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Natural silence is my favorite recording material, mainly because now a days it is so difficult to find it and it gets more difficult every year. I have been interested for salience in many years, or since I discovered it in my cycling trip all over Icelandic’s highlands about three decades ago. It was before the tourist boom and before Icelanders started to travel in their own country. So I was sometimes alone for many days in the desert. This moments in deep silence have inspired me so much it has shaped my life for lifetime.
One of this quiet places in Iceland was north of Vatnajökull glacier.
Shortly after the millennium, the traffic in this area increased a lot, especially because the Icelandic government had planed to build the biggest dam in Europe (Kárahnjúkastífla dam)  to make electricity for one ALCOA aluminum smelter in Reyðarfjörður, east of Iceland.
All that project ended as a huge natural disaster, which also split the people´s community in Iceland into two groups with and against this project. More information about this disaster can be found on Saving Iceland´s website.
Last time I visited this area was early summer 2018, I spent a night in Vesturöræfi on a place named Kofaalda.
I remembered my first thought when I sat up the recording gear. I was going to waste gigabytes for nothing because I heard nothing. Totally nothing. Well, there were some birds in distance …and yes, on the left side, behind hill about 2 km away there was the river Sauðá and on the right side a waterfall in Kringislá river about 4-5 km away.
I started recording.
It was not until last summer when I got opportunity to make a noise reduction on this recording, I noticed, after about 90dB gain this silence was rich of sound.
Most of this night I was struggling with rumble by gust. But between 5 and 6 o´clock the wind went down and something unexpected happened above end near the microphone.
Several bird species are in this recording: Dunlin, Golden plover, Pink-footed goose, Purple sandpiper, Common ringed plover, Snow bunting and Arctic skua.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at low level.
If you have a problem to play recordings in this blog try to open each blog-post in new frame or tab

( mp3 256kbps / 48Mb )

Recorder. MixPre6
Mics: Sennheiser MKH20  (AB40 setup laying on the ground)
Pix. Canon EOS-M50. See pictures of the landscape which was drowned by the bloody Kárahnjúkar dam project. „Lost landscape“ Part 1 & Part 2  and more pictures „Cycling trip to east fjords 2006“ Part 1 & Part 2
Location: 64.833417, -15.848694
Weather: Light gust, Calm, cloudy about 3°C

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Storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) is a seabird in the northern storm petrel family, Hydrobatidae. It is the only member of the genus Hydrobates. The small, square-tailed bird is entirely black except for a broad, white rump and a white band on the under wings, and it has a fluttering, bat-like flight. The large majority of the population breeds on islands off the coasts of Europe, with the greatest numbers in the Faroe Islands, United Kingdom, Ireland, and Iceland. The Mediterranean population is a separate subspecies, but is inseparable at sea from its Atlantic relatives; its strongholds are Filfla Island (Malta), Sicily, and the Balearic Islands.
The storm petrel nests in crevices and burrows, sometimes shared with other seabirds or rabbits, and lays a single white egg, usually on bare soil. The adults share the lengthy incubation and both feed the chick, which is not normally brooded after the first week. This bird is strongly migratory, spending the Northern Hemisphere winter mainly off the coasts of South Africa and Namibia, with some birds stopping in the seas adjoining West Africa, and a few remaining near their Mediterranean breeding islands. This petrel is strictly oceanic outside the breeding season. It feeds on small fish, squid, and zooplankton, while pattering on the sea’s surface, and can find oily edible items by smell. The food is converted in the bird’s stomach to an oily orange liquid, which is regurgitated when the chick is fed. Although usually silent at sea, the storm petrel has a chattering call given by both members of a pair in their courtship flight, and the male has a purring song given from the breeding chamber.
The Storm petrel cannot survive on islands where land mammals such as rats and cats have been introduced, and it suffers natural predation from gulls, skuas, owls, and falcons. Although the population may be declining slightly, this petrel is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as being of least concern due to its high total numbers. Its presence in rough weather at sea has led to various mariners’ superstitions, and by analogy, to its use as a symbol by revolutionary and anarchist groups.
See more information at Wikipedia, eBird and Fuglavefurinn.
Largest colony of Storm Petrel in Iceland can be found in Elliðaey Island, near Vestmannaeyjar island, south of Iceland, but they can also be found in small numbers in two other places in south and east Iceland.
When I and Bob McGuire and Marino Sigursteinsson arrived in Elliðaey the 5th of June 2018, we were not sure if the Storm Petrel had arrived. It was almost too early for their breeding season.
So it was a big success when suddenly at midnight the air was filled with flying Storm petrels. I never saw this tiny bird, even though they were all around my head. They flew extremely fast like bats and disappeared in holes in the ground, and in the load wall of the old shelter.
I started recording inside the shelter because it was like hundreds of birds were heavily busy in conversation inside the wall, but outside and behind the shelter was a low lava cliff, named Skápar also with interesting soundscape. So I started to recording with other recorder there too.
Sadly I spent to much time talking in too short distance behind the rig, so most of the recording is spoiled with human talking. It is sad because this fabulous Storm petrel soundscape did not last more than two or three hours before they all flew to the sea again.
The following recording is what is left of the recording without the human chat. So the best part of Storm Petrel is sadly missing. Instead other bird, very similar is common in this recording. It is Leach’s Storm Petrel which is audible throughout all the recording. More info in Wikipedia, eBird and Fuglavefurinn
Background noise is a rumble noise from a trawler. It was almost constant noise all the time we stayed on the island. Even though I did not see any ship around the island, the air was vibrating with this deep rumble engine noise.
It seems like I need to spent much more time in this remote island and record its biological soundscape. It change over the day, every months, spring, summer, autumn and winter. So just 24 hours is not enough. Same as with other nearby islands, which host different bird species and different soundscape.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

