Well-known storm photographer Mike Olbinski created the annual Storm Photos of the Year contest as a way to help the public recognize the dedication of both professional and amateur storm photographers.
Storm photography is often considered one of the most challenging genres to master. Not only does a photographer have to be proficient with composition and settings, but storm photography requires detailed planning and commitment while remaining safe in an incredibly dangerous environment.
The Storm Photo of the Year Competition
Over a decade ago, Olbinski wasn’t a photographer. After seeing a photo of a stunning lightning bolt on the weather website Wunderground, Olbinski’s passion for both storms and photography was born in an instant. Over the years, Olbinski would pack up the car and hit the road every spring, learning how to follow weather patterns that would turn into photogenic storms. He soon began to capture dramatic photos of fast-moving tornados, imposing Mammatus clouds, and even 5,000-foot tall haboobs in his home state of Arizona.
Through it all, Olbinski recognized the sacrifices both he and his fellow storm-chasing photographers were making.
“I know countless photographers out there who love to take photos of storms like me. When the spring storm season comes, we spend weeks away from home and our families, sleeping in our cars surrounded by fast-food wrappers. But when the time comes, nothing can stop us from blasting down a road towards a supercell, a tornado, or a massive downburst. We could be on no sleep, no food, and maybe have only a gallon of gas left in our car, but we will chase nonetheless. We all share that drive,” he says.
“The motivation for making the ‘Storm Photos of the Year’ contest is to reward those who work so hard every year. I see my photography colleague’s storm images cross my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds all day,” Olbinski continues.
“Many of them are mind-blowing, and then they disappear down the newsfeed and that’s it. All the work these incredible artists put in, and the images usually never get seen by a wider audience than their friends and families. My hope is to recognize the efforts, hard work, and awe-inspiring photos of the storm photography community.”
This week, Olbinski and his team of judges announced the winners of the 2021 Storm Photos of the Year contest and, as expected, they are an incredible display of talent, hard work, and determination.
Chardonnay, Saône-et-Loire, France
Photo of the Year – 2nd Place: Brett Wright
Photo of the Year – 3nd Place: Enric Bachs
Santa Coloma de Gramenet, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Tornado Photo of the Year – 2nd Place: Isaac Polanski
Tornado Photo of the Year – 3rd Place: William Reid
Photographer of the Year: Amy Howard
Photographer of the Year – 2rd Place: Tim Baca
Photographer of the Year – 3rd Place: Brett Wright