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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!

Golden Blue

My final day of chasing the plains last year was June 15th, and it was a chillaxing kind of day. I hung with two friends, Jenny and Justin, and we watched weak supercells spin over fields and we didn’t have to move too much.
Towards the end of the day, a new storm moved in from the southwest and as it neared my position, this beautiful shelf cloud formed just ahead of a stunning blue hail core.
Storms are only months away, I’m starting to get pumped!

Pulse

Song by Tony Anderson: “The Way Home” (Licensed through The Music Bed)
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For quite a few years now I’ve been wanting to do something different with my time-lapse films. I love color. Storms are full of color. The blues, the greens, the warm oranges and reds at sunset. The colors are sometimes what make a simple storm into something extra special.

But black and white speaks to my soul. I love it. There is something when you remove the color that lets you truly see the textures, movement and emotion of a storm.

And then you hear a song. I had asked my buddy Jay Worsley if he had heard anything lately that might rock for a black and white storm film, and he linked me to Tony Anderson’s “The Way Home.” The moment I heard it, I knew that was the song. My recent films have a frantic pace to them and people occasionally tell me they’d love to see the footage in a much slower speed. I already knew that going with the monochrome style sorta demanded something more solemn and poetic…and the song was perfect for that.

I also went with a much wider aspect ratio than I’ve ever done before. I feel like it actually feels like it brings you in closer to the action, almost like you were standing right there with me.

I held myself back for a long time in doing this project because I wasn’t very knowledgable about using tools like Premiere Pro to color grade footage, and all I thought was that I’d have to re-render all my clips as black and white before doing the film. And that’s a lot of work. But the past few years have brought me tons of experience in Premiere Pro, plus help from my buddy Jay Worsley, and I figured out how to do it all there and without a ton of effort.

The film is made up of some of my favorite clips from the past few years. A mix of the monsoon and supercell plains chasing. I’m so inspired by the songs I choose for these videos. Kerry Muzzey, Tony Anderson. Their songs are so powerful and moving and the stories they tell themselves are amazing. I went with clips that felt right with each beat of the song and while I usually try to tell a story with these films, I mostly decided to let the music be that here.

Thanks to Tony Anderson for such an incredible piece of music, and to Jay for pointing it out to me. And also to my friend and fellow time-lapser, Brian Miner (see him on Vimeo), who did some B&W work this past fall and reminded me of what I’ve wanted to do for so long now.

I hope you enjoy this! The creative juices were flowing and I also have some serious withdrawals from chasing storms. I HAD to work on something to hold me over until spring gets here. Only around four months to go before I hit the road to chase supercells and tornadoes in April, May and June!

I have a couple of tornado chasing tours going this spring, if you are interested in checking those out, visit here!

 

Monsoon III (4K)

Blu-Ray discs available by clicking here
Song by Kerry Muzzey: “Revenge”/ “Revenge: Epilogue” (on iTunes and Amazon)
Follow me: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram

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If you asked the average person, many would characterize this summer’s monsoon as a down season. Not a lot of storms overall and it seemed generally more quiet. And in many ways it actually was a slower season. All told I chased about 36 days for this film, which was less than the 48 in 2015. We had an early start in late June, and then it was dead for almost three weeks. When I looked back and realized I chased 12 less days…yeah, it definitely had less action than normal.

But to a storm chaser, none of this really means anything. Sure there were days when nothing was remotely possible to chase, but most of the time the monsoon can be found in the far corners of the state even when Phoenix and Tucson are dry as a bone.

For me personally, I loved this season. Maybe because as a filmmaker, having put out a few of these films now, I’m beginning to focus and hone in more on what I really love to time-lapse. My early scenes years ago had a lot of average clouds and distant rain that didn’t have a lot of excitement or energy. But as the years go on, and I learn more and more about chasing storms here in Arizona…I’ve found myself in better spots to capture the stuff I really enjoy. Strong downbursts of rain, building clouds, lightning…and yes, dust storms.

The one thing I was hoping for in 2016 that the previous years have lacked: Haboobs. Dust storms. Rolling walls of dirt and sand engulfing the deserts and even Phoenix itself. And my wish came true in that regard. Even a very late season, September 27th haboob that I captured right at sunset with glorious colors.

Coming off the heels of filming Vorticity in the spring, with monster supercells and tornadoes, the monsoon is a totally different beast and you’d think it would be less exciting. I don’t know. I find them both amazing and inspiring. Weather to me is weather. No matter how mind-blowing it was to witness the Wynnewood tornado this past spring, standing in front of a rolling wall of dust, or a distant lightning storm under the stars…it’s all a blast to me and I never get tired of it.

