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This was 2018

One of my annual traditions around these parts is to post a nice recap of the year in photos. They range from road trips with friends,  family pics, wedding, photoshoots and of course, storm images. It felt like a different year overall, a little more subdued, with spring chasing offering slightly less excitement this time around and a couple less weddings. But wow it was a blast of a year regardless!

The year kicked off at a little shoot with a former bride and groom from Australia and their new baby girl, and then I was off on a road trip with Jay, Jason and Andrew to Death Valley and the eastern Sierras. From there it was wedding season, then storm chasing on the plains, followed by epic haboob and lightning action across Arizona during the monsoon, and finally fall weddings and family portraits. Toss in some wonderful family moments, it was a year to remember.

It also marked my fourth year as a full-time photographer and it keeps getting better and better. I still feel incredibly blessed that I get to do this everyday.

Hope you enjoy this look back at some of my favorite images, including at least a photo from almost every wedding and family session!

2018 Storm Time-lapse Trailer!

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I probably chased more days in 2018 than ever before. Beginning on April 28th out in eastern Colorado that began a busy spring season on the plains, and then with the monsoon kicking off in late June. About five straight months of chasing. Near 40k miles or more driven. Tens of thousands of time-lapse frames taken.

This year I went with the idea of not releasing a spring chase film like I have in the past…with Pursuit, Vorticity, The Chase…etc. 2018 was a tough season in general, but I also wanted to make my next film as spectacular as possible, so I decided to stockpile this year, chase next spring and then come out with Vorticity 2, which will hopefully be chock full of the most amazing stuff I’ve ever shot. I know many people told me they were looking forward to seeing what I shot this year, but you might have to wait a bit…and I appreciate your patience!

I will likely begin work on my next Monsoon film here shortly as it was actually a pretty good season and may warrant being Monsoon V, even though I was going to do the same thing and wait until 2019 to share the next in the monsoon series. That may still change, but as of right now, look for it in the coming months!

So with that being said…I hope you enjoy this short trailer that highlights some of my favorite clips from 2018. Just a taste of the good stuff and a preview of upcoming films.

Technical details:
Everything shot with two Canon 5DSRs and various Canon lenses. One night lightning clip shot with a Sony A7R3.

Processed in Lightroom, LR Timelapse, After Effects and Premiere Pro.

Song – ‘One Precious Moment’ by Ryan Taubert

Breathe

Blu-Ray discs available here: mikeolbinski.com/shop/
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Music: Breathe by Ex Makina licensed through the Music Bed
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The moment I heard the opening thump of bass…I knew I would be using this song for my film. But then those haunting vocals hit my ears…and blew my mind. It was like a punch deep in my soul. It’s hard to explain that feeling when you first hear a song and you immediately fall in love with it. Almost like you’ve known it all along.

I hadn’t even planned to start working on this film yet, but I was so inspired that I furiously began to lay down time-lapse clips. I couldn’t stop pouring over it. It was last September and I was supposed to be working on Monsoon IV, but I forgot all about it once I heard Ex Makina’s “Breathe.” It almost felt like it was made for a black and white storm film.

About halfway through editing, I knew the song title would be my film title as well. It was so perfect I couldn’t believe it. Sometimes for me…when I’m chasing or watching an amazing storm…I’ll realize I haven’t taken a breath in awhile. Never really thought of it until I heard this song.

I love being inspired by other artists. I love soundtracks. I can’t imagine the movie Interstellar without that powerful pipe organ soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. Music is so important to what I do and I’m so incredibly thankful to husband/wife duo Iain and Rebecca Campbell for writing this amazing song. Thanks to the MusicBed as well for having such fantastic musicians and artists.

In early 2017, I put together a film called Pulse that was my first ever black and white time-lapse movie. It was so different and fun, I wanted to do a follow-up this year before the next chase season begins. Breathe is made up solely of storm clips from 2017…either from the spring across the central plains or from the monsoon here in the southwest. Some are favorites, some are just ones I knew would be amazing in monochrome and others I used because they fit the music so well.  I also went with a wider aspect ratio on these films to give it more of a cinematic feel.

This is also the first film I’ve ever done in full 8K resolution. I’m super excited about that. You may not be able to watch it in that resolution, but it’s there if you can. Otherwise, 4K is a must if you can!

