A Photo and a Story

The stories behind some of my favorite photographs I've ever captured. 


I’ve had my drone for about 3 years, maybe a little longer, and I’ve crashed it a fair number of times. Once its sensors went crazy and it flew itself directly into a pine tree, another time I was attempting to catch it (a method I sometimes use to cut the motor and end flight) and I got my fingers just a little bit too close to the blades and ended up with some bloody fingers and chopped up fingernails, and a drone upside down on the ground.

I’ve flown over water before and those flights are usually some of my favorites, getting down close to the water to see the reflection in it is such a cool perspective. When the water is a small pond, I can generally just fly it back and land it next to me on dry land. Fishing trips, however, create a whole new challenge.

I’ve taken off and landed on boats exactly four times, the first time was on a cruise with my family, we went offshore fishing with this great, local captain in the Bahamas. Took off and landed no problem, easy day, and those shots are still some of my favorite I’ve ever captured from the sky. (I’ll write a story about that one day.) The second time was on lake Tawakoni outside of the Dallas area on a small bass boat with my dad, brother, uncle and cousin. It was tight quarters on that boat, but again I was able to safely take off and land it on the craft. The third time, my brother, dad and myself went fishing with a friend of my dad’s on these little two-man boats with trolling motors on a pond. Sunset rolls around and I pop the drone out and get some shots, and bring it back in. The boat was significantly smaller than the last two but still, a happy landing. This fourth time though, was a bit more interesting.

So, if you remember my last post, we took that fishing trip in Florida and had an absolute blast, high waves had the boat rocking, we had the stereo blaring, and it was an all-around good time. I of course brought my drone, hoping the seas would calm enough to give me a window to feel comfortable about landing it in the boat, but I should have known I don’t have that kind of luck.

The whole time we’re out there I’m contemplating launching it, the first mate jokingly tells me he’s seen quite a few drones go straight into the water off the back of this boat, which really helped boost the morale. Toward the end of the trip, I make the decision to just do it, just launch it and capture what I can, and worry about landing it later. So, I do. I launch it and immediately get high wind warning from the sensors on the drone (duh), but I override them and begin my flight. For 10 minutes I fought the wind, trying to get smooth shots of our boat on the rough seas, and was surprised by how well some of those shots came out, but the battery started dipping into the 20% range and I knew it was time to do some problem solving.

I asked the guys to clear off one half of the back deck, I knew there was no way I was catching it with the boat rocking so much, so I was content to just get it below the side of the deck and basically crash land it. Dad stayed leaning off the very back, while Gus stayed next to me, and held a fishing rod I had asked him to grab so the drone didn’t sense it or get tangled with it. Moment of truth. The cleared space is about 6 feet by 6 feet, but with the boat rocking so much it felt much smaller. I bring it down to where it’s just above our heads, and make sure everything is clear, and then continue the descent. It gets to about eye level, when the boat rides a wave and the back of the boat rises a bit, bringing dad closer to the drone and its sensors.

The great thing about the technology on these drones is that they have these sensors that really make it nearly impossible to crash, if something gets within about 5 feet of it, it will it automatically adjust and move in the opposite direction, which is awesome… most of the time. In this case though, it was not so awesome. After it sensed dad behind it, it started moving forward, still eye level, directly at me and Gus. Gus clutched his fishing rod across his chest, and the drone slowly began lowering, but also slowly kept inching toward the two of us. Its blades start hitting Gus in the chest as he’s now leaning almost out of the boat trying to evade the blades. As its sensors start to try to dodge Gus it makes a move like it’s going to go back over the side of the deck, which would leave it a bit more wet than I generally like to keep my cameras, so I take my right hand off of the controller and smack the top of it like you’d smack a good steak you were about to tenderize, open handed, palm first “SMACK!” It hits the deck of the boat, but its blades are still going and its bouncing around at ankle level like a pinball. The first mate finally steps on it and the motor cuts out. Another happy landing.

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Updated: Mar 15, 2021

Change of plans. Originally, I was going to post a video highlighting a couple of my favorite pictures from my monthly travels on YouTube. However, after writing a couple of these entries, I’ve decided I enjoy this, and that I want to tell those newer photo stories here, mixed in with some of my stories I’ve been sharing from the past.

So let’s get into it, here are some of my favorite photos from my most recent trip to Florida with my family, documented in my YouTube video Just a Family Vacation.


The waves were exceptionally violent, combine that with the wind blowing and the temp sitting around 50 degrees, and it maybe wasn’t the best beach day, but we were in Florida, staying no more than a couple hundred yards from the beach, of course we were going to come walk in the sand.

I had my Sony RX10 IV taking some videos and snapping some pics of the fam, as well as the waves crashing, and the seagulls taking off and landing, but I wanted to get a different perspective on our beach day. I had my Mavic Air drone with me but flying in high winds is never a safe or smart choice… but I’m not really one for safety.

I launched it from my hand and flew it straight up, taking videos as I flew down the coast, panned up and down catching the waves crashing, and then finally, flew straight above my head, and brought the drone to a hover. I knew what shot I wanted, it’s been done countless times and definitely done better, but I still wanted my own version. I brought the gimbal holding the camera down to 90 degrees where it was pointing straight down at me and then flew it a bit further out to sea, so I was just at the edge of the frame, and I clicked away.