( mp3 256kbps / 27,6Mb )

Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Sennheiser MKH20 AB40
Pix. LG G6
Location:  63.466924, -20.175122
Weather: Calm, misty & light shower, ca 12°C
Listen to the recording Elliðaey part1

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It is rear now a days to discover new places without traffic or engine nose. I found one in June 2019. It was at Fellströnd, in the northwest of Iceland. That means I have natural silence for more than a one hour. It is a south part of a peninsula which only have gravel roads and no shopping service so motorist are normally not driving there for pleasure.
Less human traffic means more biodiversity. It thrives better in places with less farming and fast driving cars. One roadkill can as well mean a death of the whole family. Car covered with smashed bugs means less food for birds… and so on. This is clearly visible and audible in those areas which have „industry“ farming and lots of fast driving traffic.
No traffic, or engine noise, means more natural silence and more transparent soundscape. Therefor it is very interesting to listen to this recordings. It is even possible to hear sheep footsteps far away and detect what bird species are in the area, even far away. In fact it is possible to analyze the situation of the biodiversity.
This is a high gain recording, recorded at +50dB. Gain was then increased in post about +25dB, normalized at -8dB and gently NR.
This is a part of 10 hour recording. This part was recorded between 7 and 8 in the morning at 21st of June.
Many bird species are audible in this recording. Black tailed Godwit, Common Redsank, Whimprel, Red necked Phalarope, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Common Ringed Plover, European Golden Plover, Dunlin, Raven, Redwing, Purple Sandpiper, Meadow Pipit, Geylag Goose, Whooper Swan, Red Throated Diver and Common Eider. I am almost sure I have not counted them all.
You can hear sheep footsteps which was though far away, also birds wing flaps as a low rumble noise.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low or medium level.

(Mp3 256Kbps / 48Mb)

Recorder: Sonosax SX-R4+
Mics: Sennheiser MKH20 (AB40)
Pix: Canon EOS M50
Location: 65.169836, -22.404601
Weather: Calm, cloudy ca 13°C

