Category Archives: Japan

Uguisu (鶯)

On June 4, 2017, a quiet Sunday, I took a bike ride in Yasu City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan. On the way home I heard a Japanese bush warbler (uguisu, ウグイス, or 鶯).

I always carry a small audio recorder and a pair of Primo EM172 mics in my touring bike handlebar bag. The bird began was sing loudly as I rode into a wooded area, so I quickly leaned my bike against a small tree, attached the mics, and began to record.

Bike is parked in foliage along road in abandoned park in Ichimiyake, Yasu City. Audio recording of bird calls with Clippy EM172 mics and Sony PCM-M10 recorder.

Trek 520 touring bike along road in abandoned park in Ichimiyake, Yasu City

The uguisu (Japanese bush warbler) remained in dense foliage, and I never saw any of the birds we hear in this recording. (The photo at the top was taken in 2016.)

Foliage along road in abandoned park in Ichimiyake, Yasu City

This area was once a park. On weekdays dump trucks haul dirt and gravel nearby along the riverbank, but on weekends it’s very quiet, a nice place for leisurely cycling.

Foliage along road in abandoned park in Ichimiyake, Yasu City

Foliage along road in abandoned park in Ichimiyake, Yasu City

Location

The Compass app on my phone shows the direction and location of the stereo recording, but it is not accurate. The mics were aimed south, but the city is Yasu, not Moriyama, and maps coordinates were off by several hundred meters. An annotated paper map or an online map with a satellite image would be more accurate and useful.

Trek 520 touring bike parked in foliage along road in abandoned park in Ichimiyake, Yasu City. Audio recording of bird calls with Clippy EM172 mics and Sony PCM-M10 recorder.

This shows the location within the abandoned park.

Recording and post-processing

This method of quasi-binaural recording attempts to emulate human perception by placing the left and right mics on either side of a bicycle handlebar bag. It is not ideal, of course, but setup can be done very quickly. This recording was made with a Sony PCM-M10 recorder and FEL Communications Clippy Stereo EM172 Microphone.

Trek 520 touring bike parked in foliage along road in abandoned park in Ichimiyake, Yasu City. Audio recording of bird calls with Clippy EM172 mics and Sony PCM-M10 recorder.

Trek 520 touring bike parked in foliage along road in abandoned park in Ichimiyake, Yasu City. Audio recording of bird calls with Clippy EM172 mics and Sony PCM-M10 recorder.

Audio post-processing was done with Audacity on Fedora Workstation, a GNU/Linux system running on a Lenovo ThinkStation 20 computer. I trimmed the recording from more than 20 minutes to 5:19 and normalized the gain. I did not add any filters, EQ, or compression.

This recording is also available on radio aproree ::: maps – sounds of the world.

Snow scenes

Ritto City in southern Shiga Prefecture, Japan, was covered with snow for a few days in January, 2017.

January 15th

On January 15th heavy snow covered Takano Park near my home.

Snow at Takano Shrine in Ritto City on January 15, 2017

Snow at Takano Shrine in Ritto City on January 15, 2017

Snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

Snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

Snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

Snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

As usual on Sunday, local children were playing at Takano Park. They seemed delighted by the rare chance to play in a snowstorm.

Children playing in snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

Children playing in snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

Children playing in snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

Children playing in snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

Children playing in snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

Children playing in snow in Takano Park, Ritto City

January 16th

On January 16th more snow was followed by patches of blue sky.

Eurasian tree sparrows (Passer montanus, スズメ) in a snow-covered field in Hayashi, Ritto City

Eurasian tree sparrows (Passer montanus, スズメ) in a snow-covered field in Hayashi, Ritto City

Tree at the end of the ground golf course in Deba, RItto City, during a snow storm

Tree at the end of the ground golf course in Deba, RItto City, during a snow storm

Two spring riders near the tennis courts in Deba, Ritto City, with Yasugawa Ohashi (野洲川大橋) and Mikamiyama (三上山) in the background

Two spring riders near the tennis courts in Deba, Ritto City, with Yasugawa Ohashi (野洲川大橋) and Mikamiyama (三上山) in the background

Snow-covered field in Tsuji, Ritto City, with Mikamiyama in the background

Snow-covered field in Tsuji, Ritto City, with Mikamiyama in the background

Snow-covered field in Tsuji, Ritto City

Snow-covered field in Tsuji, Ritto City

Pink rose in Tsuji, Ritto City

Pink rose in Tsuji, Ritto City

January 24th

We had a bit more snow on January 24th. By noon it was melting.

