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Thread: Photographs with Location Sound

  1. #1
    Corran's Avatar
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    Photographs with Location Sound

    I know I'm not the first to do this, but I have been wanting to give it a go for myself, recording some on-location sound to accompany my photographs.

    I have been interested in recording natural sounds since I was young. When I was in middle school and bought one of the first MP3 players on the market, I found that it had a built-in microphone for dictation. I used this on occasion to record sounds from when I would wander the vast forest behind my parent's house. As I got older, recording became a big interest, and in college I made a business out of recording live concerts. While I have somewhat retired from that, I still have most of my gear, including some high-end mics that I've been wanting to take into the woods.

    So I packed up some gear today and went back to Blood Mountain, which I had hiked this past Sunday (see the Small Format / Medium Format threads). I recorded sounds at some of the same locations to match my images and made a simple video. For those interested in the technical, I used a pair of Earthworks QTC1 mics (now sold as QTC40's) in conjunction with a Jecklin Disk for more spacious stereo sound. Wind, as expected, was an issue, but I tried to mitigate it as much as I could with basic windscreens. I just bought online some 100mph windscreens so I will try those out next time. Anyway, I recorded into a Zoom H6 recorder at 96kHz, 24-bit. These mics are really amazing because they capture from 4 to 40,000Hz, twice as high as typical good human hearing, and the fidelity from complex high-frequency sounds is obvious (such as water). I had to bring along a beefy USB powerbank for the Zoom recorder because these mics are super power-hungry and kill a set of batteries instantly.

    Here's a pic of the setup:


    Here's the video with 5 images from the Blood Mountain hike from the Byron Reece Trailhead to the summit via the Appalachian Trail, and back on the Freeman Trail. For you eagle-eyed viewers, you'll notice one image on 8x20 I shot in 2017 that I added since it was taken at the Byron Reece Trailhead.



    Might give a go to recording some more of these at some of my favorite local hikes. What do you think? Already done to death? A good companion to photographs? Would love to hear your thoughts and feel free to share your own photographs+sounds videos or recordings.
    Bryan | Blog | YouTube | Instagram
    All comments and thoughtful critique welcome

  2. #2
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Photographs with Location Sound

    Really like!
    sin eater

  3. #3

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    Re: Photographs with Location Sound

    A good background, but audio recordings take a long time to get a decent run time, unless it's a loop, and things get repetitive fast, and you increase your chance to pick up unwanted noise (even you)... Planes go by, cars etc and wind will cause that compression effect (but sounds great going through trees!!!) Moving water, rain is great but not always wet in accompanied photos, so can be tough to marry... Can often be apples and oranges mixed together...

    I did environmental recording for awhile, and I think it is much easier to just take an exposure and let it do the talking it that supreme moment of time...

    But good luck, and happy hunting!!!

    Steve K

  4. #4

    Re: Photographs with Location Sound

    Very cool, you ought to throw a shotgun mike in the pack, especially this time of year--nothing quite conveys "airy high country" like the "cronk" of a raven. The wood thrushes will start sifting in soon, too, and you can always find phoebes streamside as well. (Extra points if you can catch a grouse drumming...)

  5. #5
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Photographs with Location Sound

    Thanks guys.

    Steve, good point, though I was surprised at how different some of the flowing water sounded in various locations. A couple weeks ago I was at a waterfall that was really pounding, and would've liked to have that recording. Really need the heavy-duty windscreens though for that kinda thing due to wind/moisture. Also, I didn't quite find a good place yesterday, but I want to get some stereo sound that has extreme left-to-right movement to really enhance the experience.

    CB - yes, I thought about bringing a shotgun (mic ) but I didn't hear much wildlife yesterday. The birds are abundant in my backyard though so I might give it a whirl out there sometime. The crows around our house wake me up in the morning and have convened on top of my car on occasion, ruining my paint job...

    Many moons ago I was hammocking outside my house just for fun and some raccoons started fighting about 50 feet from me. Talk about a hellish noise. Wish I could record that, just to show people the absolutely freakish sounds those animals make!
    Bryan | Blog | YouTube | Instagram
    All comments and thoughtful critique welcome

  6. #6
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Photographs with Location Sound

    I subscribe to a free ambient sounds website. Or buy the guy a cup of coffee. I did.

    Creative Field Recording https://www.creativefieldrecording.com/about-2/

    He is pretty intense about sound with updates now and then.

    Many downloadable files from all over the world.

    Last time I looked he was trying to capture treetop sound!
    sin eater

  7. #7

    Re: Photographs with Location Sound

    Quote Originally Posted by Corran View Post
    I thought about bringing a shotgun
    Well, there are certainly still places here in the Mountain South where si vis pacem, para bellum represents the better part of valour.

    At any rate, good luck with your "soundscape" project--like so much on this particular forum, you'll probably run into the "through a glass darkly" problem in getting feedback since everyone's output device(s) vary so widely, but I could see where sound loop could be a "value added" part of an installation and/or gallery space.

    (BTW, don't be in your hammock when a screech owl starts whinnying above your head...)

  8. #8
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Photographs with Location Sound

    Thanks for the link Randy, I'll check him out. I have a lot of respect for Foley artists - it's an interesting genre. I have done a tiny bit of it, back when I was the sound designer for a few small indie movies. Atlanta is the new hot place for movie production and many of my friends/family think I should work on sets but that's not my thing.

    CB - I have thought a lot about sound and also video in the gallery. I don't think it's something that has been explored enough. I have a few video ideas that I think would be pretty amazing but I don't have the gear or money to do what I want to do (specifically I have some ideas for extreme slow-motion video). In terms of my video - lots of folks take video outdoors and add natural ambient sound. A static black-and-white image evokes something different. Timelessness? I haven't seen such a pairing before. A bit of "old and new" combined.

    Regarding output devices - I am lucky enough to have a very nice monitor setup with KRK monitors/sub, so my auditory experience is top-notch. I imagine listening to this from a cell phone or laptop is uninspiring to say the least.
    Bryan | Blog | YouTube | Instagram
    All comments and thoughtful critique welcome

  9. #9
    Andy Eads
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    Re: Photographs with Location Sound

    My brother and I were traveling through the Columbia Gorge near Pony Tail Falls. He did not have a camera along but I was happily shooting stills with a Nikon D750. He asked if I would make a video of the falls and so I did. I made videos professionally for about 4 years of my career. The sounds of the wind, water and people fit so well with the video. But I felt the stills had their own character and would stand alone better without the sounds. I don't think this is a universal rule but I am a still photographer at heart. I will leave the sound and motion to others.

  10. #10
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Photographs with Location Sound

    Sounds like a fun project.

    I found some discordance between images of water and the sounds of water. While images without water and with the slow pan of the prints worked well, I felt there was a fight between the frozen light (my brand-new term for photographic images of moving water) and the sound of water. What I was hearing and what I was seeing were two very different things that did not reinforce each other well. The sound just sounded 'added', not a part of the image.

    The scenes without water worked for me because of the panning within the still image. Panning a still image is different from a slow pan of the scene itself with a camera. Because spacial relationships do not alter when panning a still image, my brain interpreted the movement of the panning as the branches themselves moving...an interpretation influenced significantly by hearing the sound track (which is what I meant by positively reinforcing each other).

    Good luck in the project!
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

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