I recently got back from a three week trip to my home country, Romania. After a year of hard work I needed a vacation, and what better way to relax than seeing old friends and relatives, traveling and most importantly, doing extensive field recording.
I started planning weeks ahead, thinking of ways to fly with all my recording equipment without getting it broken or lost, and making lists of interesting sounds I needed to record. I put together a small cardboard case for my Sound Devices 633 so that I could take it along in my backpack, and I built a more robust cardboard box for the two Rycote XBG blimps which ended up in the checked luggage. The recorder bag and various cables, tripods and other bits fit quite well in my luggage along with the bare minimum of clothes. I also had to purchase a 50cm Ambient boom pole as my 80cm Rode one didn't fit into my luggage.
On top of this I also spent a good few hours researching insurance for my field recording equipment. I decided to go with Aaduki Media Insurance who kindly modified a Photo equipment insurance for my purposes. At any rate, it appears as though I packed well as all my equipment made it back without a scratch.
Two years ago while visiting Romania in winter I rented a Station Wagon that I had some trouble driving around on snow and ice. This one time I skidded and ended up in a ditch while driving on snow. It took a good few hours and several helpful locals to get my car out so this time I opted for a 4x4 SUV instead. This was an excellent decision as I was able to drive in relatively deep snow, on forest roads, on steep hills and even off-road without any difficulty.
Winter temperatures in Romania routinely fall below -25 C/-13 F which is the coldest it got while we were there. This was a welcome change from the mild and humid weather that we got accustomed to in Scotland. It was also a great opportunity to record ice, snow and very clean ambiences since a layer of snow acts as insulation and prohibits noise from traveling too far. I'm happy to say my equipment and batteries withstood the cold excellently, as you would expect from equipment made by Sennheiser or Sound Devices.
The main microphones that I used over these 3 weeks were the Sennheiser MKH 8040s. I opted for the smaller Rycote XBG blimps instead of the larger ORTF one after reading about it on Tim Prebble's blog. This setup was versatile enough so that I could record both ambiences and spot effects, whereas the ORTF blimp would have limited my options of recording separate sound sources. I also used my Sony PCM D100 handheld but only occasionally as most of the time I had my recording bag and tripod in the car with me. Taking a pair of JrF contact mics along was an excellent decision as these were great for sticking on to metal and wood surfaces while recording.
The first thing I recorded after arriving in the country was the fire burning in an old-fashioned fireplace. (I uploaded a snippet that you can download in glorious 24/96 quality from Soundcloud by following the link above.) There's something primeval about the sound of fire crackling away that has an instant relaxing effect on my mind. It usually takes me at least half an hour to fall asleep, but for the entire vacation I slept like a baby as soon as I hit the pillow.
As you can watch in the video above I recorded several takes of the car going downhill with the engine off, so that the tires made that crunchy rubbery noise that's quite difficult to capture. I was lucky enough to be joined on my recording trips by a few friends who were on vacation as well, so I managed to record even more material than I would have had I been alone.
By far the most extensive bits that I recorded are ambiences, ranging from the countryside at night to forest and mountains by day, wind blowing through the shed or birds chirping in the morning. I also recorded several GBs worth of spot sound effects, from wood and metal impacts to various gears and implements.
I also recorded rusty gates opening and closing, several hand saws sawing through wood, old time manual sewing machines, hens clucking, dogs barking, cats meowing and purring, streams bubbling etc. All in all it was quite difficult to focus on my list since at every step I kept finding something interesting that would take me half an hour or more to record.
As a consequence most of the ~30GB of recordings that I still have to sort through is made up of different bits that can't be grouped together as a library. This doesn't make them any less useful, as I have already used several doors creaking and wood/metal impacts in a game I'm working on. Overall the bulk of these recordings could be described as lo-fi, gritty, raw or concrete, which makes them excellent material for sound design.
The exception to the above statement is the huge amount of ice recordings I made. We went on two different half-day trips just to record ice cracking, creaking, impacts, hits, drags, slides etc. This will probably end up in a library along with some other stuff I recorded in Scotland, but only as soon as I can find the time to edit and master all the recordings.
This trip was an excellent opportunity to take time off and unwind while simultaneously recording a decent amount of content that was missing from my sound effects library and wasn't that easy to find. I also found a few places where no man-made noise marred the silence for hours on end. I'm now back in the studio full of energy and creativity and I look forward to visiting these places again.