On As­sign­ment

Jeremy Walker, re­cently named a Nikon Am­bas­sador, re­calls a mem­o­rable en­counter with a wild coy­ote

NPhoto - - Contents - Jeremy will be talk­ing at Photo live 2015, in Lon­don, on 12 Septem­ber. Visit www.photo-live.com­for­more.

Jeremy Walker re­calls a wild mo­ment on a win­try as­sign­ment in Yosemite

In Jan­uary I went to Cal­i­for­nia to shoot some win­ter land­scapes. You tend to think of Cal­i­for­nia as sun­shine and beaches, but I was up in the High Sierra, Yosemite Na­tional Park to be pre­cise. Yosemite is one of the most beau­ti­ful na­tional parks I have ever vis­ited, but it is also one of the most crowded, and the Ansel Adams con­nec­tion draws a lot of pho­tog­ra­phers, too. In win­ter, how­ever, visi­tor num­bers are much lower and the con­di­tions there can be stun­ning.

Ear­lier this year, win­ter came to Yosemite with a vengeance. Hav­ing checked var­i­ous we­b­cams and weather fore­casts in the weeks and months lead­ing up to the trip, I de­cided to go for it any­way. Win­ter boots and warm cloth­ing packed, I ar­rived to find clear blue skies and un­prece­dented warmth and sun­shine – there wasn’t a snowflake in sight. Even the small ski re­sort above the park had brown patches where there should have been snow.

Mi­cro land­scapes

It’s at times like these when you earn your money. A great deal of time and ef­fort has of­ten gone into get­ting you on lo­ca­tion and there is pres­sure to pro­duce good im­ages, so the hunt was on for shots that said ‘win­ter’, but with­out the snow.

For­tu­nately, clear days fol­lowed by clear cold nights led to heavy frosts. The sun couldn’t reach some ar­eas of the val­ley floor, so a heavy layer of ice crys­tals lay on the veg­e­ta­tion. This hard frost made for some great close-ups of leaves, so dur­ing the snow­less few days I was there, I sought out ‘mi­cro land­scapes’ which I could shoot with my Nikon 45mm PC-E tilt-shift lens (it dou­bles as an ex­cel­lent macro lens).

Coy­ote not so ugly

Early one morn­ing, just as the sun was be­gin­ning to strike the moun­tain­tops, I no­ticed a lone coy­ote mak­ing its way along one of the val­ley’s foot­paths and de­cided to fol­low it in the hope of a photo op­por­tu­nity. Although used to liv­ing in close prox­im­ity to hu­mans, these are still wild crea­tures and have to be treated with re­spect.

The coy­ote was mooching around in the un­der­growth and the light wasn’t par­tic­u­larly great, so my thoughts of break­fast got the bet­ter of me and I packed away my kit, ready to head back.

As I did so, the coy­ote jumped onto a fallen tree beau­ti­fully lit by soft, dif­fuse top-light. More in hope than ex­pec­ta­tion of get­ting a shot, I opened up my bag and reached for my Nikon D810 – which, of course, still had the 45mm tilt-shift lens at­tached. Think­ing the mo­ment had passed, I changed to my Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 zoom, bumped up the ISO to 1000 and flicked the VR switch on. As I turned to shoot, the coy­ote stood still for about 30 sec­onds with a rather cold, cal­cu­lat­ing stare. I was very much the fo­cus of its at­ten­tion. Slightly un­nerved I shot a few frames at the 200mm end of the zoom, be­fore it lost in­ter­est in me. The fi­nal im­age was not ex­actly the pho­to­graph I had in mind when I went to shoot win­ter im­ages in Yosemite, but it’s cer­tainly one of my stand-out shots of the year so far.

01 De­void of snow, the win­ter light still gives the land­scape a cold glow

03 The coy­ote get­ting into po­si­tion on a fallen tree

04 The star shot – com­plete with un­nerv­ing, hard stare

Heavy frost makes for chilly im­ages that are packed with in­ter­est­ing tex­tures

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