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Waves

A shelf cloud passed over minutes before, leaving in its wake low hanging clouds that looked as if you were staring up at a crashing wave in the ocean.

A shelf cloud passed over this house minutes before, leaving in its wake low hanging clouds that looked like an ocean wave rolling over you from underwater. It was a stunning scene and the time-lapse of this shelf rolling over my position is pretty insane. Can’t wait to share it when my next film comes out later in June!

May 16th, 2016 near Spearman, TX

The Crossing

A ragged shelf cloud rolls across western Nebraska on June 2nd, bringing heavy rain behind it.

Those days when you try and try and try to see a supercell but nothing goes up near you and so you try to salvage the day by at least getting a nice shelf cloud in western Nebraska.

June 2nd, 2015…standing here right next to my buddy Matt Grans and his friend Nancee Rostad…this was a perfect moment with zero traffic on the road and a nice little shelf cloud crossing in front of us. Rare to get a time-lapse of something like this from right in the middle of a road and no cars come by…sometimes you risk it and hope for the best!

The Alanreed Supercell

Alanreed Supercell
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 100, f/8, 1/40th // buy print)

Storm chasing can be frustrating and fruitless. Or it can be magnificent and incredibly rewarding. On April 16th of this year, I was able to chase solid structure for almost six hours. So many time-lapses and photos. It was just one of those days that keeps you coming back for more.

This storm earlier spawned a brief tornado near Groom, Texas. It moved to the east/northeast across the rolling farmlands…I caught up to it once again here just north of Alanreed. The hail core and structure was gorgeous. After the clouds nearly passed over me, I got back south and blasted east to chase it again.

More to come!

A March supercell in Arizona

Last week I was out chasing storms and saw a bonanza of shelf clouds south of Phoenix. Later in the afternoon, I went south past Picacho Peak and watched two large cells move closer and closer together until suddenly they merged into a large thunderstorm, with a hail core and structure. It look completely like a supercell and on this time-lapse, you can see the back end of it rotating for a little bit. Early on in both clips you can also see the bluish hail core dump on the right side of the base!

I have a few other clips of the shelf clouds, but really wanted to show this guy. Awesome to see this kind of storm in Arizona…and especially in March! Great start to the year already.

Below is just a still image from this storm. So beautiful!

A March Supercell in Arizona

Crossing 95

Crossing
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, 16mm, iso 100, f/8, 1/60th // buy print)

Nothing like a good chase day during March in Arizona. Not only that, but playing the models and having them prove true when you drive all the way to western Arizona…icing on the cake.

I started off early yesterday, chasing a few cells through Phoenix past Fountain Hills, but I knew all along I would head west on the 10 and see what happened mid-afternoon. I time-lapsed some light convection along the interstate as I watched the cold core slowly progress across southeast California. As it grew closer to Arizona, I landed in Quartzsite, grabbed a bit and blasted south on Highway 95.

A big line of storms was nearing the highway, so I sat there and time-lapsed it rolling by. Lighting was going off…thunder…it was beautiful, especially in March!

Here’s a raggedy shelf cloud with the rain behind it moving towards the Kofa Mountain range. Such a fun day!

The End

The End
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4, f/4, iso 400, 1/500th, handheld 9-image stitched pano // buy print)

The summer monsoon in Arizona came to an end this past weekend when a major transition event in the form of a intense trough moved through the state and caused flooding and tons of damage. We storm-chasers live for these events, which don’t seem to happen but every 4-5 years. There was a tornado risk as well, which is obviously unusual for our state.

As timing would have it…I was actually shooting a wedding on this day. I thought about chasing in the morning, but the storms were too far away to risk not getting back in town in time. So I watched what all my buddies were doing from my office as long as I could, then packed up and went to shoot a wedding that I was pretty excited about. As luck would have it…I was up by Pinnacle Peak where the bride was getting ready when the storm started to move into the West Valley. It was time to leave to go to the venue and as I headed south, the most incredible shelf cloud I’ve ever seen in Arizona was rolling over town.

I waited until I had the best possible view I could from the 101 freeway, pulled over and snapped this quick 9-image pano.

I didn’t care about composition or where I was, or the fact that Best Busy is right there in the photo. I only wanted an image of this scene to have forever.

Simply amazing.

Monsoon | A time-lapse film

Follow me: instagram/MikeOlbinski, twitter/MikeOlbinskiand facebook/MikeOlbinskiPhotography

All summer long when I’m chasing storms, I’m also time-lapsing. It’s actually my main goal when I’m out there. A clip here and a clip there. Some days you get nothing great, some days you get SIX amazing scenes in a single afternoon. A powerful rain shaft. An intense hail core dump. Shelf clouds. Dust storms. Lightning. The Milky Way. That’s what I’m capturing out here in Arizona between June 15th and September 30th every year, which is our official monsoon window. And this is the result of all that time spent.

My favorite part of capturing all this is when I sit down to create this final film. While some scenes are worthy of standing on their own, a lot of them need to be part of something bigger. And when I start laying it out, they suddenly morph into this collection of storm imagery that tells the story of my summer.

