©Mike Olbinski

Unfriendly Skies

“Not your typical storm-chasing wedding photographer” is the tagline on Mike Olbinski’s website. When the successful wedding photographer isn’t trailing couples’ nuptials, he’s trailing some of the United States’ wildest weather systems.

Challenges: “It seems like the No. 1 worst problem is generally everything,” Olbinski laughs. Sometimes there’s an amazing storm to shoot but no network of roads to access it. Powerlines can work as leading lines in a photo, but most of the time they get in the way, he admits. He works hard to find offshoot roads to get away from obstructions: powerlines, trees, tall bushes, even other storm chasers. “It’s a ton of work to find those clear stunning views,” he says. He also struggles with bad data; being unable to see the weather radar poses obvious risks. Torrential rain or hail can ruin the perfect scene, and wind tips over the tripod or shakes the camera during a timelapse video.

©Mike Olbinski
Photographer Mike Olbinski

Equipment: He brings three cameras—two Canon EOS 5DS Rs and a Canon R5—as well as three tripods. “Two cameras is too little, four is too many, three is just about right,” he says. Other important items: a phone for radar and navigation, a laptop for full-time radar in the truck, two hot spots, a first-aid kit, an air compressor (in case of a flat tire), and bug spray.

Favorite moment: On June 3, 2013, after chasing a storm through southwest Kansas, Oblinski and his friend found their way out of the rain to a clear view of a “flying saucer-like supercell looming over Texas” that made their jaws drop, he says ("Fear and Awe," January 2016). “I set up my cameras, started time-lapsing, hugged my buddy Andy in jubilation, tears in my eyes—it was incredible.” A clip of the timelapse ended up in the movie “Thor: The Dark World.”