Early Start for Dawn Chorus Day

It was fun to get up at 5.30 AM last Sunday for Dawn Chorus Day to go and join the Friends of Coedbach Park and Helen Grey from Swansea Nature Conservation Team. Helen organised the event and arranged for Martin Humphries to lead us on a walk and help with birdsong identification. A great time was had by all and I was able to record much of what was going on with the birds in the ancient oak woods.

Sound Clips and Spectral Images – A set of these sound clips can be found below (remember to click through to the blog if you are reading this in an email) along with a couple of the spectral displays from the clips.

Tree Creeper Spectral

Tree Creeper Spectral

Tree Creeper

Tree Creeper

Black Cap Spectral

Black Cap Spectral

If you are interested in viewing the other spectral display images, you can see them in this StillWalks Flickr Set.

A set of photos from this park event can also be seen on the StillWalks Flickr page.

Bluebells at Coedbach

Bluebells at Coedbach

Oak Woods in Coedbach Park

Oak Woods in Coedbach Park

Listening to the Dawn Chorus
Listening to the Dawn Chorus

Rainy Days in Wales and England

Sorry to those of you who noticed the lack of a blog entry last week. Here are a couple of the many reasons for the omission.

Pant-y-Sais Fen – Last Friday I discovered this place by Jersey Marine near Swansea. This was part of a bird song identification walk with Bob Tallnack and others from the Gower Ornithological Society. It was most enjoyable in spite of the rain and the fen by Neath Canal is a beautiful place where I hope to do produce a StillWalk on some dry day in the future. More photos can be seen on Facebook.

You’ll need to click on the blog title in order to listen to the Chaffinch in this place as it can only be viewed on the actual blog.

Neath Canal

Neath Canal near Pant-y-Sais Fen, Jersey marine.

York’s River Ouse oozes out – It was still raining when I attempted a production day in York last Sunday – the photos here show the evidence. Fortunately, Monday morning brought the sun with it and although the waters had not receded much, I was still able to get the images and sound I need to produce a new StillWalk.

River Ouse, York

River Ouse, York

River Ouse, York

River Ouse, York

Millenium Bridge, River Ouse, York

Millenium Bridge, River Ouse, York

From the Millennium Bridge, Millenium Bridge, River Ouse, York

From the Millennium Bridge, Millenium Bridge, River Ouse, York

River Ouse, York

River Ouse, York

Monday Sun, River Ouse, York

Monday Sun, River Ouse, York

If I were to associate a StillWalks with this blog entry, I think it would be Quarry Walk – Autumn Rain even though it is the wrong season.

Therapy at its Best in Scotland

Featured StillWalks – Coastal Walk Spring

For me, this is therapy at its best! Recently we had some unexpectedly good weather for the time of year and it reminded me of slightly later in the Spring last year when this StillWalk was produced.

Downloads – Coastal Walk Spring is from the South West coast of Scotland. The sample version on the StillWalks website is only 1.5 minutes of the full 6.5 but gives a good taste of a walk well worth downloading. There are some fascinating temporary sculptures on the stony beach. They can also be found in Coastal Walk Evening  where they look like sentinels watching the tide.

FREE StillWalks – If you have not already signed up for FREE to StillWalks, you will be able to download a walk of your choice FREE when you do.

Here are some of the images from the full length walk – enjoy 🙂

Coastal Walk Spring

Coastal Walk Spring

Coastal Walk Spring

Coastal Walk Spring

Coastal Walk Spring

Coastal Walk Spring

The Horses have It

StillWalks-Equestrian is a new website and service born from the interest taken in my photography for the production of StillWalks.

Bont Show

Ready and Waiting

Relaxing virtual walks for horses? – No 🙂 Maybe there will be some StillWalks made for horse riders in the future but they might require me to take along step ladders on production day in order to get the same sort of view point as the riders. In fact, many existing StillWalks routes have had evidence of horses along the way.

In Action

In Action

The sound of the show – One of the aspects of StillWalks I enjoy the most is sound recording. As yet, I have only done this at one show and I have not published the StillWalk produced. I look forward to the next opportunity as the sounds at a horse event are so distinctive. Here is a clip from the unpublished Bont Show Walk – remember, you’ll need to go to the blog to see (and hear) this clip.

Examples of photography for StillWalks-Equestrian can be seen on the website at www.equestrian.stillwalks.com with all images being available for sale at www.photoboxgallery.com/stillwalks-equestrian

Taking Off

Taking Off

Wildfire

Recently we have had some unusually hot weather for the time of year and the other day I discovered this –

Wildfire

Aftermath of Wildfire on the Marshes

Not as dramatic as the fires in canberra in 2003 which my friend, Simon, who lives there, was telling me about a little while ago. He described the incredible speed at which the fires spread across the length of this hill which he can see from his house.

Canberra fires 2003

Canberra fires 2003

The photo sent to me can also be seen on Wikipedia along with much more info.

The land in Australia is at least “designed” by nature to cope with this kind of conflagration and I am sure that nature, being what it is, will allow the marshes to recover quickly as well. However, it is still a heart rending sight to see the damage that fire can cause.