So Monsoon III…the credits will say it, but it was around 36 days of filming, I shot over 85,000 frames and am not sure how much made it into the final cut. The song I used was “Revenge” and “Revenge: Epilogue” by Kerry Muzzey, and I took both of them and sliced and diced them until I actually had a six-minute version to fit in with all the footage I captured.

As always…THANK YOU to Kerry Muzzey for supporting my work by letting me use his music once again. I don’t even have enough words for this man for doing this for me. It means more than anything!

I started editing this film mid-summer once I figured out the song I was using. And as days went by and more clips were rendered, I kept adding them and re-arranging them all the time, trying to get every clip to match the tone and feeling of the music. And then I’d think I was done and more storms would come and I’d have to move things around again, and even drop stuff. I have a lot of fun stuff that’s not in this film because I only wanted the very best!

Special thanks to Bryan Snider and Dustin Farrell for some tips this summer on editing out dust spots and birds better than I had been doing. Appreciate it fellas!

My wife takes the brunt of what I do, especially when I’m gone for days at a time. Filming in Arizona is easier because I’m usually home at some point in the evening and at least around in the mornings. But it’s a lot of work and a lot of time being away. She supports me like no other and I can’t believe how lucky I am to have someone with that much faith in what I do.

And a lot of these clips will forever hold memories for me because my two oldest kiddos were there for a lot of them, and at times even all three were nearby. My littlest guy who just turned three, sits on my lap while I edit a lot, listens to the music and loves watching the final product. And he wants to keep watching it…over, and over and over.

Makes a daddy proud.

I hope you enjoy this latest installment. Please let me know if you have any questions about anything! Most of these clips were shot in 8K with some 4K stuff thrown in there as well.

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Captured with a Canon 5DSR, two 5D3’s, 11-24mm, 16-35, 35mm, 50mm and 135mm.
Processed using Lightroom, LR Timelapse, After Effects and Premiere Pro

Road to Hell

A beautiful, sculpted supercell roams the plains of the Oklahoma Panhandle.

(Thanks to Steve Baka for the title!)

I left Phoenix last Thursday at 5:30pm and roughly 24 hours later, I was standing here in the Oklahoma Panhandle utterly in awe of this sculpted supercell crossing the highway.

I had been patient most of the afternoon and when I settled in on this cell southeast of Dalhart, TX…it didn’t look like much. But we knew it was still early and the magic could still happen. Sure enough, as it neared the town of Dalhart, it merged with another cell and suddenly the storm began to rotate more and the structure slowly appeared.

57 miles later, and the thing was a beast. So many great time-lapses from this day and the day after…a great start to filming The Chase II…can’t wait for the next time I head out there!

Monsoon II

Blu-Ray discs available here.
Song by Kerry Muzzy: “Palladio Rebuilt” find it on iTunes (please consider supporting Kerry by purchasing the single or an album!)
Follow me: twitter.com/mikeolbinski / facebook.com/mikeolbinskiphotography / instagram.com/mikeolbinski


I’ve been chasing the monsoon in Arizona for about 6-7 years now. This summer was different though. Back in late July, I was wondering why it felt like I was out chasing more than ever before. And then I remembered. I had a job last summer. This year I didn’t. I went full-time photography in November of 2014 and haven’t looked back.

I was free to roam and had virtually no limitations.  I even had multiple chases where I never actually wend to bed, but instead chased all night. I took the kids to New Mexico at one point early in the season.

Last year I counted roughly 31 total days that I chased a storm during the monsoon. This summer: 48. Yikes.

17,000 miles driven, which was about 3,000 more than last year. Perhaps the biggest difference this year was shooting nearly 60,000 more time-lapse frames than I did in 2014. 105,000 total. And what sticks out to me even more than any of the other numbers above, is that only 55,000 of those 105,000 frames made it into Monsoon II.

What that means is I was able to stuff this new film with only of the best of the best. We missed out on some of the huge dust storms like I’ve captured in years past, but overall, I think this represents some of the best weather I’ve ever photographed in Arizona. There are stunning shelf clouds, gorgeous rain shafts, lots of blowing dust, tons of lightning, and even multiple mini-supercells/mesocyclones. The brief meso over Cottonwood at the 3:38 mark is one of my all-time favorites.

I can’t talk much more about the film without addressing the music real quick. The song is called Palladio (Rebuilt) and it’s once again by the amazing Kerry Muzzey who donated it to me for Monsoon II. He also let me use another song of his for my previous film, The Chase and I’m beyond grateful for his generosity. I mean, how do you thank someone enough for that? Click here to find the song on iTunes and please support his work! I’ve said it a million times…the music is at least 50% of these movies I make. Kerry’s art helps bring my films to life. Thank you my friend!

