Ever since I was a child, I have always loved being in contact with nature. I grew up in Salerno, a small town in southern Italy that boasts a wonderful landscape, close to the enchanting beauty of the Amalfi Coast. A land of ancient traditions, it was long disputed between the Greeks and Etruscans until the Romans arrived, who renamed it Campania Felix. The important archaeological sites of Paestum and Pompeii are ancient witnesses of a land of a thousand beauties, custodians of a thousand-year history. In this context I grew up and learned to love nature.

For this reason, when I started approaching photography, my attention was immediately directed to landscapes. Unfortunately, nature all over the world is continuously threatened by human activities: pollution, deforestation, plastic, endangered animals and entire ecosystems destroyed. I want to do something to help our Earth.

When OM SYSTEM told me that I was one of the photographers selected for the "Tell Your Story" program, I realized that it was the opportunity to give my contribution. I wanted to create a project that could convey, for once, not a message of tragedy, but of Hope. I had to get out of my comfort zone because it was my first time approaching a project of reportage.

I returned to a land I love so much, Iceland, to document the activities of a fantastic reality like "Ocean Mission Iceland". It is an NGO based in Húsavík, a small city in northern Iceland, considered the world capital of whale watching.

Ocean Mission was founded by Belen and Charla, two marine biologists and researchers who decided to dedicate their lives to the preservation of the oceans.

So, last June, I arrived in Húsavík and embarked on the schooner "Opal," for an expedition to the Arctic seas together with 15 fantastic companions, coming from all over the world and united by the passion for nature and the desire to do something to protect it.

Earlier I spoke of Hope, and not by chance. The name of the expedition was “Hope Expedition”. Belen and Charla, thanks to their incessant work to protect the seas, have managed to achieve a very important goal. With the help of Mission Blue and the legendary world-renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle, Ocean Mission has managed to create a "Hope Spot" in a vast area of the sea in northern Iceland.

According to Mission Blue: “ Hope Spots are ecologically unique areas of the ocean designated for protection because of their critical biological importance / biodiversity values! Some Hope Spots are already formally protected, while others still need defined protection. Under Dr. Earle’s leadership, the Mission Blue team has embarked on a series of expeditions to shed light on these vital ecosystems and ignite support to safeguard them as marine protected areas.”

What an amazing adventure it was! We explored the Northern Icelandic fjords and visited remote islands, we arrived at the Arctic Circle, we saw blue whales, humpback whales, dolphins, puffins, seals, breathtaking landscapes and we experienced the Midnight Sun: on those days the sun set at 2 a.m. to rise again at 3 a.m., it was never dark!

But most important of all, we participated in the marine conservation activities carried out by Ocean Mission: we collected samples of microplastics and plankton from the sea, thanks to an instrument called Manta Trawl; we selected the samples and studied them under a microscope; we cleaned several beaches of a large amount of trash (and yes, even in an isolated place like Iceland the amount of plastic found on the beaches is incredible); we studied the behavior of whales and took part in the "Trash To Treasure” workshop where the team raise children's awareness of ocean conservation by making small objects or works of art together with them by recycling the trash found on the beaches.

To carry out this project I needed lightweight, non-cluttered, but high-quality equipment. Luckily, OM SYSTEM had the right product for me: equipped with the OM-5, the M. Zuiko 17 mm f1.8 and the M. Zuiko 40-150 mm f.4 PRO I tried to tell the story. The OM-5 is a fantastic camera. The first time I held it in my hand I thought it was a toy: it’s so small and light!

The reality is quite different: despite its small size (together with the M. Zuiko 17mm it fits in your pocket!), the quality and technology of this camera left me speechless. Excellent file quality, precise and fast autofocus, 5-axis stabilized sensor, High-Res Shot mode that combines multiple shots to achieve a 50 megapixel image, integrated focus stacking, Live ND that allows you to get shots with long exposure effects without using filters, and much more! The OM-5 is a jewel, a camera so comfortable to carry around and at the same time high performing that you will always want to have it with you! Thanks OM SYSTEM!

Bio - Paolo Santoriello


IG: @paulwanders_

Paolo Santoriello is one of the photographers selected to participate in the OM-5 Tell Your Story project. He is from Salerno, now based in Bologna (Italy).He has a master's degree in Archaeology and has also studied Photography. One of his greatest passion is travelling through the world, especially in wild places, trying to catch the wonderful essence of Mother Earth.