R&D – São Miguel Field Recordings

When I visited São Miguel island in April 2017 I was fortunate to have a few days to spend exploring the island and making field recordings. My primary goal was to test and familiarise myself with the use of the Ambeo VR microphone to make ambisonic recordings. The subject of my recordings varied from nature and wildlife recordings in more remote locations to the sounds of human activity in urban centres. The following examples have been selected to give an example of the variety of soundscapes I encountered on São Miguel and demonstrate how the Ambeo VR fared in different locations.

The original A format ambisonic files were converted to B format and then decoded to binaural for web listening. Headphones are necessary to experience the spatial dimension of the recordings. Some of the recordings have been cleaned up with some editing and subtle EQ.

Lagoa do Congro

Most of the perimeter of this relatively small caldera consists of exposed rock covered in light vegetation. It has a naturally reverberant acoustic due to the bowl shaped created by this expanse of rock. After walking down the steep slope to the small view point over the lake there is a trail that leads to the far edge near some exposed rock face. This was the furthest point I could reach from the intermittent stream of visitors appearing at the viewpoint. I set up here and, over several hours, recorded the soundscape which was dominated by frog calls in close proximity, calls reverberating from around the lake and birdsong.

microphone at Lagoa do congro

Lagoa do Congro frogs and birds recording

Lagoa Do Congro frogs and birds

Having spent all afternoon in the first location, as dusk approached I returned to the viewing point and continued to record into darkness. I was hoping to capture the frog chorus without the birdsong as I knew the frogs would continue through the night. Despite a few persistent birds the contrast in the frogs chorus due to the change in time and location is quite dramatic. The dying tree in the photo below is where I was located for the previous recording.

Lagoa do Congro frogs at dusk recording location

Lagoa Do Congro Frogs at dusk

Miradouro de Macela

This recording of birdsong was made in the woodland next to a high viewpoint overlooking a valley. When I was recording wildlife I would try to position the mic and recorder, set recording levels and retreat to a position some way back. This limits the possibility of recording any sounds I make and also invites wildlife into an undisturbed environment. I need to invest in a longer mic cable for the Ambeo so I can keep the recorder with me to monitor. But in the meantime, when the situation is right, this approach works quite well. The recording below was captured some 20mins after leaving the setup and features some birds close to the mic.

recording birds in woodland at Miradouro de Macela

Miradouro de Macela woodland birds

Lagoa Das Furnas

Just near the carpark at Lagoa das Furnas there were a couple of vans selling souvenirs and snacks. There was also a small number of ducks and geese that had been content quietly sitting on the tarmac until a young girl came for a closer look. I was stood in the centre of them.

Lagoa Das Furnas ducks & geese

Porto Formoso Beach

This is a recording of sea waves breaking on Porto Formoso’s sandy beach. It was made midway between the water’s edge and the dunes and cliff behind, where there were lots of birds in the vegetation.

Porto Formoso Beach waves and birds

Lagoa São Brás

Another fairly small caldera which had a thick border of coniferous woodland forming a horseshoe around  80% of the perimeter. The first recording was made in the woodland behind the sandy shore of the lake. In addition to the birdsong you can hear rainwater dripping from the canopy to the wood floor.

Lagoa São Brás looking towards carpark over the hill

Lagoa Sao Bras woodland birds

This second recording was made from the side bank several meters from the dirt track that ran down one side of the lake. During the recording a car arrived over the hill from the carpark and drove along the side of the lake past the mic, stopped briefly for a photo opportunity then drove back the way it had come.

mic position on the bank next to the dirt track

Lagoa São Brás birds & car

Ponta Delgada

The majority of the streets in the centre of Ponta Delgada old town are made from cobbles of volcanic rock. The narrow streets with tight corners frequently result in the sounds of squeaking rubber. 

Car turning corner on cobble street in Ponta Delgada

Ponta Delgada traffic on cobble street

It was relatively quiet in Ponta Delgada as I was there outside of peak tourist season. This recording, made early one evening in a quiet side street, features rustling leaves, occasional pedestrians and the music from a nearby bar.

Ponta Delgada quiet street

In order to try and avoid traffic sounds, I made some early morning recordings at the marina in Ponta Delgada . It was quite windy and in this recording you can hear the boat rigging clanking as it is blown in the wind.

Ponta Delgada marina boat rigging

Caloura Harbour

At the harbour in Caloura there were large boulders providing a breakwater barrier below the harbour wall. I was able to place the mic into one of the spaces created between the boulders and record the waves breaking.

Caloura Harbour waves in rocks

Abandoned Factory

I came across an abandoned factory. While the main building was locked some of the out buildings were open to the elements. I set up the mic inside and in this recording I was throwing stones down the length of the building towards the mic.

mic in abandoned factory building

mic in abandoned factory building

Abandoned factory throwing stones

Ghost Hotel

At the high viewpoint Vista Do Reì is an abandoned hotel, the ‘Ghost Hotel’. The dilapidated structure is accessible and consists of a vast full height central atrium above which several stories of intended guest rooms circle the perimeter of the building, accessed from continuous  corridors that overlook the central space. Having visited during daylight and assessed the risks I returned late one windy evening hoping to be free from the sounds of tourists stopping at the carpark outside. I set up the mic on the ground floor in the middle of the atrium and made this recording. On the top floor there were steel rods suspended in the concrete roof, hanging down vertically just low enough that I could strike them with a piece of wood I’d found.

Ghost Hotel interior close to mic position

Ghost Hotel striking metal

Lagoa Do Canário

Not far form the ghost hotel is Lagoa Do Canário. It is a small caldera completely covered in trees around its perimeter. I’d also visited here during the day and discovered that it was easily accessible from the nearby carpark. I returned with the intention of recording frogs on, what turned out to be, a rather cold and windy night at this high part of the island. While the frogs are present, the sound of wind blowing through the surrounding trees features strongly in this recording. Fortunately the Rycote Baby Ball Gag windjammer held up pretty well under the circumstances although some of the stronger gusts of wind did create some wind noise. The mic was set up on the patch of earth, at the end of the path on the left in the photo.

Lagoa Do Canário

Lagoa do Canário frogs & wind at night