Snow-covered fields in Hayashi, Ritto City

Snow-covered fields in Hayashi, Ritto City

Mikamiyama (三上山) and the upper ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Mikamiyama (三上山) and the upper ground golf course in Deba, RItto City

Bodaijisan (菩提寺山) and the upper ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Bodaijisan (菩提寺山) and the upper ground golf course in Deba, RItto City

Mikamiyama (三上山) and Bodaijisan (菩提寺山) seen from Yasugawa Sports Park in Deba, Ritto City

Mikamiyama (三上山) and Bodaijisan (菩提寺山) seen from Yasugawa Sports Park in Deba, RItto City

Mikamiyama (三上山) seen from the woods at Yasugawa Sports Park in Deba, Ritto City

Mikamiyama (三上山) seen from the woods at Yasugawa Sports Park in Deba, RItto City

Yasugawa Sports Park on a winter afternoon

Yasugawa Sports Park on a winter afternoon

Appreciating wider angles

This January a few days of snow reminded me to appreciate a wider view of the environment. Most of my photographs have been portraits of birds or closeups of bugs or flowers. I enjoy watching living creatures up close through a telephoto lens, but I don’t want to become too absorbed in such a narrow view of life. I think it’s wise to also see and photograph the world from a broader and more natural perspective.

January birds

In January, 2017, I took hundreds of photographs of birds near my home in Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Here are a few of them.

More photos are on Flickr. Quality varies!

Selected photos are on 500px.

Eurasian tree sparrows (スズメ) in a field south of Sakura Ryokuchi Park in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Eurasian tree sparrows (スズメ) in a field south of Sakura Ryokuchi Park in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus, スズメ) in Takano, Ritto City

Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus, スズメ) in Takano, Ritto City

Oriental Greenfinch (Chloris sinica, カワラヒワ, 河原鶸) in Takano, Ritto City

Oriental Greenfinch (Chloris sinica, カワラヒワ, 河原鶸) in Takano, Ritto City

Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ) in a cherry tree near the Sunrise Tower at Sakura Cemetery in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus, エナガ) in a cherry tree near the Sunrise Tower at Sakura Cemetery in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Japanese tit (Parus minor, シジュウカラ) along Yasugawa riverbank near the lower ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Japanese tit (Parus minor, シジュウカラ) along Yasugawa riverbank near the lower ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Varied tit (Parus varius, ヤマガラ) in a cherry tree near the Sunrise Tower at Sakura Cemetery in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Varied tit (Parus varius, ヤマガラ) in a cherry tree near the Sunrise Tower at Sakura Cemetery in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Olive-backed Pipit (Anthus hodgsoni, ビンズイ) in Yasugawa Sports Park woods

Olive-backed Pipit (Anthus hodgsoni, ビンズイ) in Yasugawa Sports Park woods

Oriental turtle-doves (Streptopelia orientalis, キジバト) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Oriental turtle-doves (Streptopelia orientalis, キジバト) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Oriental turtle-dove (Streptopelia orientalis, キジバト) at Takano Park in Ritto City

Oriental turtle-dove (Streptopelia orientalis, キジバト) at Takano Park in Ritto City

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla, アトリ) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla, アトリ) at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Dusky thrush (Turdus eunomus, ツグミ)  eating persimmons in Tsuji, Ritto City

Dusky thrush (Turdus eunomus, ツグミ) eating persimmons in Tsuji, Ritto City

Dusky thrush (Turdus eunomus, ツグミ) in Factory Park near the Kibogaokaguchi intersection in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Dusky thrush (Turdus eunomus, ツグミ) in Factory Park near the Kibogaokaguchi intersection in Minamizakura, Yasu City

Pale thrush (Turdus pallidus, シロハラ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Pale thrush (Turdus pallidus, シロハラ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Scaly thrush [Amami thrush] (Zoothera dauma, トラツグミ) in the woods along Yasugawa between the soccer ground and the parking lot near the backetball court in Moriyama

Scaly thrush [Amami thrush] (Zoothera dauma, トラツグミ) in the woods along Yasugawa between the soccer ground and the parking lot near the backetball court in Moriyama

Meadow bunting (Emberiza cioides, ホオジロ, 頬白) along Yasugawa riverbank near the ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Meadow bunting (Emberiza cioides, ホオジロ, 頬白) along Yasugawa riverbank near the ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Meadow bunting (Emberiza cioides, ホオジロ, 頬白) along Yasugawa riverbank near the ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Meadow bunting (Emberiza cioides, ホオジロ, 頬白) along Yasugawa riverbank near the ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Black-faced bunting (Emberiza spodocephala, アオジ) on the gravel road to Takano Shrine in Ritto City

Black-faced bunting (Emberiza spodocephala, アオジ) on the gravel road to Takano Shrine in Ritto City

White wagtail (Motacilla alba  lugens, ハクセキレイ) at Takano Park in Ritto City

White wagtail (Motacilla alba lugens, ハクセキレイ) at Takano Park in Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ) in Takano Park, Ritto City

Crow (カラス) in a tree along Yasugawa in Moriyama

Crow (カラス) in a tree along Yasugawa in Moriyama

Common kingfisher (カワセミ, 川蝉) female at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Common kingfisher (カワセミ, 川蝉) female at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus, メジロ) in a camellia tree at Hatonomori Park (鳩の森公園) in Moriyama City

Pygmy woodpecker (Dendrocopos kizuki,  コゲラ) along Yasugawa riverbank near the lower ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

Pygmy woodpecker (Dendrocopos kizuki, コゲラ) along Yasugawa riverbank near the lower ground golf course in Deba, Ritto City

I’m looking forward exploring Shiga Prefecture and seeing more birds in February.

