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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.

 

Rebecca & Matt’s wedding at Brannigan Park

The middle of a pasture. Nowhere to go. And the heavens opened up right when the ceremony started. Rain poured down but Rebecca was all smiles. Everyone was all smiles. Laughter and pure joy erupted as Rebecca walked down the aisle to marry Matt. It didn’t matter that everyone was soaked (aside from those lucky ones with umbrellas), people were enjoying the experience.

Thanks to Rebecca and Matt for trusting me with their day and for letting me capture a ceremony in pouring rain!

Wedding Coordinator/Planner // Ashley Omelianowich
Invitations // Hazel and Violet
Wedding Dress Shop // Bridal Boutique of Arizona
Flowers // From the field
Favors / Gifts // Homemade
Ceremony Officiant // Joaquin Rios
Ceremony Music // Andrew Hamby
Cake // Bashas’
Lighting / Decor // Verve Events and Rentals
Reception Music // SoulPower
Caterer // My Pita Wrap Mediterranean Grill

Bathed in Light

I must be learning how to be more patient these days, or at least, maybe finally realizing I can’t be on every storm, so might as well do the best I can with what I got. I was way down south yesterday, near Santa Rosa and Pisinemo with some really nice storms, but I had a bad feeling that they wouldn’t last into the night. At the same time, I see a nice line moving into Phoenix and realized I’m probably hosed.

In the past, I may have turned around and raced back home in a panic, but yesterday I stuck it out, got in front of the storms moving towards Organ Pipe and saw some of that magical monsoon light that shows why it’s special to chase out here.
Only captured two lightning strikes yesterday, this was the first and made the entire trip worth it. The rain was cresting the peaks, the sun was blazing on the desert landscape and it was all stunning. There is a little rainbow behind the left saguaro, plus an even fainter second one near the bolt. That Organ Pipe area has really grown on me this year. Always something awesome happening out that way.

And now it’s bed time. I had a time-lapse/photo gig at PIR shooting DC Solar construction lighting equipment at 1am this morning and got home around 5:30. Haven’t slept at all! Time to crash!

A good omen

Hoping this is a good omen for the Cards upcoming season 🙂

Wednesday’s chase was a long one and ended early Thursday morning around 1am with a final storm in the Tolleson area. I had seen a recent shot of the Cardinals stadium so it was in my head and I remembered where a good view was from when I did some work for ESPN back when we had the Super Bowl.

The storm was dying, but I got lucky that it still tossed out a few bolts, this one in particular being pretty nice! I swear I’m never in town for storms these days, usually far away in the desert or southern Arizona, so it was fun to play around with different compositions for once.

A great way to end the night…especially as things are once again dry for a few days. Hoping for more weather early next week.

Chuar Butte

The Grand Canyon has been an elusive prey. I’ve made countless trips up there the past few years trying to get lightning on a good storm and been skunked every time. Last year I finally got a downburst right in front of me…but no bolts. A few years before I got some strikes out on the Little Colorado plateau, but nothing in the Canyon itself. Always a long trip to come home with little success.

Well that all finally ended Friday, and it was with this shot that I didn’t even know I had captured until I was going through images in Lightroom. A perfect thunderstorm with a beautiful little strike hitting smack in the middle of an island plateau on the eastern side of the Canyon. I squealed a little bit when I saw this 🙂

The time-lapse of this storm exploding and dumping rain will be cool too, super stoked to have come away not only with some great stuff, but to have spent the entire day with my kiddos as well was well worth the time and sunburns!

Pursuit // A 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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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!

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. 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.

 

 

 

Power

A heavy downburst of rain explodes outwards as it hits the ground, sending dusty outflow headed for Casa Grande. Lightning shoots out of the front of the rainshafts slamming in the ground.

Drove 45 minutes for about 14 minutes worth of shooting and that was it…but what a way to kick off Monsoon 2017 four nights ago just northeast of Casa Grande. Storms moving southwest towards that area weren’t dying out like expected, so the kids and I went into emergency drill mode and got everything in the car in record time, and bolted to McCartney Road just off I-10 and watched some crazy bolts flash before us.

Asher was our spotter on the way down, and hopefully I’ll post some short video later of his enthusiasm every time he saw a “flash” haha.

The storm itself was different, not sure why. Bolts were arcing out away from the cell over and over which seemed unusual…and I thought I saw some striations up in the cloud base briefly, but was hard to tell. Definitely a lot of drama with the downburst and dust exploding southwestward. That area is one of my favorites for that very reason…all that dust and flatness just adds so much to an image.

Perryton

Ohhhh if it had only been daytime, but dang this storm was awesome and definitely tops for structure I’ve seen at night so far this spring. We were on a line of storms right away when they began to intensify northwest of Perryton, Texas, and while we were watching them explode, the southern cell rapidly developed a rain free base. I could see striations forming as well, so we flew south about 10 minutes and I parked at this spot mainly to get those windmills in the frame.

This was from my 5D4 with the @Tamron 15-30mm, but the other camera was doing an 8K time-lapse of this beast and I cannot wait to render that. I don’t have a ton of footage this year yet, but what I do have has been pretty great for nighttime stuff. Looking forward to hopefully more action next week!

Horseshoe Bend

This has been a roller coaster week of emotions, lack of sleep and total exhaustion. From Phoenix to Texas and then to northern Arizona for two photoshoots. Feelings of helplessness and pain as a friend left this earth way too early, to a day later witnessing two people promise to share their lives together at one of the most beautiful places in Arizona. A day later spending time with another couple celebrating a 30th birthday at Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend.

It was stormy up there last night…incredibly windy and rain was coming. Our session ended before it got dark, which allowed me some time to myself. The sky was gorgeous, the clouds beautiful. This photos has what looks like a raggedy shelf cloud approaching my position.

I stayed there awhile, soaking it up, enjoying the spot with only a few people around. I even took a few portraits of two random couples and texted them the images just because after this week, I am inspired to try and be a better person and love people as much as I can.

More Wynnewood

A strong EF4 tornado spins across the fields near Katie and Wynnewood, Oklahoma on May 9th, 2016

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!