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Hólmavatn is a heath lake in the interior in west of Iceland between the two valley Kjarrárdalur and Hvítársíða. It is a part of a big lake system on a heath named Arnarvatnsheiði.
I have once before record the soundscape by this lake before. That was mostly a struggle with wind all the time, so I did not get anything interesting.
But at 22nd of June 2019 the weather forecast was perfect for this area, clear sky and calm most of the night.
I arrived with my gear around 9 pm at my previous recording place. It was still windy and some anglers about 500m away east of the lake. I quickly put up my rigs knowing that a calm weather meant just lot of gnats. I decided to put a two stereo pairs close to the shore, facing out to the lake. LCT450s in NOS about 60 m east from my car and MKH20 pair 70 m in the west. Suddenly around 11pm the wind stopped to blow and I started the recording.
What glorious soundscape. All those small tiny things and all those bird species. The LCT540s sounds much cleaner and brighter than MKH20, I guess mainly because of the different location.
But there was a big problem which I did not notice with my bare ears. The anglers made so much noise it was clear they would destroy my „natural silence“ recordings this night. They were playing a radio all the time, talking, starting car engines, and even worse, soon after I started the recording two of them started a motor boat. All this noise lasted for about two or two and a half hours.
Later that night when this noisy anglers were gone, all the birdsong became calm and less active. I am not sure why, but afterwards when I listened to the recordings it seemed like the anglers on the boat were disturbing birds on their habitat.
Following recording is a part of this „anglers moment“, probably the best part because the motorboat was mostly far east on the lake most of this time.
In the beginning of the recording you can clearly hear tiny sparks. It is coming from foam which forms between stones in the shore during windy days. When the bobbles in this foam blows, they make this tiny sparking sound. During the recording the sparks get fewer and lower because the weather is calm and no waves on the lake.
But there are so many bird species I guess I will not know them all. Great Northern Diver, Read Throated Diever, Arctic Tern, Whooper Swan, Pink Footed Goose, Black Headed Gull, Golden Plower, Dunlin, Whimbrell, Common Snipe, Common Redshank, Arctic Skua, Rock Ptarmigan and probably some other which you are welcome, if you know, to name in comments below.
You will hear the fish jumping and Arctic Tern hunting on the lake surface. Other background noise other than human noise from anglers is mainly from the river Kjarrá which flows in the Kjarrárdalur valley 4Km north of the lake .
This recording got a gently noise reduction, mainly because of high gain.
It was recorded with 47dB gain. In post the gain was normalized +26dB up to -5dB
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

(mp3 256kbps / 68Mb)

Recorder: Sonosax SX-R4+
Mics: Lewitt LCT540s (NOS setup)
Pix: Canon EOS M50
Location: 64.799603, -20.895132
Weather: Dry. Mostly calm up to 5m/sec

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There are two things which are always possible to record almost everywhere, any time and all year around. That is traffic noise and all kinds of wind.
Traffic noise is easy to record, but wind noise is more difficult. Wind is like an instrument or a symphony orchestra. But what makes it even more difficult is that you can´t place the microphone everywhere you like. A „pure and clean“ wind recording may not include a mechanical wind noise from the windshield, cable or the tripod. So location of the microphone rig plays normally a big role. But when the microphone is placed close to ground or a wall it will affect the frequency spectrum, mainly of sound reflection and therefore a phase issue.
It is possible this happened to me in December when I recorded gust over night in the country side, west Iceland. But I am still not sure, because when all the straws on the ground were rubbing each other, they made a sound or a constant noise which was limited to specific frequency range.
There is no other recording I have made which sounds as differently between different headphones and speakers as this one. I have not EQ this recording much, just pulled down the subsonic at 20Hz and slightly lifted 250Hz (+/-100Hz) The microphone was about 30-50cm from the ground. It was very bumpy and because of that I think I was probably not struggling with a phase issue, only the noise from the rubbing straws.
This recording starts very calm, with an „intro“. But suddenly the wind starts to blow and and gets stronger in the third part of this beautiful winter song..
I am used to record exactly on this location almost every time I visit this place so it is interesting to listen how this place sounds six months later, in July. Listen here.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low or medium level.

(mp3 256kbps / 49Mb)

Recorder. Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Lewwitt LCT540s (NOS)
Pix: Canon EOS M
Location:64.673500, -21.629361
Weather: Calm to breez, around -8°C

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Svartárkot means “Black River Croft” and is a working sheep farm at the southernmost part of Bárðardalur valley in northern Iceland. It lies on the western bank of Svartárvatn lake, at the southernmost point of Fljótsheiði heath, around 400 meters above sea level, at the foot of the Ódáðahraun lava, the wildest uninhabited lava interior of Iceland. To the south, a wilderness extends all the way to Vatnajökull glacier, the largest ice-cap in Europe. To the south and east lie the rugged uninhabitable areas o the highlands, the domains of glaciers and lavafields. A colourful cultural history is to be found further down the valley towards the lowlands. Svartárkot has been inhabited through most of Iceland’s history and can be seen as a symbol for the interplay between humans and nature, human habitation and wilderness. In addition to sheep, the farmers at Svartárkot maintain a trout fishing business by selling fishing licenses and home-smoked trout and arctic char. They are also experienced guides with a vast knowledge of the interior preserved through generations, and lead both hiking tours and mountain jeep excursions(source).
I was at Svarárkot farm in late May 2018, with Bob Mcguire who was collecting bird sounds in associate with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds. Farmers were busy in lambing and birds in mating, especially Barrow´s Goldeneye. This duck is not common in Iceland. They are mainly found in NE Iceland, around lake Mývatn and at Svartárkot farm, probably because farmers make nesting boxes inside the barn´s walls.
I and Bob spent maybe two or three hours at Svartárkot recording birds, sheep and soundscapes. Just before we were leaving the place, I put up my rig between the lake and the sheep sheds and started recording. The outcome was the following recording.
It starts peacefully in calm weather. Behind the microphones is the sheep sheds and in front is the lake with most of the birds that make sounds in this recording. Nosiest are the Barrow´s Goldeneye with its strange male´s „ticking“ attracting sound. There are also other birds like Raven, White Wagtail, Dunlin, Arctic tern, Common Ringed Plover and Whimbrel. The farmer is driving on four wheeler between the buildings on the farm and suddenly the wind gets stronger until it was almost impossible to continue the recording.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

