I grew up in Chalon sur Saone, France, the birthplace of Nicéphore Niépce and the first camera. Despite this background, I only got into photography a little over two years ago and decided to join my local camera club where I met a group of talented photographers and was inspired to dive deeper into the art of capturing moments in time. Now, everywhere I go, it is with my trusted camera by my side.

Lately, I’ve been concentrating on wildlife and macro photography, in particular water drop refraction, but will occasionally stray with friends to an astro or landscape photoshoot. As a teacher, I am inherently eager to learn and try new things. So, when Olympus launched The Break Free Program, I jumped on the opportunity and applied.

For my project, I will document the wildlife that inhabits a pond just beyond the roar of a New Hampshire state highway. I will follow how the landscape and animals in and around this pond evolve during the dramatic transition from colorful New England fall to the short and frigid days of December. The daily life of this vibrant ecosystem has become part of my own and a salvation during these challenging times.

A few months ago, in the midst of the COVID pandemic, my wife and I had to move from a house on the edge of a lush marsh facing the sea on the New Hampshire coast to a small apartment in the state’s capital city. To our surprise, we found this peaceful pond retreat within walking distance of the apartment complex and exploring its comings and goings has become the highlight of our day. A window into this unfamiliar world has not only piqued our interest, but also given us something to look forward to and provide some balance to the isolation imposed by the pandemic.

Since the lockdown, many people I know feel discouraged by travel restrictions and have grown increasingly despondent with the monotony of daily life. My goal with this project is to share my experience and encourage people to explore what is just outside their door; be it a local pond or the insects buzzing around a garden. My hope is to help people see that we don’t need to travel far to find sources of inspiration or live in the middle of nowhere to observe wildlife. We just need to slow down, sit still, and wait for a new world to reveal itself.

For this project, I selected the E-M1X paired with the new M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5-6.3 IS which will be a fantastic combination for documenting wildlife. I also selected an LS-P4 digital recorder to help me improve the sound quality of my videos.

I will work with some additional Olympus gear that I own, like the M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro and M.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO lenses. I will also be using my homemade diffuser to help capture insects around the pond. I am also hoping to capture some underwater shots with my TG-6. And last but not least, I will be using my binoculars to avoid missing an active beaver on the other side of the pond.

Olympus Educator Lee Hoy will guide me through this project. Since I saw his capture of a paper wasp in flight I have been in awe of his macro and wildlife photography. The first time I saw it, I thought, who is this guy and how does he do it? Lee Hoy was my first choice for a mentor because I knew he is a passionate educator, whose enthusiasm for photography and teaching is contagious. I am so thrilled to have him as my mentor as I know he will push me to experiment and find new angles. I also admire his positive and go-get-it attitude as I believe it is essential in a mentor.

So, I am ready to get to work, learn, and experiment under his wings. I look forward to following the nine other participants of the Break Free Program and can’t wait to share this adventure with the Olympus family.

Paper Wasp
This is the photo from Lee Hoy!

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.