Fireworks, a large red, green, and white spherical firework above a river

Yasugawa Fireworks – 野洲川花火大会 – 2015

Our local summer fireworks festival – 野洲川花火大会 – was held on July 25, 2015. Hundreds of people lined the riverbank along Yasugawa Sports Park to watch a 30-minute display of fireworks over the river. Many arrived in late afternoon, lined up to buy food and beverages, and enjoyed some entertainment before the fireworks began at 19:45.

Before the fireworks began I found a location upstream from the main event area, where I could record in peace away from the crowds. First I set up my tripod and tried different lenses with my camera, an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. I selected an Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8 lens for its focal length, wide aperture, and wonderful manual focus capability.

Yasugawa Ohashi

I wanted to capture high-quality audio, so I mounted an Audio-Technica BP4025 stereo microphone with a Baby Ball windscreen and a Windjammer and a Tascam DR-70 four-track audio recorder on my camera tripod. The camera was mounted on the Tascam recorder and received input from the recorder. I made a four-track dual stereo recording with the secondary tracks recorded at -12dB. This proved useful at first, when the mic gain was set to High. After a few minutes I set mic gain to Low with the recording level knobs at about 11:30. This worked well, although I had to stop recording in order to change mic gain because the Tascam recorder does not have a hardware switch for mic gain.

After minimal post processing with only trimming and overall level adjustment, I posted the finale (05:30) on SoundCloud:

The recording location can be seen on a map at radio aporee ::: maps – Yasugawa Fireworks.

Although I concentrated on video, I also took a few still photos. I tried about 2-8 seconds at various apertures with ISO 200. Some long exposures worked well, but timing can be tricky!

Yasugawa Fireworks Display 2015

Yasugawa Fireworks Display 2015

Yasugawa Fireworks Display 2015

Yasugawa Fireworks Display 2015

Yasugawa Fireworks Display 2015

More photos can be seen in my Flickr album, Yasugawa Fireworks Display 2015

White butterfly with wings up to right, facing left on a flower with white petals and large yellow center.

Butterflies in Late June

June and early July is Rainy Season in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Many days are gloomy, but now and then the sun appears. The countryside is very green, with rice plants growing in nearby fields and wild vegetation everywhere. Many kinds of insects and spiders appear.

This June I often went outdoors with a macro lens and took photographs to add to my Flickr album Bugs and other small creatures. Along with bees, beetles, flies, and spiders, I found five species of butterflies.

Common copper butterfly (Lycaena phlaeas, ベニシジミ)

Common copper butterfly (Lycaena phlaeas, ベニシジミ)

Common copper butterfly (Lycaena phlaeas, ベニシジミ)

Common copper butterfly (Lycaena phlaeas, ベニシジミ)

Silver-studded blue butterfly (Plebejus argus, ヒメシジミ)

Silver-studded blue butterfly (Plebejus argus, ヒメシジミ)

Silver-studded blue butterfly (Plebejus argus, ヒメシジミ)

Eastern pale clouded yellow butterfly (Colias erate poliographys,モンキチョウ)

Eastern pale clouded yellow butterfly (Colias erate poliographys,モンキチョウ)

Eastern pale clouded yellow butterfly (Colias erate poliographys,モンキチョウ)

Eastern pale clouded yellow butterfly (Colias erate poliographys,モンキチョウ)

Gray-veined white butterfly (Pieris melete, スジグロシロチョウ)

Gray-veined white butterfly (Pieris melete, スジグロシロチョウ)

Gray-veined white butterfly (Pieris melete, スジグロシロチョウ)

Gray-veined white butterfly (Pieris melete, スジグロシロチョウ)

Asian swallowtail butterfly (Papilio xuthus, アゲハ)

Asian swallowtail butterfly (Papilio xuthus, アゲハ)

Asian swallowtail butterfly (Papilio xuthus, アゲハ)

Asian swallowtail butterfly (Papilio xuthus, アゲハ)

Technical note

All of these photographs were taken with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk II camera and an Olympus M. Zuiko 60mm f2.8 macro lens.

