My last couple days in London I told myself multiple times how I couldn’t wait to get home and not have to pick up a camera for several days. Just two days after getting home I would take a fishing trip with a buddy… and I would be happily picking up a camera and working my ass off!

Due to jet lag from hell, I would wake up on this Tuesday at 4am. I knew I wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep because I was not tired one bit.

The night before, my step brother Josh had asked me if I wanted to go trout fishing up at Woods Canyon Lake.

Being that I had just barely gotten back from London I initially didn’t want to.

Now I was laying in my bed not tired one bit so I texted him back to see if he wanted to still go fishing once he woke up.

Within 30 seconds of sending him the text he responded back with yea. I asked when he wanted to leave. His response, “Now”

I wasn’t expecting that to be his answer. I was expecting 8am or something.

One of the big things I missed during my three weeks in London was not being able to drive my car. This trip would give me an excuse for a mini road trip.

Below, here is the view as the sun breaks the Arizona horizon setting off a nice postcard worthy sunrise. I recently started using the Instagram app. Be sure to follow me on there for lots of behind the scenes views from my “office.”

After a quick pitstop at Dennys in Fountain Hills it was back on the road north.

The sun produced some cool shadows off the peaks of Four Peaks Mountain as it rose.

Nikon D800, 24-70mm, 200iso, f4.5, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Just over an hour and a half drive from Phoenix and we would find ourselves at the picturesque Woods Canyon Lake high up on the Mogollon Rim. (over 7500ft!) On this day the high temperature in Phoenix would exceed 115 degrees. Up here? Mid 80’s.

Photo by iPhone 4s

I announced to Josh before we started fishing that my target goal for the day was to catch five fish.

Josh wouldn’t say his goal because he’s superstitious, haha.

We rented a crappy little boat with a trolling motor on it for 80 dollars for the day (8am-5pm). No way was I planning on staying out on the lake that long but whatever.

I would be first on the board with this 10 inch rainbow trout caught by trolling a cricket hopper lure.

Photo by iPhone 4s

I felt like a badass for catching the first fish but Josh would soon respond with his first of four consecutive fish to my one.

Photo by iPhone 4s

You aren’t gonna catch any giant fish here (well once or twice a year someone will reel in a 10 + pounder) but you will catch some nice colorful rainbow trout.

Photo by iPhone 4s

They say they also have rainbow trout there but I have never seen one.

Midway through the day a surprise rain shower from a monsoon storm would hit us. Im not joking when I say the temperature dropped into the high 60’s. That plus the wind made for a cold 30 or so minutes!

Check out my badass rain poncho bought from the bait shop right next to the lake.

Photo by iPhone 4s

Late in the day I would finally start catching some fish. The official total for our trip was Josh with 6 fish caught, three lost right at the boat. I would finish my day with 4 fish caught and two lost right at the side of the boat.

With my previous fishing luck I was happy to have four fish on the day.

After seeing a bald eagle fly close to our boat we would make a quick pitstop at the dock for me to run to the car and get my D800 with 400mm lens.

I fully expected that once I had the camera in the boat with us that we wouldn’t see another eagle for the rest of the day since thats how luck usually works out.

Boy was I wrong!

Below, a Bald Eagle flies over the lake past our boat about 10 minutes after I got my camera.

Nikon D800, 400mm, 800iso, f6.3, 1/1000th, Manual

54 minutes later while on our last pass of the day before having to turn the boat in I would spot a Bald Eagle in a tree along the lake.

At this point I didn’t care about fishing anymore, all that mattered was a cool shot of the American icon that was in the trees!

Thanks to a hungry bird and a lake filled with fish I would be rewarded for grabbing my camera from the car.

The eagle sees its prey and leaps off the tree branch…

Nikon D800, 400mm, 2000iso, f5, 1/1250th, Manual

At this point I was almost in shock to be witnessing a Bald Eagle close up swooping down on the lake….

Nikon D800, 400mm, 2000iso, f5, 1/1250th, Manual

I was so surprised that I screwed up and cut the bird out of the frame as it grabbed its prize from the water…

Nikon D800, 400mm, 2000iso, f5, 1/1250th, Manual

After the initial shock of shooting something so cool faded I would get the bird back in frame and back in focus as it flew away.

Nikon D800, 400mm, 2000iso, f5, 1/1250th, Manual

Nikon D800, 400mm, 2000iso, f5, 1/1250th, Manual

Less than eight minutes after that sequence they would sound the horn for everyone to bring their boats into the dock. The lake was closed.

Fine with me. I just got some killer frames of an eagle I never expected to see on a lake in Arizona!

After getting cool shots like that I was visibly excited. Getting awesome wildlife photos on a day where I left my camera in the car figuring there was no point in bringing it was a bonus that made a good day of fishing a wonderful day.

Little did I know, my great day would soon get greater.

While driving down through Payson there was a decent sized monsoon thunderstorm going through the desert.

It included lots of lightning.

Apparently one of the lightning strikes would start off a wild fire in the desert as we would see smoke start rising in the valley a few miles ahead.

