Olbinski is a professional wedding and portrait photographer but chasing storms is his true passion.
One of Mike Olbinski's vivid childhood memories is of him sitting on the back porch with his dad watching a lightning storm. Out of the blue, a lightning bolt hit directly behind their house. He was blinded by the light but it was a moment that sparked his curiosity and spirit of adventure. It was his love for the weather and storms that inspired him to pick up a camera and Arizona, his hometown, served as the perfect canvas. The first thing he wanted to do, was to capture pictures of lightning. "We get our annual monsoon for about 3 months during the summers. Incredible lightning displays, dust storms, flooding, microbursts, and gorgeous landscapes. It was a perfect place to learn my craft at a slower pace and figure things out along the way," wrote Olbinski in Met Matters. He chased tornadoes as a boy along with his brothers and years later, little has changed.
Olbinski is today a professional wedding and portrait photographer who still passionately chases after storms. He describes himself as "Just your typical storm-chasing, wedding photographer." Olbinski caught a rare quadruple microburst on camera recently and it's certainly a sight to behold. The National Weather Service describes a microburst as a “localized column of sinking air (downdraft) within a thunderstorm.” Oblinski had seen single-column microbursts before but this was something else. “The microburst was such an amazing catch for us. I've seen a lot of them in Arizona, but it's always always a single downburst or column of rain,” said Oblinski, reported My Modern Met. “This was something else. We had two for a few minutes and it was unreal looking and then we quickly realized the right side of the storm was beginning to dump as well and suddenly before us were just these four massive columns of rain and hail crashing down, all clearly visibly separated which was unreal.”
Oblinski was on a storm-chasing tour with two guests and an assistant and had almost given up on the day. "Our day was almost a bust. We were in New Mexico with crappy storms, shooting tarantulas and flowers, but then we saw one of the most spectacular storms I've ever witnessed. We dropped south of Andrews, Texas and the magic unfolded right before our eyes," he wrote. It was a surreal experience for him and it was moments like this that he lived for. “We were the only storm chasers on it — which is a rare thing— so our photos and time-lapses were all that captured it,” said Oblinski. “[It] was an amazing feeling. But beyond that, just standing there, watching it unfold was magical. Euphoric. This is why we chase, to see stuff like this.”
Olbinski experimented with time-lapse and within a day of learning the technique, he captured a dust storm that went viral on the internet and was featured in all the top networks and channels including The Weather Channel, Today Show, the NBC Nightly News, and CNN. "We get huge dust storms that move across the deserts and even blanket the city of Phoenix. I had literally only started time-lapsing the day before. I got a text from a friend saying that I should really check out this dust storm coming into Phoenix from the southeast. My eyes couldn’t believe what I saw. A massive, mile-high wall of dust that spanned over 70 miles was moving across Phoenix. This thing was a sight to behold. It almost looked like that scene out of Independence Day with the ships cloaked in erupting clouds. The end of the world came to mind as I stood there staring," said Olbinski, reported MyModernMet. That one clip changed his life.
"This was a passion of mine suddenly became a business," said Olbinski. A time-lapse he captured of a supercell in 2013 also went viral and part of it was licensed by Marvel Studios and appears in the second Thor film. He has also published a series of photographs in his new book, Storm Chaser. He is married with three children and is still chasing storms in his hometown in Phoenix.