New Year 2017 Temple Bells and Fireworks

This recording is also on radio aporee ::: maps.

On New Year’s Eve I wanted to record temple bells and fireworks along with other rural sounds from a nearby location with little traffic. I thought one of the Yasugawa riverside parks might be far enough away from major roads but still close to home.

There are no lights near this location and no place to park a car at night. I had to go by bicycle, so I practiced in daylight on December 31st.

Public park along Yasugawa riverbank upstream from Shinkansen bridge in Moriyama City

Public park along Yasugawa riverbank upstream from Shinkansen bridge in Moriyama City

In daylight I mounted a small audio recorder on a light tripod. That practice helped me when I mounted an Audio-Technica BP4025 stereo microphone and a Tascam DR-70D recorder on the same tripod late at night in the dark.

Public park along Yasugawa riverbank upstream from Shinkansen bridge in Moriyama City

Public park along Yasugawa riverbank upstream from Shinkansen bridge in Moriyama City

At night I recorded from at about 23:30 on December 31st until about 00:10 on January 1, 2017. As I was recording, I sat on a park bench with a nice view of Mikamiyama.

Public park along Yasugawa riverbank upstream from Shinkansen bridge in Moriyama City

View of Mikamiyama from the public park along Yasugawa riverbank upstream from Shinkansen bridge in Moriyama City

The audio recording sounds pretty noisy, but that’s what it’s like in this suburban area with so many people and so much activity. We become so accustomed to noise that we just filter it out. Maybe that’s why they announce the year with fireworks. Those midnight explosions are hard to ignore.

Coots – オオバン

On December 29, 2016, several coots (オオバン) were feeding on moss at the base of a flood control dam on Yasugawa about five kilometers upstream from Lake Biwa. Here in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, I often see coots in still water and slow streams, but I’ve never seen them eating so actively. I happened to be carrying a tripod, so I made a short video.

The pool and nearby running water below the dam make this an interesting location. In late spring and summer many people gather to fish there. Cormorants, egrets, and herons hunt nearby, and Japanese kites circle overhead, sometimes swooping down to pluck fish from the river.

Music

“Running Water” by Jason Shaw at AudionatiX (http://audionautix.com/). License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-By) 3.0.

Technical notes

Hardware

I shot the opening and closing scenes with an Olympus OM-D EM-5 camera and two lenses: Olympus 17mm f1.8 and Panasonic/Leica 25mm f1.4. For medium, closeup, and extreme closeup shots I used an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II camera and a Panasonic 100-400mm zoom lens.

I used the camera’s optical teleconverter for extreme closeups. At 800mm (400mm x 2) with a micro four-thirds system the 35mm equivalent focal length is 1600mm, which requires a steady tripod. I used a Manfrotto 055XPRO4 tripod and an MVH502AH fluid head. That seems like a lot of tripod for a micro four-thirds system, but it’s great for long lenses. The four-section model is easy to carry. I attach it to my Lowepro Flipside Sport 20L AW, a small backpack that holds two cameras, several lenses, a small audio recorder, etc. Recently I’ve been concentrating on still photography with a handheld camera, so I rarely use a tripod. This experience with the coots reminded me that I should carry a tripod more often.

Video post-processing software

I process media on a Lenovo ThinkStation S20 that runs Fedora GNU/Linux. For this video I first extracted clips from the raw files with FFmpeg. I wrote a shell script to automate processing by reading a data file that specifies how to make each clip.

Video editing was done with Pitivi version 0.97.1. Pitivi has become quite useful and much more stable than the editor I had been using; however, I had to experiment with rendering to get decent output. I used MP4 (x264enc) with a fixed bitrate of 8192K (default is 2048K), and I turned the speed/quality setting OFF (default is medium). Using a good fixed bitrate worked, but I’m not sure why or if my solution is best. Hopefully, future versions of Pitivi will make it easier to produce high-quality output.

Before uploading to YouTube I transcoded the video to Web-optimized M4V with HandBrake. The only trouble I had was that I could not change the title, which was derived from from the filename, and I was not able to edit metadata. (Perhaps it was due to my lack of knowledge.) Before uploading I edited the title and other metadata with the VideoLAN VLC media player.

Yasugawa and Mikamiyama from  the fish ladder along the dam in Moriyama

Yasugawa and Mikamiyama from the fish ladder along the dam in Moriyama