Best of 2021

Every year, I like to share all my favorite images from the past year. It’s fun to look back and see how the past 12 months of life went, from moments with my family, to weddings and portraits, then 5 months of storms, and then right back to weddings and Christmas family photos.

2021 started off with the kids doing school at home thanks to a little something called Covid…but luckily things improved a bit on that front, and weddings happened and chasing was still in the cards. Not only chasing, but GOOD chasing…the spring plains season and the monsoon were both excellent this past year and I was thankful to be on some spectacular storms.

Thank you to all my clients, to workshop guests, to my buddy Brett for being on many of these storms together, to Crescent Crown, the BBC, National Geographic and so many others. But mainly…to my family. Jina, thank you for loving me and supporting me and taking care of life when I’m gone chasing. And to my kiddos…you all are the bestest and I’m so thankful we got to make a fun photo in front of a stunning supercell in Nebraska this year!

Here are my favorite images of 2021, in order of their capture.

Shadows in the Sky

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Music: “The Last Goodbye” Eric Kinny, Danica Dora (through TheMusicbed.com, sign-up for licensing here: share.mscbd.fm/mikeolbinski)
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Sometimes it takes you months to find the correct song for your next project and other times you find it in about three minutes. When I heard The Last Goodbye, the haunting melody and gorgeous vocals, not to mention the cinematic feel leading to a pulse-pounding finale, I knew instantly I wanted to use this for a black and white film.

Interestingly enough, while I love making these monochrome films, I’ve had this newfound love of color in storms, the variety, the stunning tones of greens, blues, oranges, reds and everything in-between. So as I was making this film entirely in black and white, I kept getting this unsatisfied feeling. I decided to try something new about halfway through, when the song’s pace slowly increases, and I hope it’s something you enjoy!

I love this song, I love these clips and I love chasing storms. The scenes in this film have appeared before, and I cannot wait to get out and get some new stuff to share down the road. It may be two years of collecting footage again before I create something new, so I had to put something out now to tide me over until then and also to fire me up for storm season! Hope you enjoy!

This was 2020

2020. What a year. I truly don’t want to get into the crap that happened over the past 10 months, but I will say, the number of photos I have here are a lot less than normal. Under a 100. I think I usually can’t keep it below 150!

Canceled weddings, subpar spring chase season, horrific monsoon, lack of motivation and a general lackluster year led to less opportunities. But…I’m incredibly blessed to have seen what I did see in a year when people were mostly holed up in their homes keeping safe and healthy. So many of my friends were unable to travel to the United States to chase this year and so I feel super lucky to have been able to get out at all!

As always, these are generally in order of when they happened. Thankful to all my amazing clients who return every year for annual family photos, it means so much to me! Some pics of my wife and kids in here of course, I only wish I had taken more photos of them this year.

Hope you enjoy this look at my favorite pics from 2020!

 

New Times: Best Music Video Cameo

Pretty blessed to have made the Phoenix New Times “Best of” list a number of times, but this year’s was pretty awesome! You can see the video below!

Here’s the link to the original article

San Simon Supercell

After nine days of no storms, I struggled with motivation, but somehow still dragged myself out of bed last Thursday at 5am to get to the AZ/NM border in time for late morning development. It seemed like a lock for a supercell to form between 10-12 near San Simon and move east into New Mexico. Arrived early, took a cat nap, enjoyed a weaker storm waking me up with rain drops, but I knew the real show was the tail end one rapidly intensifying over the Chiricahua Mountains. Lightning showed up on radar finally and I knew I was in business. I sat back and watched it arrive in San Simon mostly a blob of rain, but then the bolts starting hitting around me and some structure began to show. I headed east on 10 to get out of the precip and avoid the widow maker bolts, but after a few miles I pulled over to a nice high view overlooking this valley. And that’s when this thing rapidly turned into the most incredibly structured supercell I’ve ever personally witnessed here in Arizona. The wall cloud, the vertical updraft, the incredible rain/hail falling to the right and then NUTSO towering lightning bolts landing everywhere. There is actually another faint one on the left. Thankful I pushed myself to chase this and feel lucky to have been on this guy for the 20 minutes it was awesome. The time-lapse is great, look for it in Monsoon 6!

Crawler near Sublette


A very nice crawler exploded out of this storm as we sat in amazement watching this supercell near Sublette, KS back on May 21st.

Vorticity 3

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Blu-Rays available in the shop!

Music by Ryan Taubert via The Musicbed.com

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This past spring was definitely a crazy time. I wasn’t even sure how much I’d be able to chase with everything going on, but luckily the storms waited until the middle of May to truly get going and things seemingly had gotten much better then and made chasing possible.

One thing you will notice in this film is a lack of tornadoes. It was a bad year for them right up until July when I stopped chasing! But the structure was magnificent. So many legendary days. I wasn’t even planning on doing a film this year, as I was figuring to do what I did with the previous Vorticity: Wait to gather up two years worth of footage in order to give you nothing but the very best. Incredibly, this year was so good, I had no idea how NOT to do a film, because if next year was anywhere close, I’d be making a 30 minute movie or having to leave a ton of clips on the cutting room floor.

So I started to work on it, first with the music as always…and I love Ryan Taubert. His album “Fool” actually had four tracks on it I love, but individually they didn’t quite have it all. So I spent a few hours, blended four of them, came up with a nine minute song and boom, went to work!

I wanted to do something a little more methodical, slower paced and majestic this time, fitting with the music and the footage. I hope you enjoy that! The lightning was off charts this year for me, so much night-time structure and awesomeness, plus the daytime supercells were incredible.

I want to big time thank my partner in crime this year for about two weeks, Brett Wright. He helped me with our tiny little one-guest tours this year, and having him along to help drive, forecast and make on-the-fly decisions was much appreciated. Moreover, incredibly thankful for our friendship. And to Deran and Kristy, thanks for tagging along! Seeing your reactions and yes, even tears in Kristy’s case, was inspiring!

Thanks to my YouTube peeps, the channel has really exploded this spring, and I appreciate and love all the comments and feedback, despite a few crazies tossed in there 🙂

To my Patreon peeps…thank you for the love and support this past year, not to mention the growth this spring. To Sarah and Samantha, my two top supporters…no words for you two! I appreciate you so much!

Finally, to my wife Jina and the kids. With everything going on with the coronavirus, and putting an addition on our home at the same time, it was tougher being away this spring. No doubt about it. Luckily there were long breaks at home this time with marginal storms to make things easier, but it’s still always a rough time, which is why I stop chasing out there once June is over. I thank them for allowing me to do what I love and to be excited to see what I captured whenever I get home. I love you all!!!

Technical Details:

Everything shot with two Canon 5DSRs and various Canon lenses. A couple lightning sequences with the Sony A7R3

All clips available in 8K Resolution

Processed in Lightroom, LR Timelapse, After Effects and Premiere Pro.

Segment on PBS documentary!

Hey everyone! I know I haven’t blogged much lately, but wanted to make sure you all knew about this documentary H2O: The Molecule that Made Us and the segment in which I appeared!

Here’s the link: H2O

My segment starts at the 17:25 mark!

New Virtual Workshops

Last week I did a couple of Virtual Workshops, which is basically a tailored workshop to your needs done over Zoom Conferencing! I’ll record them and send them your way as well.

More info here: Virtual Workshops

This was 2019

It’s a little late, but here’s my annual blog of my favorite photos from 2019. Bits from weddings, engagement sessions, family sessions, my own kiddos and family and of course, storms.

Hope you enjoy this look back!