Notogawa Suisha (large waterwheel)

Notogawa Suisha Video

Notogawa Suisha is an old waterwheel (actually two waterwheels) in Higashi-Omi, Shiga Prefecture, Japan. The site includes a small park, a little museum, and a boat rental facility. This quiet park, about 30 kilometers from my home, is one of my favorite places.

Notogawa Suisha (small waterwheel)

Notogawa Suisha (small waterwheel)

Video was recorded with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 II. Audio was recorded in the camera with input from an Audio Technica BP4025 stereo microphone and a Tascam DR-70D recorder. Music, “Love Story (piano),” is by Sławomir Zając. I edited the video with OpenShot on a Lenovo ThinkStation 20 running Fedora GNU/Linux.

You can hear the large waterwheel and see the location on a map in my previous post, “Sounds of Notogawa Suisha.”

Lake from about 15 meters above on shoreline, framed by tree branches and leaves, fog-covered mountains across the lake, audio recorder and microphone on a tripod in the foreground on the right.

Sounds of Aircraft and a Boat at Lake Biwa

A small airplane and a fishing boat recorded from the shore of Lake Biwa along Shiga Route 25 in Okishima-cho, Omihachiman City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan (map).

We can hear gentle waves on the nearby shore, but internal combustion engines dominate this otherwise quiet environment. Other human sounds include a jet aircraft high overhead and two cars that pass along the road just a few meters behind the microphone.

On June 8, 2015, the morning I made this field recording, I had intended to record the calls of birds in a quiet location along the shore of Lake Biwa. The shoreline between Chomeiji and People’s Holiday Village is one of the few places along the lake that see little car traffic and few personal watercraft, especially on weekdays. The main difficulty is parking. There are only a few wide spots to park a car along along the road. At the first place I stopped I could hear a Japanese bush warbler and other small birds, but men were working nearby. At a few other locations I could not hear any birds.

Side view of an audio recorder and microphone on a tripod in front of a large tree and some bushes.

Field recording at Biwako along Shiga Route 25 in Okishima-cho, Omihachiman City.

When I arrived at the spot where I recorded, I heard one Japanese bush warbler. Hoping the the bird would continue to call, I set up my recording equipment facing the mountain along the road. The bird did not call again, but I heard a fishing boat on the lake. Just after I turned the microphone toward the lake and began to record, aircraft and boat engines overwhelmed the delicate sounds of waves hitting the shore below my location.

My visual and auditory experiences in rural Japan are so incongruous that often I feel betrayed by my eyes. Places that appear peaceful and quiet may suddenly be dominated by the sounds of machinery that people use for work or leisure activities. It is easy to understand why rural Japan is the scene of so many beautiful photographs and so few field recordings. Peaceful soundscapes are extremely difficult to find.

Recorded with an Audio-Technica BP4025 stereo microphone and a Tascam DR-70D recorder on June 8, 2015. You can see the map location and hear the first three minutes of the audio on radio aporee maps (Okishimacho, Omihachiman, Shiga Prefecture 523-0801, Japan).

Yasugawa Ohashi from Mikami, Yasu City

Carp in Yasugawa

On Sunday, April 19, 2015, carp were spawning in shallow water in the north fork of Yasugawa just above the Japan Route 8 bridge (Yasugawa Ohashi). I made some video clips of the scene and produced short movie.

The location can seen on the map below. The satellite image is quite old. The main riverbed has moved southwest, but the small north fork remains the same.

I was surprised to see carp spawning this early, but I’m glad that I got a chance to see them. I rarely to to the north bank of the river. Usually I carry my camera along the south side the river in Ritto City, which we can see in the photo above and in the closing scene of the video. On Sunday I just happened to be in an interesting place with my camera a and small tripod.