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This was 2018

One of my annual traditions around these parts is to post a nice recap of the year in photos. They range from road trips with friends,  family pics, wedding, photoshoots and of course, storm images. It felt like a different year overall, a little more subdued, with spring chasing offering slightly less excitement this time around and a couple less weddings. But wow it was a blast of a year regardless!

The year kicked off at a little shoot with a former bride and groom from Australia and their new baby girl, and then I was off on a road trip with Jay, Jason and Andrew to Death Valley and the eastern Sierras. From there it was wedding season, then storm chasing on the plains, followed by epic haboob and lightning action across Arizona during the monsoon, and finally fall weddings and family portraits. Toss in some wonderful family moments, it was a year to remember.

It also marked my fourth year as a full-time photographer and it keeps getting better and better. I still feel incredibly blessed that I get to do this everyday.

Hope you enjoy this look back at some of my favorite images, including at least a photo from almost every wedding and family session!

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!

Breathe

Blu-Ray discs available here: mikeolbinski.com/shop/
Follow me: twitter.com/mikeolbinski / facebook.com/mikeolbinskiphotography / instagram.com/mikeolbinski
Music: Breathe by Ex Makina licensed through the Music Bed
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The moment I heard the opening thump of bass…I knew I would be using this song for my film. But then those haunting vocals hit my ears…and blew my mind. It was like a punch deep in my soul. It’s hard to explain that feeling when you first hear a song and you immediately fall in love with it. Almost like you’ve known it all along.

I hadn’t even planned to start working on this film yet, but I was so inspired that I furiously began to lay down time-lapse clips. I couldn’t stop pouring over it. It was last September and I was supposed to be working on Monsoon IV, but I forgot all about it once I heard Ex Makina’s “Breathe.” It almost felt like it was made for a black and white storm film.

About halfway through editing, I knew the song title would be my film title as well. It was so perfect I couldn’t believe it. Sometimes for me…when I’m chasing or watching an amazing storm…I’ll realize I haven’t taken a breath in awhile. Never really thought of it until I heard this song.

I love being inspired by other artists. I love soundtracks. I can’t imagine the movie Interstellar without that powerful pipe organ soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. Music is so important to what I do and I’m so incredibly thankful to husband/wife duo Iain and Rebecca Campbell for writing this amazing song. Thanks to the MusicBed as well for having such fantastic musicians and artists.

In early 2017, I put together a film called Pulse that was my first ever black and white time-lapse movie. It was so different and fun, I wanted to do a follow-up this year before the next chase season begins. Breathe is made up solely of storm clips from 2017…either from the spring across the central plains or from the monsoon here in the southwest. Some are favorites, some are just ones I knew would be amazing in monochrome and others I used because they fit the music so well.  I also went with a wider aspect ratio on these films to give it more of a cinematic feel.

This is also the first film I’ve ever done in full 8K resolution. I’m super excited about that. You may not be able to watch it in that resolution, but it’s there if you can. Otherwise, 4K is a must if you can!

I truly hope you enjoy this. For me, I needed something to pass the time and bridge the next few months as I wait for supercells to return to the plains. But honestly, I truly love putting these together. Thanks for all your support in the past and feel free to share!

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.

Pursuit // A 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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On June 12th,  I broke down into tears. Minutes earlier, I had been outside my truck, leaning against it, head buried in my arms, frustration and failure washing over me. I wanted to quit. I got back in the car and as I drove, the pain got the better of me and the tears came.

This past spring was a tough one. Supercell structure and beautiful tornadoes had been very hard to come by. In fact, the tornado in the opening of this film was the only good one I saw this entire year. I had been on the road longer than ever before. Driven more miles. I was away from my family for 12 straight days at one point, and when I got home, I had to tell them I was going back out 24 hours later for June 12th.  It was just too good to pass up. It promised to be a day that I could get everything I had been hoping for this spring and I had no choice. My wife understood, even though I knew she wished I stayed home. And I wished it too.

I knew right where I wanted to be that day. But this year I struggled with confidence in trusting my instincts. Maybe it was because the lack of good storms this spring made me question my skills, or maybe it was something else inside of me. Whatever the case, I let myself get twisted and unsure, and found myself 80 miles away from where I had wanted to be when the tornadoes started to drop and the best structure of the year materialized in the sky. The photos from Twitter and Facebook started to roll in and I knew I had missed everything.

It may not be easy to understand why, but when you work as hard as I did this spring, a moment like that can break you.  I felt like I let my wife down. But mostly I let myself down. I forgot who I was and that’s not me. Or it shouldn’t have been me. I failed myself.  And it seemed like the easy choice to just give up and head for home.

But I didn’t. I’m not sure why, but the pain slowly began to subside. I realized it was only 4pm and the storms were still ongoing. Maybe if I could get in front of them the day could be saved. Ninety minutes later, I got out ahead and saw some of the best structure I’d seen all spring and a lightning show that was so incredible it’s one of the very last clips of this film.

And that’s why this film is called “Pursuit.” Because you can’t give up. Keep chasing, keep pursuing. Whatever it is. That’s the only way to get what you want.

