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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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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 2012 Arizona Monsoon in Timelapse

Well this is my baby. All the hard work timelapsing last summer is now in one single place. A short film, 19 minutes long, that is the payoff for all the hours, miles driven and time away from family in 2012. The video took me quite awhile to produce. Most of the timelapses were completed in one form or other last fall, but with the busy wedding and family portrait season upon me, I had to put it on the back burner for awhile. But slowly this year I’ve pieced it together, organized it, cleaned it up, found music and finely tuned my simple presentation.

And now it’s here. I’m damn proud of it.

No, I don’t use a dolly. Yet. I’m not sure it’s important to have one but all the most amazing timelapses usually have some kind of motion in them. But timelapsing while you storm chase is quite a different beast than planning to shoot the Milky Way one night out in Joshua Tree National Park. You never know when or where a dust storm may crop up. Or lightning. Or a ridiculously awesome monsoon sunset. Sometimes I literally cannot get my tripod set-up fast enough. The secondary idea of ALSO having to get a dolly set-up, not to mention figuring out in my brain just exactly how long this dust storm will take to get to me, is fairly difficult. But I may yet be moving that direction this summer. We’ll see.

But for now, these are simple timelapses that show you the nature of the Arizona monsoon. Walls of dust…beautiful clouds, amazing sunsets, rain, gorgeous landscapes…all of that stuff. It’s what I love about this state. It’s what drives me to chase over 7,000 miles every summer.

Some of the clips in here have been posted separately before, but there are a bunch that haven’t been seen, including a storm moving over Tucson over the course of 90 minutes.

My only regret is that the lightning portion is super-brief. I debated putting it in at all, but there are a couple of clips I really loved and they needed a place to be seen. This coming summer I hope to have a bit more patience with timelapsing lightning for longer periods of time. But the monsoon is fickle and lightning doesn’t always last too long. It moves with the storms and makes it tough.

Everything was filmed on Canon 5D Mark II’s, using the Canon 17-40 L, the 70-200 f/2.8 L and a Rokinon 14mm 2.8. I use a wireless intervalometer to run the shutter and then I kick back and watch the storm roll in or take stills with the other camera.

I am showing it here for free, but if you love the movie and feel like purchasing it for your personal collection, or to view anytime on your iPhone, iPad or whatever, it’s available for $5. I will email you a link where you can download the movie. You can click the button down below the movie to buy!

Also…I’m posting this on my birthday! I never ask for these kinds of things, but as a little gift to me, if you enjoyed the film, I’d love it if you could spread the word via email, share this on Facebook, Twitter or wherever. It would mean a lot! When you put a lot of hard work into something that people are supposed to watch, you want to try to get as many people to see it as possible!

Thank you for checking it out, I hope you enjoyed viewing it as much as I did filming it and I truly desire for you to fall in love with Arizona like I have. It’s such an amazing place.

 

A possible season ending Phoenix monsoon sunset

The monsoon is winding down and last night I figured the brief sunset we had might have been a quiet farewell to the 2012 season.

But this evening…we had a slow moving storm which was kind of “training” as it moved south, the top of it blowing off to the southeast. Caught in this timelapse is a microburst up in Deer Valley which caused all kind of damage to trees and a mobile home park.

We technically have a few weeks left in the monsoon season, but the weather experts are talking about how it’s winding down. Tonight might have been one of the most epic ways for it to say goodbye.

I was watching it on radar during the afternoon, and I kept peeking my head out. Finally I knew I had to go, this thing wasn’t completely dying out and I knew I had an hour before the sun went down. I hit up my 2nd favorite parking garage and started firing off frames.

It was amazing. I was going nuts taking photos with the other camera. I love the end when the left edge of the storm launches up some final towers. The third one on the right goes straight up at the end and is the last little bit to have any color.

I hope the season isn’t over…but if so…this was a great way to end it.

More haboob – September 6th, 2012, Phoenix, Arizona

Watch FULL SCREEN in HD puhleeeez!

Oh yeah…another haboob dust storm awesomeness rolled into Phoenix this evening and blanketed the town in dust for over an hour. The wall was about 50 miles long and the winds didn’t seem that strong, so the dust just lingered in the air forever. Blech.

I regret not getting to this spot 10 minutes earlier, but thems the breaks kid.

Met with some wedding clients right after this and then flew up the Beeline and captured some lightning. All in a days work.

Another dust storm rolling through uptown Phoenix

It wouldn’t bee a monsoon thunderstorm if we didn’t have a wall of dust moving through town. Usually though, that’s all we get…but the last two days have seen decent rain for Phoenix. It’s been crazy weather, flash flooding on the outskirts of town and widespread precipitation.

Been a busy summer for the monsoon season. Definitely more active than I remember in recent years.

My 2011 stormchasing trip in 7 minutes

(To view this video in HD, click right here to go to Vimeo…a lot better quality.

I had a different post set for today, but the clouds this morning and the humid-ish area has me excited for the monsoon season here in Arizona which could make an appearance as early as tomorrow!

I finally finished working on the video from my stormchasing trip back on May 9-11. Most of the video I shot was kind of boring since the a lot of the trip turned out to be a bust, but I put together the best clips I had. I think you’ll enjoy the lightning show the most…the second clip is pretty incredible in terms of the non-stop nature of the flashes. I apologize for my silly voiceovers!

All the video was shot with the 5D Mark II and I have to say, it was awesome. Next year when I do this though, I’ll bring along a 70-200mm. Being able to zoom around like that would have been nice, especially for some of the distant lightning.

Below are two images I captured along the way. The first one has a radio/cell/TV (whatever) antenna in it and I’ve always wanted to get a good lightning shot with one of these in the frame. Not the best lightning, but still fun!

The second one was shot after the final lightning clip in the video. As I’ve said before, I love up-close lightning that fills the frame, but there is something cool about seeing the entire cloud from far away.

Grand Falls: A short little video

(Make sure to watch the video in 1080p glory!)

As promised, I put together a short little video on Grand Falls from our trip this past Saturday. If you watch it on YouTube, you’ll see a lot of links to other Grand Falls videos, some of which really show the power of the Falls when they are at peak flow. I think this is probably the only HD video of Grand Falls out there, but I really hope to someday capture them going nuts like in some of those others.

The Falls are just amazing. I hope the video gives you a better impression as to the scale of them, because it’s not always easy to tell from a simple photograph. My daughter did her best impression of a foreground object and I think it helps a lot *grin*

Next year I plan on doing a lot more video and also hopefully a long time-lapse. This was the first time using my 5D Mark II for video and sadly there’s a nice dust spot on the lens (My Tamron 17-35mm 2.8), plus some herky-jerky movements. Hopefully it doesn’t induce any motion sickness for you all.

I have to say…I do love the quality of the HD video though…pretty remarkable. Can’t wait to dig into it more. Will be using it to document some of my stormchasing adventures this summer.