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An early farewell to 2010

If I had known I was going to end up posing for a self-portrait against this wall, I probably would have worn a hoody or something more ghetto looking to fit the scene better. But sometimes you just happen upon a place where you are inspired to do something and you just go with what you got. I haven’t done a SP for awhile now, but there was awesomeness in this wall and the graffiti and for some inexplicable reason, I knew I had to stand in front of it.

That’s kind of how the year has gone for me in general. Going with my gut, finding shots on the fly during a busy storm chasing season and winging it when it comes to my portrait business. I’m not a planner…I tend to hate planning, I don’t write down goals and rarely strategize. I have visions in my head of things I want, but nothing down on paper. But that needs to change.

I’m on vacation from my “real job” until January 4th and during that time I will likely not be posting much on the blog (if at all) and will be instead focus on three things: Spending time with my girls, catching up on movies and TV and planning my 2011 strategy for the photog business. I may get so bored and so excited about an image that I’ll have to post it, but otherwise, I’m on vacation from the blog as well *grin*

There is no doubt that 2010 was an incredible year. In many ways it was Year One, despite having started some of the portrait work back in late 2009. So much happened. My mission to storm chase all over Arizona and then publish a book ended up coming true (okay, I guess I do have SOME goals). I was counting on doing more photoshoots for people and that really boomed the last few months. I’ve been a part of a gallery, a few farmer’s markets, got into Shutterbug magazine and have sold over 25 prints in the last 12 months. And one of those prints endedup in a performing arts show in Canada! I’m so very proud of that.

But likely my favorite part of the last year are the relationships I’ve formed along the way. Of course I love the people, the families, the kids, the horses, the new parents, the new babies, the newly engaged, the-about-to-be-married…all the clients that have had me take photos for them. I’m beyond appreciative of all of that. I thank you for your trust. I thank you for telling your friends about me. And I hope to see you again next year.

The largest impact on me personally this year has been the bonds I’ve formed with my fellow warriors behind the shutter. My buddy Dee at work and all our conversations, Rick who taught me how to use an off-camera flash correctly and Brian M, one of the very best guys I know who is a constant help, inspiration and friend (I seriously owe you a few beers man). And to all my Twitter peeps like Heath, Dave, Oscar, Phil, Pat, Jim, Bob, Jacob, Jacques, Jay, Chris (F and L), Scott (Wood, Wyden and Frederick), Steve, Doug, Viveca, Jon, James, Mark, Stefanie, Jesse, Justin, Tobias, Tim and others. I know that since I mentioned a bunch of names that I’ll miss someone, but I appreciate you all.

Some photographers keep all their secrets to themselves and don’t want to help others. Not these guys. They share in the struggle and would rather help those facing the same problems then to just sit and watch a guy drown himself without tossing out a life line. A few even bought prints from me and a few more bought copies of my book. Thank you guys for your unbelievable generosity.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Facebook, because I have a ton of supporters on there, too many to name. Needless to say, I love all the comments and all the kind words from you guys…some of the things you guys tell me about my work is incredibly humbling and confidence boosting. Again, thank you.

And of course, never last, never least, Jina. You are, as always, the reason I ever succeed at anything. You know this. I know this. Thank you.

So what is coming in 2011? I’m not sure yet, that’s what the break is mostly going to determine. I do know that I will be changing up my portrait photography business model to a more standard format. I’ve used the last year as practice and I’m ready to go to the next level. I will be taking a 4-5 day trip to the midwest this spring for some stormchasing, so expect something awesome to come from that. Depending on how busy the portrait business gets, I will be doing more stormchasing in Arizona during the summer months and will probably do another book.

My other big goal is to start teaching people about HDR photography. I always have photographers asking how to do it and that they’d be interested in a workshop. So I’m going to make it happen…hopefully in a few months we’ll get together a first attempt at one and see how it goes. I’m super excited about it, nothing is more fun that teaching what you love to people who want to learn.

If you are interested in those workshops, let me know. Also, if you’d like to see something else from me, please ask!

