Coyote in Snow, Yellowstone

I just got back from two weeks of photography in Yellowstone National Park. I go there every winter to photograph the park’s geothermal wonders and abundant wildlife. Of all the critters found in Yellowstone, I think that perhaps the coyote are my favorite. Coyote are opportunistic, versatile carnivores, subsisting primarily on small mammals such as mice, ermine, and rabbits. Prior to the reintroduction of the gray wolf to the park, Yellowstone had one of the largest and stablest coyote populations in the United States. Wolves compete with coyote for food, and will often kill them if encountered. As a result, coyote populations in Yellowstone have been reduced significantly in recent year. Nonetheless, on any trip to the park, one is likely to see several coyotes roaming for food.

"Winter Wanderer" - Yellowstone National Park

"Winter Wanderer" - Yellowstone National Park

I photographed this coyote in the Montana portion of the park during a howling snowstorm. To me, nothing tells the story of the struggle to survive during a Yellowstone winter more than an animal in a heavy snowstorm. The blowing and drifting snow lends a bleak and stark mood, one of desolation and difficulty. It is important when photographing wildlife to tell a story, and to tell viewers more about the animal and its environment than that which is conveyed by a tight portrait. Composition, weather, and mood can all help tell the story, and to present something of the essence of the animal, rather than simply a literal representation of its exterior appearance.

Technical details: Canon 1D Mark III camera, 500mm lens, ISO 400, f/8, 1/800 second.

Ian Plant

Author: Ian Plant

World-renowned professional photographer, writer, and adventurer Ian Plant is a frequent contributor to and blogger for Outdoor Photographer Magazine, a Contributing Editor to Popular Photography Magazine, a monthly columnist for Landscape Photography Magazine, and a Tamron Image Master. Ian is also the author of numerous books and instructional videos. Ian leads photography workshops and tours around the world to help beginner and advanced photographers explore and expand their personal vision.

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