Amazingly, I still have some photos from this Booker, TX storm back in 2013 that I never actually processed…so last night I got motivated to edit this one! It’s one of the best storms I’ve ever seen, and my buddy Andy Hoeland and I still can’t believe we were there to witness this amazing supercell.
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f1.2 l, iso 200, f/8.0, 20 sec // buy print)
For me, there is nothing better than an isolated thunderstorm at night. But this storm…it had the moonlight shining down to really show the structure and to top it off, the updraft was actually rotating, which is somewhat rare for Arizona. You can see circular motion in the tower. which adds some drama to this shot. Really added to the scene for me, maybe it a bit more special than normal.
Lots more to come from this guy…the time-lapse should be amazing, can’t wait to start putting together Monsoon II later this summer. If you haven’t seen the first film, here’s the link!
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, iso 800, f/8.0, 1/6 // buy print)
The Booker Supercell was undoubtedly ranked either 1 or 2 in my experiences as a storm chaser. My only wish is that we had gotten there a few moments earlier, but I’m pretty sure we saw the storm at it’s best right before it started dying out. Here’s a look at the storm as it was losing strength, finally passing over the town of Booker, Texas. Earlier in the chase we had been north of Booker, watching the storm move to the southeast…and then we raced south into town and blasted east to stay ahead.
This was one of the final moments of the storm before the sun was completely down and dark overtook us.
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 500, f/8, 1/6th, blended image // buy print)
I’ve told the story of the Booker Supercell before quite a few times in various places, but it’s one I never get tired of telling. It was such a pinnacle moment for me in my life, or at least, as a storm chaser…that I wont soon forget the feeling of seeing it for the first time.
My buddy Andy and I had landed in Denver earlier than morning and drove towards the CO/KS/OK border meetups. I made the first mistake of going northeast instead of south when we got into Kansas and we ended up stuck in rain and hail for what felt like a very long time.
We finally knew we had no choice but to go back towards the storm and then go south to get out of the rain. We knew what we were doing but being out there with a rotating storm coming at you…well, it’s nerve-wracking for those of us from Arizona where storms don’t necessarily try to kill you.
Finally…we broke free of the rain and to our west…the supercell above was just sitting there over Texas. And yeah, we had no clue but in our race to get out of the rain we ended up in Texas. We’d find that out a bit later. I was driving so I couldn’t look too much, but I could see it anyways and was determined to find a good view. I saw a dirt road and took it, heading up a hill and then down the other side where we had a perfect downslope in front of us to see this storm.
I tried to maintain steadiness as I set up my cameras. No one else may understand this…but as a storm chaser, this was the thing I’d been chasing for four years. It was overwhelming. I was shaking. I knew that I needed to be methodical in taking my time setting up the timelapse. I couldn’t screw it up. Focus. Manual white balance. Clean memory card. All ready. And so I started the timelapse. And then I used the other camera on a tripod to take stills like the one above.
And after the timelapse was rolling and I had gotten shots with the other camera AND had tweeted out an iPhone photo saying “We did it”…I sat back and looked at the thing. And tears filled my eyes. I ran over to Andy and gave him a huge hug.
One of the most breathtaking sights I’ve ever beheld. And pictures don’t do it justice. I wish I could go back and live in that memory over and over.
If you missed the timelapse, you can view it here.
(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!
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.
(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!