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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.

 

Pulse

Song by Tony Anderson: “The Way Home” (Licensed through The Music Bed)
Follow me: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram


For quite a few years now I’ve been wanting to do something different with my time-lapse films. I love color. Storms are full of color. The blues, the greens, the warm oranges and reds at sunset. The colors are sometimes what make a simple storm into something extra special.

But black and white speaks to my soul. I love it. There is something when you remove the color that lets you truly see the textures, movement and emotion of a storm.

And then you hear a song. I had asked my buddy Jay Worsley if he had heard anything lately that might rock for a black and white storm film, and he linked me to Tony Anderson’s “The Way Home.” The moment I heard it, I knew that was the song. My recent films have a frantic pace to them and people occasionally tell me they’d love to see the footage in a much slower speed. I already knew that going with the monochrome style sorta demanded something more solemn and poetic…and the song was perfect for that.

I also went with a much wider aspect ratio than I’ve ever done before. I feel like it actually feels like it brings you in closer to the action, almost like you were standing right there with me.

I held myself back for a long time in doing this project because I wasn’t very knowledgable about using tools like Premiere Pro to color grade footage, and all I thought was that I’d have to re-render all my clips as black and white before doing the film. And that’s a lot of work. But the past few years have brought me tons of experience in Premiere Pro, plus help from my buddy Jay Worsley, and I figured out how to do it all there and without a ton of effort.

The film is made up of some of my favorite clips from the past few years. A mix of the monsoon and supercell plains chasing. I’m so inspired by the songs I choose for these videos. Kerry Muzzey, Tony Anderson. Their songs are so powerful and moving and the stories they tell themselves are amazing. I went with clips that felt right with each beat of the song and while I usually try to tell a story with these films, I mostly decided to let the music be that here.

Thanks to Tony Anderson for such an incredible piece of music, and to Jay for pointing it out to me. And also to my friend and fellow time-lapser, Brian Miner (see him on Vimeo), who did some B&W work this past fall and reminded me of what I’ve wanted to do for so long now.

I hope you enjoy this! The creative juices were flowing and I also have some serious withdrawals from chasing storms. I HAD to work on something to hold me over until spring gets here. Only around four months to go before I hit the road to chase supercells and tornadoes in April, May and June!

I have a couple of tornado chasing tours going this spring, if you are interested in checking those out, visit here!

 

Monsoon III (4K)

Blu-Ray discs available by clicking here
Song by Kerry Muzzey: “Revenge”/ “Revenge: Epilogue” (on iTunes and Amazon)
Follow me: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram

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If you asked the average person, many would characterize this summer’s monsoon as a down season. Not a lot of storms overall and it seemed generally more quiet. And in many ways it actually was a slower season. All told I chased about 36 days for this film, which was less than the 48 in 2015. We had an early start in late June, and then it was dead for almost three weeks. When I looked back and realized I chased 12 less days…yeah, it definitely had less action than normal.

But to a storm chaser, none of this really means anything. Sure there were days when nothing was remotely possible to chase, but most of the time the monsoon can be found in the far corners of the state even when Phoenix and Tucson are dry as a bone.

For me personally, I loved this season. Maybe because as a filmmaker, having put out a few of these films now, I’m beginning to focus and hone in more on what I really love to time-lapse. My early scenes years ago had a lot of average clouds and distant rain that didn’t have a lot of excitement or energy. But as the years go on, and I learn more and more about chasing storms here in Arizona…I’ve found myself in better spots to capture the stuff I really enjoy. Strong downbursts of rain, building clouds, lightning…and yes, dust storms.

The one thing I was hoping for in 2016 that the previous years have lacked: Haboobs. Dust storms. Rolling walls of dirt and sand engulfing the deserts and even Phoenix itself. And my wish came true in that regard. Even a very late season, September 27th haboob that I captured right at sunset with glorious colors.

Coming off the heels of filming Vorticity in the spring, with monster supercells and tornadoes, the monsoon is a totally different beast and you’d think it would be less exciting. I don’t know. I find them both amazing and inspiring. Weather to me is weather. No matter how mind-blowing it was to witness the Wynnewood tornado this past spring, standing in front of a rolling wall of dust, or a distant lightning storm under the stars…it’s all a blast to me and I never get tired of it.

