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Power

A heavy downburst of rain explodes outwards as it hits the ground, sending dusty outflow headed for Casa Grande. Lightning shoots out of the front of the rainshafts slamming in the ground.

Drove 45 minutes for about 14 minutes worth of shooting and that was it…but what a way to kick off Monsoon 2017 four nights ago just northeast of Casa Grande. Storms moving southwest towards that area weren’t dying out like expected, so the kids and I went into emergency drill mode and got everything in the car in record time, and bolted to McCartney Road just off I-10 and watched some crazy bolts flash before us.

Asher was our spotter on the way down, and hopefully I’ll post some short video later of his enthusiasm every time he saw a “flash” haha.

The storm itself was different, not sure why. Bolts were arcing out away from the cell over and over which seemed unusual…and I thought I saw some striations up in the cloud base briefly, but was hard to tell. Definitely a lot of drama with the downburst and dust exploding southwestward. That area is one of my favorites for that very reason…all that dust and flatness just adds so much to an image.

Mars

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

Just when I get Monsoon III all done and exported at 4K ready to release, yesterday had to go and give me two more dust storm clips that absolutely have to go into the film!

This is a frame from the second one…I mean, capturing dust storms is always a blast, but when it happens at sunset with nothing but gnarly desert in front of you…it’s a dream. And someone commented on Facebook that it looks like something on the planet Mars!

Yesterday made the film just a tad better, so I’m getting super excited to release it. Was actually thinking today, but now it will likely be next Tuesday!

Monsoon | A time-lapse film

Follow me: instagram/MikeOlbinski, twitter/MikeOlbinskiand facebook/MikeOlbinskiPhotography

All summer long when I’m chasing storms, I’m also time-lapsing. It’s actually my main goal when I’m out there. A clip here and a clip there. Some days you get nothing great, some days you get SIX amazing scenes in a single afternoon. A powerful rain shaft. An intense hail core dump. Shelf clouds. Dust storms. Lightning. The Milky Way. That’s what I’m capturing out here in Arizona between June 15th and September 30th every year, which is our official monsoon window. And this is the result of all that time spent.

My favorite part of capturing all this is when I sit down to create this final film. While some scenes are worthy of standing on their own, a lot of them need to be part of something bigger. And when I start laying it out, they suddenly morph into this collection of storm imagery that tells the story of my summer.

This year I wanted to raise the bar. Not compared to everyone else, but my own personal bar. I licensed music this time. I wanted two amazing songs and I think I found them. Powerful, fast-paced, intense. Nothing gives life to your clips like a beautiful soundtrack.

People who follow my work may notice this year’s edition has a new name. I decided I wanted something very simple and to the point. From now on, this will be the “Monsoon” series.

I’m incredibly proud of this film. I’ve probably felt the same way every year in the past, but there is something about this summer that blew away the others. And I think it’s because I’m better at what I do. I’m finding the structure in storms like I never have before.  Our haboobs (dust storms) were limited this year, but those days were amazing, as you’ll see.  And I caught even more lightning this summer than the last two years combined. I think the scenes are more powerful and cinematic than ever. And for this final product, I’ve quickened the pace and I believe I’m finally showing the monsoon in all its beauty and glory.

There are over 45,000 frames in this film. I drove over 14,000 miles across Arizona. This takes work, time and patience. The month of July felt like a huge failure. It was a rough start. It seemed as if the year was going to be brutal and I’d be lucky to capture anything good. And then it all changed and I’m here now releasing what I feel is my best overall work to-date.

I’d like to thank a few people. Dustin Farrell, Sean Parker, Jesse Attanasio, Joel Schat and Bryan Snider. All of you helped me in some way. Answered my technical questions, helped me switch to better software, enabled me to take another leap in quality and inspired me. I appreciate your friendships and willingness to share.

Mostly though, I have to thank my family. My two older kids, Lyla and Eli (6 and 2 1/2) were along for the ride for many of these storms. The final shot in the whole film was one where my wife was out of town and I took all THREE of the kiddies with me, including my youngest who just turned one. I’ll always remember that moment. The Milky Way blazing in the sky, I was feeding the baby a bottle, and taking turns with Lyla who did the best she could until her arm got tired and I took back over. Out there on a dark road off Interstate 10. Meeting another photographer named Val and just enjoying a spectacular moment with my kids all being a part of it.

And to Andy Hoeland for being my forecaster buddy who helps me with figuring out when good things might happen!

