Collin J Örthner – Photographer

May 16, 2016

Best Storm of the Year

Filed under: Nature, Night, Rokinon 12mm Fish-Eye, Skyscape, Sony A7R, Stars, Storms — collin orthner @ 9:46 pm

The best solar storm of the year so far occurred on Saturday night and Sunday morning the 7th and 8th of May. The auroras were easily visible from inside the city limits which means they are very bright, so around 11pm I grabbed my camera gear and headed south of town. It was a very clear night, so I didn’t need to travel too far for nice dark skies. After travelling about 15 or 20 kilometres south I found a nice high spot with no power lines to intrude in the picture. Man I hate it when I don’t notice power lines until I review my images later. It can easily happen as I work rather quick when taking aurora pictures as they don’t necessarily last very long. Typically you see the pale green aurora that are not very dramatic, sometimes for hours, and then all of a sudden the auroral storm intensifies for maybe 10 minutes. That’s when I jump into action, usually with a very wide-angle lens like the Rokinon 14mm or 24mm. On this night I took a few pictures with these two lenses but the auroral display was across the whole sky and I decided to use my 12mm full frame fish-eye lens. These fish-eye lenses cover 180º, which is a lot of sky! Remember those power lines I mentioned, yeah sometimes they creep into the edge or corners of images which drives me crazy. So this first site, being clear of power lines and offering up a beautiful view looking south, was fabulous. You can see the lights from Calgary glowing on the horizon. I de-fisheyed the picture in photoshop. For the first time, for me, I managed to capture a blue streak of aurora in the upper right edge of the picture. The blue is caused by ionized nitrogen in the atmosphere and usually appear at the lowest level of the curtains and at the highest levels of solar activity. This picture may be a view of almost 600km of sky from one edge to the next and the auroras were pulsating the whole time I was out, which is always very dramatic to view!

 

The next picture shows one of the gravel roads in Red Deer County looking south. Fun thing is the Big Dipper is in the picture just above centre right and the North Star is right at the top edge, which simply shows how much sky a fish-eye lens sees! Can you find the Dipper?? The red glow is from my car’s tail lights.

 

The last picture is from a spot high up on the hills south of Red Deer which allows me to see the city’s lights quite nicely. I kept shooting as the shapes kept changing very quickly. In this picture the aurora looks like a bird flying over Red Deer! The show on this night didn’t last only 10 minutes, but instead I was treated to nearly an hour of gorgeous auroras!!

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March 17, 2016

Protected

Filed under: Agriculture, Black & White, Hand of Man, Ice, Nature, Skyscape, snow, Sony RX100 II, Travel, Trees, Winter — collin orthner @ 9:01 pm

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“If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer.  But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.”
–  Henry David Thoreau   

 

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This lone tree was possibly being protected by the farmer due to it’s beautiful shape or perhaps this used to be the site of an old homestead and he wanted to preserve something of the heritage of his farm. Of course there were other trees around, but in Kneehill County there are not near as many as in the parkland biome of Alberta. Mostly the tree are planted as windbreaks around farmyards, but every now and again you’ll find nice pockets of protected trees especially in the northern parts of the county. The further south you travel, the more sparse the  trees become. I quite liked how the cloud patterns resemble the snow patterns on the stubble field and the vehicle tracks on the right are mirrored in the clouds as well.

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March 14, 2016

Leaning

Filed under: Agriculture, Architecture, Black & White, Hand of Man, Nature, Skyscape, snow, Sony RX100 II, Travel, Wind, Winter — collin orthner @ 12:31 pm

Leaning to the east, this small granary in Kneehill County near Trochu, has been buffeted by strong chinook winds from the west for many years and on this day it was about to get hit again. All the dark brooding clouds were just behind the leading edge of this new chinook which warmed the air to a balmy 17ºC. The warm wind made fairly quick work of the last remaining snow and all the small creeks were running strong with meltwater for the next few days as the water, following the law of gravity, rushed on the quickest route downhill towards the Red Deer River.

 

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Chinook

“Snow Eater” the Blackfoot call you.
Born of the sea,
Flowing inland
To warm the land,
Climb a mountain
And bestow
A benediction of rain
On the forest below.
Chill and dry
At the top.
Nearly touching the sky.
Warmed by the speed
Of your descent,
You blow through
The Clouds,
Carving an arch
High in the sky.
Your signature.
Then march
Across the foothills
Raising the temperature,
Melting ice and snow
As you go.

~ John Bishop Ballem

 

March 12, 2016

Kneehill County, Alberta

Filed under: Agriculture, Black & White, Hand of Man, Nature, Skyscape, snow, Sony RX100 II, Travel, Water — collin orthner @ 10:05 pm

It feels like springtime in Alberta and the sloughs are filling up with meltwater again, even though it technically is still winter for a couple more weeks. The only sound here was that of water running in the ditch and the wind blowing through the fence wires and the grass. I was travelling with my friend Michael Chesworth on our way towards Drumheller when we came across this beautiful scene in Kneehill County. We travel with no agenda and no major goals in mind, simply enjoying our time together and the scenery along as many gravel backroads as we can find. Of course gravel roads allow us to travel slowly if we want to, and we do, and stop often without the worry of traffic, so it generally takes us a long time to get anywhere! But that is exactly how I like it!

