Watson Falls

I don’t do a lot of straight landscape photography these days as my time is spent between storms, weddings and family…but my annual road trip with my pals is when I get to stretch my muscles a bit.

Watson Falls, Oregon. This was a beautiful place and I did my best to channel guys like Peter Coskun, Michael Shainblum and Mike Mezeul II. I worked hard to get into this spot that was sorta right over the river as much as possible. I wanted to get those rocks with the small flowers and hanging grass, plus try to get the water rushing underneath me.

I love how it turned out, but it was a difficult shot. The misty spray from the falls was brutal, and I wanted to shoot this at f/22 to get a longer exposure and sharpness throughout, but the waterspots were horrible. I dropped to f/6.3 and they disappeared! So this is a blend of the two shots, mainly to get the smoothness in the water running in the foreground.

Hope you enjoy this little break from storms!

Golden Blue

My final day of chasing the plains last year was June 15th, and it was a chillaxing kind of day. I hung with two friends, Jenny and Justin, and we watched weak supercells spin over fields and we didn’t have to move too much.
Towards the end of the day, a new storm moved in from the southwest and as it neared my position, this beautiful shelf cloud formed just ahead of a stunning blue hail core.
Storms are only months away, I’m starting to get pumped!

The Mist

A frame from a time-lapse I shot two days ago somewhere in the middle of the Oregon woods. The time-lapse version I share will likely be in color, but for a still shot…the scene demanded black and white.

I love stuff like this. Low, foggy clouds rolling over hills, blanketing pine trees so they become ghostly silhouettes. I need to print this big on canvas for somewhere in the house.

The Hand

A creepy, electric hand stretches out across the sky, seemingly originating from the Sand Tank Mountains.

I miss lightning. This was July 1st last year during a monsoon that started early and epic (this cell was a tornado warned storm an hour earlier), and I was standing here with a few buddies watching some amazing lightning in the distance.

Just about three months before my usual chase season begins out on the plains. Can’t wait to get back.

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!

Sheet

On the first night of my annual monsoon workshop in 2016, we chased an insane haboob late into the night and then on the way back stumbled across some intense lightning as it moved across Interstate 8 between Yuma and Gila Bend.

Such a crazy night and what a start to a workshop!

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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Zion by Moonlight

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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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Rapid City

Rapid City

June 1st, 2015…my buddy James Langford told me if I didn’t punch the core of this storm I’d regret it forever. And he was right. Once I popped out the other side and saw this, my mind was blown.

Been wanting to do a black & white version of this storm, so here you go! Still one of the craziest supercell structures I’ve personally seen.

Over Greenland

On my way home from Sweden to Phoenix back on November 20th, our flight path had us going over the southern portions of Greenland. As we approached the shore my eyes widened at this incredible landscape before me that looked so desolate, harsh, frigid and impassable from my vantage point. And then we flew over land and all these glaciers were below me and I was spellbound. Never seen one in person before, so having this view of around nine glaciers was like a religious experience. I couldn’t look away. And then as we kept going west over the mainland, the mountains disappeared into unfathomable depths of snow and ice. One of the coolest things I’ve ever seen!

These were shot at ISO 4000 hence the grain!

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Ackerly

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

Another image from May 31st when we were chasing marginal storms in west Texas hoping for something good and then a boundary collided with a storm near Lamesa and it exploded into a gorgeous supercell for about an hour.
This is near the town of Ackerly as it began to slowly die out, but not before it gave us some stunning lightning, structure and beautiful colors.