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Imminent

Imminent
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 100, 1/125th, f/8 // buy print)

Nothing I love more than an ominous, impending haboob rolling towards me across a great landscape. This was taken back on July 3rd, 2014, on that big day that ended up being the kickoff special for the monsoon this summer. I snapped this along a dirt road south of Highway 387, which is about five miles or so north of Casa Grande, just east of Interstate 10. It didn’t look like much about 10 minutes before this, but as it neared, the intensity picked up and it became fairly robust looking.

We chased this from its birth south of Picacho Peak, to here along Highway 387, north to Riggs Road and finally as it hit downtown Phoenix. This is also a still frame from a time-lapse I shot, which will be part of my annual summer monsoon film coming out next week hopefully!

 

West of Carlsbad, New Mexico

West of Carlsbad
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8 // buy print)

My favorite part about storm chasing is never know what you might see at a moments notice. As we were headed into Carlsbad, we came out of under some rain and saw this cloud moving slowly across the sky.

Amazingly we had just come up to a road that went to the top of a hill for a little park area, so we drove up to the best vantage point and jumped out of the car. I had to duck under a fence. leap across a freshly flowing creek from previous rain and hail, and run uphill for about 200 feet.

My buddy Matt Granz and I stared in awe as we set up cameras. The light was simply amazing.

This scene is part of my Seven Days on the Plains timelapse film I released a few weeks ago.

Near Sheffield, Texas

Near Sheffield
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, f/8, iso 100, 1/30th // buy print)

This past Wednesday through Sunday I chased storms across the southern plains with two amazing guys…Andy Hoeland and Matt Granz. This was by far my longest trip out there, so the amount of images and timelapses I shot were kind of astounding. I ended up at home with over 450gb worth of images. I’m barely done organizing them, but had to edit a few photos to post this week.

I’ll be coming out with a timelapse film from my two plains trips this spring…and I cannot lie, I got a lot of good stuff. Including this shot. This was actually a frame from a timelapse captured southwest of Sheffield, Texas this past Saturday.

Normally fences and stuff don’t excite me in a photo, but this one was kinda picturesque I have to say and I think it added to the composition.

Lots, lots and lots more to come in the coming weeks and months.

A sliding rock out on Race Track Playa

Impact
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 50, 1/6th, f/16 // buy print)

The hard part about doing brief, 2-3 day trips to awesome places, is wishing you had more time. When we arrived at Race Track Playa, it was just over an hour until sunset. In reality, it would have been nice to be there many, many hours earlier to scout spots and looks for the perfect compositions.

Race Track Playa is huge. You start walking from the car, you go 15-20 minutes, and you realize you’ve barely crossed 1/4 of the lake. And the good stuff is waaaay in the distance. The size of the lake bed is deceiving.

I set up a timelapse to run for sunset, which makes it kind of hard to wander away and shoot other things. You really want to make sure that timelapse is going well. Still, I ended up making my way to this giant-ish rock sitting out on the damp part of the playa. I LOVED this spot. The rock itself was bigger than most I saw out there, and the trail behind it almost made it appear to be the crash site of a meteor. Granted, a very soft landing!

The sunset wasn’t spectacular, so I opted for black and white here. I don’t see many monochrome shots from Race Track, but I think this kind of alien landscape really shines when it’s devoid of color.

Barrage

Barrage
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 100, 25 sec, f/8 // buy print)

I’ve stacked lightning a handful of times. Stacking means when you basically merge multiple photos together to create a new image. In this case, I stacked near 30 images to get this one photo.

I don’t normally go this route for lightning…I like the solo strike, the power of less instead of much, much more…but sometimes when lightning is so far away that a single image just isn’t good enough, I like to see what happens when you stack ’em.

I photographed soooo much lightning on this night, in that same area (as you can see), so I had to give a stack a try. In fact, this is actually “Stack Number Two” from the night…the first one can be seen here. That one only had a few strikes, where this one includes everything that came after that. This image includes about 26 minutes worth of lightning. It’s kind of incredible to see what can happen in that short amount of time. The focus of the storm just raining bolts down in a general area.

Nature is amazing.

A dusty sunset in Buckeye

Dusty sunset in Buckeye
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 100, 1/4 sec, f/who knows // buy print)

Nothing is better in photography than happy accidents and unintentional shots you dig. This photo is a big example of that.

As you may know, or not, I love road shots. I want to hunker down just a foot off the road and get an epic photo with a storm in the distance. Just something I enjoy. When you take pictures of storms, it helps to have good foreground elements and roads are usually the easiest thing to come by. But in this case, the road was busy. There was a beautiful sunset happening and a dust storm rolling across the mountains into Buckeye…so of course I wanted the middle of the road. But there were cars coming, so after I set up for a shot, I had to bail before taking a photo.

So I hurried over to the left shoulder, set up the tripod and snapped the shutter anyways. I wanted to get the color in the sky before it was gone. And I ended up loving it because the slow shutter speed added some motion to the truck, which is driving right into the storm.

This was taken back on August 18th in Buckeye along Highway 85. This was the same day an epic haboob rolled through Phoenix and I was way out here shooting a lesser haboob.

Lesser haboob. I love it.

A distant battle

Distant Battle
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 100, f/8, 15 sec // buy print)

A few nights ago in Casa Grande I tweeted out something about a lightning bonanza happening down in that area. I started shooting from this very spot at around 8pm and left an hour later. And the lightning was in front of me the entire time.

