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‘Stormchasing Arizona’

The book is no longer available for pre-order, however you can still buy it at its current rate. Please click here for the dedicated page for Stormchasing Arizona.

My faithful friends and fellow photographers out there know I’ve been working on a photobook for a few months now. Ever since the monsoons ended back in late September, I’ve been putting this thing together. My goal this year was to chase the Arizona monsoons as often as I could, try to capture it in as many ways as I possible, and then publish a photo journal filled with all my favorite images from the summer.

The book is called “Stormchasing Arizona” and I’m happy to report it’s done!

Finito. Complete. Well, almost. Yes, my wonderful and amazing wife spent over two hours last night proofreading it, but it probably requires another quick read-through by me and probably her as well.  But I’m happy with what’s in there, I’m excited and proud of the work I put into it and am looking forward to holding it my hands for the first time. A lot of blood and sweat went into this photo journal. Not only the hundreds upon hundreds of miles I drove this summer, the time away from my girls…but the actual assembly required a lot of writing, re-writing, editing, image editing, image re-editing, etc. I hate doing things halfway…so I wanted to make this as perfect as I could for the first edition.

Yes…the plan is to doing this every year if I can possibly make it happen.

Some facts about the book:

  • Hardcover with dust jacket
  • 56 pages
  • Approximately 75 images
  • Photos of storms, rain, sunsets, cactus, clouds, lightning, dust storms, microbursts, wall clouds, roads, desert mountains, powerlines, flowers, corn and of course a little self-portrait on the back slipcover. I know that’s what the people really want anyways. Processing methods include HDR, black and white and standard color.

I’ve included a few screen captures of the book in this post, but didn’t want to reveal too many lest you have no reason to buy it!

Here is the skinny:I’m selling the book for a pre-order discount price of $40 until November 25th. After that the regular price of $54.95 will go into effect. Obviously shipping isn’t included in that price, but if you live in the Phoenix area, or are willing to drive, we can arrange a pickup/delivery for no shipping cost. Books will be shipped out/available the first week or two of December. If you need one quicker and are worried about Christmas timing, let me know and I’ll make sure we do what we can to get your copy when you need it.

If you have any questions, please email me: MikeOlbinski @ Gmail Dot COM

Storms on Interstate 8

Ah…the first week in October will go down in my very own history books as the most awesome weather event of 2010. Storm after storm, organized systems, training…cloud structures I don’t get to see much out here…just fantastic fun.

This is one of the first images I captured from that week. Around mid-day I noticed a storm building up down on the Arizona-Mexico border that was moving north. About an hour later it hadn’t died out at all, it just kept moving towards Interstate 8. You don’t see that much out here…usually storms build, die and the outflows created by rain and wind form new storms. This was an organized cell moving steadily in one direction. The kind of thing you see in the midwest. I closed up shop and raced south.

I shot this about 20 or some odd miles west of the I-8/SR 84 interchange. And yes, after a few minutes of shooting from here, I headed inside that thing. A lot of those photos can be seen in my blog post last week with all the random storm images.

To the left of this shot more storms would end up building from the south creating one heck of a day of weather. I plan on posting another collage of storm photos perhaps later today or sometime this week.

Brain Lightning

I love weather, I love chasing storms and I absolutely LOVE the challenge of photographing lightning. There is definitely a love/hate relationship when it comes to lightning for me and I’m sure most other photogs out there doing the same thing. You drive far and fast to get in a spot to get some shots off, and then the storm dies. Or the lightning is enveloped in clouds and just doesn’t hit the ground anywhere that you can see. It can be one of the most frustrating hobbies out there, but also fulfilling and intensely exciting.

These shots are not what I’d call my favorites. I definitely love cloud-to-ground strikes better, I like to get them up close if I can where they fill the entire frame.

However, what IS kind of fun about these shots are the way they explode from within this monstrous thunderstorm and create an amazing sight in the darkness. The images are fine, but standing there looking at this with my own eyes…you have this ominous cloud headed away, the city lights kind of set it aglow a bit, then you have lightning inside adding shadows, textures and depth.

My wife described it as synapses firing off inside a brain. That’s it perfectly.

I shot the first few of these on Gilbert Road just south of the Beeline Highway. I was set up there waiting for this storm moving 50mph+ to hit me. Well, it came at me just fine, but all the lightning was INSIDE the storm. Then it poured for a long time and finally it flew over me, so I got out of the car and starting snapping photos. The first couple are of the storm racing AWAY from me…the last few I drove NE a bit and got some shots from the side.

There was no way to keep up with this monster moving that fast, so I called it quits afterwards.

These next ones are further NE up the Beeline, shooting west-northwest at this fast moving storm.

Urban Stormchasing

So with my sudden move to the downtown Phoenix area, I vowed to at least ATTEMPT to capture some storms from the cement jungle down here. For a guy like me who never has his 17-35mm lens on anything BUT 17mm…it’s a struggle to find wide open spaces to really give an idea of what a storm is doing.

Time to get creative…and prove to myself that I can be a photographer in any setting.

I shot this last week during the rash of severe weather we had (It’s now up to EIGHT confirmed tornadoes in northern Arizona). The location is a very tall parking garage that is near by office and is a place I’ve been tobefore whilst searching for high ground. It’s got to be at least a 10-level parking structure…so the height is perfection. However, just because you are up high doesn’t mean you go to the edge and shoot. I still feel a strong desire to ensure I have some kind of foreground element, one that’s hopefully interesting.

