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Green Monster

Yesterday didn’t seem like anything too exciting. Started south of town early afternoon, dust storm was weak, came home, picked up the kids and we decided to play the storms out west by Tonopah because I had a feeling that the action would end up propagating out there. Things got more intense with strong downbursts near the Salome Highway/I-10 intersection as an outflow boundary progressed northward.

The storms started forming over me as I raced towards the town of Aguila, dodging donkeys along the way while marveling at the sunset light that was beginning to shine on everything. As I started making it on the north side of the storms, my cell data returned and I realized the storms I had raced under were intense. I was looking up at the cloud above me and suddenly saw shelfy structure…and when I pulled over, it looks like a supercell for a moment. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

But the most insane thing to me was the green. I’ve never seen green like this in Arizona ever. It was so intense. I was standing there in disbelief that a seemingly average day would suddenly go supernova to have this huge storm with a green hail core. And to make it even more incredible, as it moved towards me, the sunset light somehow exploded and I was just in completer and utter awe.

This image is a tough one for me…I edited it just like I do all the others. Layers of contrast, a teeny bit of vibrance added…but the colors were so whack, I think people will be asking (and have been on Twitter already) if it’s legit. It looked like this to me standing there. Yeah, I edit stuff to look good, but I really tried not to make it look different than it did. I love it

Hail No

On May 23rd, after time-lapsing the supercell south of Arthur as it neared highway 61, we raced north to get back ahead. But after five miles or so, the rain stopped momentarily and I looked back to see something in my rear-viewer mirror that made me slam on the brakes.

We jumped out of the truck to one of the most amazing sights I’ve ever seen storm chasing in my career. Only way I can describe this is a supercell with a hail core microburst that seems to happen in the span of five minutes or less. It was crashing so fast and the rain was rapidly approaching from the west, that I had no ability to really time-lapse it.

But it didn’t matter…we stood there in utter amazement…made me once again realize how much I love doing this and why.

Vekol Sparks

A stunner of a sunset on August 23rd last year out along Vekol Road. I was flying down there, exited the freeway and of course my buddy John Sirlin beat me there by five minutes. Such an incredible sight…the colors were intense and the bolts were everywhere. This was my favorite one from this spot…we left west after it got dark and shot more lightning near Gila Bend and then up in Sun City West even later in the night. One of the top days chasing last summer!

Sun Devil

A new image from this past August 25th in southern AZ, looking out over Interstate 10 from the Marsh Station overpass. This storm was one of the highlights of the 2017 monsoon. Sat here for over an hour, with not much rain, enjoying a spectacular view of the sunset with lightning between us. Can’t ask for much better than that!

Muleshoe

A new image from May 9th of last year near Muleshoe, TX. This was a beautiful supercell that earlier dropped a brief rope tornado near Sudan and then sped away so fast I couldn’t keep up with it. Here I am chasing it from the south side, trying super hard to keep up with it. I gave up after this though and just enjoyed watching the stunning structure and that monster tail cloud, along with some beautiful cloud-to-ground strikes!

Ocean of Fire

A stunning, out of control monsoon sunset west of Gila Bend near the Paloma Dairy

Back in 2015 west of Gila Bend, near the Paloma Dairy I saw one of the most extraordinary sunsets I’ve ever witnessed during the monsoon. Dust was blowing across the ground. The sky lit up in all shades of orange. Lightning in the distance. It was astounding.

Ended up being a beautiful time-lapse! But here’s a frame from that time-lapse, complete with a nice little lightning bolt to top off a gorgeous scene.

Danger Ahead

August 26th began out southeast of Globe where me and the kiddos purposely ran into my buddy John Sirlin so they could see Aspen whom they just love! We watched some distant storms there, then drove through Safford as more storms pounded that area. We raced south and then eventually ended up at Marsh Station exit for what would be one of the best shows of the summer. We sat at this overpass for over an hour, watched a stunning, super orange sunset, and lightning striking all to our west…which was ideal haha. The colors, the bolts, the light trails from the passing traffic…it all lined up for such an amazing evening.

Ran into Lori Grace Bailey there as well and we all were going bonkers of course! Love nights like this!

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.

 

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.