The Thrill of Storm Chasing Captured In Majestic Timelapse

Photographer Mike Olbinski spent 18 days driving 20,000 miles and taking 60,000 photographs to create this incredible storm timelapse.

He describes the process of photographing spring in Tornado Alley as “blood, sweat, tears and joy.” The goal of the entire trip was to capture a timelapse of a tornado. On his first day Olbinski caught two tornadoes on camera and he captured six in total.

Battling the weather turned into an interesting challenge. Olbinski doesn’t use any weather protection for his gear, opting to pack up and move when the rain starts. He explained to DigitalRev one of the most challenging experiences getting close to a tornado. “Once it touched down the giant hail started falling and I was terrified it was going to smash my Canon 11-24mm. I had to run out there with a pillow over my head just to protect myself.”

In terms of gear, Olbinski uses a Canon 5DS R and Canon 5D Mark III with Canon 11-24mm f/4, 16-35mm, 35mm, 50mm, 135mm lenses. Portions of the footage were shot in gorgeous 8K, with the rest being captured in 4K. We’d recommend upping the resolution if you can as the footage looks great.


Mike Olbinski – Image from Vorticity

Due to the ever-changing nature of the storms, Olbinski had to take into account how fast they were moving, where the roads were, any features of the landscape and how he’ll frame his shots in each location. “I am also looking to get in the best possible spot that allows the storm to come at me,” he added.

Most of the time he only has five to ten minutes to shoot before the weather sets in, so he doesn’t have time to set up dollies or pans out in the field. “I am mostly about stark foreground and the storm itself, and rail slides aren’t always necessary when your foreground isn’t super interesting,” he said.

Despite all of this, the toughest part for Olbinski was being away from his family. During the storm season he would drive from Phoenix, Arizona in the afternoon, drive all night, catch a few hours sleep in the truck then spend the next few days chasing storms. Most of the time he was exhausted and explained that one day he photographed a wedding through the day before driving all night to get the shot.

As is the case in a few of Olbinski’s previous videos, the music was supplied by Kerry Muzzey and gives it a sound that adds depth to the footage. The editing, including creating pans and tilts, was done in Lightroom, LR Timelapse, After Effects and Premiere Pro.

You may recognise his work after his amazing (and viral) Monsoon II video from last year (you can watch it below). If you’d like to see more of Mike Olbinski’s work you can check it out his websiteVimeo and Facebook page.