Lake District Recordings – Water Sources

So the main feature of my recordings at the Lake District were water sources; rivers, lakes, waterfalls, streams and so on. Rather than making a dozen individual posts, I thought it would make sense to do one post for any I wanted to upload as the recording process was often the same. Taken from my introductory post about my Lake District recording series, this snippet sums up what I loved about recording various water sources:

“I instantly found myself admiring just how unique every single sound was. It’s something I’ve often appreciated but sitting down and recording water sources back to back, I started to analyse how the slightest changes can have the biggest impacts. If I moved some of the rocks around, suddenly the sound took on an entirely new personality. If there was a large branch in the way, I would hear how the water splits. If it dropped over a verge, I would get the splash, gurgle and bubble of the water making its descent. Adversely, if it was just a straight stretch, I got the calm and consistent trickle of the water’s uninterrupted journey. I had a blast, recording big waterfalls and gushing streams, and also tiny trickles and small spouting water sources. There was an infinite supply of material and I was in my element.”

As with all of the sounds in this series, they were recorded on my Tascam DR-05. It served me well on all manner of recording material throughout my trip, and the omni-directional condensers acquired a lovely crisp clarity from most, if not all, of the sources I tested it on. Below are some of the water recordings I took, with a brief summary of where and what it was.

This was the first recording I did on holiday on a delicate little stream running by the roadside of the Isle of Arran. The stream had some lovely square stepping stones across it so I held my recorder between the stones and caught the sound of the stream rippling through the gap between them. It created a really nuanced trickling sound but unfortunately I was only able to catch small snippets due to passing cars on a nearby road.

Here is another snippet of a miniature waterfall I recorded in Dalegarth Forest in the Lake District. This was a spout of water coming out of a small hole between some rocks. It was near a stream which is why some underlying stream ambience can be heard underneath, but my ears managed to draw this to my attention and I had to get my recorder in closer to have a listen. This was the result:

Whilst in Dalegarth, we also visited the Dalegarth Falls. The path winds up a continual incline until you reach the point where you can see the waterfall’s exit. Due to the nature of the path, it’s not possible to get close to it so I was only able to record an overall ambience from a distance. Due to the constant velocity of the water, there isn’t as much detail as I’ve managed to get in recordings from other sources, but it was another one for the sound bank!

This recording was another interesting one to make. On the Isle of Arran, I found a man-made open top tunnel that had been built to help funnel the water down from the waterfall. The water was coming through with such a huge force, I thought it would make a nice contrast to the delicate streams I had been recording. Once again, due to the constant velocity of the water, it didn’t make for the best recording but it was still good material to get nonetheless.

Finally, I caught a little gem from another miniature Dalegarth waterfall. This source had quite a lot of natural low end so made for a quirky gurgling sound rather than the standard crisp trickle.

So this blog series has just been a small collection of the near 500 recordings I got whilst I was away. I cannot recommend both Scotland and the Lake District enough, both as beautiful places to visit as well as great places to record. It was a fantastic first trip for me and my Tascam and considering it was my first time field recording, I was extremely chuffed with the results! I will be keeping this blog updated periodically with new material I record or create, and also music here and there. This started as a place for me to go in to a bit more depth about my field recordings but I think it would be a great place for me to elaborate on my composing process too.

I hope you enjoyed what I’ve uploaded so far. As always, I warmly welcome feedback and advice. Feel free to contact me with any questions, and stay tuned!

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Lake District Recordings – SHEEP!

This was such a chuckle to record. Taking a walk up in Dalegarth through the gorgeous forests, I came across a huge field of sheep that you cross to get to the public footpath. The sheep were fairly quiet on the first walk through, keeping to their own business. On the way back, I found myself in the middle of full-blown sheep chitchat. I’ve never heard sheep baa like this before and I had to have iron lips to stop myself laughing over these recordings. The thing that I loved the most was how scattered the sheep were so it provided a full 360 effect with them baaing to each other from every direction. As with all of my Lake District recordings, these were caught on my Tascam DR-05. I didn’t have much to consider when recording this, the sheep did everything for me and I simply stood in the middle and hit record. It was definitely a memorable experience and although a few recordings got affected by a plane flying over ahead and other extraneous sounds, I was really pleased at how this came out!

For these uploads, I haven’t edited out any hiccups or interruptions as I wanted to show the raw recordings how they are. As a result, you may hear the occasional footsteps or button click (particularly at the beginning) as I adjust the recorder levels. For actual use (whatever that use may be), I would edit these out to create an unblemished version!