Mostly I want to keep doing what I’m doing. While I’m going to plan strategy and goals moving forward, I think my best strength is to stick to being me. I think most of us struggle with confidence and the desire to always be “as good at this other guy”…when in reality, we need to trust in our own vision and our own ideas. It’s good to aim high, but don’t sell yourself short. People are going to be drawn to you because of YOU, not necessarily because of what your photos look like (although having good images can’t hurt, right? *grin*).

Speaking of a lack of planning or strategy, this blog post wasn’t even an idea until last night, so here I’ve gone on rambling for an eternity. I’m going to skip the Happy Holidays mumbo-jumbo and just wish you all a Merry Christmas like the good Lord intended. And a Happy New Year. I’m sure I’ll still be all over Twitter and Facebook, looking at other photogs work and interacting, but I’m honestly looking forward to a little bit of a recharge and some relaxation. And relaxing to me is getting up at 6:30am in stormy weather and driving around downtown Phoenix.

Also rewatching the entire Firefly series on Blu-Ray (thanks Jina!) and catching up on the Event, Chuck, Dexter and Boardwalk Empire.

A few of us will be out shooting over the break, so if you are interested in an early morning downtown Phoenix photowalk, let me know!

Last chance before the New Year!

This last year has been amazing for me as a person and a photographer. Life changing even. A year ago I never would have thought I’d be here. I’m grateful to everyone who had me do their photos this year (newborns, kids, maternity, parties, family portraits, engagements and even a wedding), some who have purchased prints from me and those of you adding Stormchasing Arizona to your photobook library. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.

Ah…but that is all so 2010 already. I’m thinking ahead. Lots of planning, lots to do, lots of changes.

My pricing for photoshoots will be going up in January, and the way I handle the prints and DVD of images will also be changed. I’m not sure of the specifics yet, they will be unveiled on January 1st (ish). In the meantime though, if you book your sessions BEFORE the new year, I will hold to the pricing I have right now, which is $150 for an hour shoot, a DVD of all images included.

I’m going to limit the bookings to anytime before April 31st, 2011. After that, the new pricing structure goes into effect for everyone. If you end up canceling the booked date, then that special pricing will go out the window! See ya, sorry!

However, there is one little caveat, one little bonus for those of you who had me do shoots for them already in the past. You will be “grandfathered” in to the new year at a special rate that has yet to be determined. I appreciate everyone I’ve done pictures for and would love to see you all again next year. So if you DO book with me sometime in 2011 (like for updated family photos, etc), you will benefit from a discounted price compared to what the current rates are.

I hope that makes sense. It sort of does to me *grin*

If you are interested in booking something now, just visit my Portraits page and fill out the form at the bottom.  If you have any questions, you can comment below or email me:  mikeolbinski @ gmail . com

Thanks again to all my clients and customers…I am truly, truly blessed.

The Ross Family

I plowed through more of the Ross photos last night, mostly because it was sheer joy to process them. Complete and total fun. I think I may have to pigeonhole myself as a downtown Phoenix, urban portrait photographer and that’s all I do. I just love, love, love the backdrops, the train tracks, the bricks, the grunge, the chain link fences, the broken windows, the dirty pavement…all of it.

Oh, and the Ross family of course *grin*

Now, I’m only kidding, I will and do love shooting in a variety of locations, but I hope more people ask to do shoots downtown…there is something amazing about walking and photographing in the midst of the city. On top of it…there is an almost endless supply of locations.

These photos of the Ross band…are some of my favorite ever. They were simply amazing to work with. At the end of the shoot, both David and Heather had extremely kind words about my website and the way it presents both me and my work. That has really stuck with me since then and I appreciate you guys so much for taking the time to let me know what you thought.

For Erin and Alex..the last two pictures are for you guys…I put a little bit of extra time into them.

Thanks so much you guys…truly was a moving experience for me and I hope you enjoy the moments we captured.