With Josh driving the car I was able to hang out of the passenger window shooting the smoke and nice sunset. The yellow orbs on the right of the frame are actually drops of rain on the camera lens that got lit by the sun light. Makes for a cool looking effect!

Nikon D800, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

As Josh continued to drive and look for a safe place for us to park I would continue shooting shots out of the window.

Nikon D800, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Nikon D800, 24-70mm, 800iso, f5, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

After an illegal u-turn through a gravel emergency vehicle only spot, we would find a nice wide dirt shoulder along the road. Before Josh could even shut the car off I was running across the highway towards the fire with my D800, 400mm and 24-70mm lens.

Nikon D800, 24-70mm, 800iso, f5, 1/250th, Aperture Priority

Before I started shooting with my real camera I shot one on the iPhone for Instagram. I actually had the below photo posted hours before the shots from my camera would be downloaded. 

I couldn’t really hike too close to the fire with the other lanes of the highway I would have to cross. The rough desert terrain with lots of shrubs and bushes is a favorite hideout for rattlesnakes. No thanks!

I would find a bit of a hill which got me high enough to be able to see the flames slowly moving across a mountainside. The D800 with 400mm lens got me right in on the action.

Nikon D800, 400mm, 800iso, f5, 1/250th, Aperture Priority

One thing I really wanted in some shots were the iconic Saguaro cactus that Arizona is known for.

I would find a couple to use for some shots.

Nikon D800, 400mm, 640iso, f2.8, 1/320th, Manual

This one was shot with the wide angle lens from a few feet away.

Nikon D800, 24-70mm, 800iso, f5, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

I have shot a few wild fires over the years that had much bigger flames that I was MUCH closer to but this fire would be cool since it was happening in front of a gorgeous Arizona sunset.

Nikon D800, 24-70mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/400th, Aperture Priority

With the sun now set the flames on the mountainside looked much cooler so I would reshoot the cactus (now as a silhouette) with the flames out of focus in the background.

Nikon D800, 400mm, 1600iso, f2.8, 1/60th, Aperture Priority

In these type of situations you’re best bet is to shoot both variations of the shot. You never wanna regret not doing something during a cool shoot. Trust me, it will haunt you.

In this shot I focused on the fire thus making the saguaro cactus out of focus. Which variation do you prefer?

Nikon D800, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/60th, Aperture Priority

Less than an hour after my first shot driving towards the smoke, I would take my last shot of the fires with the below shot.

The smoke being lit by the fire produced a nice deep orange glow that contrasted perfectly with the dark blue storm cloud in the background.

Nikon D800, 400mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/125th, Aperture Priority

That would end a great day of unexpected shooting, right?


While relaxing at the bar next door to my place my lovely girlfriend Kendra would text to tell me it was storming at her house. Since I was at the bar with my laptop editing pics I quickly checked out the local radar and boy did it look good.

I would quickly down my drink, pay my check and literally RUN home, up the elevator and to my balcony in under five minutes.

By this point I am now drunk but thankfully photography is second nature to me so I was able to get my camera set up and get the below photo of a nice bolt striking behind the downtown Phoenix skyline.

Nikon D800, 24-70mm, 25iso, f10, 30 second exposure, Manual

I really liked this shot of a huge bolt striking behind the city with multiple fingers coming off it.

Nikon D800, 24-70mm, 25iso, f10, 30 second exposure, Manual

Still isn’t my dream shot of a bolt actually striking one of the skyscrapers. I WILL get that shot, I promise.

The moral of the story is to always have some good camera gear nearby so you can capture anything unexpected that may happen during the day.

I would have been pissed to witness these three awesome (and different) moments and not have photographs of it.

That wraps up the best day off from shooting ever!

To see ALL my shots from the day (available for purchase!) Click here.

I have a Facebook page devoted my photography where I routinely share my favorite photos from each shoot as well as favorite photos from the past. Click the below banner to check it out. Be sure to “like” the page so you can be kept up to date on all the events I am doing!

Posted in Desert, Lightning, Me, Scenic, Travel, weather, Wildlife   4 Comments

4 responses to “Relaxing day off turns into amazing day of Photos”

  1. renee says:

    Love reading your blogs, its amazing, be safe with them fires, amazing photos

  2. Rick Samsal says:

    Simply outstanding set of photos…can’t say much more..just a great day for you!!

  3. Richard Cundiff says:

    Great eagle shots.
    What is your opinion of the better football/soccer (Div. III)lens; Nikon 200-400 or 300 2.8. Both would be used with 1.7 TC. Is there a $6000 difference in the D3s &D4? Thanks for you blog.

  4. Jeff says:

    Love the photos, how the heck do you capture lightning I have tried SOOOOOOO many times with different settings, etc. Also, my wife said how come the Eagle caught bigger fish than you guys 🙂 LOL

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Check out my Facebook page devoted my photography where I routinely share my favorite photos from each shoot as well as favorite photos from the past. Click the below banner to check it out. Be sure to "like" the page so you can be kept up to date on all the events I am doing!