What an adventure, these past three months for me have been an absolute whirlwind. Many, many days out in the field attempting to capture photographs I am happy with, and it is all coming to a close. Seeing this project come to life was very rewarding. Sitting in my bed in August, brainstorming ideas for my application, I came up with the idea to try and photograph some of Florida's Native Wildlife in their habitats to promote conservation. It was definitely an idea I wanted to pursue either way, but Olympus has furthered this so much and truly made it come to life.

Now here I am in December, again sitting in my bed, but this time with 12 photos and a mind wondering how 3 months can go by so fast.

As a whole, I am quite happy with my project. It did not really go in any direction that I had anticipated, but I am still satisfied with the results. One of my biggest concerns while working on my project was lack of diversity in my photos. I was constantly worried that I would be capturing photographs of the same few species that are reliable and consistently around. Because of this, I specifically went out of my way to try and photograph some of the more unseen and overlooked species. In the end, out of 12 photos, there are 11 different species; all of which are native to Florida.

Florida, and almost the entire east coast is highly populated, many people live in these areas and this creates a big conflict between people, and wildlife for space. Like I said before, the goal of my project was to promote conservation, in order to protect wildlife. Pretty much every single one of the pictures I took, were taken very close to the city, if not in the city, and could have been taken in someone's backyard. To me, this is very important and so cool as it shows that there is a possibility for people and animals to live together if we take the right steps.

Florida’s most notable features and the thing most people think about when they think of Florida, is the beach. The beach is not only a place for people to relax, fish, and have fun, but a place for animals to live. Many different species of birds live on the beach, and often large groups of them will group together as a way to survive predators. I found this Dunlin on the beach among a group of mixed shorebirds resting.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5-6.3 IS
368mm | 1/800s | F6.3 | ISO 400
White Ibis
A species that can often be seen roaming the neighborhood foraging in people's yard, their natural habitats often get overlooked, and many people probably do not even know what their habitat looks like. While kayaking on a local river, I spotted a group of white ibises foraging and preening in the mud. This particular bird was relaxing next to some Cypress Knees and I thought that captured the environment very well.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5-6.3 IS
218mm | 1/640s | F6.3 | ISO 800

This may be the end of the Break Free Program, but I do not feel as if it is the end of this project for me. This feels like something I will try and continue for a lifetime, capturing photographs of wildlife in order to protect them. Especially in places where conflict is happening so badly and seems almost irreversible. This program has really started something for me, and I am going to continue it. It has taken my two passions of protecting wildlife and photographing wildlife and brought them together in a way that I will continue to use in my life.

So I guess the final thing I will leave you with is the answer to the question: how does this all pertain to you?

Well, like I mentioned previously, pretty much every single one of these creatures that I photographed can be found in your backyard or at a local park. This means that anyone, and everyone has the capability to do something for their local wildlife. Whether it's stopping the use of pesticides, providing water and food for birds, or letting the grass grow a bit to provide habitat to insects. There are so many small things that people like you can do that can change the fate of your local wildlife.

Barred Owl
Personally my favorite image of the 12 that I captured, this image is of a barred owl in a beautiful oak tree. Owls are my personally favorite animal, and I spend a lot of time looking for them. They have an incredible aura to me, and really represent healthy habitat. Owls require lots of food like rodents and bugs, but these animals do not exist unless the habitat they are in is healthy. I also like it for the fact that it shows the capabilities of the 100-400mm F5-6.3. It is not a classic telephoto photograph like you may expect, but instead is a bit wider.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5-6.3 IS
100mm | 1/30s | F5 | ISO 640