I truly hope you enjoy this. For me, I needed something to pass the time and bridge the next few months as I wait for supercells to return to the plains. But honestly, I truly love putting these together. Thanks for all your support in the past and feel free to share!

Technical Details:

I used two Canon 5DSR’s along with a Canon 11-24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 135mm and Sigma Art 50mm. Manfrotto tripods. The final product was edited in Lightroom with LR Timelapse, After Effects and Premiere Pro.

Pursuit // A time-lapse film

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Blu-Ray discs available here: mikeolbinski.com/shop/
Music by Peter Nanasi, find his work here: https://peternanasi.bandcamp.com/
Follow me: twitter.com/mikeolbinski / facebook.com/mikeolbinskiphotography / instagram.com/mikeolbinski
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On June 12th,  I broke down into tears. Minutes earlier, I had been outside my truck, leaning against it, head buried in my arms, frustration and failure washing over me. I wanted to quit. I got back in the car and as I drove, the pain got the better of me and the tears came.

This past spring was a tough one. Supercell structure and beautiful tornadoes had been very hard to come by. In fact, the tornado in the opening of this film was the only good one I saw this entire year. I had been on the road longer than ever before. Driven more miles. I was away from my family for 12 straight days at one point, and when I got home, I had to tell them I was going back out 24 hours later for June 12th.  It was just too good to pass up. It promised to be a day that I could get everything I had been hoping for this spring and I had no choice. My wife understood, even though I knew she wished I stayed home. And I wished it too.

I knew right where I wanted to be that day. But this year I struggled with confidence in trusting my instincts. Maybe it was because the lack of good storms this spring made me question my skills, or maybe it was something else inside of me. Whatever the case, I let myself get twisted and unsure, and found myself 80 miles away from where I had wanted to be when the tornadoes started to drop and the best structure of the year materialized in the sky. The photos from Twitter and Facebook started to roll in and I knew I had missed everything.

It may not be easy to understand why, but when you work as hard as I did this spring, a moment like that can break you.  I felt like I let my wife down. But mostly I let myself down. I forgot who I was and that’s not me. Or it shouldn’t have been me. I failed myself.  And it seemed like the easy choice to just give up and head for home.

But I didn’t. I’m not sure why, but the pain slowly began to subside. I realized it was only 4pm and the storms were still ongoing. Maybe if I could get in front of them the day could be saved. Ninety minutes later, I got out ahead and saw some of the best structure I’d seen all spring and a lightning show that was so incredible it’s one of the very last clips of this film.

And that’s why this film is called “Pursuit.” Because you can’t give up. Keep chasing, keep pursuing. Whatever it is. That’s the only way to get what you want.

I learned something about myself on June 12th which carried over to the final few days of chasing this spring. I trusted myself again and those days were incredibly rewarding. This was who I’d been all along but had forgotten. I can’t wait for next year.

The work on this film began on March 28th and ended June 29th. There were 27 total days of actual chasing and many more for traveling. I drove across 10 states and put over 28,000 new miles on the ol’ 4Runner. I snapped over 90,000 time-lapse frames. I saw the most incredible mammatus displays, the best nighttime lightning and structure I’ve ever seen, a tornado birth caught on time-lapse and a display of undulatus asperatus that blew my mind. Wall clouds, massive cores, supercell structures, shelf clouds…it ended up being an amazing season and I’m so incredibly proud of the footage in this film. It wasn’t the best year in storm chasing history…but I got to chase storms and share it with you guys. All worth it.

I wanted to do something new this year, so I worked with composer Peter Nanasi to develop a custom track for Pursuit. I’m super excited about it and loved the process of exchanging ideas and building the song as the editing of the film progressed. I am so thankful to Peter for what he came up with, I’m in love with this track!

The time away from my family turned out to be over a month all told. I’m always and continually blessed by a wife who supports what I do and backs me completely. But not only do I have her to thank this spring, but also her parents who hung around for a good chunk of May and early June, to help out wherever needed, watch the kids, run errands and generally be there for Jina. I don’t have enough words to convey how appreciative I am for them being around while I was gone.

I think that’s about it. I could write a lot more, but I’d rather you watch the film and hopefully have a taste of what I saw this spring. There is nothing quite like strong inflow winds, the smell of rain and the crack of thunder. I miss being out there already.

