Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Coyote Attack

It was nearing 5:30 on a mid-August evening and I was watching a meadow where a herd of whitetail does and fawns were feeding along with two spike bucks. Suddenly a large coyote came into the meadow.  The Panasonic GH4 was sitting on the tripod nearby with the Canon 100-400mm IS L lens attached by means of the Metabones Speed Booster. I carefully moved into position behind it and began filming.  As I filmed I alternated between filming in 4K and the special ETC mode which this camera features.  With it a 1080P frame is read from the central portion of the sensor, which results in greatly increased ability to shoot at long ranges and still get frame filling  footage.

This was a large animal with wolf-like features. Some , including many  PGC officials, consider the coyotes in our area to actually be Eastern Brush Wolves as they bear more of a resemblance to small wolves than they do to the western coyotes.

The coyote showed no inclination to attack the large extended family group of deer as it slowly stalked through the meadow , but as it neared the tree line at the far edge of the meadow it sniffed the air and picked up the scent of a small spike buck that was feeding out of sight over a rise in the meadow.  The coyote trotted toward the spike and as it came over the rise it launched an attack on the deer, but then aborted it at the last moment before contact.  I can only speculate that it began the incident with the intention of driving home the attack if it was a fawn, but after getting close, realized there was no chance of successfully killing a deer that large and broke off the attack.

I am perhaps my own worst critic and I was extremely disgusted that I bobbled the camera at the crucial moment of the attack, but it was easy to fall into the pitfall which caused the problem.  As it was I was filming in the ETC mode because the coyote was far enough away that he did not look impressive on the monitor screen, so at the moment of the attack I had too much magnification and too narrow of a field of view to follow the action and smoothly film the happening.  As soon as the coyote broke off the attack I shifted to 4K in case he followed up on the attack, but instead he went into the woods.  In retrospect I would have been better off had I filmed the entire segment in 4K and then cropped the footage in post production, or once I was committed to ETC mode I should not have changed the camera to 4K after the attack as had things continued I would have missed a lot of the action as it takes awhile for the camera to be ready to shoot after making this change (because of the external monitor). This is only a few seconds , but that can cover a lot when things are moving quickly.  It would have been better to have stayed in ETC and simply zoomed out a bit, but that is the mistakes one makes.

Regardless of the mistakes and less than perfect filming, I still got some decent footage, and the memory of the event is one that I will treasure for a lifetime. At the end of the day that is really what it is all about anyway.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.