A Coyote, A Reflection And An Interpretive Error On My Part

Three months ago I posted some shots of a coyote intrigued by its own reflection in the Great Salt Lake.  I rejected one photo I liked because of what I thought was a metal wire that ruined the image.  I should have paid more attention…


coyote 1761 ron dudley

 1/1000, f/11, ISO 500, Canon 7D, 500 f/4, 1.4 tc

I took lots of photos of this coyote as it first gnawed on a duck carcass,  then proceeded to walk along this rocky spit jutting out into the lake and stopped to inspect its own reflection.  Even though I liked this image with the raised paw I almost deleted it because of what appeared to be a thick wire of some sort behind the front feet.  Debris like that isn’t unusual in the area so that’s where my mind went and that’s where it stayed.  The “wire” hadn’t been visible in the other images but I had assumed that the “activity” of the coyote had popped it up into view for that one frame.  I used other photos for that previous post and haven’t visited these images since.

Until yesterday.  As I was reviewing some images I noticed the wire again and immediately realized my interpretive error when I looked at two earlier images.



coyote 1759 ron dudley

 1/1000, f/11, ISO 500, Canon 7D, 500 f/4, 1.4 tc

 Two clicks previously the left front foot of the coyote is hidden behind the point of the spit…



coyote 1760 ron dudley

 1/1000, f/11, ISO 500, Canon 7D, 500 f/4, 1.4 tc

and as it is raised in the next frame it’s clearly covered with mud.



coyote 1761 ron dudley

So now it becomes obvious that the “wire” in the original image is really a column of thick, muddy water being pulled up and forward through the air by the foot of the animal.  In the isolated image the water column (and its reflection) may be distracting but in a sequential series I think it would add to the story.  Now that I know what’s really going on I wish I’d included this image in the original post.

Much ado about nothing I suppose but these are things I hate to miss and it was a good lesson for me.  Some of you may have known (or suspected) immediately what the “wire” really was but my mind went elsewhere and that’s where it stayed.  I suspect it might be a little like some types of optical illusions – some folks see it and some folks don’t.


Addendum:  In comments several folks said that the “item” in question looked to them like it might be a stick so I’ve taken the liberty of posting another version of the image (below) that has been cropped heavily to show more detail.  Personally, I still believe it to be a column of thick, muddy water.


coyote 1761 big crop ron dudley

20 comments to A Coyote, A Reflection And An Interpretive Error On My Part

  • Susan Stone

    In looking at the close crop I agree that what we’re seeing is muddy water. But I would never have figured that out looking only at the original image. I certainly wouldn’t expect water to look like that…

  • 5riversJim

    Excellent photograph. I agree with all the comments previous…it could be a stick….it could be trailing mud water….but everyone agrees it is magnificent.

  • Awesome photo of the coyote…while hated by most farmers, the coyote is one of my favorite predators simple because he won’t die. We have hunted them from
    air, poisoned, shot, trap and harassed the heck of the lowly coyote yet he’s still here.

    If I could take a bit more of your time. We had talked earlier about the 40D and you think it’s great but I need good glass. Any ideas on what would be good glass for me…I assume it will have stabilization?
    I was RVing in Avila Bay and met a couple from Ocean Shores, WA and they both had beautiful Canons with huge white lenses. Upon pestering them for photography ideas the lady said the most important thing in bird shots are the eyes…and in nearly every one of your photos the eyes always stand out.

    • Tom, One way to answer that is to say that “good glass” is defined by what you can afford. With Canon, a moderately priced, stabilized “L” lens would be the 100-400. One of the very best would be the 500 f/4 but now you’re talking big bucks…

      And yes, the eyes are usually primary!

  • Jane Chesebrough

    Good observation.

  • Jean Haley

    Beautiful shots Ron. I find Coyotes interesting. Love the reflection, and the look in his eyes.

  • Charlotte Norton

    Wonderful shots and it would be really difficult to determine!

  • Thank you for all the comments, everyone. I’ve been out shooting all morning and part of the afternoon and just got home not long ago so I haven’t had the opportunity to respond before now.

    Some of the comments suggesting the item in question might be a stick prompted me to post an additional, heavily cropped version of the image that might clear up the mystery. To my eye it still looks like muddy water.

    • Patty Chadwick

      When you enlarge the image enough, you can see that it’s probably a sticky, “trailer” of dragged up mud….but it still looks like a stick! Not the first time one of your photos has misled our eyes…I still remember the hawk with a “Mohawk” and the double-tailed pheasant! A good reminder not to believe everything you see, though in your case, we can believe MOST of it…..

  • I hope that while you are beating up on yourself for real (and imaginary) errors you keep the other hand free to pat yourself on the back. You give us so much beauty, education and fun each day. Thank you so very much.

  • Hindsight is “20/20”! Nice that you reviewed it with a different eye and caught the real story, Ron! I can relate to the process of initial review and not “seeing” what might really be there.

    Of course, as strictly an observer from afar, I love the image of this beautiful animal you have provided and simply don’t care about some of the minutiae I might if I had been the photographer!

  • Patty Chadwick

    My twisted mind likes and respects coyote, the trickster, an Iktomi….so I love this series. We hear them at night,a wild, exciting sound. You say a stream of mud? Looks like a popped up stick to mr…and BEAUTIFUL shot of a curious, handsome, healthy animal.

  • What a great capture Ron!

  • Ellen Wascou

    I’ll have to take your word for the mud explanation. Still looks like a muddy stick or decayed plant life to me. I would need a much closer look to say that was water. I have no experience wqith coyotes or mud!!!

  • 48dodger

    Nope….would have never guessed it. 🙂


  • Wow, I would not have guessed that was muddy water Ron. Great detective work and excellent photos. I wonder what the coyote things of its beautiful reflection in the water? “Mirror, mirror on the wall… ?” 🙂

  • Thanks Ron for reposting this awesome sequence with the “wire image and explanation included,which to me the actually the most interesting composition of the series.

  • Interesting progression – of photos and thoughts! I would have seen it as a piece of rank water weed. I hope you’re commending yourself for having gone back for a second look! To me, one of the lessons is that jewels are sometimes uncovered in a second sorting…

    Distinct from that, I enjoy seeing these close-ups of coyote. They’re very common on the old farm (abutting a mountain) where I live, and I often hear them at night. Even walked behind an unsuspecting one on an old logging path. But this chance to see the entire coyote in profile is a real treat!

  • Wonderful I realize we are our own worst critic, but Ron, really-your work is beyond compare…

  • Dick Harlow

    Excellent Ron. It would have fooled me as well. When I first looked at the image, it looked like a stick, but with the series of shots it makes sense that is a stream of muddy water being pulled forward with the paw. Good save!!