Sneaks and peeks

I’m so bad at blogging these days…so here’s some sneaks and fun shots from the past two months!

Abi’s senior session!

I’ve known Abi and her family since she was a little girl. It’s unbelievable to me that she’s somehow a senior in high school suddenly. What a blast to hang with her, her best friend and Abi’s mom Kathy. Such a fun time and I love these images!

Plus my daughter Lyla came along and makes a couple of appearances!

Devin & Bailey’s sibling senior session!

A senior session for last year that I loved but never blogged. Thanks so much Joanna for getting this one together for me 🙂

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This was 2016

This past year took me all over. A road trip to Utah and Colorado for our annual Lost//Discovered adventure. Weddings in Montana, Buffalo and Las Vegas. Engagement sessions in California, Sedona, Tucson, the Mogollon Rim, Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Storm chasing in the spring across nine different states while driving 25,000+ miles. Seeing a dozen or so tornadoes, including the first time capturing one in 8K. Then chasing storms and haboobs all over Arizona this summer with a couple film crews.

I also won an Emmy in October, which I need to write about at some point on this blog.  I photographed 31 weddings, 41 family/engagement sessions, ran a tornado tour and a monsoon workshop. I put about 50,000 new miles on the 4Runner.

There is no way around it: 2016 was everything I hoped it would be. Thrilling, exciting, daunting, fulfilling and yes, completely exhausting. The end of the year has been great for me to take a break, reflect and refresh. Going over these images has been therapeutic. When you see your entire year laid out like it is below…well for me, it’s emotional. You see all the work you did, the smiles, the laughs, the love, the tough times, the storms, my kids, the moments and the celebrations.

Hope you enjoy this look back! This was hard to narrow down and painful to leave things out. But I tried to keep it “tight” as much as possible haha. It begins on New Year’s Eve just a 1/4 from my house at a blast of a wedding and ends with a treasured photo of my three kids with our amazing nanny Emma who will soon be leaving us for school full-time.

I included the three films I made as well!

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The Million Dollar Highway in Colorado has some sharp drop-offs and incredible scenery, plus this amazing switchback. I spotted it on Google Maps a few days prior and was hoping it would look amazing from the air...and I think it was better than I imagined.

A final bit of light hits Shiprock in New Mexico as the sun sets on a chilly day.

Lost//Discovered: The Other Side from Mike Olbinski on Vimeo.

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Sometimes I wish I could just stand and watch a storm like this and not rush around trying to capture it with a million cameras. To just be in awe of God's majesty and creation without agenda. Sometimes I forget that's where my love of storms began. Being there and watching.

A beautiful, sculpted supercell roams the plains of the Oklahoma Panhandle.

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A powerful, EF4 tornado spins through the small rural community of Katie, Oklahoma on May 9th, 2016.

A powerful, EF4 tornado spins through the small rural community of Katie, Oklahoma on May 9th, 2016.

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The stunning Wynnewood/Katie tornado eventually roped out as it crossed Interstate 35 in Oklahoma.

A mile-wide wedge tornado hangs out in the dark area beyond the trees as it slowly moves towards the town of Sulphur, Oklahoma.

A beautiful, elephant trunk tornado touches down near Connorville, Oklahoma on May 9th, 2016

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A tornado developed in the rain of this supercell and slowly emerged as it moved in the completely opposite direction from the storm itself.

A shelf cloud passed over minutes before, leaving in its wake low hanging clouds that looked as if you were staring up at a crashing wave in the ocean.

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A shelf cloud slowly rolled over our position at Leoti, Kansas, revealing a gorgous sunset shining through the rain and lightning on May 30th, 2016

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This gorgeously structure supercell churned over the dusty farmlands southeast of Lamesa, Texas on May 31st, 2016

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A lighting bolt pierces the cloud decks as it slams into the ground southeast of Lamesa, Texas on May 31st, 2016

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A gorgeous supercell hovers over the farmlands near Ackerly, Texas

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A gorgeous supercell slowly moves over the farmlands of Texas near the town of Ackerly.

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An isolated supercell south of Paducah, Texas, explodes upwards in an eruption of cumulus.

A bolt of lightning escapes an isolated storm south of Paducah, Texas

A supercell slowly dies out as it approaches Benjamin, Texas on June 14th

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A powerful downburst of rain dumps over the Superstition Mountains in Apache Junction, creating strong outflow winds that kick up tons of dust, lowering visibility to zero at times.

A lightning bolt lands in the Four Peaks Wilderness area northeast of Phoenix, seeming to fork into two directions at the last minute as it strikes the side of a mountain.