Sunrise and Robins – Having taken some photos of the results of the marsh fires, I then caught the sun coming up and enjoyed immensely the sound of this Robin which would be part of Week 9’s Marsh Wood birds recording – more available on SoundCloud. More photos on Flickr, and Facebook.

Sunrise

Sunrise

Not Such an Ugly Town

from Suburban Lakeside Walk - Middlesbrough

from Suburban Lakeside Walk - Middlesbrough

Suburban Lakeside Walk – Yesterday I uploaded a new StillWalk to Winter Walks. It is from Middlesbrough, one of those places that only ever get bad press and gets into those Ugly Towns books and programmes every time. The result is an undeserved bad and sad reputation.

There are, however, many aspects to Middlesbrough that defy this reputation. The StillWalk produced here, is, as described in the title, a suburban walk, but I have plans to go back and produce at least one more of the town itself. The images below will help to explain why.

Middlesbrough and Claes Oldenburg's "Notes"

Middlesbrough and Claes Oldenburg's "Notes"

Middlesbrough Town Hall

Middlesbrough Town Hall from MIMA

MIMA - Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art

MIMA - Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art

MIMA

Inside MIMA

MIMA – Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art is one of the places I visited over the New Year. There was a great exhibition of South American Drawing and, in particular, I liked Brigida Baltar’s work. I am definitely going to go and see the Sean Scully show when I am next there.

Brigida Baltar

Brigida Baltar's work in the South American Drawing exhibition

Full Screen Samples – The StillWalks on the website are sample length only, but remember always to watch these in full screen mode. If you would like to see more, you can buy it for just ÂŁ1.99 or, if you haven’t already signed up to the website, do it now and get the StillWalk FREE.

Here is one more image from the Suburban Lakeside Walk – the location of which is here.

Hemlington Swan

Hemlington Swan

StillWalks Production Kit and a Skylark’s Spectral Display

Last week’s production day on Ryer’s Down on the Gower in South Wales was a challenge. The weather suggests that the StillWalk to be produced will be “A Misty Gower Walk”. Fortunately, rain covers were not needed for the cameras but I was glad to have the waterproof case for the recorder.

I had all the sound and photography kit with me and alternated between them throughout the walk. This still meant that, for a relatively short walk, I was out recording and taking photos for 6.5 hours.

Kitted up and loaded down

Kitted up and loaded down

The kit includes:

  • Canon 550D x 2 (Canon)
  • Canon 18-55mm lens with stabilization
  • Canon 70-300mm lens with stabilization
  • Monopod (Manfrotto)
  • Fostex FR-2LE field recorder with Portabrace cover (Fostex, Portabrace)
  • Rode NTG-3 shotgun microphone (RODE)
  • Rode Blimp windshield and suspension grip
  • Edirol R-09 compact digital recorder (as back up) (Edirol R-09)
  • AKG K271 MkII headphones (AKG)

All this plus a small collapsible stool (essential piece of kit), food, water, spare batteries, filters, etc. all in a great Lowepro kit bag, meant I was pretty weighed down. The trick is to be patient, take your time and not try to fit too much into the day. The recce walks are essential to ensure this can be achieved.

The mist never lifted as I had hoped it would, and the day was not as peaceful as on the previous recce visit when the Skylarks sang for us and traffic was non existent. Instead, normal farm life was ever present with the sound of tractors and other farm equipment in the distance. The Larks, however, sang through it all and their sound was as beautiful as ever.

Virtual Walks – I hope, with StillWalks, to provide realistic virtual walks. We don’t always want to wait until a beautiful Spring day to go for a walk and sometimes the sights and sounds around us are not what we would wish. However, these things don’t stop us, and wherever or whenever we decide to go for a walk, there are always a multitude of fascinating things to see and hear. Producing StillWalks helps me to recognize and focus on these things and enjoy the surroundings wherever I may be. I hope that they do this for you as well.

Technical Problems – During the Ryer’s Down production day I came up with a problem on the Fostex recorder and had to temporarily revert to the Edirol. I can only guess that the problem was electrical interference of some sort. The problem is illustrated in the sound clip and image below. I tried switching my phone to airplane mode and then off altogether but to no avail. I checked all my settings in case I had inadvertently knocked something but found everything as it should be.

interference1

interference1

Fortunately, I was able to use the Edirol instead – it’s not as good but very useful as a back up recorder. The problem, however, was temporary as, when I tried the Fostex again about 15 minutes later and another 100 yards further on, there was no problem at all and I was able to continue using it for the rest of the day.

Spectral Display – When viewing the sound files afterwards I find the spectral display a valuable element in Adobe Audition when it comes to identifying various aspects of the sounds I record. The image above shows the pattern created by the sound of what I guessed was electrical interference – the bright, gentle curve of the sound at the higher frequency is inaudible to the human ear but the broader curve downwards into the lower frequencies and then up again is easily seen and heard.

Skylark Song – The image below shows the pattern revealed through spectral display in Audition by a Skylark – and, of course, you must listen to the 10 second clip to which the image relates – enjoy 🙂

Ryers Down Lark

Ryers Down Lark Spectral Display

More to come in the future about both the production and post-production element of StillWalks.

