The Storm Chaser
The Storm Chaser
Mike Olbinski went from photographing lightning in his backyard with a point-and-shoot camera to being a professional storm photographer—in a flash. His time-lapse storm videos have gone viral in a big way; one of them even made an appearance in a major motion picture. we spoke to Olbinski to find out how he does it.
Was storm photography how you started getting into photography?
I’ve always been a weather nut, and I would always write on Facebook that I should be a meteorologist, and why didn’t I go to school for that, and all that kind of stuff. So I always liked that, and I just started looking at photography, and started following some guys who were doing lightning photography, and thought, "that looks like so much fun." So I took this little camera out, and would just hold the shutter down, and it would just go click, click, click, and I would try to take pictures of lightning, and I got a few that were ok, and then one night I got an amazing one, and I couldn’t believe it. Then I got on the local news, and I was hooked from there. I told my wife, “I’ve got to get a camera that can do long exposures,” so we sold all of our DVDs on eBay for almost $500, and I bought a Canon Rebel and just started from there.
Do you remember the first storm photo that you sold?
Once I started getting into time lapses, that was when everything really took off for me, because selling prints is really hard, unless you’re a name, and getting yourself a name takes time. People started licensing footage for stuff, and that’s when I started making money. The latest big thing for me was this supercell I shot last June, in Texas, and it was just kind of rotating dust, and lots of colors, and that went viral. I didn’t think that would happen to me again after my dust storm video in 2011, which went viral; that was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. But this was even bigger, and was actually the #1 time-lapse video on Vimeo last year. And the biggest thing