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Phoenix-based photographer earns high honors from Nat Geo

(Screenshot of award-winning photo by Mike Olbinski)

PHOENIX — There’s no question Arizona has some intense weather events.

And while some view the storms as a burden, others see them as a thing of beauty.

A Phoenix-based photographer captured one of those storms over the Grand Canyon and National Geographic noticed. He was awarded third place in landscapes for National Geographic’s Nature Photographer of the Year contest.

Mike Olbinski took home the honors with his photo of a summer thunderstorm on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

“Have tried and failed so many times trying to get lightning after dark at the Grand Canyon,” Olbinski said in his blog.

One September morning, he and his friend headed out at 7 a.m. in search for the elusive bolts of lightning that Olbinski couldn’t seem to capture.

Then he finally did.

“One was on the edge. And then one was out over the middle,” he said. “We cheered and clapped loudly amidst the chilly temps and high wind. It was incredible to see something so massive lit up in front of you even for a brief moment.”

The lightning bolt featured in the photo was the last one the two friends saw that night, but the fact that it lit up the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River made the chilly night all worth it.

And while the photo is a great encapsulation of what a summer weather event looks like in Arizona, it isn’t his only work.

Olbinski travels the state — as well as bordering states — to chase storms and find the best shots possible.

First place in landscapes went to Karim Iliya, who captured a lava tube that broke away causing a fiery spray in Hawaii.

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