Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday photo

Coyote. Yellowstone National Park, July 1992.

This photo comes from one of my favorite moments, ever. I was hiking near Hellroaring Creek and sat down on a rock for a brief rest, when I spotted this coyote. He (or she, I didn't look that closely) began to trot straight toward me, apparently rather curious about this stranger. But not too careless, despite the curiosity - as I raised my camera to take a photo, the motion startled him and he ran off. Dang, I thought, lost a chance at a good shot.

But the critter didn't go very far and I decided to wait around and see if he would get used to my presence. For the next hour or so, I walked around, scuffed rocks, sat down, and generally did everything I could think of to convince the coyote that I had my own business to mind and that it didn't include him. Meanwhile, he amused himself trying to snatch flying insects out of the air.

Eventually, I was able to edge closer and closer, still avoiding eye contact or direct movements in his direction. It worked perfectly and the coyote lost all concern over me. In fact, he finally flopped down in the grass and closed his eyes. I had set up the camera on the tripod and, every time his eyes closed, I would scootch the camera closer and take a couple more photos, up to about eight feet away, when I decided I probably shouldn't push my luck any further.

As I began to reach the end of the roll of film (and realized I didn't have a spare, dammit), I started testing the animal's calm by scuffing the ground noisily. His head would jerk up, he'd quickly look around, then stare at me and put his head back down. That "Oh, it's just you" look is what you see in this photo.

I'm too much of a rationalist to get much into "being one with nature," but there's no denying that I usually feel more of an outsider than I wish when I encounter wildlife in their own habitat. At this moment, though, with a wild coyote that showed no hostility or fear toward me (or begged any food), but viewed me as a tolerable part of the landscape - I felt just a little less alien.


Heather said...

Beautiful shot, beautiful story. Thanks so much for posting it.

James Hanley said...

You should have reached out and pulled that piece of grass out of the way.

Scott Hanley said...

I used to hate that piece of grass, thinking it spoiled what would otherwise have been a perfect shot. Now I'm more inclined to like it, as a little piece of real life that separates this photo from those "perfect" wildlife posters you see. Any excuse to be a snob, I suppose.