Like most storm chasers, Arizona based photographer Mike Olbinski has spent most of his recent life seeking the perfect lightning photo, and on July 3rd 2015, he may have succeeded.
A road leading into the Superstition Mountains has always been one of Olbinski’s favorite locations to photograph, weather it be an incoming storm or a sunset. But like any typical photographer, Olbinski had a vision for this location that he has chased for years, but so far had come up empty handed. On his now viral Facebook post, Olbinski describes his desire to capture lighting at this iconic location.
This location has always been a favorite of mine. I’ve taken countless photos of sunsets from here, but I’ve always wanted one of lightning from the middle of the road. It’s been something I’ve been after for quite awhile.
With lightning predicted on the radar, Olbinski decided to forgo sleep and headed out to his favorite location at about 11:00PM on July 2nd. Olbinski talks about what he encountered when he arrived.
I made it out there a bit after 11pm. The strikes were way back in the mountains and pretty weak for awhile. I started shooting west until the bolts began to look better over this iconic mountain range.
At 12:50am…the heavens opened up and four incredible bolts exploded from the sky and rained down like I’ve never seen before. This is a single, 10-second exposure. No stacking.
The photo speaks for itself. A powerful display of Mother Nature at her most beautiful, and dangerous. I asked Olbinski what it was about storm photography inspires him to take his head off the pillow, drive hours upon hours and miss out on valuable time with his family.
That’s a tough question to answer because I ask it to myself a lot and don’t always know why. Mostly though it’s that I can’t help it. I have to do it. It’s what I’m passionate about and I can drive 500 miles across Arizona in a single day and want to do it all again the next day. I am away from my family a lot, but I also bring my two older kids with me often and that makes the chase a lot of fun and I love being able to share with them!
For the technical aspects, I asked Olbinski about how to take a lightning photo as incredible as this one.
I set my camera up to take 10 second exposures one after another and just wait for that desired strike to hit. You can use a lightning sensor, but it’s all the same. Lightning photography is inherently lucky. You have a camera pointed at a cloud and are hoping lightning comes out of it. Sometimes you know it will, it’s just a matter of time, sometimes it never happens. Or there were two good strikes and by the time you got your camera setup, the storm dies out. But for this shot…I was there for 90 minutes…and just kept at it. I was at this spot, an iconic location in Arizona, with the perfect composition that I’ve wanted for years…and I just decided I’d wait as long as it took to get whatever I could. And then wow…I was blown away by what my camera captured.
In my opinion, this is one of the best lightning photos that I have ever seen. Olbinski told me how he plans to stay inspired after capturing one of the best shots of his career.
I’m always after the next shot. It’s in my blood. Even after capturing this shot, I didn’t run home to edit that photo. I stayed there and even got two more pretty good shots. One of them I’d be freaking out over if it wasn’t for the first one! It never gets old for me and lightning itself is so amazing because you never know what’s going to happen with it. A shot like this doesn’t make me want to pack up shop, it makes me want to get an even better shot. That will be hard to do that, but it’s only July 6th and the monsoon has really just begun!
Olbinski also shared some more of his favorite storm photographs from last week.