My wife though. Jina. Wow.  She believes in me like no one else could or ever will. She knows what I have to do and empowers me to do it. In fact, while I want this film to be amazing for everyone watching, I truly want to impress her the most. It means that all the time away this summer was worth it. Because life is a little bit nuts during the monsoon in our house, where I’ve returned from a chase at 6:30am having being out for 16 hours straight, only to go back out later that night after only a two hour nap.

I say it a lot and I’ll say it again. I wouldn’t be here without her. And I love her for it.

Technical Details and Credits

This past spring I purchased an eMotimo and Dynamic Perception rail system…but I ended up not using them. At all. I wanted to. Believe me. But many of these clips aren’t very long in real time. Sometimes less than 15-20 minutes in a lot of cases. If I took the time to set-up a rail or panning head, I’d be missing a lot. So none of the clips this year use outside motion control.

I used two Canon 5D Mark III’s along with a Rokinon 14mm 2.8 and Canon L lenses, like the 17-40mm, 16-35mm, 50mm, 35mm and even the 135mm. I didn’t even use the Promote Control this year, I kept it simple and used various intervalometers, from wired kinds to a wireless versions from Pixel and Vello.  A couple of Manfrotto tripods held the cameras down.

Songs: Bernini’s Angels by Kerry Muzzey and Inertia by Dexter Britain

Thank you for watching. All clips are available in 4K resolution. Please email, comment or message me on Vimeo for questions, licensing inquiries and whatever else you might need!

Imminent

Imminent
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 100, 1/125th, f/8 // buy print)

Nothing I love more than an ominous, impending haboob rolling towards me across a great landscape. This was taken back on July 3rd, 2014, on that big day that ended up being the kickoff special for the monsoon this summer. I snapped this along a dirt road south of Highway 387, which is about five miles or so north of Casa Grande, just east of Interstate 10. It didn’t look like much about 10 minutes before this, but as it neared, the intensity picked up and it became fairly robust looking.

We chased this from its birth south of Picacho Peak, to here along Highway 387, north to Riggs Road and finally as it hit downtown Phoenix. This is also a still frame from a time-lapse I shot, which will be part of my annual summer monsoon film coming out next week hopefully!

 

The 2013 Arizona Monsoon in Timelapse

Earlier this year I released my first ever short film that collected a bunch of timelapses I photographed during the 2012 monsoon season in Arizona. I was incredibly proud of that film and I was amazed at how well-received it was by all of you! It’s been played over 45k times and the feedback was so wonderful…it of course spurred me on to do another one!

This latest film is from the recently completed 2013 monsoon season. Out here in Arizona the season runs from June 15th through September 30th but in reality these timelapses were photographed between July 1st and September 18th.

It was quite a summer. I drove well over 8,000 miles all across Arizona. I didn’t get to venture up north as much as I wanted, but I was all over central and southeast Arizona. In fact, I saw two fairly incredible storms down south this year…hail cores, shelf clouds…weather I don’t normally expect to see here in Arizona.

This year was a lot different than 2012. Other than one great haboob, the dust storms weren’t very intense this summer. But the lightning was better for me and I think you’ll enjoy that section a lot more than last year! One of the things people said they really enjoyed on the first film was the lightning sequences…and they were super short. Not this year!

I so loved putting this together. It’s taken me weeks of editing and re-editing, mixing music, etc., to get this to this final version. The music is mostly from Luke Neumann, but Kevin Macleod has a song in there as well. I love those guys for allowing artists to use their work royalty-free! Their websites are in the title credits.  The movie is just under 12 minutes long, so I suggest watching it when you can sit back and enjoy it. I tested it out on the ol’ plasma yesterday and it was fun to kick back on the couch and watch it on the big screen.

People usually have questions about my timelapse work, so here are some answers ahead of time:

  • At this point I don’t use dolly’s or motion because most of the time I’m setting up in a matter of seconds and timelapsing for short periods of time. Next year will be different though. I hope.
  • Everything was shot on Canon products. I used a 5D3 and two 5D2’s with random lenses (including a Rokinon 14mm). I list them all in the film credits.
  • Most of these were shot at 1-2 second intervals.

I hope you dig the film. If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below and I will do my best to answer every one of them!

Thank you for watching! I suggest the big screen, when you can sit back and enjoy it!