We’ll be having some more storms next week, so I am going to try and take the opportunity to shoot a few more scenes like this…if I can hold back from taking a drive out to the deserts!

Ocotillo Wall Cloud

This is the second image in what will end up being many, many photos from the recent severe weather in Arizona. These storms were much more Midwest-like than anything we’re used to, especially up in northern Arizona where they now have confirmed six tornadoes touched down in a matter of 12 hours.

The title of this photo calls that low hanging, dark area a wall cloud. I don’t necessarily remember seeing a ton of rotation in the thing, but then again, I had my lightning trigger out and was focused on trying to capture that stuff. I was barely paying attention to anything else but the bolts hitting towards those mountains…until I realized how awesome the cloud looked and how green and brilliant this Ocotillo cactus was. A perfect frame for a desert storm.

For those living here, I photographed this down on Interstate 8 between Casa Grande and Gila Bend.

One Man’s Trash…

…is another man’s treasure.

I’ve been holding onto this one for awhile…shot it back in August along with a few other sunsets I’ve posted since then. This was one of my favorite photos from the day and sometimes you just want to HOLD onto a photo and just wait for the right time to post it. I have no idea why this was the time, or exactly why I waited…but regardless, here it is.

This was just south of the I-10/SR 587 interchange…a road I had never been down before. I drove right on past this to grab the sunset, and on my way back I passed it again…and then I stopped, put the car in reverse and snapped some brackets.

It was actually spooky and kind of proves to me why I’d never be good at solo urban exploring. I’m too much of a chicken. Everything was so still and quiet here…and I wasn’t sure if perhaps someone might be staring at me from inside those dark windows.

I’d love to go back here someday though, perhaps get a closer shot of that couch, because it was just awesome. I’m not saying this photo is an amazing bit of composition, but it definitely felt like someone placed the couch there specifically for me to photograph it.

Monsoons and Barbed Wire

I’ve been holding onto this one since late July for some reason. I just wasn’t sure about it. I actually have a version of it without the barbed wire, but for some reason I kind of like this a little better. You get a sense of what is happening in the background anyways, the cactus, the vegetation and the monsoon storms brewing in the background.

I had taken the original photo, was about to walk away and realized I liked the rusty old barbed wire and wanted to see what I could do with it. This is an HDR from about 5-6 brackets.

Lots of blur going on here, something I don’t really mess around with too much, so I’m curious how it comes across to people. Do you like the style or does it make your eyes water? 🙂

Last Gasp

The title of this photo has a couple of meanings. The first being the fact that a little storm system which moved through Arizona the last two days could end up being the final bit of weather we get from the monsoon season (it officially ends on Sep. 30th). Despite all the stormy clouds during the day, my week has been quite busy and this was the only shot I ended up with. So in another way, this is likely my last monsoon photo until next year.

Of course, there is always that slight chance something could pop up before the end of the month, and yes, I’ll keep praying for it.

Going back to the title, the main and absolutely reason why I called it Last Gasp is obviously that gorgeous ray of orange sunlight making it’s final stretch across the sky before disappearing for the night. It was remarkable how that little puffy cloud on the horizon popped up out of nowhere to become an obstacle for the sun to shine through. It wasn’t there when I arrived, but in about 20 minutes it developed and had me worried about losing the sun entirely. But just enough shone through, and that single ray of light may have ended up being better than a whole sky of orange.

God bless these sunsets in Arizona…they are truly heaven on Earth. I need to remind myself this when I’m out there, because you can become so focused on snapping brackets, that you forget to enjoy the reason you do this.

If this was indeed the final, last gasp of the monsoon season…I can’t think of a more fitting end.

Unless, of course, there had been a lightning strike in the photo above. Sigh. Maybe next year.

Desert Cornfields

One of the stranger things you see when you roam the Arizona desert is the occasional summer cornfield. You just don’t EXPECT a dry, arid climate to be a place you’d want to grow corn…but of course, that’s why I’m not a farmer and mostly keep cool inside my air conditioned house.

Back towards the end of August, we had a few days with fast-moving, severe storms blow through the state and this is a capture of one of them. These are the San Tan Mountains, a subject in many of my photographs. On the right horizon you can already see a dust storm blowing somewhere.

I’ve discovered my 17-35mm Tamron glass definitely “squashes” things a bit, as I remember these monsoon storm towers being a lot taller in person than they ended up being in this picture.

Tonight/tomorrow appears to be a last gasp for some good monsoon weather, so praying for lightning, rain, clouds and good storm structure!

Another sunset on the Gila River Indian Reservation

Now that we’re moving to downtown Phoenix, I’m really going to miss being close to places like this that are just a quick jaunt from where I currently reside. The Gila River Indian Reservation has been kind of my stomping ground this past summer for a lot of my storm chasing adventures. Once I move, getting to a spot like this will take about 30 minutes longer.

Still, I can’t wait to see what is in store for me downtown and the surrounding areas. I know for certain that South Mountain has some hidden treasures to offer and I’ll be checking it out a lot more.

So this picture was shot back in early August during a little trek I took to southern Arizona for some monsoonal action. I hadn’t even been here before and was taking a chance down a barely paved road to see where it led. Yes, it has a road in it, which is slowly becoming an obvious love for me…but I just love how they add depth and dimension to a frame.

Hoping for some more action this week as a storm system will move through the state Tuesday-Wednesday with some potentially good t-storms and rain. It’s been dead here for weeks now and I’m going through withdrawals. Bring on the rain! Woo!