I was very happy with how the photos turned out, I added a slight edit to it, adding in some much-needed color, as it was particularly grey that afternoon, but didn’t go too crazy on it. I landed the drone back in my hand and tucked it away safely in my backpack, I’d use it again soon, and that story is one of the craziest/luckiest experiences with a drone I’ve ever had.


All the guys of the family had decided a few weeks prior to take a fishing trip while we were in Florida, Dad had booked it and we were all very excited to get out on the water. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a huge fisherman, but I love getting to experience things that are outside of my daily norm and doing it with people I love only makes it better. So, we set out at around 7:30 with high hopes and lots of layers on.

The captain had told us that the seas were going to be rough, and he wasn’t optimistic about catching anything as the weather wasn’t ideal, but that didn’t hurt our spirits one bit. There was an indoor cabin we would later move into, but we stayed outside as we moved away from shore, watching the towering condominiums shrink into nothing more than dots on the horizon.

As we sped away from land, and toward the open ocean, the sun tried to break through a group of clouds a couple miles ahead of us. It was overcast and pretty windy on the water, and it didn’t seem like the sun wanted to make a lasting appearance, just a peek here and there. One of those peeks came straight out ahead of us, as a group of sun rays broke through the clouds on the horizon. I was sitting on the side of the deck and leaned out and started snapping away, I took a couple tight shots down the side of the boat, and then a few wide, with the wake we were creating in frame. After some editing to bring out the oranges and yellows of the sun, I was beyond happy with the final photos.

The fishing trip was a huge success, and we had a great time, but this won’t be the last story from that trip. Part 2 of this post will be up soon, and I’ll tell you all about how I almost made a thousand-dollar mistake.

Here’s a link to the YouTube video if you’re interested in checking that out!


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Armed with my new camera, I made a point to photograph everything I could. At that time my family lived on around 30 acres with a small barn and windmill, and we had a great view of the sunset. One evening, I noticed that the sunset was going to be particularly beautiful, so I grabbed my trusty camera and started wandering around our property in search of the perfect shot of this sunset.

I spent maybe 10 minutes shooting through tree branches and high grass, before setting my sights on the windmill. I could picture the shot I wanted to get, the windmill silhouetted by the sunset behind it, with just the tops of the trees showing. From my viewpoint on the ground though, the angle wasn’t right, I wasn’t getting the tops of the trees or the most colorful part of the sunset like I wanted.

Sometimes ya gotta improvise.

I threw my camera over my shoulder and began climbing the fence that was next to the barn (in crocs I might add). I reached the top of the fence and the roof of the barn was about chest height, I shimmied up it, banging my camera around much more than was probably recommended in the user manual, and reached the wobbly roof of the barn.

Being sure to stay on the metal support rods so I wouldn’t fall through the thin metal roof, I slowly stood, trying to stay balanced, and took a glance at the windmill, perfect. I took a couple shots from eye level and it was good, but not what I wanted. I shifted the LCD screen down a bit and reached my arms up as high as I could, getting nearly level with the windmill. My view of the LCD screen wasn’t great, but I could make out the outline of the windmill, so I put it on the left third of the frame and squeezed off around 10 shots, moving the camera slightly with each shutter click, to have different perspectives to choose from.

I brought the camera down and took a moment to view the images I had taken. Nailed it.

At that moment, I felt like the king of the world, it was a simple photograph, but it was exactly what I set out to capture, and I had myself a moment of celebration atop that barn, which was interrupted by my mom, who had come out of the house to let me know dinner was ready and was quite confused to see me on top of our barn doing a happy dance. I safely dismounted the barn roof, and excitedly shared my new favorite pictures with her, I think she may have been more excited than I was about them.

Today, that photograph is the logo for my Dad’s company, which I think is so cool, knowing my art is on trucks, trailers, and business cards, very cool.

A few days later, my brother, sister and I were riding scooters and ripsticks around a slab that had been poured on our property, but hadn’t had anything built on it yet, just a big, smooth chunk of concrete. There was a bit of water standing on one section of the slab from a recent rain, and as I walked past it, I noticed that the horizon was reflecting off of that water like it would a lake, creating an almost mirror like illusion. I took a mental note of that and went on with my day.

That evening, I grabbed a water hose and completely covered a small section of that concrete slab. With my camera in hand, I sat on the ground and brought my camera to level with the concrete, which was now acting as a mirror of the sunset in front of me. Reflections of landscapes in lakes are one of the most beautiful things to photograph in my opinion, the sense of calm they portray, it’s something rare in nature, and although this wasn’t a lake that was deathly calm, I still find peace in this picture, and satisfaction that I was able to do my best to replicate that feeling. Like I said, sometimes ya gotta improvise.

At this point I was starting to gain confidence, in myself and my work, and I continued to seek out opportunities to photograph any and everything I could. As my senior year drew to a close, I was ready to take that next step as a photographer and creator, but I never could have imagined what was waiting for me in the next chapter of my life.

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