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The Wile E. Coyote Myth

Coyote IQ

My first memories of Coyotes and not the kind chasing the Road Runner for hours on end every Saturday morning, on the cartoons , but of the small canine species who I’d often see when out riding my little Yamaha TY80 trials bike as a youngster growing up in Nebraska.

Me on my Yamaha TY80 back in the ’80′s

Then, I really didn’t understand what was going on but our friends with the farm out near York, NE would go hunt Coyotes as they would burrow holes in the pastures as they would then pose a risk to their cattle, as they’d step in the holes and break their legs, or so that’s how I remember it.

However on a recent night in Grayslake, I traveled up to the Prairie Crossings Conservation Community and to the Byron Colby Barn to hear Ohio State University professor Stanley Gehrt speak to an audience about Coyotes (pronounced Ki-yote) who live in the greater Chicago area and how they interact with our society and continue to be an important part of the ecosystem.

One of the biggest things we’ve heard about Coyote’s aside of when they show up in a restaurant, convenience stores or  an ice flow in downtown Chicago is that they are out to get your small dog. After a 10-year study, the biggest thing at risk are rodents, followed by rabbits, deer, and road kill, and they don’t like cats and foxes.  There are two times to be more aware of our little canine friends, Mid-February and Mid-April, like us at Valentines day, it’s mating time for their species, so they tend to be more agitated and or aggressive, then again when the litter is born, that tendency will also be present.
So walk your dog on a leash if you’re in an area you know to have or don’t know to have Coyotes, because after seeing his radio collar and GPS collar data… they are everywhere and really they don’t want to mix with us, just know they keep the rodent population down and if you see one too close, try looking mean and scaring them away, it’s good for them to fear humans, but you don’t have to harm it.

House Calls

Yes, I do house calls!

This was the kind of editorial freelance job you have to love from an efficiency standpoint. It was literally four blocks from our house and was obvious that it wasn’t going to be a huge time commitment. Considering a few other calls earlier in the week had required drives of roughly 45 minutes to an hour each way and two hours of shooting, a lot of times it’s nice when they can balance out, plus I really wanted to push into a theme of some interior architectural photos so I can work with interior designers and home builders in the future.

It didn’t hurt that the homeowner was very accommodating and helpful and I think I helped him avoid a toddler’s birthday party, so there was some mutual appreciation going on!

I really liked the Craftsman style of home design that was in play here. Since the homeowners had just moved in, there weren’t many options for shooting inside, and ended up really being a little extra for the Chicago Tribune (client) as the request really just asked for an exterior.

A new client with a bar in their office!

The call came in as I walked into the house, two leashes in hand and the dogs with wet feet, an unfamiliar number popped onto the face of my iPhone. A quick introduction, (man I need to work on getting those names down when I hear a new and unfamiliar voice). A brief conversation, got the details, and then needed to quickly put together a bid with the help of Blinkbid (, a great software that can quickly turn you from hack looking photographer to a professional (looking) one.

Decisions have to be made, how long will this take to shoot, what category does it fall under, etc. In this case I bid on hours and have a two-hour minimum. It’s always hard to define your costs and after a 15 year run in newspapers, learning to price a competitive bid and say “NO” at times is a hard thing. I put what I thought was a pretty good number together, stopped, looked at it, and then dropped it a few percentage points. Described the work, etc. and sent it to the caller via e-mail (I output it as a PDF). It always seems like after you send out a bid that time nearly stops, will you hear back, will they counter, will they say yes, and yes they did.

The job was just a few days away and it was going to be a big challenge of shooting a group of 50+ people in a building lobby with mixed light. I was nervous.
I was trying to decide how to light the group. My light stands would have to be really high, would I need an assistant, did I bid enough…? How do I get up high enough to see almost everyone?

As it turned out we ended up not only shooting the group picture but a set of executive head shots as well, which also played into how I’d shoot the group picture as I only have three mono-lights and I’d need at least two of them set-up upstairs and ready when I was shooting the group. There was also a chance that
I’d also need to do an executive portrait of the president of the company. Lots of technical challenges.

What I can say is with all the gear I was carrying as I walked into the lobby with a three head light kit, modifiers, background stand, background paper, camera gear… thank goodness I lift weights and have dropped some serious weight as I would have surely dropped dead two years ago!

In the end it all worked out. I learned a lot from this shoot and will be able to keep learning, I think that’s the great thing about the job as a freelance photographer, it’s always going to be a challenge of one sort or another. In some ways it’s similar to being a photojournalist, in other ways completely different.

For now it’s just a daily and weekly push to finding more new clients! If you’re looking for a photographer, feel free to explore the site and drop me a line with any questions or bid requests!