'Vorticity': Mike Olbinski captures storms over nine states
Photographer Mike Olbinski drove 20,000 miles in 18 days last spring across Kansas and eight other states, chasing down tornadoes and thunderstorms. If only you could see what he saw.
Well, you can.
From the nearly 60,000 frames he shot, he created a dramatic, six-minute time-lapse short film showcasing nature’s alluring fury — roiling clouds, barbed lightning strikes that jangle the nerves with their strobe-like flash.
He is especially a fan of supercell thunderstorms with their nasty spin cycles.
“They are magnificent, gorgeous beasts,” he told National Geographic, which posted the video last week. “A storm so perfectly circular that it almost doesn’t look natural. The rotating motion looks amazing on time-lapse and I absolutely love capturing these.”
The film, called “Vorticity,” had already made the rounds among weather fans.
Olbinski, a wedding-photographer-turned-storm-chaser in Phoenix, has made a name for himself with jaw-dropping, time-lapse animations of weather systems set to music that matches the mood of the action.
Astronomer Phil Plait, who writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog, has featured several of Olbinski’s videos.
“Beyond gorgeous,” Plait wrote to describe one of Olbinksi’s most popular, “Monsoon III” created from 85,000 frames Olbinski shot last summer in Arizona.
“Watching clouds and storms like these in person, the action is distant and slow,” Plait wrote. “But in time-lapse videos, that motion can be seen, and the air itself looks and behaves exactly like the fluid it is.”
Olbinski joined the storm-chasing community after watching “Storm Chasers” on the Discovery Channel, according to the Phoenix New Times. He’s spent more than eight years chasing after weather’s bad moods.
Last spring he shot photos over the course of 18 days while he chased storms between April 15 and June 15 through Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas. He caught seven tornadoes along the way.
“Blood. Sweat. Tears. Joy. That’s what this spring was for me. The miles, the grind, the failing, the epic days missed, the lack of sleep, the jubilation, the friendships strengthened, and the time away from my family. And when the chasing was all done ... wondering, was worth it all?” he wrote in the film’s YouTube description.
“Heck yeah it was.”
Most of the time, he worked exhausted.
“My typical routine would be to leave Phoenix sometime in late afternoon, drive all night, sleep an hour or two in the truck and then chase the next few days. And then drive home all night again,” he wrote.
“I did whatever I could to to minimize the time away from my family. Heck, I once even shot a wedding all day, left the venue, and drove all night to chase. I didn’t want to miss anything this spring.”
He’s heading out onto the Great Plains again this May and June, feeding that pull of “addiction” other storm chasers suffer from as well.
When Plait raved about the “Vorticity” film, he advised people to turn it up full volume and watch it full screen.
Just like nature: best at full blast.