 

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there’s something rather strange and still

about a warm winter afternoon

when the sun has dipped until

there is only a subtle peach haze on the

clouds

and a silver sparkle on the trees

                  the snow is soft

with endless rills and rolls

and tracks

birds hush

for a change, and listen

animals smile with their gentle eyes

                                  and people

                                          people

look and look

and take off their mitts

and adjust their hats

and breathe deeply

trying to grasp it

I wonder if warm winter afternoons

mean this much everywhere

or just here

Marilyn Cay  –  “Strange and Still”

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November 25, 2015

Masses of Light

Filed under: Autumn, Hi Res, Nature, Night, Rokinon 24mm T1.5 Cine DS, Skyscape, Sony A7R, Stars, Storms — collin orthner @ 9:41 pm

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THURSDAY, OCTOBER 29, WARM – BRIGHT.

Last night, just as we were going to turn in, the Northern Lights began and the display, which lasted all night, was the most brilliant and the colour effects the most beautiful I have ever seen. At times it seemed as if the whole sky was illuminated as the streamers of light with the brilliancy and appearance of search lights played over the sky, with here and there big masses of light delicately coloured. It was fascinating to watch the continual changes going on and the weird sensation it produced. Sometimes the effect was that of a gigantic stereopticon lantern turned on the sky for it’s curtain, only instead of pictures we saw fantastic shapes and forms come and go in the zone of light.

The Forgotten Explorer – Samuel Prescott Fay’s 1914 Expedition to the Northern Rockies

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A few weeks ago we had a fabulous northern lights show. The evening was gorgeous too, No moon and without any wind with the temperature around 5°C. The lights were very active for almost an hour allowing me some time to get to more than one site. This is one of the first images I made. This was also a very unique location east or Red Deer that was completely void of farm lights, and the aurora were so bright they were lighting up the fields. Being so bright, I was also using a very short exposure allowing the image to show off the curtains better and not simply blending them together as a green mush. There was very little red aurora evident unfortunately, but any show this good was worth being out for!

 

Red Deer County, Alberta

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August 1, 2015

Spirit of Sail

Filed under: Hand of Man, Skyscape, Sony RX100 II, Travel — collin orthner @ 10:28 pm

Soft dusk lighting illuminates this iconic fibreglass sculpture by well-known local sculptor Robert Dow Reid which has become a symbol for the city of Kelowna and is prominently featured in many tourism publications. It was installed at the foot of Bernard Ave on Waterfront Street in 1978.

 

 

 

[ Sony RX100 II ]

 

 

July 6, 2015

Giant Sparks

July 3rd, 10pm, my wife and I are enjoying the evening reading books on our deck. We noticed some “interesting” clouds moving our way. After much deliberation I decided to pack up my cameras and head out just in case it turned into something. It did! There were a lot of giant sparks emanating from the clouds and heading more or less earthward. It was very enjoyable to watch. My first stop was south of Joffre across the river looking NE as one of the storms was heading away from me. It almost seemed like the thunderstorm was dissipating as very few lightning strikes were present. I tried an exposure anyway and managed to capture this lightning strike.

 

Within minutes of this strike the storm gained some life as it started putting the odd CG(cloud to ground)strike from the back of the storm, although there were many that only lit the clouds up from inside. After setting up my camera I hit the shutter and waited, and waited, and waited. I was only seconds from stopping the exposure, to head for another location as more storms were around me, but thought I would pack up my second tripod first and then end it. As I was getting the other tripod into the car I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye. Quickly swinging my head to the screen on the back of my camera, I confirmed that it had indeed captured the strike pretty much exactly where I would want it!

 

My second location was north of the river now and slightly SW from Joffre looking south. A very active storm was travelling perpendicular to me about 10 km or so away. It was getting dark at this point and was very hard to focus the camera. Subsequently, I missed the focus on this second image slightly, so unfortunately no large prints can be made from it even though it looks fantastic on the internet.

 

 

I travelled a bit further to the NW and situated myself near a very tall radio antenna somewhat SE from Blackfalds and almost directly south of Lacombe. Another very large storm was approaching quite quickly with a rather high volume of CG strikes. Blackfalds and Lacombe were in the direct line of fire. I put on a zoom lens allowing me to get a tighter shot of the strikes and a lens which is weatherproof, just in case. It was far easier to focus now as I had all the streetlights to use as an aid.

 

As the storm moved east it was about to hit Lacombe. I really wanted a shot of a CG right into the city There were a few near misses like this one.

