Posts

Crimson Bolts

Combing through the archives of photos I never edited, here’s one from monsoon 2015 west of Tonopah, AZ. I had the kids with me, I was running a fever, but this isolated storm started going up and we went after it. At the time I had no time-lapse clip I felt was good enough for the ending of Monsoon II, and I was pushing myself hard. But on this night, I knew I got it.

Incredible storm, at sunset, with crazy bolts and gorgeous colors. What a fantastic night.

Rapid City

Rapid City

June 1st, 2015…my buddy James Langford told me if I didn’t punch the core of this storm I’d regret it forever. And he was right. Once I popped out the other side and saw this, my mind was blown.

Been wanting to do a black & white version of this storm, so here you go! Still one of the craziest supercell structures I’ve personally seen.

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

—————–

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.

—–

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

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!

Drillbit

As we stood there watching a radpidly rotating wall cloud spin west of Canadian, Texas...a little drillbit of a funnel started to drop and while it never touched the ground that we saw, it was stunning to see in person.

Ahhh…I can’t wait for spring to get here! This was May 27th, 2015…as we stood there watching a rapidly rotating wall cloud spin west of Canadian, Texas…a little drillbit of a funnel started to drop and while it never touched the ground that we saw, it was stunning to see in person.
I think that was the first time I’d ever really seen a funnel form like that right in front of my eyes. So badly wanted it to touch the ground.

Salome

I love this shot mainly because it was the only lightning bolt that I saw come out of this little cell and it took about 15 minutes for it to happen. Patience is not one of my best qualities, but nothing else was happening around me and so I decided to just aim at the spot the rain was falling and hope to get lucky. And boom, this gorgeous strike right after sunset...west of Tonopah along Salome Highway.  That's a good strategy out here in Arizona...lightning can do anything for the most part, but if you aren't sure where it's going to happen, aim at the rain shaft and you've upped your chances at capturing something.
I love this shot mainly because it was the only lightning bolt that I saw come out of this little cell and it took about 15 minutes for it to happen. Patience is not one of my best qualities, but nothing else was happening around me and so I decided to just aim at the spot the rain was falling and hope to get lucky. And boom, this gorgeous strike right after sunset…west of Tonopah along Salome Highway.

That’s a good strategy out here in Arizona…lightning can do anything for the most part, but if you aren’t sure where it’s going to happen, aim at the rain shaft and you’ve upped your chances at capturing something

The Growler

Probably my favorite photo from spending 14 days on the plains in the spring of 2015. This intense, nasty looking supercell was approaching Lamar, Colorado with a tornado warning and huge hail. This was an image I didn't even edit or remember I had taken until well into the summer. What a surprise to stumble upon it.
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, iso 100, 16mm, f/5, 1/50th // buy print)

Sometimes an image is so important to you, so special, that you almost never want to share it. Fear maybe? That you will be the only one who loves it? Or once you share it, the rest of your current work waiting for the light of day just pales in comparison?

For me, it’s both. And maybe some other, more personal reasons. I never want to tell people how to feel about my photos. I want them to discover it on their own. So I rarely try to build up an image as one of my best or favorites.

But this one. This one. I didn’t even know I had it for awhile. It didn’t jump out at me at first because it was a quick snap from the road as we stopped for a second to evaluate things. I knew I took it for a reason, but on my computer, the RAW file was flat. One day late this summer, I saw it again and stared at it and was like…how did I miss this??

These are the images I want to capture. A storm’s raw emotion. It’s anger. It’s beauty. The textures, the motion, the crazy colors…and the simple landscape.

This is why I love what I do. I hope you enjoy this one. It’s the best thing I’ve done this year.

(South of Lamar, Colorado, May 24th, 2015)

PS. I will be doing a screencast soon on how I edited this one, if you subscribe to my newsletter, you will get notified when it’s available. Do that right here.

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.

 

 

Inferno

Inferno
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, 16mm, f/10, iso 100, 0.5 sec // buy print)

I’ve made quite a few trips to the Grand Canyon this year and last, but never have I seen the color and sky like I did a week ago. I went up there of course hoping for lightning, which never materialized…but this blazing sunset was such a treat it made up for everything!

Someday I’ll get the storms I want over that place, but in the meantime…I’ll take a sunset like that!

End of the Rainbow

A powerful thunderstorm that dropped heavy rain and pea-sized hail moves off over Dead Indian Canyon along the Little Colorado River. This canyon eventually connects to the Grand Canyon. As the storm departs, water runs through the desert and a stunning rainbow seems to disappear into the canyon itself.
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, 16mm, f/8.0, iso 100, 1/80th // buy print)

So many aspects of a storm are amazing to photograph and usually you get stuck wanting to always be in front of it for that awesome structure and lightning and whatnot…but sometimes the departing storm, where you have given up chasing but decide to watch it move off across the landscape…can be just as beautiful.

This was about 14 miles east of the Grand Canyon along the Little Colorado a few days ago. Specifically labeled Dead Indian Canyon on Google Maps…it’s a stunning location. I rode out a pretty good storm along this road, with pea-sized hail and heavy rain…I could see runoff draining through the landscape down to the canyon all over the place. As it moved by though…the sun came out for about a minute and created this beautiful rainbow…and seemingly disappeared into the depths of the canyon.

One of my favorite moments from this summer.