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Branchless

June 30th last year down south of Tucson was such a surprising night. Shear was abnormally awesome. We saw a couple of supercells and one of them was this guy slowly moving over the Santa Rita Mountains. Love this branchless lightning...it starts off jagged but then gets that smooth, curved look that I really only see out on the plains most of the time. And that structure to the left...oh my

June 30th last year down south of Tucson was such a surprising night. Shear was abnormally awesome. We saw a couple of supercells and one of them was this guy slowly moving over the Santa Rita Mountains. Love this branchless lightning…it starts off jagged but then gets that smooth, curved look that I really only see out on the plains most of the time. And that structure to the left…oh my!

Rapid City IV

A decaying supercell hovers over the Rapid City, South Dakota area, dropping rain and gorgeous lightning bolts.

A decaying supercell hovers over the Rapid City, South Dakota area, dropping rain and gorgeous lightning bolts.

This dying storm over Rapid City on June 1st, 2015 was so amazing…so many bolts came out of it, I was in total heaven. This is the fourth image from this spot that I’ve shared, and I still have a couple more strikes that I might edit at some point!

But it just has me itching to do some chasing…cannot wait to get out there!

Haven’t posted much in the past week, been on a little vacation with the wife enjoying a much needed break from the kiddos and work. Back now though and ready for things to get crazy again!

Salome

I love this shot mainly because it was the only lightning bolt that I saw come out of this little cell and it took about 15 minutes for it to happen. Patience is not one of my best qualities, but nothing else was happening around me and so I decided to just aim at the spot the rain was falling and hope to get lucky. And boom, this gorgeous strike right after sunset...west of Tonopah along Salome Highway.  That's a good strategy out here in Arizona...lightning can do anything for the most part, but if you aren't sure where it's going to happen, aim at the rain shaft and you've upped your chances at capturing something.
I love this shot mainly because it was the only lightning bolt that I saw come out of this little cell and it took about 15 minutes for it to happen. Patience is not one of my best qualities, but nothing else was happening around me and so I decided to just aim at the spot the rain was falling and hope to get lucky. And boom, this gorgeous strike right after sunset…west of Tonopah along Salome Highway.

That’s a good strategy out here in Arizona…lightning can do anything for the most part, but if you aren’t sure where it’s going to happen, aim at the rain shaft and you’ve upped your chances at capturing something

The Vacuum

This incredibly photogenic storm near Booker, Texas was like a dust-eating machine. Everything around it seemed to get sucked into the updraft of this stunning supercell. The colors at sunset added to the apocalyptic look of this storm.

Amazingly, I still have some photos from this Booker, TX storm back in 2013 that I never actually processed…so last night I got motivated to edit this one! It’s one of the best storms I’ve ever seen, and my buddy Andy Hoeland and I still can’t believe we were there to witness this amazing supercell.

Another world

Standing here, near Bledsoe, Texas on the night of May 29th...it felt like I had traveled to another planet. The wind, the storm, the lightning...but it was the surreal orange glow everywhere that created this otherworldy mood which I'll never forget.

Standing here, near Bledsoe, Texas on the night of May 29th…it felt like I had traveled to another planet. The wind, the storm, the lightning…but it was the surreal orange glow everywhere that created this otherworldly mood which I’ll never forget. It was utterly amazing and mesmerizing. One of those moments you wish would never end.

The Cottonwood Meso

Seeing something like this in Arizona is super special, because sculpted mesocyclones like this one are kinda rare. It was amazing to watch this storm spin off the mountains, split apart and suddenly see this gorgeous meso that looked like something you'd see out on the plains during the spring.

What a day this one turned out to be. Definitely one of the top scenes of the summer for me in Arizona. I had been chasing around the Camp Verde area earlier and saw a little rotating storm, then headed north of Cottonwood to watch this one roll off the mountains. It was a bigger cell earlier but as it came over the mountains, it split into two and the left side suddenly became this brief but gorgeously sculpted mesoclyclone. I was freaking out at the time and I have the entire genesis of the storm on time-lapse (which you can see in my Monsoon II film).

This was a shot with my third camera and a lightning trigger…you can make out the bolt there on the right side of the cell.

Hoping to get lucky and see more of this kind of thing next summer!

Rapid City III

Another lightning bolt from that beautiful supercell on June 1st over Rapid City, South Dakota. The storm was dying out at this stage, but the lightning was incredible, especially viewing it from up high. So thankful again to my buddy James Langford for guiding me up to the top via cell phone.

Another lightning bolt from that beautiful supercell on June 1st over Rapid City, South Dakota. The storm was dying out at this stage, but the lightning was incredible, especially viewing it from up high. So thankful again to my buddy James Langford for guiding me up to the top via cell phone.

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Clear Air

Sometimes it's obvious where you aim your camera when you photograph lightning in Arizona, mainly near the rain shaft is generally where you'll see the most. But when one fires behind it and it's super close...you turn your camera and hope to get lucky again. I caught two more, this was one. A gorgeous, clear air strike out over the dry lake bed near Willcox, Arizona on July 11th, 2015.
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, iso 100, f/9.0, 10 sec // buy prints)

Sometimes it’s obvious where you aim your camera when you photograph lightning in Arizona, mainly near the rain shaft is generally where you’ll see the most. But when one fires behind it and it’s super close…you turn your camera and hope to get lucky again. I caught two more, this was one. A gorgeous, clear air strike out over the dry lake bed near Willcox, Arizona on July 11th, 2015.