So Monsoon III…the credits will say it, but it was around 36 days of filming, I shot over 85,000 frames and am not sure how much made it into the final cut. The song I used was “Revenge” and “Revenge: Epilogue” by Kerry Muzzey, and I took both of them and sliced and diced them until I actually had a six-minute version to fit in with all the footage I captured.

As always…THANK YOU to Kerry Muzzey for supporting my work by letting me use his music once again. I don’t even have enough words for this man for doing this for me. It means more than anything!

I started editing this film mid-summer once I figured out the song I was using. And as days went by and more clips were rendered, I kept adding them and re-arranging them all the time, trying to get every clip to match the tone and feeling of the music. And then I’d think I was done and more storms would come and I’d have to move things around again, and even drop stuff. I have a lot of fun stuff that’s not in this film because I only wanted the very best!

Special thanks to Bryan Snider and Dustin Farrell for some tips this summer on editing out dust spots and birds better than I had been doing. Appreciate it fellas!

My wife takes the brunt of what I do, especially when I’m gone for days at a time. Filming in Arizona is easier because I’m usually home at some point in the evening and at least around in the mornings. But it’s a lot of work and a lot of time being away. She supports me like no other and I can’t believe how lucky I am to have someone with that much faith in what I do.

And a lot of these clips will forever hold memories for me because my two oldest kiddos were there for a lot of them, and at times even all three were nearby. My littlest guy who just turned three, sits on my lap while I edit a lot, listens to the music and loves watching the final product. And he wants to keep watching it…over, and over and over.

Makes a daddy proud.

I hope you enjoy this latest installment. Please let me know if you have any questions about anything! Most of these clips were shot in 8K with some 4K stuff thrown in there as well.

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Captured with a Canon 5DSR, two 5D3’s, 11-24mm, 16-35, 35mm, 50mm and 135mm.
Processed using Lightroom, LR Timelapse, After Effects and Premiere Pro

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!

 

Wall of dust

Wall
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, f/8, iso 100, 1/640th // buy print)

A lost (or unposted) image from back in July of 2012. This was a crazy good dust storm resulting in a couple of nice timelapses for me personally. You can see one here. I was capturing that while I took this photo.

Was an uber dense storm…once it hit, the freeway behind me was completely empty and it felt like I was in some post-apocalyptic world for a few minutes.

Can’t wait for summer.

 

Release: Two new limited edition prints

A few months back I made the announcement that I was moving in a different direction with my fine art prints. I wanted to start offering limited edition images from my more popular photographs. But mostly, I wanted to offer high-quality, classic prints for people that would work anywhere. I always find that new stuff comes out and we get excited about it…but it’s the classic stuff that stays with us. While I am offering metal prints, I am stoked about these mounted and matted editions that are signed and on uber awesome papers.

Today I’m announcing two more limited edition prints. I wanted to put something out there in time for Christmas and I thought nothing would be better than finally doing an awesome version of the July 5th, 2011 haboob/dust storm that helped put Arizona weather on the map.

This is a brand new image, newly processed and never before released as a still image. It is a frame from the timelapse I captured that evening. There were 233 total images in that sequence and this is #150, taken at 7:55:08pm.

So in essence it’s one photograph, but I wanted to offer it not only in color, but also black and white. I personally love monochrome images, but this storm still demands you see it in color because of all the hues of blue and gray and brown and then the city lights.

Here is the scoop on each of these prints:

Every print is made to order. They are printed locally here in Phoenix and inspected upon completion. This photograph is a 16×24 printed on Giclee photo rag paper for amazing archival fine art quality with a matte finish. Print is sprayed with a protective coating to prevent scratches.  Photos are then mounted on 1/8th inch foam core and that is mounted on a 24×30 pure white mat. Prints are signed by Mike Olbinski, along with a story and other information on the back of the print.  Prints also comes with a certificate of authenticity. 

This is the first time I’ve offered something on photo rag and I love it. I of course printed a sample for myself at my local printer and love the quality and style of these fine art Giclee prints. This image is a grainy one already, so it lends itself perfectly to this kind of printing.

Quantities for this release (click links to purchase the print):

Each print is $500

Below are the two images I’m releasing. Below that you can see an actual photograph of the Giclee print itself, unmatted.

20110705-_MG_7995-Edit-2

20110705-_MG_7995-Edit

And here is the print itself (Again, this is unmounted, unmatted):

20131115-116881

Please contact me if you have any questions or comments. If you have shipping questions or want to pick up the print/have it delivered, let me know that as well.

Thanks so much!

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.