Culmination of a 4-year dream: the rotating supercell

Arizona photographer Mike Olbinski had been visiting the Great Plains states for four years, hoping to find and photograph a rotating supercell. He finally found one, and it was clearly worth the wait.

I’m from Arizona. We don’t get structure like this. Clouds that rotate and look like alien spacecraft hanging over the Earth.

We chased this storm from the wrong side (north) and it took us going through hail and torrential rains to burst through on the south side. And when we did…this monster cloud was hanging over Texas and rotating like something out of Close Encounters.

The timelapse was shot on a Canon 5D Mark II with a Rokinon 14mm 2.8 lens. It’s broken up into four parts. The first section ends because it started pouring on us. We should have been further south when we started filming but you never know how long these things will last, so I started the timelapse as soon as I could.

One thing to note early on in the first part is the way the rain is coming down on the right and actually being sucked back into the rotation…During [the] third part you can see dust along the cornfield being pulled into the storm as well.

That’s the bizarre thing about strong thunderstorms — at a distance, you feel the wind blowing toward you, away from the angry clouds: the downdraft. But when it gets closer, the wind reverses and you feel it pulling you in, toward the darkness. That’s the inflow, the part that feels counterintuitive and rather scary.

This one is a monster. If I didn’t know how these things were formed, and saw one of them bearing down on me, I’d start worshipping whatever sky god might be listening. After taking a photo, of course.


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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2 Responses to Culmination of a 4-year dream: the rotating supercell

  1. Jason Cleaver says:

    No matter how how powerful we think we are, how much we shape the world around us…

    Ain’t nothing more powerful than Mama Nature. And she likes to remind us of that whenever she can.

  2. Linda Briganti says:

    I would be scared out of my wits. We sometimes get little cyclonic effects from some of the thunderstorms that pass through here, the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, and that is -0 on the awesome scale. These supercells are majestic.

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