Production Day – Ryer’s Down

Two weeks ago I went did a recce walk on Ryer’s Down on the Gower. Starting just along the road from Burry Green, the weather was misty but the sun just about got through at one point – though not quite!

Gower Mist

Gower Mist

Then, at the beginning of this week, I took some exploratory shots near the mouth of the River Loughor – the light was particularly difficult in the early afternoon because the sun was only half managing to to push through that same mist. This Little Egret is one of many on the Loughor Estuary.

Little Loughor Egret

Little Loughor Egret

I went ahead with the planned production day later in the week in the hope that, if I started out in mist, there was a reasonable chance I would finish in some sunshine – fat chance! The StillWalk that will be produced from that day will have to be titled “Misty Gower Walk” I think. It was still a beautiful walk however, and the Skylarks sang for me as well which would lift the heart of the most miserable soul. You can listen to them on SoundCloud and find out about them on the RSPB website.

Ryer's Down, Gower

Looking up Ryer's Down, Gower

And here are a couple of images that describe the different state of weather on the recce walk and the production day.

Recce Walk

Looking down from Ryer's Down, Gower on the Recce Walk

Production Day

Looking down from Ryer's Down, Gower on Producton Day

More photos from the recce walk can be seen on Flickr as well as many more from other explorations.

The Ryer’s Down production day was the first one where I used the full sound recording and photography kit simultaneously throughout the walk but I am going to write a separate post about the more technical aspects of the kit and production. Suffice to say for the moment, that I was very tired by the end of the day.

Finally, remember, anyone interested in the weekly recordings and photos I am getting down on the marshes can find them on SoundCloud and Flickr. Better still, download a StillWalk or two from the website and enjoy virtual walks in many different places at different times of year.

Before and After

As a follow up to yesterday’s post, I have to report a change to one of my favourite locations, namely the old St Teilo’s Churchyard.

St Teilo's Churchyard

St Teilo's Churchyard - Before

St Teilo's Churchyard - After

St Teilo's Churchyard - After

Something is missing!

St Teilo's Churchyard - Previously

St Teilo's Churchyard - Previously

It won’t look like this in the Summer anymore! I am very glad my StillWalk of the churchyard features it in this happier state rather than the current state. These large, well established trees were cut down in order to renovate a wall. :-/

Favourite Locations

Penllergaer Woods

Penllergaer Woods in Autumn

The locations of the StillWalks I produce are many and varied – from woodland to coast, townscape to park, I enjoy them all. Pre-production recce walks can sometimes be the most interesting as that is the time of initial discovery if the place is new to me. Production days, however, are the time to look and listen really closely.

Some of the places I have enjoyed most are: Penllergaer Woods, samples of which can be seen in – the Autumn Walks, Woodland Walk 1 and Woodland Walk 2 in Winter Walks. Also the old St Teilo’s Churchyard down on the marshes near where I live can be seen in the Old Churchyard Walk from Summer Walks and Carrick Shore in SW Scotland – Coastal Walk Evening in Spring Walks. One more is on the Swansea cycle route – Abertawe Walk from the Autumn Walks.

Pennlergaer Woods in Winter

Pennlergaer Woods in Winter

M4 Traffic – Pennlergaer and the old churchyard, are both close to the M4 motorway, which is busy at all times. In Penllergaer I find the gradual absorption of the sound of traffic, by the trees and their foliage, as you go deeper into the woods, very attractive. Perhaps it is the contrast of the two adjacent environments that creates a better sense of release from one and welcoming of the other.

On the other hand, I love the walk down to and around the old St Teilo’s Churchyard and you cannot get away from the M4 traffic in this place. I find I “filter out” a lot of the sound from the road and just listen to the birds that can easily pierce the sound of the cars and trucks.  The sound recorder does not ignore the traffic of course, but, as I do it subconsciously on location, I feel justified in filtering out some (but not all) of the background road sounds when editing.

StillWalks Works for Me – I tend to use them when I need to take a few minutes out of the working day, relax and focus my mind on something other than work. I also use them at times of stress – this is often when waiting for an approaching event such as a meeting. I use them occasionally at the end of the day too, when I need to wind down before going to sleep.

On the Move – If I am on the move and, therefore, watching a StillWalk on my iPhone, the screen may be small but with headphones plugged in and the video filling the screen, I find I easily “move” into the space of the StillWalk. At all times of viewing on a computer screen, I would always watch the StillWalk in full screen mode and I try to prompt others to do this. Not only do you see more, but full screen view also prevents many other distractions and helps promote your relaxation and enjoyment of the StillWalk.

Still Watching . . . I may have to add one of the latest StillWalks to my favourites list – Moss Wood Walk in the Autumn Walks. This is from Gnoll Park in Neath, South Wales and I have just watched full screen in full HD . . .

Week 6 – Marshwood Birds – Anyone interested in following my weekly recording and photos from this project can find the recordings on SoundCloud and the images on Flickr.

On the Move

On the Move, Swansea to York