I hope you enjoy and I’ll do my best to answer any questions in the comments below!

Technical Details:

I used two Canon 5DSR’s along with a Canon 11-24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 135mm and Sigma Art 50mm. Manfrotto tripods. The final product was edited in Lightroom with LR Timelapse, After Effects and Premiere Pro. Roughly shot around 90,000 frames of time-lapse, but a lot sits on the cutting room floor. I may do a “leftovers” version at some point.

 

 

 

Colossal

A monster supercell begins to cross highway 385 south of Lamar, Colorado. We had raced north as the rain began to hit us, and we stopped after a few miles to take in the view of this incredible storm and that stunning blue-green hailcore.

This panoramic has been sitting on my computer in seven pieces because up until yesterday, I’ve had zero luck stitching it together. I tried everything…Photoshop, Lightroom, third party pano apps…nothing worked. Not sure why, but major fails on every attempt.

But I updated to the latest Photoshop CC over the weekend and decided to try one more time…and BAM, it worked! Couldn’t believe my eyes.

I’ve been dying to get this thing together, because it’s one of my favorites last year and maybe all-time. Such a beastly supercell south of Lamar, Colorado on May 24th, 2015. Beautiful structure, gorgeous green hail core and toss in the road/cars to give it some scale.

We had been a few miles south watching it approach us, and then we had to race north as the rain/hail began to hit us. We stopped after a few miles to take in this incredible view before continuing on to keep in front of it.

Spring is just around the corner…

Curves

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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.

Photographed with a DJI Phantom 3.

The Growler

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.
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, iso 100, 16mm, f/5, 1/50th // buy print)

Sometimes an image is so important to you, so special, that you almost never want to share it. Fear maybe? That you will be the only one who loves it? Or once you share it, the rest of your current work waiting for the light of day just pales in comparison?

For me, it’s both. And maybe some other, more personal reasons. I never want to tell people how to feel about my photos. I want them to discover it on their own. So I rarely try to build up an image as one of my best or favorites.

But this one. This one. I didn’t even know I had it for awhile. It didn’t jump out at me at first because it was a quick snap from the road as we stopped for a second to evaluate things. I knew I took it for a reason, but on my computer, the RAW file was flat. One day late this summer, I saw it again and stared at it and was like…how did I miss this??

These are the images I want to capture. A storm’s raw emotion. It’s anger. It’s beauty. The textures, the motion, the crazy colors…and the simple landscape.

This is why I love what I do. I hope you enjoy this one. It’s the best thing I’ve done this year.

(South of Lamar, Colorado, May 24th, 2015)

PS. I will be doing a screencast soon on how I edited this one, if you subscribe to my newsletter, you will get notified when it’s available. Do that right here.

The Chase


Watch the video in 4K over on YouTube!

The music in this film was composed by Kerry Muzzey and is a track called The Secret History from the album The Architect. Please consider purchasing this album over on iTunes! I am forever his Kerry’s debt for his kindness and generosity in donating this song for my film. I do not have enough words to thank him!

If you’d like to purchase a digital download of the film for your iPhone or iPad, see below! You can find prints from this chase and also my entire storm collection by visiting my gallery.

Follow me:  Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / Periscope


This past spring I spent more time chasing storms on the plains than ever before. The most I had spent prior to this was seven total days and that was last year. What I came away with from that short time made me realize that if I could double that…the stuff I could capture would be amazing. Of course I long to be out there for a month or longer, but when you live in Phoenix and have a wife and three kids…you have to be realistic.

I turned 40 years old this year and I told my wife all I wanted was 10 days chasing on the plains. She loves me though and it ended up being 14. Two days in April and then 12 straight days from May 23rd – June 3rd. Those 12 days were absolutely incredible. I’m friends with other chasers via social media, met them on the side of roads while chasing, even grabbed dinner together…but never have I felt more of a part of the chaser community than being out there for almost two weeks. Living the life…seeing the same amazing chasers over and over…it was overwhelming to me. I missed my family, it was hard at times, but it was one of the best experiences of my life.

