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  • Writer's pictureBrett Ainslie

Went on Vacation and Forgot a Camera... Again

Part 3

Of course I didn't forget a camera, I just decided recording audio ambiences / soundscapes can be more effective than a photo, der! I look at a photo and I see what that place looks like. They say one photo can say a million words. But if that photo were not taken, rather, the sound of that moment was recorded, I hear it and I FEEL the moment; it seems so much more real and intimate. The information is in the visuals but the EMOTIONS are in the sound.

The past 5 months I've been doing some traveling and posting some of my ambiences in previous posts. Before I found time to put together my Fort Worth and Dallas Soundscapes, I took an impromptu quick trip to North Carolina to hike the Appalachian Trail. We drove out to Tennessee to Roan Mountain, pitched our tent and woke up in freezing January weather 5,400 feet above sea level. We then went out for an all day hike to the top of the mountain where I recorded a few ambiences on the way. The sound was so silent with the exception of some water dripping from the tall tree branches, and a stream running down the river. There was such little low frequency rumble our ears are so used to down closer to sea level in civilization. There was almost zero wildlife up there as well, although twice I heard a crow, but unfortunately I was never able to capture their sound. The hike took us from Tennessee, to High Knob Creek, North Carolina (6,394 feet high on the border), back to Tennessee, then drove down to Asheville, NC for some food, drinks and rest. That city was not as I expected, but in a good way. We had met a hiker by our camping area who suggested we visited Asheville. From the sounds of it, I thought it'd be like Pittsburgh, but it was actually like a southern Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Very hipster and a bit touristy but very catered to serious hikers from the Appalachian Trail. I recorded some ambiences that night and the next day before heading out. They are pretty similar to my Texas soundscapes but it was difficult to avoid the street performers and live music bars in both states.

The following month in February, I decided to take another impromptu trip up to Lake Placid, NY to enjoy the final weeks of Winter. I've never gone skiing or snowboarding but figured, when in Rome. So I took a gondola ride up to the tallest mountain in New York and recorded some ambiences. This was about 1,500 feet lower than Roan Mountain in Tennessee, looking and sounding very different; snow capped mountain with plenty of skiers and tons of strong strong wind. It was very difficult for me to find a way to get away and block the wind without having any kind of wind protection for my microphones, so next time, I'll create a mini windshield from Bumblebee fur to place over my small microphones from my phone. I usually use pieces of this fur for lavaliere mics.

Yes, I used a phone on this trip because in my experiences it has been recording much better quality and much more reliable sound than the Zoom recorder and it was not practical or worth to bring my Sound Devices 664 and/or Sennheiser microphones. I use a free app for my Samsung S7 called "Audio Recorder" which after trying many audio recording apps this seemed to be the best to use in terms of usability, design and quality recordings; albeit still not in the league of using professional gear. I mostly used the Zoom recorder on my Texas and North Carolina trips as you can see above, but I left it at home for the Lake Placid trip to save me trouble. Many of my previous Zoom recordings were useless. I have since tested the effectiveness of the fur vs no fur and it does make a big difference; I'll just have to test it out in the field next to see if it stop the big gusts of wind I'm trying to record.

While in Lake Placid, I considered recording sounds of the Olympic Village but I honestly thought it lacked personality. It did not sound different than any other town center of its size, probably because it was so touristy. I decided to keep my ambiences to the mountains and the Log Cabin in which I was staying. When in Lake Placid, we had to experience the mountain town right by booking a classic log cabin in the middle of the woods in the boondocks off of AirBnB. We got the fire going, made some drinks, played some music and games; it was a perfect getaway from the city. And of course the sound of this cabin was highlighted by the snap crackle and pop of the fire from the fireplace. I hope it doesn't come off as cliche but it really describes Lake Placid as a ski town; very relaxing, calm but alive; it's warm when you're cold.

These ambiences will continue as I continue impromptu trips like these and in the meantime, hopefully I'll find the time to put together my sounds for Dallas, Fort Worth and Sao Paolo, Brazil.


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