September 1st, the night that keeps on giving haha…so many fun lightning shots from that chase, here’s one looking towards the dry lake bed near Willcox from near the Kansas Settlement. I got this on wide angle which I would have preferred, but it was set to ISO 2000 for time-lapse and the bolt just blew the crap out of the shot. This was fun despite wishing I had a tad more foreground.
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!
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.
A new image I never edited from September 5th, 2017…one of the most spectacular monsoon scenes I’ve personally experienced…the light was so intense from the setting sun, so magical…the color out of control, that I just stood there in awe. Toss in a rainbow, gorgeous desert cactus and shrubs and a strong downburst over Organ Pipe and it was almost too much haha.
Missing this stuff.
September 1st was a slow developing day…tons of shear down in southeastern AZ, but once I got there, storms looked meh and lightning was hard to come by…meanwhile northern Arizona was a structure-fest of course!
But eventually, patience paid off and storms rapidly intensified in the later afternoon…I watched a couple of downbursts happen and move my way, and finally the lightning got awesome. From here on out, the rest of the day was pure gold…so much lightning and fun storms.
This was east of Sunizona along Highway 181 where it’s just pretty and grassy fields are everywhere.
October 1st was my final chase of the monsoon this year and it was a wonderful way to bookend a spectacular season. This image was taken along the AZ/NM border late in the day. A low-topped supercell with a wall cloud spinning to the north as it slowly died out. This is basically the closing image from the year for me, although I still have lots to edit. After this storm faded, I turned and headed for home and that was all she wrote.
Didn’t even know the time-lapse caught a lightning bolt until weeks later, which was a pleasant surprise!
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!
Blu-Ray discs available here: http://mikeolbinski.com/shop/
My original plan this past summer was to collect as much footage as normal, but to not put out a “Monsoon V” until 2019 when I had two years worth of crazy haboobs and lightning to make it truly spectacular. But the monsoon had different plans and put on a pretty dang good show in 2018, starting off with a decent dust storm on July 5th, then the best haboob chase I’ve ever had on July 9th, an epic green hail core on July 11th and finally another fantastic dust storm day on August 2nd.
Sprinkled in there…more dust storm, some at night, spectacular lightning, and tons of microbursts and stormy clouds, plus a few rotating supercells to put some icing on the cake. It was one of the best monsoon seasons I’ve chased, so I couldn’t help but get to work on Monsoon V a few weeks ago.
I love doing these films so much. So much hard work for months on end goes into capturing them. Almost 15,000 miles this summer across Arizona. 85,000+ frames with plenty more deleted. A total of 32 days out there chasing over three months. Sleep deprivation, tons of gas money, crappy food and yes, sometimes missing storms I wish I had been on.
But the highs were amazing. Chasing with my kiddos…sharing the July 9th haboob bonanza with Lyla and Eli…or an all-night chase with my youngest, Asher. They were so awesome to have along. Two workshops with five fantastic people. Both were so fun and the storms we saw were just wonderful. I feel so blessed to teach people and show the monsoon off to those who have never seen it before.
As always is the case…this year, including tornado season, I chased the most I ever have. Which means more time away from home. And Jina…my incredible wife…she’s so supportive of my passion and this business. Taking care of the kids and running everything at home during those months…I am forever amazed at how she always has my back, even during the times when it’s too hard and she’d rather not. I can’t thank her enough for allowing me to chase my dreams.
I do want to thank all of you watching this…over the years, so many people have seen the films, left kind words, purchased DVDs, prints and even books. I don’t know how many people asked me this year about when Monsoon V was coming out, and I have to say…it was extremely motivating. So thank you for the support and kind words of encouragement and excitement about these storm movies…I can honestly say you are a huge reason why I keep making them!
Music: Avalon and Legend by Ryan Taubert (through TheMusicbed.com, sign-up for licensing here: http://share.mscbd.fm/mikeolbinski)
Everything shot with two Canon 5DSRs and various Canon lenses. Might be a couple lightning sequences with the Sony A7R3
Processed in Lightroom, LR Timelapse, After Effects and Premiere Pro.
Yesterday my workshop ended and since some of the models were calling for huge storms in Tucson to kick out a dust storm up the 10 in the afternoon, I hit up Benson for a bit to shoot around, but it quickly became apparent the dust storm wasn’t gonna happen until possibly way late.
So I raced to Phoenix (anxious to be home after six days anyway), caught the storms rolling into town up on the 101/64th street, hung out with storm pals Jerrod Harris, John Moore and some others! Lightning wasn’t happening though, so I moved onto the west side of town, caught a nice bolt producer over the White Tanks and then took a chance further west on Salome Highway where I caught this majestic beast.
The storm was kicking out some good strikes all around me, but there wasn’t anywhere I could shoot out of the rain…so I did something I usually hate, which is to just be patient and wait for the rain to pass 😂
The moment the rain stopped, I jumped out, setup up tthe Sony at 14mm and jumped back in the truck. A huge flash happened and I swear the bolt appeared to be right in front of me, but it turned out just to be the one in the left edge of this frame. So I jumped back out of the truck cursing because I missed it…and then saw the photo and was like…oh okay…that’ll do donkey…that’ll do 🙂
A huge positive or clear air CG…looks like it landed just across the freeway, a couple hundred feet away or so. It froze the profile of a passing truck as well, almost looking like it was near hitting it. Love the highway itself lighting up from being wet with rain.
Later I ended up on I-8 in the wee hour of the morning, but that’s for another time 🙂
Not gonna lie…I enjoy getting close to lightning. Yeah, I’ll hide in the truck when my cameras are shooting…but I just really enjoy the close bolts and all the detail in them.
Yesterday was fun in the afternoon down southeast of Tucson…got some nice daytime bolts, enjoyed some flash flooding near Corona de Tucson…but after that, with storms in all directions except for where I was in Tucson…I couldn’t decide. West…east…north closer to home. Ugh. Went north, it sucks, went back to Tucson…pulled over, took a shot, then it was insane rain everywhere and I was done.
But storms popped over Phoenix while I was down there and so I was hoping to get lucky on the way home. Lightning was hitting Maricopa and near Sacaton north of me, so I setup on 187 and was hoping to get a bolt striking nearby up I-10 (which is where the car light trails are in the photo). But I setup the 50mm first and looked away as my buddy Chris Frailey pulled up, then looked back and suddenly a massive CG hit what felt like right in front of me. I stumbled as I raced to the car to get the wide angle, and two more bolts slammed down in the meantime. They were landing just about 1-2 miles away.
I got the 11-24mm ready, set to 15mm, calmly focused, f/8, iso 100, set it up, hit the shutter and BOOM this happened and then that was it haha.
25 second exposure, it all hit at once (other than the distance left one) and it was magnificent. Been waiting for a monster bolt like this for awhile now.