It was easy pickin’s.

This is a stacked image of eight separate photographs. Because it was such a wide angle lens, I knew right away that I was going to do some stacking…because for me at least, a single strike would have to be utterly AMAZING to stand by itself. But a bunch of them together…that would be awesome.  Also…this was sunset, so the purple in the sky was ridiculous. And the bubbly mammatus on the upper right…well, we just don’t see that all the time. I couldn’t believe I could get these kind of shots with that kind of sky…was too good to be true.

A bunch more coming from this night…including another stack at this very spot with the same lens that has even MORE lightning strikes. Cray cray.

 

Storm of the Apocalypse

Storm of the Apocalypse
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 640, 1/50th, f/8 // buy print)

No one is more amazed than I am at the way my timelapse of the Booker supercell took off. For me personally it was a huge moment to capture a storm like this. So I was crazy proud. But I had no idea it would be something that soooo many people would find utterly awesome and want to share it everywhere. Even over a week later it’s continuing to be shared on various blogs and websites, and still going strong. As of writing this it has almost equaled the number of Vimeo plays as the July 5th, 2011 Haboob video of mine that also went viral.

It’s been an insane ride once again. Thank you all for the love.

So of course I will be posting various views of the storm over the next few weeks since we observed it over the course of 30 minutes and WOW do storms like this change quickly. It’s simply unbelievable to watch how it evolved over the course of 24 minutes or so.

I love this one in particular. I chose to create a print out of this capture mainly because of how it looks like a tornado or something has appeared on the right side. I had a meteorologist email me and he believes this was actually a tornadic storm and while we couldn’t see a clear funnel, a tornado  touched the ground at some point.

Either way…it was mesmerizing and amazing to watch. The orange sky behind it was creating this spooky backlight. What I also loved…was not only did the clouds and rain and dirt all look hellish…the ground itself was a field of plowed (or cut down) corn stalks…it looked almost like a landscape from the end of the world.

More images to come from this storm…can’t wait to share them all!

Timelapse of a supercell near Booker, Texas

Still prints of this storm for purchase can be found on my gallery.

Follow me on Instagram as well for storm photos and whatnot -> MikeOlbinski

It took four years but I finally got it. A rotating supercell. And not just a rotating supercell, but one with insane structure and amazing movement. I’ve been visiting the Central Plains since 2010. Usually it’s just for a day, or three, or two…but it took until the fourth attempt to actually find what I’d been looking for. And boy did we find it.

No, there was no tornado. But that’s not really what I was after. I’m from Arizona. We don’t get structure like this. Clouds that rotate and look like alien spacecraft hanging over the Earth.

We chased this storm from the wrong side (north) and it took us going through hail and torrential rains to burst through on the south side. And when we did…this monster cloud was hanging over Texas and rotating like something out of Close Encounters.

The timelapse was shot on a Canon 5D Mark II with a Rokinon 14mm 2.8 lens. It’s broken up into four parts. The first section ends because it started pouring on us. We should have been further south when we started filming but you never know how long these things will last, so I started the timelapse as soon as I could.

One thing to note early on in the first part is the way the rain is coming down on the right and actually being sucked back into the rotation. Amazing.

A few miles south is where part two picks up. And I didn’t realize how fast it was moving south, so part three is just me panning the camera to the left. During that third part you can see dust along the cornfield being pulled into the storm as well…part of the strong inflow. The final part is when the storm had started dying out and we shot lightning as it passed over us.

Between the third and fourth portions we drove through Booker, Texas where tornado sirens were going off…it was creepy as all heck. And intense.

I hope you enjoy this. Once thing I’ve learned about timelapsing is that I always wish it would be longer or wouldn’t end. I wish I had been south and been able to record this storm come at me for 45 minutes.

But I love it the way it is. I wasn’t ever certain I’d see structure like this even though it’s been such a goal of mine. But we did it.

And by we, I mean myself and my buddy Andy Hoeland, who knows his crap and got us into position so we could chase this storm. Without him along I don’t know if I get this timelapse.

Below is a still-capture from the timelapse that is being sold as a print on either metal or Fuji Pearl paper. Click on the image to go to the gallery. 

The Booker Supercell

A supercell near Booker, Texas

The Booker Supercell
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 640, 1/50th, f/5.6 // buy print)

There are no words really to describe the moment we saw this storm. We (My buddy Andy Hoeland and I) had been driving through rain and hail, always on the wrong side when we finally make a gamble to just push south through the storm and get on the far side if we could. When we finally left the rain behind and had a clear look to our west…our jaws dropped. We stopped on top of a hill, got out of the car, set up the cameras and started recording this monster.

Seeing something like this has been a longtime goal of mine. This was my fourth year chasing in the plains and I’ve never come CLOSE to this kind of structure. Pictures don’t do it justice. This was with a 14mm lens. It seems like it’s far away and safe, but in reality it was crazy close and we were ready to bail at any moment.

When I finally had all the cameras going and sat back to just take it all in…tears filled my eyes. I yelled with joy at the top of my lungs, I gave Andy a big hug, thanking him for picking this spot almost a week before as our target location. We heard other chasers nearby hooting and hollering as well. It was a magnificent moment.

This image is actually about 20 minutes or so after our first stop. We never could stay long in one place because the rain was just to our right and bearing down. This was when the supercell started really spinning at the base and pulled up dirt from below.

I will never…in all my life…forget this day.

Different views of this thing, a timelapse and a lot more to come from our trip!