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Feb 25, 2022 – San Rafael Valley – audio snippets

beaten down car tracks in yellow grass field

On Thursday night I camped in Arizona’s San Rafael Valley during a sub-freezing night. Well, I stayed in a friend’s cute cabin sans electricity and running water.

This was my fifth San Rafael Valley visit. My first solo.

a map, downloaded from OSM, showing the relation of San Rafael Valley to Tucson
The San Rafael Valley is slung between the Huachuca Mountains to the east and the Patagonia to the west. Map from Open Street Maps.
long shot of grassy field, mic stand small in mid-ground to the right, DHS Integrated Fixed tower on a hill way in the foreground in the left
Department of Homeland Security Integrated Fixed tower on hill to the left. Omni pair of mics to the right.

This grassland fascinates me. It’s not just that it’s a deliciously golden bowl slung between gorgeous mountain ranges. It’s the lack of wall, the lack of destruction. I hope to document the liberating feeling of calmly and easily gazing past a low vehicle barrier to Sonora, MX. It’s the visual confirmation that the land is the same and that the border is inconsequentially human.

There was a gale wind just a day prior in Douglas. It was insanely raging above 40 miles per hour. You had to shout your way through it and swallow a lungful of grit in the process.

The quiet on Thursday night was deafening. My ears were grasping for static. It was so still. I pulled into my San Rafael Valley overnight spot around 8PM and nary a strand of grass was swaying. It was astounding to not have wind.

Figuring out the “drop rig” process

I woke up Friday morning, powered up on some instant coffee and started setting up a recording session outside my sleeping spot.

I’m am a very amateur field recordist and was excited to try out a cute matched stereo pair of Primo EM272 omni mics – “The Clippy” from UK-based

two fuzzy balls spaced about 6 inches apart. They are on top of a T-like mic stand. The fuzzy gray balls have wires trailing down and they are attached to the stand via hastily applied orange masking tape.
Hastily applied orange masking tape in full glory.

I hadn’t tried out a test setup at all and this would be their maiden voyage. A niave move. But, I felt prepared with my borrowed mic stand and a passed-down Zoom F4. Additionally, I haven’t really used the Zoom much at all and at the moment it feels like a toy… but, I think I just need to put in some more patience.

I did less than a amateur job smearing some masking tape on the mics. There was a bare whisper of wind and I didn’t even think about the aural danger of letting the wires sprout free to get potentially buffeted by breeze. That proved to be a stupid move when the wind picked up later in the day.

t-shaped mic stand with a fuzzy-clad omni mic on each end. Wires dangle down to a blue and green striped nylon bag on top of a cinder block.
Maiden voyage setup.

I left the setup recording for over about two hours while I went filming a few miles away.

I haven’t listened to the whole take, but I’m psyched by what I’ve already scrubbed through to. All the birds came out to play and sing! Mourning doves, some trilling warbler-sound critters… and ravens! A raven flew right over-head! The mics are incredibly sensitive and I think I should have played around a bit more with setting the levels.

I ended up doing a bit of a low-pass filter, but there aren’t any other edits to the recording.

I have a ways to go to figure out my field recording set-up.. but, I’m already really happy with the results.

a yellow-grass expanse and a blue sky. a medium long shot of a white woman mid-clap. she is standing next to a microphone stand.
A still of mid-clip for sound sync.

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