Posts

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.

Mist and Water

Every year my buddies Jay, Jason, Andrew, Aaron and I go on a road trip somewhere. The previous two have been in Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. We call these little excursions “Lost//Discovered.” The name implies a feeling of getting lost from our normal lives and discovering something about ourselves. Be it passion, direction or literally anything. It’s one of my favorite times of year and this past trip was another fantastic time!

This time we decided to fly to Oregon and rent our RV there, and just explore whatever seemed fun to us. The coast, waterfalls, mountains, anything we could get to. It’s a time of year when we all have a lot less going on in our businesses photographing weddings, and it’s the perfect time to get away, explore and hang out.

These trips are often tough for me. Often at this point in the year, I just need a break and while I want to time-lapse and drone everything I see, I’ll also wish I could just carry a single camera and lens, and just stand there quietly capturing the scenes around me. It’s a battle within. Sometimes I didn’t do anything and other times I made a choice between droning or time-lapsing. I love that I didn’t do a whole lot but walked away with some scenes I’m super pumped to have photographed.

This film is short, barely three minutes, and doesn’t have a ton of scenes. I love this song “No Place on Earth” but Tony Anderson, and so I just let the notes dictate the number of clips I used. It’s a mix of drone and time-lapse of random spots in Oregon. But every shot contains either mist or water, which is pretty much why I was craving Oregon in the first place. We were hoping for foggy conditions, waterfalls, waves, the ocean and anything akin to that. Even frozen Trillium Lake covered in snow had a low fog slightly obscuring Mt. Hood. The light was amazing the morning of our second day from Ecola State Park, and I gobbled that up.

Equipment included two Canon 5DSR’s and a Phantom 3 Pro. Time-lapse clips rendered in After Effects, and the final film edited in Premiere Pro. I used the Lumetri Color effect to do simple editing of the drone footage.

Hope you enjoy!

Another world

Standing here, near Bledsoe, Texas on the night of May 29th...it felt like I had traveled to another planet. The wind, the storm, the lightning...but it was the surreal orange glow everywhere that created this otherworldy mood which I'll never forget.

Standing here, near Bledsoe, Texas on the night of May 29th…it felt like I had traveled to another planet. The wind, the storm, the lightning…but it was the surreal orange glow everywhere that created this otherworldly mood which I’ll never forget. It was utterly amazing and mesmerizing. One of those moments you wish would never end.

The End

Driving through an abandoned town and then turning the corner to see this scene was truly one I'll never forget. We had just witnessed the Dora tornado 30 minutes before, and so we blasted towards the storm in hopes of seeing another one. This was just as good. The sun igniting the rain into a horizon of orange, the blue hail core in the supercell and lightning. It was incredible to witness. I know if I returned to this spot during the day, it would seem normal and boring. But on this night, with the wind, the colors...the lightning...it felt like we were watching the end of the world or something.
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, 16mm,. iso 100, f/8.0, 5 sec // buy print)

If you are interested in a print, you can click the link above and use coupon code “chase2015” for 25% off!

I’m proud of this one…not just the shot itself, but just the fact that we were even here to witness it. It took us hours to make our way southeast through a southeast moving line of storms. It was brutal. Hail, rain, traffic in Clovis, NM…but somehow, someway we got out in front of this thing.

Driving through an abandoned town and then turning the corner to see this scene was truly one I’ll never forget. We had just witnessed the Dora tornado 30 minutes before, and so we blasted towards the storm in hopes of seeing another one. This was just as good. The sun igniting the rain into a horizon of orange, the blue hail core in the supercell and lightning. It was incredible to witness. I know if I returned to this spot during the day, it would seem normal and boring. But on this night, with the wind, the colors…the lightning…it felt like we were watching the end of the world or something.

Also I have 477 frames of this storm on time-lapse! Can’t wait to share it all!

From May 29th near Bledsoe, TX.

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!

The Watcher

The Watcher
(please click to view on black // buy print)

I rarely, if ever, post photos from years ago. I tend to hate my processing even as recent as 2012. I feel like I’ve really grown into a more polished look (with lots of room yet to grow), so looking back is rough.

But…when an image is one I love enough, I may actually go back and re-edit the thing. And that is the case here. I may have posted this before, but this time it’s been processed using my staple of luminosity masking.