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A gorgeous couple of lightning strikes hit the Sand Tank Mountains just after sunset on July 1st, 2016

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A low shelf cloud hangs under the base of a strong thunderstorm near the town of McNeal, Arizona.

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A long lightning strike acts like an off-camera flash to help illuminate an intense microburst over the Eagletail Mountains and Courthouse Rock.

Something like hellfire rains down on these mountains west of Phoenix, with a massive bolt landing right atop Courthouse Rock.

A shot I've been trying to get for years now...last night it happened. A monster lightning strike just behind the iconic Picacho Peak that sits between Phoenix and Tucson along Interstate 10.

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A beautiful, isolated storm hangs in western portions of Arizona right at sunset.

Nine separate photos are stacked here over the course of nine minutes out west of Phoenix along Sun Valley Parkway.

A single 30-second exposure yielded a blast of five lightning strikes landing in and around the Gila Bend Mountains on August 18th, 2016

A bolt of lightning hits in front of the Gila Bend Mountains on August 18th, 2016

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A bolt from a summer thunderstorm drops just on the north side of the Little Colorad River as seen from the Grand Canyon's Navajo Point.

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The Grand Canyon is a brutal place to chase. We drove up yesterday...eight hours there and back, 10 hours spent waiting, and waiting, and waiting, not sleeping (me, not the kids haha), only to have storms die out just before they hit you at 4am. And you know if you had gotten there an hour earlier, you'd have seen a good storm. Other than early last week, it's been a place that has been frustrating to say the least over the years. I usually drive back exhausted and bummed out. Today was no different. This morning though...on our way home, south of Cameron...the leftover clouds and rain from early morning storms exploded into some of the best color I've ever seen. This photo just has a bit of contrast added in Lightroom, nothing else. You could almost feel the color and the warmth on your skin. It made me smile. A gorgeous, perfect morning, shared with my two kiddos, on a highway in northern Arizona with the sky on fire. As if God was telling me...hey, you never know when something amazing is going to happen. Don't give up. Not gonna. But I need a nap.

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A massive positive cloud-to-ground lightning strike hits just on the north side of Coolidge, Arizona

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Yesterday was a crazy chase, ended up in a little community east of Ajo called Maish Vaya at sunset and completely surrounded by exploding thunderstorms and insane colors in the sky. It was unreal. This was looking north and is the only bolt I caught in this direction as I had less than 10 minutes before it started pouring. Spent the night in Green Valley and am now in Nogales watching the wash through town flow a bit before heading home early this afternoon.

A stunning thunderstorm at sunset out in a remote area of southern Arizona near the community of Maish Vaya.

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Nothing more beautiful than lightning against a sunrise or sunset. Awesome morning out near the Four Peaks

This storm displayed weak supercell structures for a bit as it moved through the town of Picacho, AZ

A monster shelf cloud moves towards the small community of San Manuel in southeastern Arizona

A late season haboob rolls towards Phoenix with the setting sun turning the dust and clouds all shades of purple and orange.

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Devin and Bailey

Two sneaks from a senior session on Friday with a brother and sister!

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This was 2015

I never know how to cut down on photos for a blog post…my wife does. If I let her at this thing, it would probably be half the size! As it is, I took out a ton of photos I love and kept it under 200. I feel good about that.

This was 2015. These are the photos I love the most and what made up my year. I used to try and include shots from every single shoot or wedding I did, but I’m unable to do that now as things have gotten busier and more widespread. But from personal work with my own family, to weddings, to portraits, to road trips and of course the storms, this spans the entire year.

All photos are shown in the order taken as well.

The year began with a big snowstorm that even produced flurries in Phoenix on December 31st, so we went out to enjoy it on New Year’s Day. From there it was engagement sessions, a road trip with my buddies, weddings, spring storm chasing, more weddings, the summer monsoon and ends on a volcano in Nicaragua!

So many amazing things happened this past year, but the biggest of all was it being my first as a full-time photographer. I quit my job a year ago in November and haven’t looked back. Best decision I’ve ever made and am so proud of that accomplishment.

Hope you enjoy this look back!

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One of the more beautiful places close to Phoenix to shoot sunrise is ironically Sunset Point up on the plateau north of town. Beautiful rolling hills, flowing grass...peppered with cactus here and there.

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A low layer of fog flows over Horseshoe Bend during an inversion over northern Arizona that lasted for several weeks.

A hazy night out in Monument Valley in early January, 2015.

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While watching this storm roll across eastern Arizona, we dubbed it a "snoboob" because it had all the appearances of a dust storm but instead it was pure white. Even the time-lapse of this makes it look like a haboob. Whatever it was...shelf cloud, gust front...it was gorgeous to watch, especially as it eventually overtook us and enveloped our area in fog and hail.

