Lake District Recordings – Wast Water Stream

One of the most surreal and downright stunning places I saw in the Lake District (and my life to date!) was Wast Water. Situated in the Western Lake District near Wasdale, you find yourself driving through a miscellany of small villages, windy lanes and forestry before you come around a corner and the world opens up to reveal this:

A picture will never convey just how eye-opening this place was, and also a great source for recording material! The biggest downside of Wast Water was that, unsurprisingly, it is a very popular tourist location. There were very few places I was able to go to test out some recordings that weren’t already populated with other people, but despite the odds, I still tried and succeeded! One of the things I recorded down here was a quirky little stream that was running down through the mountains and came out underneath a bridge and opened up in to the lake. The bridge was small and only had two slanted ledges underneath it, barely enough to me to perch on, but because of the enclosed space, it had a lovely natural reverb underneath it and it was something I just had to capture. So, underneath I went like a little audio troll.

The biggest downside of trying to do this was that the bridge was obviously built for the cars and so I had the constant battle of trying to record the stream in between cars crossing over the bridge. Yet again, as it’s a popular location, the cars were quite frequent so even though I tried doing this in the evenings, a lot of the recordings still had the soft hums of distant or approaching engines and some were a complete write off as a result. With some editing, some of the recordings were salvaged. Although editing meant losing some of the low end of the water itself, a lot of the detail I liked existed in the higher frequencies so it wasn’t too much of a loss.

This was probably one of the tougher recordings experienced I have faced. Never have I felt such pain than the burn I got in my thighs crouching underneath this bridge, but I desperate to get several good takes to make sure I would have something to walk away with that I could use and the pain was definitely worth it! As aforementioned, the bridge had a great natural reverb and the stream is very soft at this point in its journey so I was able to record really delicate and crisp subtleties of the water winding over the pebbles. The sound seemed to swirl around the vicinity of the bridge’s concrete and made an immersive little bubble that I could physically pop my recorder in and out of to capture the sound. I experimented with a few places, holding it close to the water, holding it at the entrance and exit of the bridge, perching the recorder on the side and also doing a few tests at different angles and heights to see what worked best. Due to the overlap of sounds from the surrounding environment, my best results were recording close to the water which didn’t harness as much of the natural reverb as I would have liked, but I was still pleased with the end product.

The bridge also acted as a bit of a funnel for the wind but, as I didn’t have an official wind protector, I achieved the same result with a nice pink sock over the microphones which blocked the wind nicely without imposing upon the actual recordings. As I was around water a lot, I opted to use a pair of standard earphones as opposed to my over-ear headphones but it was worth keeping in mind that because I was using earphones and not headphones, the wind often sounded a lot worse when monitoring than it actually was on the recording. As your ears aren’t covered, it’s easy for the wind to whip around your earphones and make you think it’s a lot louder than it is, but when you record and actually listen back, it often hasn’t even been picked up on the mics. To ensure what you’re monitoring is what you’re recording, your best bet is always to use a decent set of closed-back headphones (my KRK KNS 8400’s have served me well at a low price), but in the situations where that’s not an option, it’s worth remembering that your earphones are fine to use but just won’t always give an accurate reflection.

Below I’ve attached a link to what I’ve edited. Aside from the editing to remove the sound of some surrounding vehicles, these are the raw recordings from my Tascam DR-05. Comments and feedback appreciated. Enjoy!

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