Ballad of the Coyote
Ballad of the Coyote
A few weeks ago my wife, Maeve, and I spent a week in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on a ski vacation. This part of the county is just absolutely amazing, everywhere you look is yet another text book display of natures beauty. I get to take a lot of little mini trips for photography so I try really hard to not make our vacations together about photography but I just couldn't help myself on this trip. To be honest, after three days on the slopes, my legs needed a break from trying to keep up with Maeve so a day of photography was my excuse. She's a beast on the mountain!! I didn't do much preplanning before this trip because this wasn't supposed to be a photography trip but I did know I wanted at least one half day. While my wife spent a few hours on her own I took the rental car and headed off for The Grand Teton National Park, I figured this would be a good place to start if I wanted to see wildlife. I was not disappointed, within an hour I had already seen a heard of Elk, Sheep, Coyotes, Moose and more species of birds than I thought would be out this time of year.
Ultimately this trip was nothing short of amazing and one I'll never forget but there was one interaction that I also won't forget but I'll get to later. On the day I capture this image of the Coyote howling, I pretty much had the park to myself. I think I had the park to myself because it was absolutely freezing outside, who else wants to drive around in the cold? Me, that's who. When I came around a bend in the road I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, I pulled over (safely for me and others of course) to bring out the big lens in order to get a better look. I took a few shots of this coyote walking across the snow. I could've taken a quick picture and hopped back in the warm car to head off to the next location. But I had a feeling I should stick around for a while. I was standing at the back of the car to block myself from the wind and use the car for stability, at 600mm without a tripod you need all the help you can get. Out of nowhere the coyote stopped, looked around and then started howling. I quickly fired off a few shots but of course they were not well composed or in focus enough for my liking. I held the camera to my eye, composed and focused on the coyote and hoped it would start talking again. Sure enough it did, for about another 15 minutes this routine went on. I had a smile so big you could probably see it from space, it was special moment for me. I truly try to connect with the wildlife that I photograph, yes I do talk to them even tough they can't hear me. Did you know it's said that coyotes have eleven categories of vocalizations or ways they "talk", you can read more about that here https://urbancoyoteinitiative.com/translating-the-song-dog-what-coyotes-are-saying-when-they-howl/. I'm so happy I decided to stick around and watch this coyote, I'm not exactly sure who he was talking to since I didn't see any other animals around this spot.
Now on to the strange interaction. As I was standing behind the car with the camera up to my eye, a big huge Suburban was heading in the opposite direction and stopped right in front of me. The rear window rolled down and I could see six people inside, the man next to the window asked me what I was looking at. I told him about my experience with the coyote and he replied (in the best rich guy southern accent) "a coyote, that's it? We shoot them for fun back home" and laughed. I tired to smile and give him my best "your an A-hole" look, the window went up and off they went. I was honestly stunned for a moment but since I was in my happy place, I let it go and went back to hanging out with my new friend. I keep thinking about this interaction and I can't understand why some humans have such disregard for nature/wildlife. He was obviously very proud that he kills these beautiful and often misunderstood animals. I don't know this guy so I try not to judge too harsh, maybe he owns a duck ranch and the coyotes keep killing the ducks. But to say that you kill a living creature for fun is just sickening to me, I know that a few states still allow sport hunting competitions. WTF? The more perplexing thing is why are you trying to ruin my day and experience with nature? You can see that I'm here all by myself having a great time and you decide to be a jerk whether on purpose or not with stupid comments. Maybe he though he was being funny but it failed. In this crazy world we live in why not try to be more positive? Just because you see or experience something a lot doesn't mean everyone else gets to experience those moments. Let the other person have the joy and happiness, heck I try to help people have a better time if I can. I live in San Diego where we have some of the prettiest coastline anywhere, a lot of people come here to see it and I get to live here. When I'm out shooting at the coast I almost always run into a visitor and we chat for a few minutes. If they ask for help or I can see they are looking for something I almost always help if I can. There are a few instances where I'm trying to work on a composition as the light is fading and I don't have as much time to chat. But I try to keep in mind that during a few months out of the year we have sunsets that are truly remarkable and some people just don't get to witness sunsets like ours. I never try to take anyones joy away from that. I think we should all do the same, let's try to help each other out to enjoy life more.
I had an amazing time in Jackson Hole, I highly encourage everyone to visit if they can. Winter is a special time of year to visit, photographing in the winter takes practice and a few tricks. If I can help please drop me a line. Thanks for reading and please keep in touch!