So, without further ado, I present the Dalegarth Sheep Experience.

Lake District Recordings – Dalegarth Train Journey

Whilst in the Lake District, we took a ride on a small train track through the country from Ravenglass to Dalegarth. We had the option of riding a steam train or a diesel train but as my father’s a diesel fan, we opted for the latter. The journey lasted for about an hour and ran through some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. What’s more, I got to capture some cool recordings! I had a bit of trouble getting the right level for these recordings because of the range of different sounds the microphone picked up. Being so sensitive, the DR-05’s condensers were picking up every nook and cranny and with so much metal clanking around, when I often thought I had a good level, it would suddenly clip as the train’s joints would strike or the wheels would hit a bump in the track. The DR-05 can be a little frustrating as the monitoring level is not always an accurate reflection of what is being recorded. Often when it suggests it’s clipping and I turn it down, I then upload them to the PC and listen to discover they were absolutely fine and could have done with being a bit louder. It’s just a case of me getting to know the recorder, as is always the case when you pick up a new bit of gear, but needless to say I got some usable material.

As mentioned in my introduction post about these Lake District recordings (see here), places like this are rampant with tourists but thankfully I was able to get a carriage right at the front that was empty, which meant I could capture all of the detail of the engine and keep my door open to capture the wheels on the track without disturbing anyone else or having anyone talking over the recording. The trip went up to Dalegarth and back again and whilst we had a quick break in Dalegarth, I could listen back to what I had recorded to see if anything was indeed clipping. There were a few things I wanted to change and I adjusted my recorder to suit, but then unfortunately couldn’t get an empty carriage on the way back and struggled to get recordings without other passengers talking. A common dilemma when recording things like this!

Problems aside, this was great fun to record and ultimately I was happy with the end result. Whilst the DR-05 isn’t perfect for things like this, it certainly does a good job for the money it costs. The thing that I love most is that is does pick up a lot of fine detail and every take I did had its own unique elements which is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to editing! I’ve attached a link below to some snippets of what I recorded and, as always, comments and feedback are appreciated. Enjoy!

Listen here:

And a picture to boot:

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!

Lake District Recordings – An Introduction

Every year, my father and I take a trip away in the van to camp, explore and drive around the UK. We’ve been to many places over the years in all directions but this year we opted for West Scotland with plans to catch the ferry to the Isle of Arran, before moving up to Inverness and Fort William and finally dropping back down to Liverpool for my university graduation.

This was the first holiday I would have with my little DR-05 recorder to hand and I was brimming with excitement at the possible opportunities I’d have to test it out. When it came to it, we spent a week in the Isle of Arran but decided to skip Inverness and Fort William due to bad weather that was forecast and instead headed to the Lake District in pursuit of the sunshine. Within hours of arriving, I knew it was going to be one of the best places we had ever visited – what an absolute beauty!

But, on to the recordings! As predicted, I found myself facing oodles of opportunities to whack out my recorder and naturally with the Lake District, most of them were water based. We came across dozens of small streams, waterfalls, rivers, lakes and more and the thing that I instantly found myself admiring was just how unique every single sound was. It’s something I’ve often appreciated but sitting down and recording water sources back to back, I started to analyse how the slightest changes can have the biggest impacts. If I moved some of the rocks around, suddenly the sound took on an entirely new personality. If there was a large branch in the way, I would hear how the water splits. If it dropped over a verge, I would get the splash, gurgle and bubble of the water making its descent. Adversely, if it was just a straight stretch, I got the calm and consistent trickle of the water’s uninterrupted journey. I had a blast, recording big waterfalls and gushing streams, and also tiny trickles and small spouting water sources. There was an infinite supply of material and I was in my element.

Like with most field recordings, I had obstacles to deal with too. The Lake District understandably attracts a lot of tourists and so I found myself doing the bulk of my recordings in the harder to reach and more isolated places to make sure I got some good takes. Some recordings, such as those I did of a gorgeous little stream under a bridge in a place called Wast Water, were intruded upon by cars driving over the bridge or people walking around nearby. Once again, persistent and aching thighs from crouching underneath the bridge got me some usable takes, so you definitely need some steely determination to get results!

I’ve attached a few pictures of the places that we visited, and I’ll be uploading several more blog posts talking about the individual recordings I made, including a small diesel train journey, various rivers and waterfalls and even a tasty thunderstorm! You can find the links here and, as always, comments and feedback are appreciated! Enjoy!