 

But, perseverance paid off and wammo! Right into the middle of the city. From what I have heard, it knocked out some power locally and was a very loud crack that was quite frightening for those near it! I was quite a distance away as I was using a telephoto zoom lens remember. I did hear the boom, but it took a bit of time, travelling at 3 seconds a kilometre, to reach me.

 

 

A completely satisfying time. I could easily have stayed out much later, but I had to work in the morning. I returned back home around 12:30am or so, but was pretty pumped after all the excitement and it took me another hour at least to finally fall asleep!

 

[ Olympus E-M5II, M.Zuiko 9-18mm, M.Zuiko 14-150mm ]

 

 

June 8, 2015

Beautiful Night

Filed under: Nature, Night, Skyscape, Stars, Storms, Travel, Water — collin orthner @ 2:11 pm

Last night was one of the best nights I’ve spent outdoors enjoying creation. It was warm, no wind, very few insects and a major league bonus included seeing the fireflies I talked about in my last post. It didn’t stop there though!! The aurora borealis showed up and put on a nice show, so I was able to capture this image showing the reflection of the auroras in Gull Lake, which was very calm. Oh, the show wasn’t over yet – noctilucent clouds started to glow brilliantly along the horizon as you can see in the image. Listening to all the grebes, geese, ducks, loons and coyotes and even the fish making noises was an experience along with the stunning views is something everyone should put an effort into experiencing! These beautiful nights don’t last long in Alberta, so I love to take advantage of them when I can. I have a few more images that are worth posting, but I have been really busy all day already and I want a nap. Apparently things could fire up again tonight!!

 

 

 

[ Canon 5DmkIII, Canon EF 11-24mm L]

 

 

Fireflies and Star Trails

Filed under: m4/3, Nature, Night, Olympus E-M5II, Panasonic 20mm f/1.7, Skyscape, Stars, Travel, Trees, Water — collin orthner @ 8:18 am

Hoping to catch a nice sunset I headed off to Gull Lake last night. It’s only a 30 minute drive, so a bit of a last minute desicion was no big deal. The temperature was 28ºC and the parking lot at the beach was packed solid when I arrived. I’m not one for big crowds anywhere, malls, carnivals etc. I much prefer quiet and so I didn’t haul out my cameras as they grab far too much attention. Instead I parked my butt on a bench and enjoyed the setting sun. It was interesting too, as I noticed thousands of small fish feeding on the insects on the surface of the water just like trout do and birds, both gulls and terns in turn skimming the surface picking off these fish as they surfaced. I have no idea what kind of fish they were, but I’m curious to know. While I was enjoying the warmth of the sun I got an e-mail alert about possible aurora, so I thought it would be nice to wait and see if they showed up.

Pretty much as soon as the sun disappeared below the horizon the crowds started thinning out quite quickly and I didn’t feel so conspicuous with my camera. It takes a long time to get dark at this time of year! The sun set at around 9:50pm and it takes a couple of hours for the sky to get dark.  A few minutes before 11 a park warden came by to tell me they were locking up the gates and I would have to leave. I explained what I was doing and the warden said he wouldn’t kick me out of the park if I was to park outside the gate and walk back in. It’s under a kilometre to get in so I was all for the idea! He also mentioned that the evening before there had been a lot of fireflies around and that they were seen around midnight for an hour or so. This perked my interest as I have only ever seen fireflies once before while out chasing thunderstorms around this time of year a long time ago. I parked my car outside the gate and gathered together the minimum amount of gear I felt was necessary and wandered back down to the beach. The warden had given me a good tip and almost as if on que the first flash of greenish light of a firefly appeared in a small group of trees next to the beach. I set up my camera and took a twenty minute time exposure looking out over Gull Lake. As you can see the earth rotates and creates star trails in the sky, but the main attraction for me was the squiggly green lines tracing out the flight path of these amazing little insects!

 

 

[Olympus E-M5II, Panasonic 20mm f/1.7]

 

 

 

April 17, 2015

Starland County

Filed under: Agriculture, Hand of Man, m4/3, Olympus E-M5II, Olympus M.Zuiko 14-150mm II, Skyscape, Travel — collin orthner @ 2:54 pm

A couple more images fro a few days back from down near Drumheller. I love the FYI sign, “You are entering….” not the usual “Welcome to….” 🙂 I grew up in Starland County, so these photos are very easy to relate to for me. Other may find them to feel very stark and sparse, but that is the prairies of Canada and I find the prairies to be very beautiful. The views are almost endless and the sky becomes a big part of the experience. I can recall, after having spent a few weeks in the mountains of BC, while travelling back onto the prairies along highway 1 out of Canmore as the mountains recede behind and the sky before me opening up and feeling a relieved sensation and an ease to my breathing with all the open space before me. Hard to describe that feeling, but it was very real.

 

 

 

[ Olympus E-M5II, Olympus M.Zuiko 14-150mm II ]

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