A strong winter frontal system rolls through eastern Arizona. The wave of clouds from the right was almost like a wall of white dust rolling over us.

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On the way to a two-day storm chase in the plains, I stopped for a few hours sleep north of Las Vegas, New Mexico. The Milky Way was in full display and I had to capture a picture of Vera with the stars blazing behind her!

I watched this supercell start off as simple towering cumulus and two hours later it became this beast hovering over the farmlands northwest of Pampa, Texas.

This storm earlier spawned a brief tornado near Groom, Texas. It moved to the east/northeast across the rolling farmlands...I caught up to it once again here just north of Alanreed. The hail core and structure was magnificent to behold.

This supercell north of Interstate 40 had some nasty rotation on radar which you can see up ahead over the middle of the road. A possible tornado was in there but no one ever saw it.

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Probably my favorite photo from spending 14 days on the plains in the spring of 2015. This intense, nasty looking supercell was approaching Lamar, Colorado with a tornado warning and huge hail. This was an image I didn't even edit or remember I had taken until well into the summer. What a surprise to stumble upon it.

The beauty of storm chasing is seeing structure and organization in clouds that appears unnatural. When you look up and just know...something wicked this way comes.

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Standing here, near Bledsoe, Texas on the night of May 29th...it felt like I had traveled to another planet. The wind, the storm, the lightning...but it was the surreal orange glow everywhere that created this otherworldy mood which I'll never forget.

I had to hold my tripod down as I was being blasted by 40-50mph winds up on the ridge above Billings, Montana. A fantastic light show...major thanks to my friend James Langford who is from Montana, for passing on this location to me!

This was most likely the second greatest supercell I've seen in person thus far. The first was Booker, Texas in 2013...but this guy near Rapid City, South Dakota was incredible. It essentially hovered in one general area for hours...and by the time I finally punched the core and got in position to photograph it, the structure was amazing.

A decaying supercell hovers over the Rapid City, South Dakota area, dropping rain and gorgeous lightning bolts.

On a long, lonely highway between Merriman and Hyannis, Nebraska...a huge MCS moves by, leaving behind it wet roads and a gorgeous sky filled with mammatus clouds. A bit of lightning snakes around on the left side of the storm.

Another image from this gorgeous little supercell near Aurora, Colorado on June 3rd, 2015. My chase was over and I was heading home to Phoenix after having been in Wyoming all day and busting. I crossed my fingers for some weather on the way through Denver and sure enough some cells exploded over town and I was able to hang out with this guy, time-lapse it for a long time and get a bunch of lightning. A sublime way to end a 12-day chase!

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For me, there is nothing better than an isolated thunderstorm at night. But this storm...it had the moonlight shining down to really show the structure and to top it off, the updraft was actually rotating, which is somewhat rare for Arizona. You can see circular motion in the tower. which adds some drama to this shot. Really added to the scene for me, maybe it a bit more special than normal.

An incredible, severe thunderstorm late in June, which is early for the monsoon to really get going, explodes over the Santa Rita Mountains. The storm itself looked like a plains supercell at times, even with a brief wall cloud. This lightning bolt is hitting on Mount Hopkins near the Lowell Observatory. The title comes from the little bird somehow flying up high in some crazy intense winds...seemingly having no earthly reason for being there.

In the wee hours of June 3rd, 2015, I captured the most amazing lightning strike of my career. Photographed by Mike Olbinski at 12:50 AM.

An early morning thunderstorm over the Superstition Mountains on July 3rd delivered a couple of magical lightning strikes. This one in particular is one of my favorites...a single, powerful bolt landing at almost the highest point of the mountain. I'm a huge comic book fan and if anything looked like the arrival of Thor from Asgard, this is it.

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The last few years have shown me that the Wickenburg/Morristown area is a serious hotbed for lightning. I captured this the morning of July 6th, around 2am. I left my house about five hours earlier, then chased all morning and shot sunrise over Phoenix as the storms rolled into town. One of those all-night chases that I did at least 2-3 times this summer. I love this stuff. This was taken just north of Morristown where I ran into my buddy Nic Leister, who always seems to be nearby when it's a night like this.

At first glance this photo has a lens flare, some powerlines crossing the frame and a pretty blown out bolt. But what I captured in this image of lightning that I never even knew until a few experts noticed it...were upwards, positive streamers on the right bolt. Streamers come up from the ground and one of them meets the downward strike to complete the bolt. The other streamers are eqaually as dangerous and are what make lightning so deadly. A streamer can kill you just the same as the main strike. Getting streamers like this in a still photograph is incredibly rare, and I had no clue how rare until a few lightning experts noticed it and started analyzing it. Amazing capture for me!

