Last week I was up on top of Mynydd y Graig in the Mawr ward of Swansea. It is up above the Lliw reservoirs into which the River Lliw flows. It was very windy up there but the views are great and the sound of the Skylarks lifts the heart every time.
Yesterday afternoon I had the need to get on top of things. Without going into details, the answer for me was to climb our local mountain, Graig Fawr.
Even on the lower slopes of the mountain you get a great view over the valley but as I climbed higher this view got better and better. Skylarks twittered above me and I got a good close view of a pair of Red Kites. Up on top the wind was exhilarating and, at least momentarily, my troubles were blown away. Seeing the land and the weather on this scale has a tendency to put other issues into perspective.
Despite its name (fawr means big in Welsh), the mountain is only small but for all that you get a great view over four or five counties in South Wales. I had deliberately not taken my cameras or sound kit as it was the walk and the climb that I needed. However, I couldn’t resist taking one or two shots on my phone. I have not produced a StillWalk on Graig Fawr yet but I think that time is coming soon.
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.
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.
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 🙂
More to come in the future about both the production and post-production element of StillWalks.
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!
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.
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.
And here are a couple of images that describe the different state of weather on the recce walk and the production 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.