Both chases originated from where I live in Arizona. In April I drove out all night to Colorado, slept maybe an hour, chased all day, got a good night’s sleep, chased the next day in the Texas Panhandle and drove home that same night, stopping only for a quick nap in New Mexico. The second chase was the same. Left Phoenix late on the evening of May 22nd, never really slept and the chase was on the next day. All in all I drove well over 12,000 miles over the course of those two weeks, visited 10 total states (New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota) and shot over 45,000 frames of footage for this film.

I have many people to thank. Pat O’Brien for being my first private tour attendee this spring. Mike Mezuel II for one very big tip on a spot above Rapid City, SD. To James Langford who not only guided me to that spot over the phone, but “now-casted” for me many, many times. I may have missed out on four crucial clips in this film if it wasn’t for him suggesting I punch the core in South Dakota. Thank you sir. And to my pal Andy Hoeland…who was with me for over a week of my time out there, driving, looking at forecasts, talking to weather experts and always helping us have a great target for that day. He’s become my chase partner for most of these big plains trips and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Also thanks to Cinetics for sending me their Axis 360 to play with. I used it one time in this film and wish I had used it more. I love that scene.

Finally…above everyone else, of course…is my wife. To let me go for that long, to never complain, to never discourage me…but to only believe in me…how could I be so lucky to deserve a wife like that? We have three kids and that’s tough on a parent to have her husband away that long. It will never cease to amaze me that I’d never, ever be here, doing this, if it wasn’t for her support and encouragement.

Technical details…everything was shot on Canon 5D3’s, along with an array of Rokinon lenses. I got sick of lens-twisting (mostly sick of FORGETTING to lens twist) so I mainly used those manual lenses on this trip. Everything was processed using LR Timelapse, Lightroom, After Effects and Premiere Pro.

Was everything perfect? Almost. Dust and dried water spots are the bane of a time-lapser’s existence. Even when I thought I cleaned my sensors, I missed something or didn’t do a good enough job. Or maybe a lens was the problem when I was focused on the sensors. I cannot stress enough the importance of getting things right IN-CAMERA. Trying to fix that stuff in post is tedious and aggravating. And sometimes it’s very hard to fix it at all.

Other than that issue, I’m in absolute love with this film. The stuff I saw rivaled anything I’ve ever seen on the plains minus that insane Booker supercell in 2013. We saw four tornadoes (one of them appears in a deleted scene at the very end of the film), countless supercells, gorgeous shelf clouds, stunning mammatus and some awesome lightning shows. The song..well, the song for this film blew my mind. I loved it when I heard it, but then seeing how everything started coming together on the timeline, the pace, the slow build-up, the huge ending…I’ve said it before, but the song is 50% of the film. Thank you again Kerry for everything!

All this movie does it fuel me to want to do better next year and this summer in Arizona. Stay tuned for Monsoon II and for The Chase II next spring!

I sincerely hope you enjoy and share this film around. Thank you for watching and if you have ANY questions, please ask in the comments below or visit my website and contact me through that!


Digital Download

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On Approach

Approaching
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, iso 100, f/5, 1/200th, 8-image stitch // buy print)

After seeing that amazing supercell near Booker, Texas…it’s tough to imagine anything looking more ominous. But this storm was close. This is a big, 8-image panoramic, so things look further away than they actually were. The wall cloud was rotating violently, and we stood there in awe of what we were seeing. You can see in the darker area of the wall cloud how low the base is to the ground. Incredible.

This storm was marching on Denver International Airport and while a few tornadoes were reported, there was no real evidence of any on this day. But this was the second best wall cloud I’ve ever seen.

Can’t wait to get back out on the plains next spring!

A Colorado sunset

A Colorado Sunset
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8, 16mm, iso 100, f/8, 1/50th // buy print)

Sometimes you do all you can to get in front of epic supercells for those amazing structure and lightning photos…only to find out that a retreating cluster of storms at sunset can be equally as beautiful.

This was from last week on Interstate 70 on Colorado’s eastern border. We were chasing these storms in hopes of getting to the other side for some lightning imagery, when we realized we just had to stop for a few minutes. My dash Sony Handycam, that does my live stream feed, was bringing out some contrast that we couldn’t see with the naked eye too well.

And when I walked out and took a shot with my 5D3…wow, it really popped. It was almost like the camera could pick out the separation between two storms right there in the middle of the road. More than I could see with my own eyes.

Glad we stopped.