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A lone bolt of lightning strikes the Sierra Estrella Mountains northwest of Maricopa, AZ. This downpour was awesome to watch as it just cascaded off the mountains.

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I was in Avondale when storms looked to be dying out, but way out west I thought I saw a base just hanging out there...so I went for it. Finally as we neared Tonopah the cloud tops went up and the bolts started raining down. One of the most incredible lightning shows I've seen. Lasted for 45 minutes, created strong dusty outflow and had some amazing colors.

A heavy band of rain partially obscures a lightning bolt west of Tonopah, Arizona

There is nothing more gorgeous than a simple thunderstorm dumping rain over a thirsty desert...especially when it's in beautiful locations like the Tohono O'Odham Nation south of Phoenix.

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The sun poked through some storms behind me for long enough to add some purple hues to the sky and show off a brief little rainbow. The lightning was intense and close despite it looking far away in the photo. A wide angle lens always makes for deceiving distances. The last bit of sun was lightning up the cholla just enough to make them pop a little.

A beautiful haboob rolls north into the Phoenix area on August 25th, 2015. The wall of dust originated to the south of Maricopa, but gained momentum as it blasted noth and new storms developed along the outflow edge.

Seeing something like this in Arizona is super special, because sculpted mesocyclones like this one are kinda rare. It was amazing to watch this storm spin off the mountains, split apart and suddenly see this gorgeous meso that looked like something you'd see out on the plains during the spring.

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A powerful thunderstorm that dropped heavy rain and pea-sized hail moves off over Dead Indian Canyon along the Little Colorado River. This canyon eventually connects to the Grand Canyon. As the storm departs, water runs through the desert and a stunning rainbow seems to disappear into the canyon itself.

I've been to the Grand Canyon over a dozen times now, but never before have I seen a sunset on fire like this. I went up there with hopes of storms and lightning after dark, but that's almost an impossible ask when you just randomly pick a day to try. But at least I was treated to this amazing sky.

A distant thunderstorm rumbles and throws down tons of bolts west of the small community of Wilaha in northern Arizona.

A huge, powerful positive cloud-to-ground lightning strike lands around Gila Bend on September 13th, 2015. Positive strikes are 10 times more powerful than a normal one, and they tend to originate near the top of a thunderstom and can land up to 10 miles away. On this one you'll notice the rain is actually off to the right of the photo, so this strike was well away from there. One of the deadly aspects of lightning.

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This was 2014

It’s tough to sum up a year in a few paragraphs but I’m gonna try! 2014 was amazing. 36 weddings. 47 family sessions. Death Valley. 14,000+ miles of chasing storms in Arizona that resulted in a film of which I’m so very proud. Two trips to the central plains for a total of seven days. Clips from my time-lapse videos showing up in State Farm and Vonage commercials, plus other random productions. So many amazing things took place.

None of those really compare to the biggest event that happened to me last year: I finally quit my day job.

It’s been about two months now and I’ve been grateful for every single moment. It hasn’t been easy of course. Other parts of our lives have also changed and we’re still figuring things out. But at church yesterday I realized exactly how much God has taken care of us…not only in 2014 but already this year. It’s so easy to forget how blessed we are and I’m trying to remember that every day.

Thanks to everyone out there who supports me and shares my work. It means so much to me. My clients, who refer me out…you are the lifeblood of my business. My kids (who appear many times below)…well thanks for being yourselves and letting me capture those moments. And Jina…well you know. None of this is possible without you.

These photographs below sum up my year. I have a very difficult time not including all my clients, so there are a lot of images…but that’s okay. This collection is as much for me as it is for anyone reading this. I’ve done one of these year-in-review posts every year since 2011 and I love to look back at them. The images mostly appear in sequential order, but I’ve also mixed up some of the weddings because I couldn’t pick just one from most of them!

Hope you enjoy! Happy New Year!

20140121-121343-Edit

Impact

A salty sunset

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LIghtstorm

Windmills

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Approaching Denver International

Wall cloud near Byers, Colorado

A Colorado Sunset

Approaching

West of Carlsbad

Over Carlsbad

Near Sheffield

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On Fire

Imminent

Phoenix Haboob

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R.I.P. Dodo Cheney

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A sunset

Highway 74

Interstate

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Thunder and Stars

End of the Raimbow

Approaching

Pinpoint

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Positive CG

Engulf

Pinchers

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The End

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