This year I wanted to raise the bar. Not compared to everyone else, but my own personal bar. I licensed music this time. I wanted two amazing songs and I think I found them. Powerful, fast-paced, intense. Nothing gives life to your clips like a beautiful soundtrack.

People who follow my work may notice this year’s edition has a new name. I decided I wanted something very simple and to the point. From now on, this will be the “Monsoon” series.

I’m incredibly proud of this film. I’ve probably felt the same way every year in the past, but there is something about this summer that blew away the others. And I think it’s because I’m better at what I do. I’m finding the structure in storms like I never have before.  Our haboobs (dust storms) were limited this year, but those days were amazing, as you’ll see.  And I caught even more lightning this summer than the last two years combined. I think the scenes are more powerful and cinematic than ever. And for this final product, I’ve quickened the pace and I believe I’m finally showing the monsoon in all its beauty and glory.

There are over 45,000 frames in this film. I drove over 14,000 miles across Arizona. This takes work, time and patience. The month of July felt like a huge failure. It was a rough start. It seemed as if the year was going to be brutal and I’d be lucky to capture anything good. And then it all changed and I’m here now releasing what I feel is my best overall work to-date.

I’d like to thank a few people. Dustin Farrell, Sean Parker, Jesse Attanasio, Joel Schat and Bryan Snider. All of you helped me in some way. Answered my technical questions, helped me switch to better software, enabled me to take another leap in quality and inspired me. I appreciate your friendships and willingness to share.

Mostly though, I have to thank my family. My two older kids, Lyla and Eli (6 and 2 1/2) were along for the ride for many of these storms. The final shot in the whole film was one where my wife was out of town and I took all THREE of the kiddies with me, including my youngest who just turned one. I’ll always remember that moment. The Milky Way blazing in the sky, I was feeding the baby a bottle, and taking turns with Lyla who did the best she could until her arm got tired and I took back over. Out there on a dark road off Interstate 10. Meeting another photographer named Val and just enjoying a spectacular moment with my kids all being a part of it.

And to Andy Hoeland for being my forecaster buddy who helps me with figuring out when good things might happen!

My wife though. Jina. Wow.  She believes in me like no one else could or ever will. She knows what I have to do and empowers me to do it. In fact, while I want this film to be amazing for everyone watching, I truly want to impress her the most. It means that all the time away this summer was worth it. Because life is a little bit nuts during the monsoon in our house, where I’ve returned from a chase at 6:30am having being out for 16 hours straight, only to go back out later that night after only a two hour nap.

I say it a lot and I’ll say it again. I wouldn’t be here without her. And I love her for it.

Technical Details and Credits

This past spring I purchased an eMotimo and Dynamic Perception rail system…but I ended up not using them. At all. I wanted to. Believe me. But many of these clips aren’t very long in real time. Sometimes less than 15-20 minutes in a lot of cases. If I took the time to set-up a rail or panning head, I’d be missing a lot. So none of the clips this year use outside motion control.

I used two Canon 5D Mark III’s along with a Rokinon 14mm 2.8 and Canon L lenses, like the 17-40mm, 16-35mm, 50mm, 35mm and even the 135mm. I didn’t even use the Promote Control this year, I kept it simple and used various intervalometers, from wired kinds to a wireless versions from Pixel and Vello.  A couple of Manfrotto tripods held the cameras down.

Songs: Bernini’s Angels by Kerry Muzzey and Inertia by Dexter Britain

Thank you for watching. All clips are available in 4K resolution. Please email, comment or message me on Vimeo for questions, licensing inquiries and whatever else you might need!

Trigo Mountains

Trigo Shelf
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, 16mm, iso 200, f/16, 1/15th, lightning trigger // buy print)

The models yesterday lined up for a huge severe event in western Arizona, so I headed out late morning to Quartzsite. Watched storms for a few hours until a huge MCS exploded out of Mexico near Mexicali, and rushed northeast-east into Arizona…which triggered some amazing storms and flooding.

As near as I can tell, this shelf cloud and lightning strike occurred over the Trigo Mountains southwest of Quartzsite, Arizona.

Mad props to Mike Leuthold and the UofA Atmo Department for some killing forecasting yesterday. I showed up in Quartzsite as storms were already going off. It was a good feeling!

Approaching

Approaching
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8, 16mm, iso 100, f/5, 1/100th, handheld 7-image stitch // buy print)

Wow, yesterday was amazing…with this being the grande finale. An approaching severe thunderstorm with a leading shelf cloud edge. These use to be a rare sight in Arizona it seems like, but this monsoon has been completely insane. Beautiful structure and amazing storms. This looks like a plains-like supercell despite not really having a rotating mesocyclone.

This was south of Glendale road just west of the 101 in the west valley. I time-lapsed this beast from around this point until the blowing dust (you can see some around the base) hit me. You’ll be able to see it at the end of the year unless I get antsy to post it sooner.

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.