Arizona Monsoon

Monsoon III (4K) from Mike Olbinski on Vimeo.

Monsoon III (4K) from Mike Olbinski: https://vimeo.com/185441790

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 until I actually had a six-minute version to fit in with all the footage I captured. I love it.

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! Please buy his work!

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 scenes that are 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 them, and at times even all three were nearby. My littlest guy who just turned three, sits on my lap a lot when I edit, 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. I’m not sure how it compares to years past, but for better or worse, this was Monsoon 2016 for me!
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.
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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

Arizona Monsoon

Monsoon from Mike Olbinski on Vimeo.

Mike Olbinski writes:

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