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When Wedding Photography and Storm Chasing Collide

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
October 27, 2023 3:04 am

When Wedding Photography and Storm Chasing Collide

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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October 27, 2023 3:04 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Mike Olbinski is an Arizona-based photographer. He photographs families and weddings, and also... chases storms. Here’s Mike with how he got into this unique career.

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Dive in deeper at forward slash iHeart. And we continue with our American stories. Up next, the story of Mike Olbinski, an Arizona-based photographer that takes family photos, shoots weddings, and also chases storms.

Here's Mike with how he got into this unique line of work. All I know is I've loved weather my entire life. I know that there's a moment where a lightning bolt hit behind our house, and I was outside on the patio with my dad watching the storm, and a lightning bolt hit probably like a hundred feet away, a couple hundred feet away. And I was like seven or eight, and I just remember it still vividly. Like, it was so bright and intense. I don't even know if I remember the sound of thunder.

All I remember is I couldn't see anything for like, felt like five, ten seconds. It was so bright. And that always stuck with me. And that came back to me, that memory came back to me when I heard some other storm chasers talking about why they loved chasing tornadoes. And when they were little kids, their trailer park with their parents' own got hit by a tornado.

My mom, they said anyway, got sucked out a window and then came back in and then jumped on top of her two boys and was holding them down on the couch or the floor to make sure nothing happened to them. And then those boys grew up into teenagers, and all they want to do is chase tornadoes. They were fascinated with them. So I was like, so that's like a little origin story kind of a thing that they had. And I'm like, maybe this was mine, because when I was getting into photography, it was lightning is what I wanted to shoot.

That was the that was what I was looking at online, seeing people take these pictures of lightning. And I'm like, how do you do that? I want to do that.

That's amazing. And so that's really what kind of drew me to, I think, photography in the first place. But but even after, you know, kind of figuring that out once I was into it, I was looking back at old photos of mine from high school and later. And I have a photo from high school of a really, you know, kind of crazy, severe storm. And I couldn't I guess at the time I couldn't help it. I ran outside with a camera and took a picture of the storm. And but that was, you know, when I was like 16 or something.

And so I think that's always been there. I just didn't ever realize that was anything I could do. So I was just staring at lightning photos. Couldn't believe people could take those pictures.

And I want to learn how to do that around the same time my daughter was born. She's almost 13 now. And all, of course, want to do is take pictures of her. And, you know, I had a I had a little dinky.

Point and shoot camera that could do really close up macro mode. And so when she was a little baby, I'm just sitting there taking really close ups of her face and her hands. And I'm like, man, I really like this. This is fun. And and then I tried to use that and get picture of lightning. And I captured somehow with this dumb camera, this amazing lightning strike right by my house. And I was like, holy crap, I want to do this.

This is amazing. But I can't do it with this camera. I need a better camera. And I went home that night and told my wife, Gina, I need a real camera can do long exposures.

This point and click thing is no good for me. And she was like, all right, well, let's do it. And we sold all our DVD like box sets of DVDs we had at the time that we really weren't watching. But they actually sold for good money back then on eBay was surprising and made like five or six hundred bucks, bought my first real camera. And then from there, it was, you know, taking pictures of my daughter with a better camera, better lenses, doing, you know, you know, cooler stuff with it and then getting a little bit better. We're friends like, hey, can you just take a Christmas card picture for us, which is like the old story that always happens when people get a camera. And then I started, you know, taking pictures of storms.

And so it kind of all kind of happened the same time. And I, you know, I shoot weddings and family stuff now on top of doing the storms. And so I still am doing the same thing.

I never decided really anything. It was just more of I want to chase these storms and capture these images. And back in the day, I was watching storm chasers on Discovery Channel. And that was a big kind of inspiration because I didn't even know people really did that until I was watching that. And I was just blown away.

I'm like, wow, there's people out there that that like this as much as me. And then they drive thousands of miles to chase it. And at that time, I would have been just waiting for storms around my house. Like, wow, I have a better camera.

And now I can actually drive out and try to get closer to storms that are that aren't right here and increase my odds of getting good pictures and good lightning photos. And that's really kind of how it started. It just slowly grew.

You know, I just would start going chasing. And then it also my daughter was also kind of part of it because, you know, I was starting to go out a lot. And so, you know, to to kind of justify me being gone all the time, I would take Lila with me.