Sneak Peek: The Ross family

I’ve been on a ton of photoshoots this fall, but this had to be one of the most fun and entertaining. I posted on Twitter earlier tonight that I thought I should be paying THEM for the shoot, not vice versa, but of course I took the money *grin*

This is a family of guitar players and it demanded a lot of candid shots. Yeah, we did the posed shots in a bunch of places, but we also tried some other things. They would play a little bit, I would walk around from different angles taking shots…the kind of photos I love to take. Towards the end of the session, David and Heather did a little duet together as they sat in an old doorway in a grungy part of downtown Phoenix (last photo below). Both are amazing musicians (they all are really, Alex was a member of The  Maine for a little bit!) and listening to them sing together while trying to take pictures was one of the most awesome experiences I’ve had doing this.

And to top it all off, we visited three different locations downtown and I have to say, I’ve fallen head over heels for the urban areas of Phoenix. The shot above and immediately below were taken at a location I’ve been DYING to visit for a photoshoot and it turned out perfect.

This is just a sneak peek at an almost two-hour shoot…I rushed home and had to process a few of my favorites…will post more in a few days.

The Hughes Family

Sunday night I was among 27,000 other photographers doing shoots in downtown Gilbert. Literally had to watch your step lest you bump into a dude with an 85mm 1.2 and umbrella. There were some guys carrying around an antique sofa everywhere they went! The train tracks we used in this shoot also had 3-4 other groups using them in various spots. A train could have come by and eliminated a lot of competition for some people!

I met up with Denise, Peter and their two sons Parker and little man Ryker. Let’s talk about those two boys for a second. Cute as can be. Parker smiled on command. It was easy as pie. Ryker’s little faux hawk was awesome. But that kid…wow, I knew our little girl Lyla was crazy with her running and being unable to just stand there looking cute…but Ryker. He’s just turned one, he rolled over for the first time at three weeks and his mobility is incredible.

Needless to say, we did a lot of chasing Ryker around, which sometimes that makes things hard when you want to get a nice group shot, but you know what? I love it when kids do their own thing. I love trying to catch them running, walking, looking at the world around them. Because that’s the kind of photography I enjoy…those candid moments.

Had a blast shooting this good-looking group and just enjoyed being outdoors in downtown Gilbert on a gorgeous night.

Thanks guys for letting me hang out with you all for a bit!

First Look: Wright and Carhart family

Carrie works with me at my “day job” and said she wanted some family pictures taken in December. She has three kids, all high school and older, and also boyfriend Todd. From there, Todd’s two daughters wanted into the fray, plus their kids and their great-granddad Bob. What started out small became a two-hour, 13-person extravaganza and it was a blast!

Remembering all the names was crazy difficult for a guy like me who absolutely sucks at it. Shane, Carrie, Todd, Brandi, Mandy, Danica, Collin, Caylen, Bob, Angela, Shawn, Jason and others. I feel bad if I missed any names, but I only got most of those because I am friends with a few on Facebook now *grin*

Crazy moments…I made Mandy, Collin and Caylen sit on some grass against a wall for a picture, only to discover Mandy found a nasty pile of ants that decided to bite her about 10-20 times!  First true photoshoot mishap!

And then Brandi is in the Honor Guard and had to show up, shoot photos for just about 10-15 minutes, and run off. She changed from uniform to civilian clothes right there in the open by the Scottsdale Public Library, with her family shielding her from the rest of the world. It was hilarious.

(BTW, silly me asked her to salute…I knew I was lame right when I said it)

Even though it was two hours, it felt fast and I hope I got everything I needed to. I think we did get some nice memories out of it. One of my favorites is the last picture…with Bob and his great-granddaughter Danica.

Thanks so much guys for letting me do this…you were so laid back and fun, made it all that much easier!

Another First Friday is this weekend!

Monday night I visited Neighborhood Ministries in downtown Phoenix to shoot some photos of kids for the Day Twelve Gallery and this coming First Friday event. I wish I could remember the girl’s name in the photo above, but it was long and I’m bad with them anyways. However, when I asked her name…I remember it sounding beautiful. Just like her. A foster child attending this weekly Neighborhood Ministries event…who knows what her life is like? Is it hard? Has she been shuffled around a lot? Separated from siblings? Or have things been good for her?

I don’t know any of the answers, but I do know her smile and enthusiasm were catching. I took about five photos of her while standing in this classroom filled with kids. She demanded the camera…I have a feeling she’s going places.

But right now, these kids need some help. This Friday’s event at Day Twelve will feature photos of children from all over, including a few from Neighborhood Ministries and also some recent images from Haiti by Charith Norvelle. The goal of the evening is to provide for these local foster kids and everyone is encouraged to bring an unwrapped toy to donate to their cause.

I urge you all to stop by on Friday night from 6-10pm, drop off a toy and see some amazing art. You can read more about it with this month’s flier.

First Look: The Kruckenberg family {phoenix family photographer}

I’m writing this entry about 5 hours after the photoshoot I did tonight with the Kruckenberg family. I recently purchased a new laptop to help speed up the processing time for things just like tonight. And I have to say…the comparison between my old laptop and the new one is like a 1930’s Ford Pickup to the Starship Enterprise going Warp 10. Sorry to drop some nerdiness on you, but I’m going nuts over this thing. Needless to say, the ease at which I busted out these photos was mind-numbing.

The Kruckenbergs are great friends of ours. Brian is the guy who is starting Day Twelve in downtown Phoenix (and we’re a part of it too), the church that put on the big First Friday event I was part of last month and is continuing to use their space as a gallery. They like to get photos done every year and I was excited they asked me to do their 2010 edition. Because, honestly, when you are working with a good-looking family like the Krucks…they make your photos look better 🙂

We decided to do the shoot downtown because of the way their lives (and ours) are suddenly entangled in the urban Phoenix environment. I love it down there…and Sunday was chilly, windy and absolutely beautiful.

Thanks so much guys for letting me do this for you!

First Look: The Felix family {tempe family photographer}

I’ve known Joel and the Felix family for awhile now. Long ago I did sports writing for Rivals.com and the Associated Press and ran a few websites for local Arizona sports. One of them that I no longer own but is still going strong is called ArizonaSportsFans.com. The messageboard community there is thriving and if you are looking to talk AZ sports, that should be your first stop.

But back 5-10 years ago, either Joel or Kevin (Can’t remember which of the twin Felix brothers) held a big poker party for a bunch of people from the website. We all got to be good friends after that night and it was awesome to finally meet some of these guys in person.

And in the “small world” department, my company works in conjunction with Joel’s employer on a number of projects, so we get to stay in touch in other ways.

All that to say you never know where life will take you with relationships and friendships, so when the Felix family wanted some new family photos, I thought it was so awesome to be able to do this for them. They are the nicest little group you’ll ever meet…wife Kim and kids Kristin and Jack. Crazy red hair on those kids too! But a great looking family and of course, huge Arizona Cardinals fans.

To top it off, they hadn’t ever done pictures like this before…Kim said the last time they did was the infamous “floating heads” session in a studio where they all wore black and the background was black. Ack! She was excited to do something different and I hope they enjoyed the new experience!

Had a ton of fun hanging out with you guys, thanks so much for the opportunity!

Joel has crazy blue eyes so I told him I’d give him the “baby eye” treatment on this shot 🙂

First Look: The Servins {phoenix family photographer}

My buddy Sam Servin has been one of my closest friends since my first year in high school. The photo above is of his little boy Samuel, who is pretty much a spitting image of dad. I saw him for the second time a week ago at Lyla’s 2nd birthday party, and if Sam and Teresa had asked us, we’d definitely have taken this little cutie pie off their hands. I mean, look at that face!

Sam asked me to do a photoshoot for his entire family, a clan of 11 and some of my favorite people in the world. Of course I was honored and excited to do this for Sam and his group…I hadn’t seen most of them in quite a few years and it was such a blast to see the kids and catch up on how everyone was doing.

Here are the first batch of images from Wednesday’s shoot…thanks so much guys for asking me to do this…was a pleasure hanging with you all!