosted leaves made for interesting patterns as well.

OM-D E-M1X | M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO
150mm | 1/50s | F9 | ISO 300
I didn’t see many mushrooms this fall, but captured this one with the M.Zuiko 30mm macro to catch the sun’s rays piercing through the wood.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro
1/30s | F5.6 | ISO 800
Barred Owl
Before this project, I had never seen an owl in the wild and it took almost two months before finally spotting this barred owl. What a special moment it was to spend time with such a magnificent creature and then watch it fly silently through the forest.

OM-D E-M1X | M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS
400mm | 1/1600s | F5.6 | ISO 320
Frozen Ferns
Another pattern I like to photograph is the fern. This was taken close to my apartment complex, at the beginning of the trails.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko 30mm F3.5 Macro
1/160s | F6.3 | ISO 800
I tried my hand at high-key photography to render that cold, foggy feeling one gets at the pond in November. You can see one of the abandoned heron’s nests to the left of the beaver lodge.

OM-D E-M1X | M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO
180mm | 1/320s | F20 | ISO 1600
Miniature Garden
Walking on the forest floor, I always look for patterns to use my macro lens. Fallen trees make for great subjects.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko 30mm F3.5 Macro
1/13s | F13 | ISO 400
Turtles are some of the hardest animals to photograph as they are shy and jump into the water as soon as they hear you coming. I had to use my 100-400mm to catch these two turtles, who surfaced during an unusually warm couple of days in early December.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5.0-6.3 IS
307mm | 1/200s | F6.3 | ISO 800
Beaver in Snow
After struggling to break through the ice, this hard-working beaver would then spend more time digging through a snowbank and underground to find roots. It would then return to water to wash out the dirt before enjoying its meal.

OM-D E-M1X | M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO
150mm | 1/320s | F2.8 | ISO 1000
Beaver on Ice
Beavers breaking the ice and emerging from their holes like artic seals is a spectacle one has to experience once in their life. I can’t wait to see what the winter will bring for this family of beavers as breeding season is upon them. I look forward to meeting the new additions in the spring.

OM-D E-M1X | M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO
150mm | 1/320s | F2.8 | ISO 4000
Pond at Night
Pond at night: As my project was coming to a close, I went to the pond for one last shot using the live composite mode and the 8mm fisheye to give the sky the shape of a slice of our earth.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 PRO
13s | F1.8 | ISO 1600

To fully bring you into the daily experience at the pond, part of my final project includes a short audio-photography series I took with the LS-P4 recorder. You will hear a sound with a black frame and then see the photo corresponding to the sound and then back to the sound with some fun facts.

And last but not least, when I embarked on this final project, I wanted to create short videos to show the activities and animals around the pond. I am thankful to Brandi Carlile and her team for allowing me to use their song Have You Ever as it is a song that has been in my head a lot as I wander in the woods looking for a new shot. Hope you enjoy it!

Learn More About Emilie's Project

You can follow Emilie as she planned and executed her project through her three monthly blogs.




Instagram: @emilietalpin

Emilie Talpin is a French teacher and photographer based in New Hampshire who is passionate about macro, wildlife, night sky and videography. When not in front of her classroom, she loves traveling, exploring the outdoors, and chasing her next photo.