Tracking the Coyote

 Coyote, Yosemite Valley, California.  ©Terry VanderHeiden 2016

Coyote, Yosemite Valley, California.  ©Terry VanderHeiden 2016

To improve your photography, make a point to go out and photograph with other photographers.  They will push your creativity and help you spot angles and subjects you might have missed. 

Early this winter I went with fellow photographer and naturalist, David Bozsik up to Yosemite National Park to photograph the first snow of the season. We missed that event by about a day but we did have a great experience following at Coyote along the valley floor. 

Early one morning, on the East end of the valley, Dave and I were out looking for scenic images to photograph and Dave noticed some movement in the tall grasses. As we crept a little closer, we saw that it was a lone Coyote hunting for food. 

 Coyote hunting for food, Yosemite Valley, California.  ©Terry VanderHeiden 2016

Coyote hunting for food, Yosemite Valley, California.  ©Terry VanderHeiden 2016

Like I said, you can really improve your photography by photographing with someone else, but it really helps when your companion is steeped in the knowledge of animal behavior, like Dave is. Its' very important to know about your animal subjects and their tendencies. We know that Coyotes can travel as much as 12 miles a day in search of food. Since all of us knew that winter was about to descend upon Yosemite, the coyote was looking for food and we knew he was going to keep moving. 

The main diet of the Coyote is mice, rats, insects, rabbits, etc. They are also known to hunt day or night, whenever food is available. We followed the Coyote for a couple of hours and then lost him. He was keeping his distance from us and he was much better at maneuvering over fallen branches and soft ground than we were, so he had more control of how our photographs were going to come out.

Our technique for the chase was to follow on foot for a while, go back to the car, race ahead of where we thought Coyote was going be and set up in the hopes of seeing him come by.  This was an all day event.

 Coyote, Yosemite Valley, California.  ©Terry VanderHeiden 2016

Coyote, Yosemite Valley, California.  ©Terry VanderHeiden 2016

Finally, late in the day just as the sun was falling we were set up on the West end of the park hoping the Coyote might make it there before it became too dark.  We got lucky.

The Coyote emerged from one of his hiding places and walked right toward out waiting  cameras. 

This last shot was taken with a Nikon D4, using a 600 mm lens set at f/4.5 and shot at 1/800th of a second.  When working with a very long lens, you have to make sure your shutter speed will be able to keep up with your lens.  To avoid camera shake, I always try to shoot at a higher shutter speed than the length of my lens.  To do this, I set my Nikon D4 on Auto ISO.  With this setting you can be sure that your shutter speed is high enough to avoid camera shake.  The camera will pump up ISO  to compensate for low light conditions and keep your shutter speed where you want it.  I have mine set for a shutter speed of 1/800th of a second if I'm using my long glass. 

 Coyote, Yosemite Valley, California.  ©Terry VanderHeiden 2016

Coyote, Yosemite Valley, California.  ©Terry VanderHeiden 2016

The downside to this technique is that your ISO can get pretty high, wether you like it or not.  In this case the ISO on this image of the Coyote's face was a very high 10,000.  I knew however with the Nikon's ability to handle high ISO without a lot of noise and using a little bit of noise reduction in Adobe Lightroom, I could make a large wall print that looks very sharp. 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2015, Terry VanderHeiden