I learned something about myself on June 12th which carried over to the final few days of chasing this spring. I trusted myself again and those days were incredibly rewarding. This was who I’d been all along but had forgotten. I can’t wait for next year.

The work on this film began on March 28th and ended June 29th. There were 27 total days of actual chasing and many more for traveling. I drove across 10 states and put over 28,000 new miles on the ol’ 4Runner. I snapped over 90,000 time-lapse frames. I saw the most incredible mammatus displays, the best nighttime lightning and structure I’ve ever seen, a tornado birth caught on time-lapse and a display of undulatus asperatus that blew my mind. Wall clouds, massive cores, supercell structures, shelf clouds…it ended up being an amazing season and I’m so incredibly proud of the footage in this film. It wasn’t the best year in storm chasing history…but I got to chase storms and share it with you guys. All worth it.

I wanted to do something new this year, so I worked with composer Peter Nanasi to develop a custom track for Pursuit. I’m super excited about it and loved the process of exchanging ideas and building the song as the editing of the film progressed. I am so thankful to Peter for what he came up with, I’m in love with this track!

The time away from my family turned out to be over a month all told. I’m always and continually blessed by a wife who supports what I do and backs me completely. But not only do I have her to thank this spring, but also her parents who hung around for a good chunk of May and early June, to help out wherever needed, watch the kids, run errands and generally be there for Jina. I don’t have enough words to convey how appreciative I am for them being around while I was gone.

I think that’s about it. I could write a lot more, but I’d rather you watch the film and hopefully have a taste of what I saw this spring. There is nothing quite like strong inflow winds, the smell of rain and the crack of thunder. I miss being out there already.

I hope you enjoy and I’ll do my best to answer any questions in the comments below!

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. Roughly shot around 90,000 frames of time-lapse, but a lot sits on the cutting room floor. I may do a “leftovers” version at some point.

 

 

 

Perryton

Ohhhh if it had only been daytime, but dang this storm was awesome and definitely tops for structure I’ve seen at night so far this spring. We were on a line of storms right away when they began to intensify northwest of Perryton, Texas, and while we were watching them explode, the southern cell rapidly developed a rain free base. I could see striations forming as well, so we flew south about 10 minutes and I parked at this spot mainly to get those windmills in the frame.

This was from my 5D4 with the @Tamron 15-30mm, but the other camera was doing an 8K time-lapse of this beast and I cannot wait to render that. I don’t have a ton of footage this year yet, but what I do have has been pretty great for nighttime stuff. Looking forward to hopefully more action next week!

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!

Ackerly

A gorgeous supercell slowly moves over the farmlands of Texas near the town of Ackerly.

Another image from May 31st when we were chasing marginal storms in west Texas hoping for something good and then a boundary collided with a storm near Lamesa and it exploded into a gorgeous supercell for about an hour.
This is near the town of Ackerly as it began to slowly die out, but not before it gave us some stunning lightning, structure and beautiful colors.

Erupt

An isolated supercell south of Paducah, Texas, explodes upwards in an eruption of cumulus.
Other than the Wynnewood tornado day, this isolated gem from June 14th south of Paducah, Texas was probably my favorite storm of the spring.

This is a frame from the time-lapse I shared in my film Vorticity. I had gotten on it earlier on the north side but I knew it was all wrong. The storm started moving more east/southeast, not northeast, so I bailed through some dirt roads and drove south until I got into a position where I though the storm was moving right towards me.

And boy did it. I sat here for around 50 minutes, which is a long time for me when I’m time-lapsing a storm. This beast was exploding upwards with such ferocity, it was incredible. During that entire 50 minutes, the storm never moved off course, it came directly at me and eventually right over my head.

There is nothing quite like an isolated storm. And the crepuscular rays were insane. Definitely a highlight of the spring!

Near Lamesa, Texas

Outflow boundaries collided near Lamesa, Texas and despite it being a marginal day, we ended up with a gorgeous supercell for about 40 minutes.

The third day of my Plains Chase Tour this spring was a marginal one, we woke up in Garden City on May 31st and by mid-afternoon we were in Lubbock chasing storms to our south. We got on one that was okay, but then a storm near Lamesa formed and we noticed an outflow boundary headed for it from the east. We hoped it would give it some extra juice and by the time we got down there, it certainly turned into a full-fledged gorgeous supercell for about an hour.

This was southeast of Lamesa and wow did it look stunning. All the dust churning underneath and the teethy low clouds on the left side. One of my favorite storms from this spring and all on a marginal day!

Near Ackerly, Texas

A gorgeous supercell hovers over the farmlands near Ackerly, Texas

May 31st was one of those days where you would have been happy to see just about anything. Marginal, not much hope…and we had woken up early in Garden City, KS and drove all the way to Lubbock, Texas just for a shot.

We got on one storm early, but as it died out, a southern storm near Lamesa was growing and an outflow boundary was headed right for it. Once they merged, the storm went full-blown supercell and it lasted for around an hour…such a treat on a day when we were worried we wouldn’t see much!