On Thursday, Olbinski released his latest film, “Shadows in the Sky.” It blends sky time-lapses from the Plains during the spring tornado season and from the Desert Southwest summer monsoon. It’s accompanied by a delicate yet foreboding soundtrack.
Olbinski was inspired to produce the piece after first identifying the “perfect” song for it in November, “Last Goodbye,” by Eric Kinny. “I was playing this song, and within a minute or two, I knew I had to do something with this,” he said.
“Shadows in the Sky” begins in black and white with puffs of towering cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds, as a thunderstorm blossoms. The scene shifts to pouchlike mammatus clouds hanging down from the anvil of a rotating supercell near Sublette, Kan., on May 21. An alternative angle of the “low precipitation” supercell is up next, depicting the birthday-cake-like structure of the tiered, cylindrical storm.
“We had a view that not as many people were on. … It was one of the most insane structured storms I had ever seen. It was unbelievable … that bell structure,” recalled Olbinski, referring to the updraft of the storm — where air spirals inward and upward.
The film soon shifts to picturesque downdrafts, the natural exhale of a storm. Some kick up dust ahead of a shelf cloud and “outflow boundary,” while other more localized downbursts are marked by tendrils of rain colliding with the ground and fanning outward. Olbinski even managed to capture a photogenic microburst.
As the storm scenes become more energetic, the song quickens in pace as visuals intensify.
“There’s this big transition where it goes to this ominous increase of tone and speed, and I thought, it needs to be something crazy,” said Olbinski.
That’s when Olbinski allows color to slowly return to the footage, a palette of emerging pastel hues giving way to more vibrant sunset scenes.
One of Olbinski’s favorite chase memories, which is included near the end of the film, was when he enjoyed a personal rotating supercell thunderstorm in the middle of the Arizona chaparral.
“That was Sept. 9,” recalled Olbinski. “I woke up at 5 or 6 a.m. to hit the road. I drove three hours … sat, took a nap. Then I was watching [the storm’s] structure come in. There [were] big [cloud-to-ground lightning strikes], clear air bolts coming out of this thing. … Sitting there and watching it, it was insane, because nobody else was on this storm. It was the best supercell I’ve ever seen in Arizona. I was very proud of that.”
Olbinski said that his storm chasing inevitably revolves around FOMO, or the fear of missing out.
“If you don’t want to miss anything, you have to chase everything,” he said with a chuckle.
Olbinski’s passion centers on sharing the amazing sights and sounds he captures with others, in hopes that they, too, may enjoy the incredible moments he experiences.
He began photographing storms a decade ago, around the time his first child was born. That’s when Olbinski was toying around with a point-and-shoot camera and managed to snag a photograph of lightning.
Since then, he’s been hooked, and storm chasing has become a way of life. He’s in the field every year from May through September. Right now, he’s getting ready to hit the road again.
More images from Olbinski: