Not sure what took me so long to get to this one, but one of the more stunning scenes from last spring for me. Long chase on May 29th from north of Laverne, Oklahoma to here southeast of Ringwood. The colors went nuts at sunset and this supercell/shelf cloud looked all kinds of amazing. Had to bail shortly after this to meet up with tour guests in Colorado the next day.
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!
May 18th was a big storm day across western and southwestern Kansas…but we sat in one spot along an outflow boundary waiting hours for initiation and missed all kinds of storms going on, even a beast in SE Colorado…but finally near Park, KS a storm went up and we punched through the south side of it. At first it seemed to be headed north, but then it pulled off a nifty right turn as it latched on the boundary and headed into Quinter, which is where this shot was taken.
Not your typical stacked plates structure for a supercell, but it was stunning nonetheless and at one point seemed to have a funnel halfway to the ground. I never knew I caught a lightning bolt until scrolling through the time-lapse this morning! Lovely surprise!
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Music: Breathe by Ex Makina licensed through the Music Bed
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!
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.
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
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!
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.
This tornado! Never get tired of it 🙂 I’ve been wanting to take some frames from the time-lapse of this guys and do more fine turning on the editing…so I’m finally getting around to doing that. This was one of the first few frames I shot when I got to this spot south of Wynnewood, Oklahoma on May 9th, 2016.
You can see the time-lapse of this at the end of Vorticity, but it’s cropped a bit so you miss out on the beautiful structure above that twister.
Part of doing the fine tuning was removing the powerlines, because while it’s too difficult to do in a time-lapse, I really disliked them and wanted this to feel more in the middle of nowhere. If you can’t tell, I’m dying to get out chasing. Just about three weeks until my schedule is open and I can head out!
I’m still in utter disbelief that I saw what I did two days ago in Oklahoma. What turned out to be a destructive and deadly tornado was at the same time one of the most beautiful and amazing things I’ve ever seen in my life. When I turned down this road and it was right down the center…I almost lost my mind. And it seemed to hang out there as it was obviously moving right towards me. I eventually moved south to time-lapse it from a different spot, but Ruppe Road and Katie, Oklahoma will always be a place I remember. And Chester Barnes, an old man who lost his life somewhere near here.
I have more tornado photos to share as well, of this one, of it roping out, of the wedge later near Sulphur and a third one near Connorville. What a day.
(Technical notes. Wish I had taken the time for a tripod and not f/4, but when a tornado is coming your way…you forget things. You can also compare this to the first shot I posted…taken from the exact same location, that one was a 135mm and this was 16mm)
Sometimes you wish a road could have aqppeared from nowhere to get you a couple miles closer to a storm, with that view and that little tornado hanging out in the back. A great day…this was all captured on time-lapse, including two tornadoes (one in this photo, one that drops a bit later), although they are tough to see…they are definitely there!
Near Eva, Oklahoma on April 15th, 2016.
(Thanks to Steve Baka for the title!)
I left Phoenix last Thursday at 5:30pm and roughly 24 hours later, I was standing here in the Oklahoma Panhandle utterly in awe of this sculpted supercell crossing the highway.
I had been patient most of the afternoon and when I settled in on this cell southeast of Dalhart, TX…it didn’t look like much. But we knew it was still early and the magic could still happen. Sure enough, as it neared the town of Dalhart, it merged with another cell and suddenly the storm began to rotate more and the structure slowly appeared.
57 miles later, and the thing was a beast. So many great time-lapses from this day and the day after…a great start to filming The Chase II…can’t wait for the next time I head out there!
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.
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!
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