Post Blizzard Madness

December 26, 2010 will be a date that lives in infamy for many New Yorkers – not because we were struck with a blizzard just after christmas, but because the city responded poorly when it came to its cleanup. There are countless stories of New Yorkers abandoning cars, getting stuck on subways, and trudging through unplowed streets for days.

A week has passed since the storm, but the response to it has not. There have been tons of crazy news stories and lots of inspired videos like this and this.

There are also many stories of New Yorkers helping other New Yorkers dig their cars out to get to safety. The missus and I were out of town on the day of the big storm, but returned Tuesday evening to find our street unplowed and plenty of drivers getting stuck on it. One of the first victims after we returned home, was a Lincoln Navigator that appeared to only have rear-wheel drive.

After the driver spun his wheels into a deep hole, a few helpful (or so we thought at first) neighbors on the block swooped in to dig the driver and his passengers out:

After a short while, it got a little ugly . . .  I got inspired to throw my DPA 4060s out the window when helpful guy #1 started yelling. The bickering between helpful guy #1 and and helpful guy #2 went on for hours before the guys in their car decided to go it alone. They eventually made it out when two other good samaritans showed up to help.

Recording Geek Note:  Recording rig consists of a pair of  DPA 4060s hanging out of a Brooklyn window tracked to a Sound Devices 744T

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Wintry Mix Part 2

New York City was the last place on earth my wife and I wanted to be on New Year’s Eve, so we retreated to upstate New York where the temperatures were in the balmy low 20s.  We were also treated to several days of snow and high wind: not so great for swimming, but full of intriguing sounds.  I noticed a pine tree creaking and crackling as it shed snow and ice in the wind.  I set up my Schoeps right under the branches of the tree and ran my freezing ass back inside the house.  One of the nicer details is the sound of a little padlock on a gas meter clanging away in the distance.

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If you haven’t heard Wintry Mix Part 1, you can check it out here.

Recording Geek Note:  Rig consists of Schoeps CMC5 setup for MS, with the MK4 as the mid.  It was all tracked to a Sony PCM-M10, with Sound Devices MP2 as a front end.  I didn’t end up taking my Sound Devices recorder on this trip, but instead packed my new toy, the Sony PCM-M10, which replaced my crappy zoom h4.   This recording is my maiden voyage using my Sound Devices MP-2 mixer as a front end to the Sony.  I’ve always loved the sound of the MP-2, and I’m really pleased with the results.  The PCM-M10 isn’t much bigger than an iphone and it has a fairly transparent and quiet line input.

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Wintry Mix

This weekend my wife and I managed to escape New York City and get up to the country. I was lucky enough to be treated to a snow covered weekend and, just before we left to return to the rat race, we were treated to a wintry mix of snow and freezing rain.

The snow and rain was making a wonderful crackling sound off the roof of the deck and the surrounding snow, so I made a quick dash for my gear. I packed lightly on this trip and left my Schoeps MS and Sound Devices rig behind. That meant that my DPA 4060s and Zoom H4 were going to get their maiden voyage in the snow.

I set each capsule up next to a support column for the deck and ran inside to keep warm. I think the little DPAs held up quite well in the cold and moisture.  The only unfortunate element is the appearance of some vehicular and air traffic.

Enjoy the crackling.  Also if anyone could identify the bird species that crop up, I would really appreciate it.

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Snowy Footsteps

It is the height of summer in NYC, and lately that seems to mean warm and humid days mixed with plenty of thunder showers.  Hopefully we’ll see less rain through August, but some of these hot days got me thinking about winter.  When I lived in the midwest and I saw plenty of super cold days and nights (you can hear quite a few on the blog).  I recently went digging around my archives for sounds from some of the colder days I was out recording and I came up with a real gem.

I had to go and record footsteps in snow, which meant a visit to a state park in the middle of the night and plenty hand warmers.  I managed to drag a gullible friend to go with me and do the walking.  That morning we recorded footsteps with different shoes; this take features a special traction device called Yak Trax.  As you can see in the photo they are little cleats that you can stretch over your boots for extra traction.  I’m not sure why they are called Yak Trax . . .   maybe yak hooves have really good gripping power?  Anyway, I love the coarse sound they made on the really cold snow, and every time I listen to these steps, I can still feel the cold ripping through me.

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Recording Geek Note:  Rig consists of Schoeps CMC5 setup for MS, with the MK4 as the mid.  In this case I only tracked the mid.  It was all tracked to a Sound Devices 744T at 24/96 in a very cold Minnesota state park.

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Please Just Hoot

As a recordist sometimes luck is not on your side.  This past Sunday morning was one of those days.  I was on a mission with a couple friends to get some recordings of Great Horned Owls.  I checked with my favorite nearby wildlife preserve, Crex Meadows, and there were recent sightings, so off we went.  10:30 PM rolled around and I hopped in the car with two buddies and drove the 90 minutes to Crex Meadows in Grantsburg, WI. 

Crex Meadows is a wetlands area that features a deciduous forest, a network of lakes, and prairie grasses. Earlier this year during the migratory season I recorded waterfowl there.  Driving into Crex at night is not something to be taken lightly if you don’t know your way around.  Think Blair Witch.

The first time I drove in there late at night I was with my good friend Rob Byers and we were both significantly scared out of our wits by how quiet and dark it was.  Sunday’s trip was our third trip out and aside from being pros by now, we had a full moon to light the way.  Thankfully Rob took his camera to document the trip and this photo was taken around 1:00 AM.

When we stepped out of the car one of the first things we noticed was how quiet it was.  In order to hear what was going on outside we had to first quiet ourselves.  It is that kind of quiet that makes returning so easy to do.  But that evening it was just a little too quiet, even for us.

The roads in Crex are cleared of snow, but there is not an easy way to get back in some of the wooded areas this time of year.  We found ourselves trudging through over a foot of heavy snow with our gear to get to the site we had chosen.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best choice.

As you can see in the photo on the left, headlamps are key to keeping your hands free in order to set up the gear.  After living in the midwest for two years now, I have also learned that a beard helps as well.  At the end of the morning we recorded only a few very distant calls and lots of leaves rustling in the trees.  If we had only set up 2 miles up the road we would have been in a more densely wooded area and had better luck. 

Was it worth a 90 minute drive at 10:30 PM and a return trip at 4:00 AM?  Absolutely!  The recordings we got on Sunday are still worthwhile and it is not often that you get to spend time in such silence. 

Below is the failed attempt at capturing the Great Horned Owls.  For the most part you’ll just hear dried leaves in the wind, but if you hang in there you’ll hear a couple of distant hoots.  The noise floor is not my friend as I had to crank the gain to get the distant hoots.  We were so close!!!!!!!

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This week we return to Crex on a mission:  Great Horned Owls you are not going to elude us this time.  We will find you and we will record you!!

Recording Geek Note:  Rig consists of Schoeps CMC5 setup for MS, with the MK4 as the mid.  It was all tracked to a Sound Devices 744T at 24/96.

More photos. . . .

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