My earliest memory of a storm was watching lightning in the backyard with my dad when I was a kid. A bolt hit so close that I remember being blinded by it. Perhaps that’s why, when I became interested in photography in my mid-30’s, I focused on these electric events.
Soon I was chasing supercells and tornadoes on the central plains. It’s exhilarating. I’m based in Phoenix, and for three months last spring I drove to and from the plains, chasing for 18 total days and putting over 25,000 miles on my Toyota 4Runner.
You almost need to be an addict to get the shots I get. You’ll drive all night to Colorado, never sleep, chase all afternoon, get incredible images, then drive to Texas the next day, maybe get a few more hours of sleep, and then chase again that afternoon. Then repeat—maybe in Kansas.
The following are my favorite shots from the six years on the road.
Photo: A post-apocalyptic-looking supercell spins over the dusty farmlands of the Texas Panhandle.All images by Mike Olbinski.A historic dust storm races across the heart of Phoenix. The “haboob” was a mile high and over 70 miles long.A bubbly layer of mammatus clouds hang over Texas farmlands.A stack of 12 separate lightning images merged into one, near the town of Casa Grande, Arizona.A lightning strike in Western Kansas. One of my all-time favorite images.Heavy rain falling around the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix as the setting sun illuminates the storm.A storm that had previously dropped a tornado in New Mexico moves into Texas at sunset and creates some epic colors and lightning.A dream shot over the iconic Superstition Mountains. When I saw it on the back of my camera I knew immediately it was the best lightning photo I’d ever taken.The majesty of the summer monsoon in Arizona. An isolated storm dropping lightning strikes at sunset. One of my favorite settings.Stunning light illuminates this farmhouse and field, creating amazing colors after a shelf cloud moved over my position leaving rolling clouds that almost looked like the underbelly of an ocean wave.My best tornado image so far in my career. This was taken near the town of Wynnewood, Oklahoma.A lightning strike that originated from the top of this storm, crashing into the ground well away from the downdraft. This was taken with a lens set around 12mm, so with that wide of a setting, the bolt was much closer than it appears.