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Blue Canyon

Never edited this guy back from September 2017 up at the Grand Canyon…mostly because of a big water spot, but I cropped it out and decided it was worth posting! This was the end of a wonderful 24 hours up at the Canyon, my best time up there in six years of trying. The day before there was lightning in the afternoon, then sunset and finally later at night right out over the ditch. I slept in the truck knowing more storms were set for the next day and sure enough, severe cells with hail exploded and moved across the Canyon during the late morning, capping off a fantastic trip.

Monsoon IV // A 4K storm 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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Early on this summer when I found myself down by Santa Rosa, AZ watching a gorgeous hail core fall on the stunning desert landscape, and then later that day staring at a haboob with a stacked shelf cloud above it near the border of Mexico, I had a feeling it would be a unique monsoon. It’s funny how every year is different. That’s the beauty of chasing the summer storm season out here in the desert southwest. You never know what’s going to happen or what you might see.

This year I ventured far and wide. Phoenix never saw a good dust storm all summer, but I still was able to capture a few good ones in southwest portions of the state. The cover photo for this film was halfway to Yuma standing in the middle of Interstate 8 watching an ominous wall of dust roll down the highway towards me with lightning flashing behind it. It was an incredible moment.

One bonus this summer was a few successful chases up at the Grand Canyon. Finally. A couple of gorgeous sunsets, rain dumping into the Canyon, lightning at night, Milky Way…it all worked out and I’m stoked for the footage I captured there that made it into this film. I also ventured over into New Mexico twice to chase some wonderful, plains-like structure to end the monsoon this year.

All told I covered about 13,000 miles and chased as far west as Desert Center, CA, as far east as Wilna, NM and as far north as Tonelea, AZ. And two great storms down in Organ Pipe National Monument, which is only about 10 miles from Mexico.

I loved what I saw this year. It felt so unique. I found myself submerged in cacti and desert flora a few times with stunning light and structure. Explored places in New Mexico I hadn’t seen before. Smiled at the gasps of amazement from the crowds at the Canyon when a lightning bolt would strike. Finally discovered that the Santa Rosa area is a hotbed for supercell activity. And while it didn’t make it on time-lapse, I captured a brief tornado over downtown Phoenix!

So…the film. So much effort and energy went into it. I shot over 110,000 frames of time-lapse and likely only half of it ended up in the final cut. The editing has taken me weeks and even right up until Monday evening I was still fixing and tweaking. The music is all custom, thanks to the amazing work of Peter Nanasi. PLEASE check out his website and buy his albums! I love how we work together to develop a track that seems to fit exactly with the clips I capture. I am so incredibly blessed that his work crossed my path.

A quick thank-you to the workshop guests I had this summer. You guys were amazing troopers, staying out to all hours and being around for some awesome storms. In fact, I am not sure that I would have even been on the shelf cloud in the final scene of this film if it hadn’t been for my workshop. Thank you, thank you!

As always though, what made it fun was sharing a lot of it with my kiddos. They made the trip up to the Grand Canyon with me once and it was such a blast of an experience. Asher joined me in New Mexico one day, just he and I, and I got to see his face light up when he captured his first ever lightning strike on video on his little iPad.

To my wife Jina…we’ve come a long, long way since we started this storm chasing journey years ago. It’s not been easy all the time, especially with me being on the road so much between April and October these days. But we’ve slowly figured things out and I’m unbelievably grateful to you for your support and belief in what we’re doing together.

To everyone else…thank you for your continued support of my work. I am constantly blown-away at the kindness that you show to me.

And now…I hope you enjoy this film.

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.

 

Chuar Butte

The Grand Canyon has been an elusive prey. I’ve made countless trips up there the past few years trying to get lightning on a good storm and been skunked every time. Last year I finally got a downburst right in front of me…but no bolts. A few years before I got some strikes out on the Little Colorado plateau, but nothing in the Canyon itself. Always a long trip to come home with little success.

Well that all finally ended Friday, and it was with this shot that I didn’t even know I had captured until I was going through images in Lightroom. A perfect thunderstorm with a beautiful little strike hitting smack in the middle of an island plateau on the eastern side of the Canyon. I squealed a little bit when I saw this 🙂

The time-lapse of this storm exploding and dumping rain will be cool too, super stoked to have come away not only with some great stuff, but to have spent the entire day with my kiddos as well was well worth the time and sunburns!

Crack of Dawn

(click on the image to see it full sized)

Last summer I made quite a few trips up to the Grand Canyon in an attempt to capture lightning, but always I failed. I even had a perfect storm right in front of me with a nice little downdraft, but nary a bolt came out of it. It was incredibly frustrating to say the least. To make the attempt over and over and come away empty handed…well I’m sure you can understand how that might feel.

I’ve had a few people say…but you’re at the Grand Canyon though, so it’s always worth the trip. Inside, I wanted to say…no, it’s not. It’s 7 hours of driving only to fail again and again. Outwardly, I’m like…yeah, true. You’re right. But of course I really didn’t feel that way.

However, this photo kinda represents what those people were trying to say and maybe it’s changed my heart a little bit. I arrived the night before to capture any lighting I could, but the storms didn’t cooperate as usual. I parked in a campground, pretty depressed, slept an hour or so, woke up early and made my way to Navajo Point to watch the sunrise before heading home.

The sky was dark, and then slowly the light grew. Then clouds were majestic. The North Rim caught the first light of the sun perfectly and I stood there in silence, taking it all in. It was overwhelming. Even though it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States, it was 6am and I was utterly alone. It was perfectly quiet except for the clicking of my camera.

I won’t soon forget that morning. Despite the supposed failure, I was thankful to be there. I left with a happy note in my heart and knew I’d be back yet again.

Allison & Jonathan’s wedding at Grand Canyon National Park

Allison and Jonathan’s wedding was one of my favorite’s in recent memory. Unique in a lot of ways, but the first being it was at Shoshone Point at the Grand Canyon. Talk about an incredible venue with a view! But they also decided to have a mid-day ceremony, with the reception right after and portraits after the party was over just before sunset.

Which was perfect. With all the craziness done, the three of us were able to just hang out for 45 minutes…take photos, talk, relax and then take more photos. And as we just waited and waited for the sun to go down, suddenly the sky lit up…the colors was stunning and it was the only end you could ask for when you’re at the Grand Canyon.

Thanks to Allison and Jonathan for trusting me with their big day, I’m so pumped I could be a part of this!

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Esther and Sam’s engagement session at the Grand Canyon

Ester and Sam….a chilly day in May, where it was cold, rainy and it even snowed/hailed up at the Grand Canyon. These two were all the way from Singapore and wanted photos at the Grand Canyon. We stopped off at Watson Lake first to get some fun stuff there and headed north after.

My buddy Chris DeAngelis was along for the ride and it was a ton of fun to share this amazing day with a good friend.

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One from Allison and Jonathan’s wedding at the Grand Canyon

What a dream come true for Allison and Jonathan. A wedding on the edge of the Grand Canyon. And for me…well, it was almost the same. Amazing couple, incredible sunset…wont soon forget this one.

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Inferno

Inferno
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, 16mm, f/10, iso 100, 0.5 sec // buy print)

I’ve made quite a few trips to the Grand Canyon this year and last, but never have I seen the color and sky like I did a week ago. I went up there of course hoping for lightning, which never materialized…but this blazing sunset was such a treat it made up for everything!

Someday I’ll get the storms I want over that place, but in the meantime…I’ll take a sunset like that!