The story behind this photograph, which I just realized a few days ago…is that it’s July 4th, 2011, which was just a day before the big historic haboob hit on July 5th. In many interviews I’ve done since then, people always ask “why was that dust storm so massive?” And I usually say something like “Well, it was early in the season, we hadn’t had a good dust storm yet, or even a good storm…drought…” etc.

But in reality…this was the scene the day before just south of Phoenix along Riggs Road. So we’d already had a dust storm prior to the big one. This one turned out to be fairly weak after a bit, but it’s still a nice wall of dust. Makes the next day seem even more intense because the storms were so strong that they kicked up even more dust after this one rolled through.

I love this image because of the dead tree, the dust wall and that epic, dying monsoon thunderstorm. It also marked one of the first timelapses I did, but I’m so embarrassed by the mistakes I made, I’ll never post it. Suffice to say…I sincerely wish I had done that one correctly, because this was a beautiful scene. But I think it was the beginning of my love for capturing the motion of dust storms.

Sunset over Tempe Town Lake

Sunset over Tempe Town Lake
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, f/5.0, iso 800, 1/160th // buy print)

Life is so busy right now that I rarely get out to take photos unless it’s a wedding or lifestyle session. Let’s just say I’ve seen a ton of great sunsets and sunrises from my house lately.

Even last night I had a photoshoot. So normally I wouldn’t get to take a photo like this, but I happened to be returning from Mesa and the sky went NUCLEAR and I flew to the off-ramp at Scottsdale/Rural, parked in a spot I probably shouldn’t have and ran like an idiot about 500 feet to the water’s edge.

It felt amazing to actually be in a spot with a lake, a reflection of the sky, Tempe and A-Mountain in the background and a gorgeous sunset. Made me realize how much I’m missing just being out in nature capturing awesome skies and beautiful landscapes.

Going to have to go on a road trip soon.

Reflections of the Monsoon

Monsoon Sunset Reflected
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 200, f/8, 1/15th // buy print)

If you follow my work, you may remember this epic looking, isolated thunderstorm from last year and also the timelapse that went with it. The storm was seen all over by tons of people…cell phone shots of the “UFO” cloud were sent in to all the news stations.

This is kind of the aftermath when it was fading away to nothing…but right as the sun was going down, when that gorgeous anvil cloud captured perfectly the colors of the sunset. We had a bit of a rain storm the day before so there was this massive puddle on the side of the road. Had to use it of course. You don’t get many chances for reflection shots like this in the middle of the desert.

It’s still one of those storms I wont soon forget and I’m dying to photograph some real weather again. The good news is that the monsoon season start date is just over a month away. Hurry on up already!

One | Ginny and Jonathan | Wedding

Double-header weekend, here’s a frame from Ginny and Jonathan’s wedding Saturday evening. Special thanks to my buddy/second shooter Jeff for watching the sunset for me until it started changing colors!
2013_GinnyJonathan_5588

Titanic

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/16, 1/15th // buy print)

Movie Title Wednesdays are now few and far between these days, but I stumbled upon this image last night and realized I never posted it and felt like it was about time. I dubbed it Titanic because my wife has looked at this scene twice now and that’s the first movie that pops into her head.

And yeah, I love the movie. Can’t help it! Man card turned in!

But the way this old pier and that lamp post are covered in calcium deposits…it truly does look like the pictures we’ve seen of the Titanic. This image was taken at Bombay Beach along the Salton Sea in California back in January of this year. I made the trip with some friends from Phoenix and we met up with my buddies Heath O’Fee from Canada and Chris DeAngelis/Doug Wise from California. We had a spectacular time and on our first and only visit to Bombay Beach…couldn’t have asked for a better sunset.

This image actually fits even more for Movie Title Wednesday because it’s kind of a prequel. A week after our visit, I posted a photo from this same spot taken at 6:00pm. You can click right here to view that one.

The photograph above was taken at 5:52pm, just eight minutes earlier. Kind of amazing how much the sky changed in that short span of time. This image was always my favorite of the two because of the way the last rays of sunlight hit the lamp post and a few areas of the pier.

Definitely loved going back to that day and finding a few more images to post. We all had such an awesome time, that will of course be one of my favorite photography trips ever…and mostly because of the guys I was with.