I recently came across the work of Arizona based storm chaser Mike Oblinski. He travels thousands of miles across the western and midwestern U.S. in pursuit of dramatic and awe-inspiring storms, which he films in time lapse. His of sense of timing, scale, contrast and even the music he chooses is wonderful. His music selection varies but, for me, it’s the epic pieces that work best. The work of composer Kerry Muzzey from Joilet, Illinois, is often featured.
Mike is a bit unsung on You Tube with 56,300 subscribers. But his work has appeared in a Marvel feature film, and won an Emmy award for his work during the 2015 monsoon season.
Having grown up in Kansas, these storms always left a strong impression on me when I experienced them. This includes a major tornado when I was 15. I had tornado dreams until I was 40. It wasn’t really post-traumatic stress syndrome, as I rather enjoyed them, and the storm warnings that came with that region. It was more about awe, and I totally get Mike’s passion. And of late, I’ve been feeling a psychological nostalgia for the experiences there.
So with Oblinski, I can let a true artist send those chills down my back as I sit in the comfort of my living room chair. But I also appreciate the risks Oblinski took to create his art. He says his closest call was a 90-mph microburst in western Kansas that blew out the back windows of about five storm chaser’s vehicles.
In his films, the intensity builds. At the back end of the clips, you will get the big rotational power of dark super cells that escalates the drama and leaves one gaping at what these storms were doing. When viewing, pay close attention, it’s essential not to leave early.
The massive, rotating, storm cells lit by lightning are jaw-dropping. You can see internal lightning (called cloud-to-cloud or CC) and cloud to ground (CG) bolts snapping off like flashbulbs. The clouds in the storm take on a sort of reverse look, like a photographic negative. I swear, I could see flying monkeys just below squall lines. One’s imagination is fired up while watching.
The raw power that creates these storms is hard to comprehend. But enough of my impressions. See for yourself. Best viewed on high resolution screens.
The first is a little tamer but nevertheless impressive, the Arizona Monsoon. He shot 45,000 frames and drove 14,000 miles. Outstanding soundtrack Legend from Ryan Taubert.
Next is “Seven Days on the Plains” filmed in New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Texas. This is pure Americana.
My personal favorites he calls “Vorticity.” Here, he pulls out all the stops. Mike states, “I put out this film called Vorticity II this summer, and it took me two years to get footage for it because everything that I thought was great that I used to shoot is now boring to me. I just want everything to be more incredible – in terms of colors, structure, all this stuff.”
Mike says he tries to stay out of heavy rain because of the equipment and you will notice the film cuts off just before the squall lines come overhead. This collection comprises 120,000 frames. Music in V2 from Luke Atencio and V3 Ryan Taubert.. These shouldn’t be missed.