She was a year and a half. She'd watch movies in the back and give my wife a break at night. And it was kind of my way to be able to get out a little more. So we kind of started doing that together. And then every, you know, every summer it was just kind of driving more and more around Arizona. And then at some point I decided I'm going to go try to chase a supercell or tornado out in the plains and went out for one day in like 2009 or 2010.

And it was a horrible bust. And then, you know, a couple of days the next year, a couple of days the year after. And and then that just all slowly grew.

But probably I would say if there was ever like a conscious decision was in 2011 and July 5th, actually 2011. I time lapsed and it was like my third ever time lapse. I was just practicing kind of.

But there's this monumental apocalyptic wall of dust coming into Phoenix was like nothing I'd ever seen before. And then I posted that online like within an hour or two. And then it was went viral.

It was all across the world on all the news stations, everything. At that moment, I remember thinking, man, I really love doing this. And people and then people ended up licensing that video for commercials and all this stuff. And I'm like, man, I love doing this and I would do it for free.

But here's people paying me for it. And so there was a decision there that I'm like, OK, I'm going to I'm going to keep doing this time lapse thing and seeing what kind of footage I can get and then seeing what comes of it. And so I just kept doing that. And then slowly, you know, people would see some of things and license it. In 2013, I had another good one go viral.

And that's been licensed and still licensed to this day. And and so it was kind of like confirmation that I had made the right decision. But then I also started putting all these time lapse clips I shot. I started putting them to music and making little short films out of them. You know, they started off kind of crappy, in my opinion, but I did my best. But as like time went on, they got better and better and they would get they were more popular. People hadn't really seen that as much. They would get staff picks on Vimeo.

They would get shared on a bunch of blogs all over. I get them in film festivals and things like that. So I think a lot of that stuff has just been kind of a progression of just continued kind of my my passion for it is what really drives me. It's almost like an addiction.

So I never kind of quit. I just keep going and going and going. And when I'm out chasing, I never it's hard for me to ever stop. You know, I mean, if I'm by myself and there's lightning or something, I will just keep chasing, you know, and other if there's people with me, I'm like, I got to go to a hotel.

Everyone's tired and stuff. But but for me, I just go to the ends of the earth kind of thing. And and so I think, you know, however my story's been, it's been one of just being passionate and dedicated to what I do and kind of just continually proving that all the time. You know, I just every year it's keep chasing, keep getting footage, keep putting these films out and kind of being consistent with it. And so, yeah, at some point, you know, I had I have a book published on Amazon and I got I won an Emmy with a local news station here that used my footage about five, six years ago. So I got that Emmy. So the verified thing on Twitter and Instagram and all that stuff was kind of a result of that. It's been about 10, 11 years now.

We're just trying to be really consistent. It's been and as and as I've grown, you know, myself in my photography, the time lapse stuff, people around the world will have kind of known me for this kind of thing, like the BBC National Geographic. They come to me for things where this year people are, you know, they're trying to get footage for a show. And so I'm like a forecaster for them. I'm guiding you see that we just did a TV production and I was kind of a guide, a forecaster.

And a couple of years ago, Pearl Jam license, a bunch of clips from the stock footage place I use and have all like a ton of my footage in it. And then they did a preview, a little sneak trailer for it where they were all on stage playing in the background was just my lightning time lapse flashing behind Pearl Jam. And I'm sitting there just going like, this isn't that surprising, but it's also insanely surprising. And I just can't believe it. And I'm really, really kind of humbled and blown away that that this ever happened.

I mean, all I really did was want to just chase storms and take pictures. And I just love it that much. And somehow this has happened. And a great job on the production by our team who really combined their efforts, Madison, Faith and Robbie. And a special thanks to Mike Olbinski.

And again, you heard it from him. He does take pictures of weddings and family photos and he loves doing it. But the real thing he loves, the passion is the chase and the chase of storms. Lightning drew him to photography.

Storms pull them in all the way. The story of Mike Olbinski. Like so many Americans, their passion becomes their business. Their business is their passion.

His story here on Our American Stories. Your team gets to ride with a highly rated driver and you get to follow along with real time notifications and live trip tracking in your Uber app. Add your team to your Uber account today. Available in select locations.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-27 04:45:09 / 2023-10-27 04:50:58 / 6

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