When the weathermen advise to stay indoors, Mike Olbinski opts otherwise. Oblinski, a part-wedding photographer/part-storm chaser, packs his camera equipment and heads outdoors into the epicenter of killer storms. While a lot of his work is dotted atop fireplaces in newlyweds’ living rooms, it’s also been showcased on The Weather Channel, the Discovery Channel, CBS and ABC. Al Gore has licensed it; it’s been used in ESPN Super Bowl promos, and it’s featured in the Thor: The Dark World movie. But you can see his ten favorite storm shots right here, right now.
A historic dust storm in Phoenix—perhaps the largest in decades—took place on July 5, 2011, only a day after Mike Olbinski started time lapsing for the very first time. This powerful dust storm spanned 100+ miles horizontally, with the dust rising so it looks as if it’s pressing right up against the clouds.
This dust storm may seem subdued compared to the last image, which took place three years prior, but Olbinksi managed to capture the low level clouds against the sunset backdrop after chasing the first really good storm of 2014 from around Picacho Peak all the way to downtown Phoenix.
Before being overtaken by a wall of dirt later that same day, Olbinski took this shot just north of Casa Grande while staying ahead of the storm, culminating in the sunset image shown in the previous slide. In fact, the two images were taken just one hour apart.
Storm chasers sometimes battle the elements, and Olbinski has had lightning bolts hit just 50 feet away from him. This particular evening of lightning last year had him bolting from Wickenburg to Waddell to Tonopah, when a lightning bolt landed on the north side of Interstate 10. He created a composite of two photographs so that all the light trails would be captured in one image.
Chasing dust storms in the desert was a gateway drug for Olbinski to want to hit real storms in the Plains. Olbinski drove through torrential rain and hail in Colorado and Kansas to get a shot of this supercell near Booker, Texas, in which the rain came down and was actually sucked back into the rotation.
Also known as rotating thunderstorms, a supercell has a mesocyclone, or persistently rotating updraft. This Texas supercell against a cornfield backdrop creates an apocalyptic image. This image is part of a time lapse that was actually used in the film Thor 2: The Dark World.
Just a day after the Texas storm shown in the previous two slides, Olbinski struck gold once again. He captured another supercell, this time near Boise City, Okahoma in the panhandle. The classic black and white image shows the beautiful structure of the storm above the open road.
Olbinski was driving in Kansas near Scott City last year during a light rain when he pulled over to set up this shot, started time lapsing and then prayed for lightning. Sure enough, it landed right in the trees, leading to this breathtaking image.
Being on the wrong side of the storms didn’t stop Olbinski from capturing this stunning sunset, as he pulled over on Interstate 70 near the border of Colorado and Kansas to document the glowing skies.
This gorgeous shot is actually a stitch of nine images, allowing Olbinski to get a wider shot. It showcases a supercell hanging over the grasslands north of Pampa, Texas on April 16 of this year.