Phoenix Photographer Mike Olbinski: 100 Creatives

Categories: 100 Creatives

Mike Olbinski
Meet the creative.

Phoenix is brimming with creativity. And every other year, we put the spotlight on 100 of the city's creative forces. Leading up to the release of this year's Best of Phoenix issue, we're profiling 100 more. Welcome to the 2014 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today: 20. Mike Olbinski.

Photographer Mike Olbinski specializes in storms and weddings -- ideally not combined. Though we imagine the Phoenix creative would create some seriously memorable shots in the event of monsoon-drenched nuptials.

Sometimes the 39-year-old pulls all-nighters capturing footage of storms that he later compiles into time-lapse videos. When the 39-year-old isn't chasing summer weather events like monsoons and supercells, he's usually busy editing images or spending time with his wife, Jina, and three kids at their Phoenix home.

See also: Phoenix Poet Shawnte Orion: 100 Creatives

"Every summer I put together a short film of my time-lapse clips during the summer monsoon in Arizona," Olbinski says. "Everyday I'm working on and editing clips that will go into that film. That's my long-term project right now."

The videos he creates have garnered Olbinski some serious notoriety. Perhaps most famously, footage he captured of a supercell near Booker, Texas, (see the video embedded above) was used to create a special effect in the Marvel movie Thor 2: The Dark World.

He also posts stellar sky shots via social media, where he's garnered more than 5,000 Twitter followers (his handle is @MikeOlbinski) and posts lengthier updates at

And summer's not over yet. Olbinski likely will spend the coming weeks reading up on weather reports and chasing spectacular storms. Once monsoon season passes, he'll work on creating and finalizing his third monsoon film.

What's on the horizon? Olbinski says beyond his next film, there's not a whole lot. Though he is excited about an upcoming trip he's planned. "I am embarking on a four-day photography tour of Arizona with three buddies (two photographers, one cinematographer) and a motorhome this January. It's going to be amazing." We have no doubt.

Mike Olbinski
I came to Phoenix with my parents, who decided they would give me the gift of being one of those rare Arizona natives.

I make art because I can't help it. My passion to chase storms is almost an addiction. If I see thunderheads, dust storms or lightning, I would have to be to the point of exhaustion to not head out after them. It's what I do.

I'm most productive when I've captured something on camera that I cannot wait to get home and edit. It could be an amazing portrait from a wedding, a ridiculously awesome lightning bolt, a time-lapse of a haboob rolling over Phoenix or a photo of my kids.

My inspiration wall is full of the best landscape, storm, and wedding photographers I can find. Seeing their work on a daily basis in turn helps inspire me to newer and better ways of doing things.

I've learned most from others. I'm a self-learner, so looking at thousands of photos on a daily basis is what put me on the right path. The more I realized what was the cream of the crop, the more I strived to imitate that, and in turn found my own voice.

Good work should always show who you are and what you are passionate about. When I first got that hunger to learn photography, I wanted to take photos of anything and everything. Now, six years later, I know who I am and what kind of images I want to make. Every photographer goes through that, but there should be something there that is unique to yourself, because good (or great) work come from the passion you have inside yourself to capture it or make it.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more time. I'm a father with a wife and three kids, so when I'm not chasing storms, or shooting weddings all weekend, or busy working all day...I'm with them. I don't have much time to actually be on the "creative scene" as much as I'd like, so I don't know exactly what it needs. I do know that in my four years living in downtown Phoenix, I've met more artists than I ever imagined, many of them living right around this same area. Artists are moving in and turning the heart of the city into something beautiful. It's happening slowly, and we just need more time.

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