One of my favorite times to photograph Eastern Arizona’s White Mountains is during the peak of the monsoon, when abundant rainfall makes everything lush and green. That was my goal in early August 2022, when I headed that way with several photographer friends. This image came together near the end of a memorable day in the high country.

After a wet night of camping, I started shooting at Lee Valley Lake at sunrise, but it was gray and rainy. We decided to drive over to Greens Peak, which none of us had visited before, to see if its relatively bare south slope might be a good spot to make photos. The road to the fire lookout at the top made access easy, and we found incredible views to the south from a long, treeless slope covered with grasses and wildflowers. We made a few shots, then drove back down the mountain for a little hiking.

After lunch, two friends and I drove to McNary, stopping frequently to shoot as clouds developed and shadows lengthened in the late afternoon. We ended the drive back in the Greens Peak area and decided to return to the summit for sunset photos. There were big thunderstorms brewing to the north, but the view in that direction was cluttered by the fire lookout and radio towers, along with thick forest.

With the sun getting low, I searched for a vantage point by flying my drone for a few minutes to get a view over the trees. That was how I spotted an open meadow, on the east slope of the peak, that I thought would give me a clear view to the north. I landed my drone, grabbed my camera pack and tripod, and scrambled down to the meadow as the light was turning gold. I quickly made some images before the sunlight faded, and although I ended up with a number of photos I really liked, this is probably my favorite because, to my surprise, I captured a small lightning bolt in the distant storm.