P.S. There is a little outtake at the very very end 🙂

A dusty sunset in Buckeye

Dusty sunset in Buckeye
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 100, 1/4 sec, f/who knows // buy print)

Nothing is better in photography than happy accidents and unintentional shots you dig. This photo is a big example of that.

As you may know, or not, I love road shots. I want to hunker down just a foot off the road and get an epic photo with a storm in the distance. Just something I enjoy. When you take pictures of storms, it helps to have good foreground elements and roads are usually the easiest thing to come by. But in this case, the road was busy. There was a beautiful sunset happening and a dust storm rolling across the mountains into Buckeye…so of course I wanted the middle of the road. But there were cars coming, so after I set up for a shot, I had to bail before taking a photo.

So I hurried over to the left shoulder, set up the tripod and snapped the shutter anyways. I wanted to get the color in the sky before it was gone. And I ended up loving it because the slow shutter speed added some motion to the truck, which is driving right into the storm.

This was taken back on August 18th in Buckeye along Highway 85. This was the same day an epic haboob rolled through Phoenix and I was way out here shooting a lesser haboob.

Lesser haboob. I love it.

An evening dust storm/haboob over Phoenix on August 20th, 2013

I’ve never shot an evening dust storm before…but I was taking the night off when some buddies to the south told me a decent wall of dust was headed towards Phoenix.

I looked out and could see it over the mountain, so I packed up and drove 1/2 mile to a parking garage that of course I love! You may recognize it 🙂 It’s still the best view of downtown and the easiest/quickest way to see over the city from where I live.

I’ve been trying to use a Promote Control to do bulb ramping but I’ve had difficulties learning how it works…probably because I don’t practice beforehand and just try to use it on the spot! I swear, I don’t read manuals, I don’t prepare and I don’t practice…it’s like baptism by fire.

One camera was using the Promote Control and it did do an “okay” job at ramping up the exposure as the sun went down, but I wished it had been better.

The second camera was just set at 4-second exposures and locked with a shutter release cable.

First camera was the Canon 5D3, Rokinon 14mm f/2.8…second was a 5D2 and Canon 17-40mm f/4 L. I used the lens twist method with the 17-40 and I’ve been loving that little tip.
Thanks to James Menzies and Bryan Snider for keeping my lazy butt updated on the dust storm 🙂

A dust storm over the Tohono O’odham nation

I’ve been waiting for my first legit dust storm or haboob to roll across the Arizona deserts this summer and it finally happened yesterday, July 10th.

The day before I leave for Africa for 10 days. A beautiful send-off if you ask me!

I had been a bit further south on Indian Route 15 through the Tohono O’odham nation a bit earlier trying to get in front of a cell with a large hail core, when I looked east and saw the wall of dust in the distance.

I raced back to the north-northeast and setup on a hillside I knew. The hardest part when timelapsing a dust storm is figuring out WHERE it’s going. I took awhile and even switched locations, but still it appears the nastiest parts fly off to the left. Regardless, we got hit with the full brunt of the dust storm and it was a beautiful one at that. Being able to get up high, in the desert, and start timelapsing the haboob when it was so far away was pefection.

Shot on a Canon 5d Mark II with a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 and 2-second intervals.

Now I’m off to Zambia, take care!

Timelapse of dust storm near Willcox, Arizona

We drove over four hours to get to this spot and somehow timed it perfectly to intercept a dust storm hitting Wilcox, Arizona.

In the video you’ll see it twice…I captured it the first time in Willcox, and then we blasted southwest on Interstate 10, got back in front and timelapsed a little more.

The storms behind it had 1-2 inch hail in them and the winds were strong…especially right at the end of the final clip. You can see on the far left how they suddenly exploded off-camera. Was intense.

First dust storm of the 2013 monsoon season…hoping for more! This was a decent one, nothing to write home about, but definitely will be a nice clip for the 2013 monsoon film I’ll release late this year.

Wasteland

Wasteland
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/7.1, 1/320 // buy print)

I’m headed out to the central plains next week to get some tornado chasing in before the monsoon season officially kicks off in just about 15 days. Super excited…it’s like waiting for Christmas!

It feels like it’s been awhile since I posted any kind of storm image, so here’s one from near Toltec Road last summer. Baked, cracked earth and a lone shrub…complete with your obligatory haboob rolling in from the left side of the image.

Actually seemed somewhat strange to get a dust storm in this area near Picacho Peak blowing to the southwest instead of towards Phoenix. They almost always roll up our way.

I timelapsed this at the same time, you can watch that here.