The monsoon becoming big business

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PHOENIX -- The monsoon season is coming to an end and it was a busy one. 

This annual season of fantastic lightning and dust storms always generates amazing photography, but now some of those photographers are making money on their pictures and video. The global fascination with the monsoon is even attracting tourists.

Arizonans are familiar with the intense storms of the monsoon, but a time lapse of last July's mile high dust storm put the annual weather events on the world's radar.

“Everyone that was here saw it and knew it was a big event,” said photographer, Mike Olbinski. “It went national, global, it went everywhere.”

Olbinski is the man who shot that now famous piece of video, and this season he was traveling the desert south of Phoenix again, checking the radar app on his iPad, and then hiking to a perch in the rocks.  He set up for the perfect picture or time lapse of the blue afternoon sky morphing into giant plumes of dark clouds and winds filled with fine Arizona dust.

“I actually call myself a storm chasing wedding photographer,” he said with a laugh.

It's true. Most of the year, Olbinski shoots weddings, but summer months are slow and he has a passion for weather.

The footage was one of the first times he tried shooting a time lapse. It was also the first time his love of weather photography paid.

“For us in Arizona,” he said. “The dust has become boring, more dust, we have to clean our pools and cars. The rest of the world and outside Arizona, they are fascinated by that stuff.”

Thanks to outlets like Current TV and National Geographic, that one piece of video generated more than $10,000 in licensing fees.

And if passion wasn't enough, it gave Olbinski added incentive to hone his skills, and jump into Monsoon 2012.

“It's a 25 second exposure so it was enough to get all these light trails then an amazing lightening strike all in one shot,” he said while describing a photo he snapped near Mammoth, Arizona.

On July 21, he captured another time lapse of a large dust storm.

“A time lapse that just comes by, crawling sideways,” he said while showing it to 3TV. “Really cool.”

He has since licensed it to a group of Russians making a weather documentary.

And Olbinski learned more about the global attraction of weather photography when he took another stunning picture above Tucson.

“I didn't even know this guy and we hugged each other we were so happy we got this amazing shot,” he said.
Olbinski said that man was from Europe, visiting Arizona, just to try and capture that kind of moment.

The storms stayed south the day we were with him, but Olbinski captured another time lapse September 12.  He doesn't know if it will generate a pay check, but he said it doesn't matter.  He feeds a passion for weather that he shares with people around the world.

“I get that shot that night in Tucson and it's great,” he said. “And I'm ok, look at the radar, where is the next storm?  I just want to keep going.”

You can see more of his work on