More to come from this past summer!

Monsoon II

Blu-Ray discs available here.
Song by Kerry Muzzy: “Palladio Rebuilt” find it on iTunes (please consider supporting Kerry by purchasing the single or an album!)
Follow me: twitter.com/mikeolbinski / facebook.com/mikeolbinskiphotography / instagram.com/mikeolbinski


I’ve been chasing the monsoon in Arizona for about 6-7 years now. This summer was different though. Back in late July, I was wondering why it felt like I was out chasing more than ever before. And then I remembered. I had a job last summer. This year I didn’t. I went full-time photography in November of 2014 and haven’t looked back.

I was free to roam and had virtually no limitations.  I even had multiple chases where I never actually wend to bed, but instead chased all night. I took the kids to New Mexico at one point early in the season.

Last year I counted roughly 31 total days that I chased a storm during the monsoon. This summer: 48. Yikes.

17,000 miles driven, which was about 3,000 more than last year. Perhaps the biggest difference this year was shooting nearly 60,000 more time-lapse frames than I did in 2014. 105,000 total. And what sticks out to me even more than any of the other numbers above, is that only 55,000 of those 105,000 frames made it into Monsoon II.

What that means is I was able to stuff this new film with only of the best of the best. We missed out on some of the huge dust storms like I’ve captured in years past, but overall, I think this represents some of the best weather I’ve ever photographed in Arizona. There are stunning shelf clouds, gorgeous rain shafts, lots of blowing dust, tons of lightning, and even multiple mini-supercells/mesocyclones. The brief meso over Cottonwood at the 3:38 mark is one of my all-time favorites.

I can’t talk much more about the film without addressing the music real quick. The song is called Palladio (Rebuilt) and it’s once again by the amazing Kerry Muzzey who donated it to me for Monsoon II. He also let me use another song of his for my previous film, The Chase and I’m beyond grateful for his generosity. I mean, how do you thank someone enough for that? Click here to find the song on iTunes and please support his work! I’ve said it a million times…the music is at least 50% of these movies I make. Kerry’s art helps bring my films to life. Thank you my friend!

A few other words of thanks. My good friend and plains chase buddy, Andy Hoeland…always helps with forecasting and things he sees that I might miss. Mike Leuthold…his forecasting models at UofA have been hugely beneficial and it’s been fun to get to know him better this summer! Jeff Beamish in Tucson for helping me out when I’m down there! All the National Weather Service offices here in Arizona, especially Phoenix…thanks for all the hard work you do, even though it’s not always appreciated. You get bashed when you are wrong, and don’t get enough credit when you are right.  And to my buddy Jay Worlsey…he helped me loop a 6:15 song into an 8:30 song. Thanks for showing me the way my friend!

Above everyone else though…my wife Jina. I thank her every time I make a film because without her this would be impossible. Now she’s working part-time, so  when she comes home and I’m gone, and she has the kids to take care of as well…unless they happen to be with me that day. And this summer I was gone even more and she took it all in stride. There is nothing like having someone behind you, pulling for you, supporting you and being your biggest fan. Thank you Jina!

When I’m out there capturing footage for these films, I’m constantly thinking about the story I want to tell. For example, I wanted a lot of erupting, towering cumulus at the beginning to launch into the meatier clips. I started laying out the film back in mid-August. Certain clips I already knew would be in certain places in relation to the ups and downs of the song itself. As the season wore on, I gathered more and more clips and began to lay out the entire film. I’d remove clips when I got something better. There was exhausting editing, re-editing, looping music, reluctantly dropping clips that didn’t work or were unfixable and watching it over, and over and over, to make sure I was telling the story I wanted to tell.

At one point, about halfway through…I was telling Jina that I have a lot of great stuff, but still haven’t shot the final scene yet. I had no idea what it would be, but I knew I didn’t have it. And then that very night (or maybe the next day)…I was out west of Tonopah and I knew on the way home that the monsoon had finally delivered my ending.

That is what is so amazing about doing this. You hit the road with zero idea about what you’re going to see over the course of a summer. You might imagine scenarios or have ideas, but they get blown out of the water by reality. And that’s what I love about it.

My hope is that you can see and feel that love in this film. The beauty of the monsoon in Arizona. This is where I’m from and this is home.

 

 

Thor’s Landing

An early morning thunderstorm over the Superstition Mountains on July 3rd delivered a couple of magical lightning strikes. This one in particular is one of my favorites...a single, powerful bolt landing at almost the highest point of the mountain. I'm a huge comic book fan and if anything looked like the arrival of Thor from Asgard, this is it.
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, iso 160, f/9.0, 10 sec // buy prints)

An early morning thunderstorm over the Superstition Mountains on July 3rd delivered a couple of magical lightning strikes. This one in particular is one of my favorites…a single, powerful bolt landing at almost the highest point of the mountain. I’m a huge comic book fan and if anything looked like the arrival of Thor from Asgard, this is it.