We were the only two creatures in sight as we walked side by side through the cold, snowy Yosemite Valley meadow early one morning a couple of weeks ago.
Barely a hundred yards separated us. We walked slowly, each of us searching for what we came looking for. We would stop every few feet and look carefully at our surroundings, making sure that we were not missing anything.
I was burdened by my camera gear, which included my tripod, camera and backpack camera case.
He, on the other hand, had just his keen sense of sight and smell as tools.
We were both in survival mode, as sometimes I think my existence is based on making great images.
The coyote, my companion in the meadow that morning, was searching for sustenance. Breakfast was calling and this beautiful, sleek hunter finally found what he was looking for as he scared up some sort of rodent from under nearly a foot of fresh snow.
After a brief struggle the coyote prevailed and ran off into the forest that ringed this beautiful meadow with his kill. I, on the other hand, had not yet found the image that I was hoping for so I continued my hunt.
I was heading to the far end of the meadow where a line of beautiful trees next to the Merced River were still adorned with leaves ablaze with fall colors. Despite the fact that the meadow was level and I am in decent physical shape my breathing was labored due to the heavy amount of camera equipment and the nearly knee-deep snow that I was trudging through.
It was also cold. The thermometer in my truck registered just 24 degrees when I pulled over at the side of the road by the meadow.
As I finally neared the tree line and river at the head of the meadow the early morning sun was just making it's way over the rim of the south side of the valley. When the golden rays of sunlight finally made their way to the treetops, an explosion of color appeared before my eyes.
For an added bonus, the warming sun on the cold Merced River made a wall of mysterious ground fog that swirled around the trees with their beautiful yellows and golds. It was a beautiful sight and I made several images.
Everything around me was awash in a beautiful golden light; it was hard to concentrate on just one image.
After 30 minutes, the sun became too high in the sky and the light became too harsh for my taste. The show was over. As I was packing up my gear, I noticed that the meadow that my friend the coyote and I trudged across earlier was now in full sun.
It was at this point that I remembered that I had left my sunglasses in the truck. It would be a long walk back across snow in full sun and snow blindness is no fun. I was just thankful that the walk was not longer.
Snow blindness is one thing, but having perfect vision and still not seeing a great image in front of you is something that a photographer must work on.
Earlier in the morning, on my first stop in Yosemite Valley, before my encounter with my friend the coyote, I stopped along the Merced River at Cathedral Beach.
This spot has the potential for a nice sunrise image of El Capitan reflected in the river with the first rays of sunlight. Unfortunately, the river was too low and the sky void of interesting clouds, so I passed on this image and set my sights on finding something more appealing to photograph in the area.
While searching, a group of three photographers all armed with the latest equipment came hiking down the path toward the water. Taking one look at the scene that I passed on they, too, were astute enough to notice that this was not going to make a good image.
As they were packing their gear back into their car I was making an image of some beautiful frost ringed leaves. This image is one of the best landscape images that I have made this year.
Moral of the story, don't get tunnel vision on a particular image. Keep your mind and eyes open to new possibilities at all times.
You can see some of the images from this trip at my Web site, www.jaysousaphotography.com. Go to the Rangefinder gallery.
Jay Sousa, a former Sun-Star photographer, has his own photography business in Merced, conducts workshops and teaches photography at Merced College.