A few other words of thanks. My good friend and plains chase buddy, Andy Hoeland…always helps with forecasting and things he sees that I might miss. Mike Leuthold…his forecasting models at UofA have been hugely beneficial and it’s been fun to get to know him better this summer! Jeff Beamish in Tucson for helping me out when I’m down there! All the National Weather Service offices here in Arizona, especially Phoenix…thanks for all the hard work you do, even though it’s not always appreciated. You get bashed when you are wrong, and don’t get enough credit when you are right.  And to my buddy Jay Worlsey…he helped me loop a 6:15 song into an 8:30 song. Thanks for showing me the way my friend!

Above everyone else though…my wife Jina. I thank her every time I make a film because without her this would be impossible. Now she’s working part-time, so  when she comes home and I’m gone, and she has the kids to take care of as well…unless they happen to be with me that day. And this summer I was gone even more and she took it all in stride. There is nothing like having someone behind you, pulling for you, supporting you and being your biggest fan. Thank you Jina!

When I’m out there capturing footage for these films, I’m constantly thinking about the story I want to tell. For example, I wanted a lot of erupting, towering cumulus at the beginning to launch into the meatier clips. I started laying out the film back in mid-August. Certain clips I already knew would be in certain places in relation to the ups and downs of the song itself. As the season wore on, I gathered more and more clips and began to lay out the entire film. I’d remove clips when I got something better. There was exhausting editing, re-editing, looping music, reluctantly dropping clips that didn’t work or were unfixable and watching it over, and over and over, to make sure I was telling the story I wanted to tell.

At one point, about halfway through…I was telling Jina that I have a lot of great stuff, but still haven’t shot the final scene yet. I had no idea what it would be, but I knew I didn’t have it. And then that very night (or maybe the next day)…I was out west of Tonopah and I knew on the way home that the monsoon had finally delivered my ending.

That is what is so amazing about doing this. You hit the road with zero idea about what you’re going to see over the course of a summer. You might imagine scenarios or have ideas, but they get blown out of the water by reality. And that’s what I love about it.

My hope is that you can see and feel that love in this film. The beauty of the monsoon in Arizona. This is where I’m from and this is home.

 

 

The Chase – Official Teaser

For the past six year I’ve been chasing storms on the central plains of the United States. But it started off small…a single day here. Three days there. Last year in 2014, I was able to spend seven days chasing, the longest I had up until that point. And it still wasn’t enough.

This past spring I went for it. Fourteen total days. Two in April and then one long trip that began on May 23rd and ended June 3rd. It was amazing. What I saw, how I felt…it was like nothing before.
Here is the official trailer for The Chase…a time-lapse short film that was photographed across 10 states and put over 12,000 miles on my 4Runner. I saw more supercells, funnel clouds and beautiful storms than ever before. It was worth the long, draining days on the road and time away from my wife and three kids.

For the first time ever, I felt like a true part of the chaser community. Twelve straight days will do that to you. The grind of waking up, looking at models and then hitting the road. Mostly though…it’s the friendships you make. Like that June 1st night in Rapid City, South Dakota, where every storm chaser seemed to end up…and we hung out, talked about the crazy storms, ate food and strengthened bonds.

I’m extremely proud of this film. Yet all it does is make me want to work harder on the next one. Next spring I hope to spend even more time out there.

The release will happen in the next two weeks, but in the meantime…I hope you enjoy this little teaser.

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Music: Destiny Waits by Bradford Nyght, licensed through The Music Bed

A winter storm

Winter Storm
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 17mm, iso 200, f/8, 1/1000th // buy print)

While watching this storm roll across eastern Arizona, we dubbed it a “snoboob” because it had all the appearances of a dust storm but instead it was pure white. Even the time-lapse of this makes it look like a haboob. Whatever it was…shelf cloud, gust front…it was gorgeous to watch, especially as it eventually overtook us and enveloped our area in fog and hail.

Was so amazing to be there to witness this…on a road trip, stopping to take photos of some other things, only to watch this storm sorta come out of nowhere. That’s the beauty of God and nature…when you just “get out there”, you never know what you’re going to see.

Filaments

Filaments
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, f/8.0, iso 100, 13 seconds // buy print)

My favorite focal length to shoot lightning with is 50mm. I dunno what it is…but if you get a bolt that fills the frame, it’s pretty much the perfect distance for me. You see the filaments more than if you are using say a 200mm or even a 135mm. That closeness to the storm and to the strike gives you that much more.

This was taken last night north of Sierra Vista, Arizona. We got caught in some epic downpours in town, but were finally able to get out of the rain and find dry-ish area to shoot. It was still raining on me a bit, but thankfully the 50 has a deep lens hood that helps a lot.