352MC Professional Photographic Practice – Ambient Audio Experiment

As you may have seen within both versions of my proposal (please see my “352MC Professional Photographic Practice – Original Proposal” and “352MC Professional Photographic Practice – Revised Proposal” blog post), throughout my research (please see the blog post entitled “352MC Professional Photographic Practice – Technical Research”), as well as the previous blog post entitled “352MC Professional Photographic Practice – Interview with my Dad Experiment”, I mentioned that I was going to be conducting a couple of experiments regarding the recording of audio. Throughout the fourth and fifth weekend trips up to the Lake District (please see “352MC Fourth Trip to the Lake District (Thursday 12th March – Saturday 14th March 2015)” and “352MC Fifth Trip to the Lake District (Friday 3rd April – Monday 6th April 2015)”), I therefore decided that I wanted to record a variety of ambient noises from the different locations that I was shooting in, in order to see if they enhanced the immersive aspect of my project through it’s inclusion in my final piece or as an accompanying aspect to any future experiments (for example, video).

As suggested above, the idea for experimenting with the use of ambient audio was a part of my original project proposal and, after conducting some research regarding the inclusion of ambient noises within a photographic project, I was also able to gain inspiration from Melanie Friend’s work (suggested by Anthony Luvera through an email exchange regarding research), as well as videos by Patrick Keiller and Jane and Louise Wilson. As suggested in my research (and briefly mentioned above), the main piece of inspiration that I took away from these particular projects, in relation to audio, was their considered (generalized) use of audio (including the type of audio included) which, as previously stated, enhanced the viewers engagement and immersion with the project, creating a greater contextualized understanding of the subject depicted, thus increasing the viewer’s accessibility. 

Below you can find the notes about the “Ambient Audio” experiment (including the equipment and methodology that I used), followed by the edited audio from each of the locations and a reflection regarding the use of the technique within my FMP:

 


 

Equipment:

  • Edirol R09 Collection (including headphones, microphone and cables)

 


 

Methodology:

For the methodology of this particular experiment, I considered a number of variables in order to allow me to try and capture the audio at a professional standard. This section therefore simply bullet-points some of the factors I considered, why I decided to incorporate different sections within the audio, and the general technique I underwent:

  • The ambient audio data that I collected for this experiment was, as suggested above, taken from both the fourth and fifth trips up to the Lake District
    • However, as you may have already seen within my notes from the fourth trip, I found that that, through using the in-built microphone on the Edirol equipment (rather than the separate microphone), I struggled to capture good quality sounds within a landscape environment and so, after the trip, decided to conduct some primary research into the equipment by talking to a technician at the university (please see the blog post “352MC Professional Photographic Practice – Equipment and Editing Software Research”)
    • This therefore meant that most of the audio files that I used for this particular experiment were therefore taken from the fifth trip, as I was able to receive much higher quality audio after conducting this primary research
  • As for the general methodology that I used for the recording of these ambient noises, I obviously used the advice given to me throughout the primary research that I conducted regarding the equipment, after the fourth trip and prior to the fifth trip
    • This therefore meant that I placed the Edirol settings onto 24bit and “lo cut” in order to remove any frequencies below the one that I specified in the menu (meaning that the equipment should no longer pick up aspects such as wind and cars driving past)
    • When recording the ambient noises, I then used the separate, hand-held microphone with the foam shield, as this was also used to cut out low frequencies such as wind
    • Finally, when collecting the audio data, I also adjusted the input settings of the Edirol in order to try and get the peaks to hit between ½ and ¾ of the way across the scale
      • However, with this being said, some of the noises that I was recording were to weak to hit between these suggested numbers, and so I had to increase the volume of them in post-production (please see more information below)
  •  In relation to the pieces of ambient audio that I decided to record, as stated above, these were obviously taken from all of the locations that I had documented for my FMP (and where usually taken in the places where I created my “official” photographs)
    • However, within these particular places, I not only decided to record the general ambient noises that I experienced within the location, but I also decided to record some more specific ambient noises (such as leaves rustling, or water trickling), as a way of providing myself with a variety of auditory data that I could then use to create a more immersive soundscape of the location
  • Also, as you will be able to see from the pieces of audio that I have included below, I also decided to create two versions of audio from the same location: one that focused primarily on the ambient noises provided by the nature within the location, and the other with the inclusion of my footsteps (except from the Latrigg one as I somehow managed to forget to record my footsteps within this location!)
    • This was because, I wanted to experiment with an audio representation of “The Art of Walking” methodology I used throughout my project (referenced a lot within different sections of my research), whilst also providing audio information that can be used to reference the pathway within my images, rather than solely the landscape
    • However, as landscape images tend to depict a lack of human presence (which I have practiced within the creation of my images), in order to enhance the overpowering, majestic characteristics of the landscapes, I also decided to experiment without the inclusion of a human representation within the audio
  • Finally, in relation to the editing of these particular audio pieces, I took the time to listen to each of the audio files that I had collected before choosing the more high quality and appropriate pieces (that depicted the overall experience of the locations)
    • Once I had chosen these, I then opened each individual file in Adobe Audition in order to isolate the section of the clip that I wanted, removing aspects of this section of the audio that had picked up distracting background noise, whilst also increasing the volume if required
    • Once this was done, I then spent time combining numerous clips (from the same location), into one audio file, and experimented with the timings of the clips, balancing the volume so that one piece didn’t overshadow the other, and looping some of the shorter sections of audio in order to lengthen it to the same duration as the longest piece
      • Please also note that, when looping some of the small sections, I also took time to remove any distinguishing sounds from the audio so that it is more difficult for the viewer to pick up on the fact that it is a repeat
    • Also, as you will see from the clips included below, as this was only an experiment, I decided to create shortened soundscapes in order to provide me with enough information as to whether this technique was relevant to use within my FMP, and, if I decided to use it in the future, I will therefore take the time to create lengthened, looped pieces

 


 

Experiment Audio:

 

Ambient Audio (without walking):

 

Ambient Audio (with walking):

 


 

After-Thoughts and Reflection:

After listening back to the shortened ambient noise experiments, I personally feel that the soundscapes I have created for the developmental stages of my FMP have been relatively successful, but, although I am happy with them at this stage, if I want to include them within my final piece, I feel like I will need to slightly improve on them in terms of their balanced volume and length.

However, with this being said, similar to the experiment that I conducted regarding the Interview with my Dad, I personally do not feel that these particular ambient noises would be strong enough as an individual piece and, as suggested above (from the inspiration that I gained through conducting research into Melanie Friend, Jane and Louise Wilson, and Patrick Keiller’s work), I think that the use of this audio as an accompanying factor to either a future experiment (for example, a video) or within my final piece, will enhance the pieces contextualized engagement and immersive quality, thus increasing the audiences understanding and accessibility to my project. With regards to the type of ambient audio I use in conjunction with these future pieces (either the pure ambient noises, or the ones that also depict my personal footsteps), this will have to be trialed and tested in order to see which creates the more successful output in terms of the immersive and contextualized characteristics It provides the piece. Nevertheless, taking this into account, as suggested above, if I am to experiment with the inclusion of them within future experiments and my final piece, I will therefore, obviously, need to spend time enhancing the professional quality of the audio (in terms of the balanced volume), as well as increasing the length.

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