(mp3 256kbps / 62Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Sennheiser MKH8020/8040 (AB40)
Pix: Canon EOS-M

Location: 65.340929, -17.244718
Weather: Calm up to 10m/s, clear sky, about 12°C

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For a long time I have used Rode NT1a for nature recordings. It is a very good mic to capture the finest details in quiet soundscapes. But at the same time there is something missing in the sound quality, especially when it comes to low frequency and „audio depth“.
Last summer I got interest in IRT cross mic setup, so there was a perfect opportunity to invest in other microphones. There were not many mics to choose from with extra low self noise. Nevaton in Russia makes very interesting low noise & high sensitive mics. But my experience with MC50Quad was it did not capture the finest details of the silence as clearly as NT1a or MKH20. So I decided to invest in Lewitt LCT540s which I got for a acceptable nice price (See comparison)
I built a special shock mount for the LCT540s inside Rycote AE windshields (ORTF WS kit P/N:080210). That AE windshield is wider than normal WS windshield, especially made for stereo rigs so it is very good for large capsule, side address mics like LCT540s. Low handling noise is important for less rumbling wind noise and when it comes to LCT540, it is slightly better than NT1a.
Everything was ready for a field test in late Mars so I followed the silence into the country side. I was lucky with the weather, dry and calm, maybe too calm because it makes the silence too quiet for this field test. Anyway sometimes light gust gently wipes the top of trees and bushes which sounds fantastic in the headphones, moving slowly from left to right. It was much easier to feel the depth of the field with LCT540 than it has been with NT1a.
Nothing interesting was audible until in the early morning, about half hour before sunrise, when two Rock Ptarmigan started to „sing“. First in distance, but suddenly, maybe because of curiosity, they flied closer to the microphones and walked around the rig. The following recording is actually this moment.
It was recorded in IRT cross, which gives lot of opportunities in mixing. It gives me four different stereo recording in to four directions, all in NOS, plus many other versions too with different channel mix. It can be useful when looking into specific soundscape. It is for example possible to avoid traffic noise or other unexpected sounds from one or another direction.
The two first enclosed recording below have go through noise reduction process (above 3Khz). But the last one is a short peace without noise reduction, just as it comes from MixPre6, so you can hear the LCT540 self noise, which is about 2dB higher than in NT1a. It was recorded with 48dB gain and HPF at 40Hz. In post, I only normalize the gain level up to max, which rise the gain about +10dB. I did not change the EQ so audience can hear the sound quality at the low frequency. My feeling is that LCT540 have almost same low frequency quality as the MKH series & Nevaton which is very good
This is two versions of the same recording where I mix four channels differently into stereo. Counting channels 1-2-3-4 clockwise to L-R-Ls-Rs and the second one L-R-Rs-Ls (which is usually normal IRT setup).
This is a „high dynamic“ recording of silence, so I don´t recommend it played loud. It might destroy some speakers (ears too) if it is played too loud without attention.
Good monitor headphones are recommended or quality open headphones while listening at low to medium level.

Recording L-R-Ls-Rs
(mp3 256Kbps / 35,6Mb)

Recording L-R-Rs-Ls
(mp3 256kbps / 35,6Mb)

Short version of recording L-R-Ls-Rs without NR
(mp3 256kbps / 7,4Mb

Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics. Lewitt LCT540s (IRT cross setup) Running on 70m Sommer Mercator CAT7 S/STP cable
Pix: Canon EOS M50
Weather: Calm, dry, between -2 to +4°C, about 7:30 o´clock

Location: 64°40’23.7″N 21°37’43.7″W

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