David & Vicky’s Engagement in Sedona

Such a blast these two. And Sedona. Can’t go wrong. The light at the end of the day was perfection.

Cori & Matt’s engagement in Simi Valley, California

A six-mile round-trip hike with Cori and Matt in California. What an adventure! It was a little bright out to start, but the light at the end of the day was gorgeous and we had such a killer time. My feet were killing me, but totally worth it!

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Speaking at Disney

Last fall I was invited to speak at the Disney Animation Studios. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve spoken in many different places at this point, but mostly it’s been camera clubs and festivals. I did travel to Sweden in November 2016 to talk at a gallery opening for their national landscape photography association and that was fairly incredible to say the least!

But this was Disney. The Animation Studios make all the films my kids love. Films I love. And they asked me to come show my time-lapses of storms to them? Mind. Blown.

I can’t talk much about the why. But suffice it to say, they wanted to hear my story, see my work and ask questions about it. And it was one of the most extraordinary times of my life. The bonus of it all was the fact that we had planned a Disneyland trip anyways for around Christmas, so we just doubled-up on this trip and did it all at once. And brought Jina’s parents along for the ride.

To make things even better, my host Ross Blocher offered to give us a tour of the studios and even the backstage lots across the street. It was amazing. Walking the halls of this place knowing that films like Tangled, Frozen, Wreck it Ralph and Moana (to name a few) were thought-up, created and brought to life all inside these walls. The art on all the walls was mesmerizing. I wanted to buy some right there and hang them in the kids’ room.

The entire day was so memorable I don’t know where to begin. But I was so incredibly honored to be there and I’ll never forget it.

The next day we journeyed to California Adventures in the rain and it was such a blast. Here are some pictures from the trip!

Laura & Anthony’s engagement session at the Salt River

Laura and Anthony were such a blast to hang out with this past fall! A perfect day out on the Salt River.

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Melissa & Yuki’s engagement at Merry-Go-Round Rock

Melissa and Yuki are getting married in late May but we did their engagement photos this past fall. A bumpy drive up Schnebly Hill Road was so worth the epic views at the end of the session.

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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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Ross & Karlee’s engagement session on the Mogollon Rim

These two and the Mogollon Rim. Perfect. Although I still think he’s more of a Joey than a Ross 🙂

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Maureen & Karen’s engagement session

Karen got stung by a bee twice to start this session as you can see in the photo below as she was noticing some shenanigans going on behind her! But you’d never have known it. Maureen and Karen were such a blast to hang with back in November! They brought me a delicious beer and we explored Picacho Peak. The light and clouds were amazing to end the day.

See you guys in March!

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Michelle & Rob’s engagement session at Tucson Mountain Park

Smoke bombs, a rattlesnake and these two. What a day in southern Arizona! Can’t wait for Rob and Michelle’s wedding in early January!

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Sneak peek at Cori and Matt’s engagement session in Simi Valley

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Exhausted this morning. Since the 21st of October, I’ve had only one day off from either weddings or photoshoots. This Sunday is my only other day off until I leave on the 17th to speak at a photography conference in Sweden on a whirlwind trip so I can be back on the 22nd for Lyla’s birthday.

Yesterday was a day trip to California to do a six-mile, round trip hike up Rocky Peak Trail to this gorgeous overlook of Simi Valley. What a great time hanging with Cori and Matt…thanks to those two for taking me on this adventure. Although my body is totally wrecked this morning haha!

And I’m not complaining. I friggin’ love what I do. I honestly can’t believe I get to do this stuff. Blessed. Tired, but blessed.