Recently I found a way to clear 10 days in my schedule in order to get a little vacation in. My wife and I flew off to Turkey for a quick romp through the country. It was very last minute - we hadn't done much else to prepare beyond buying the plane tickets to Istanbul. We had no idea what we were going to do once we got there and it ended up being a great trip.
Before I left I had read a great blog post that deals with field recording while on vacation and discusses if it is a good idea or not. It's worth reading over at the Dynamic Interference website. Seeing how it was a vacation with my wife and the point was to escape work, I decided not to take a field recording rig with me like I have on other trips. I did sneak my portable Sony PCM D50 into my bag, knowing that at some point in the trip I'd hear something unusual and want to record it. This will be the first of a small series of posts that will feature my sounds and stories from the trip.
One of the things that drew us to travel to Turkey was that the country offered history, adventure and relaxation. The relaxation part of the trip took place at a small town called Ölüdeniz located along the Mediterranean Sea (on the map above look for Fethiye, on the south-west coast - this is the closest city). Ölüdeniz features a truly spectacular beach and a pretty cool downtown just off the shore with lots of great places to eat. The beach is at the foot of Mount Babadag, and we learned that the proximity to this mountain peak, 2000 meters above the sea, makes this town one of the best places in the world to paraglide. The rising heat from the sea and trees create thermals that turn a sheer drop into a easy-going 45 minute glide down from the top of the mountain.
As tourists, we were just flying by the seat of our pants, so we had no idea that we were traveling to a paragliding mecca. We were amazed when we arrived to see the sky filled with people floating down through the air and landing on the beach. To add to our surprise, our stay in Ölüdeniz coincided with the 12th Annual International Air Games. So not only were tourists tandem-paragliding as per usual, but the sky was loaded with pros and experienced gliders as well as skydivers, hang-gliders and paramotor-ers. All of the above simply fall silently to the ground - with the very loud exception of the paramotor. Paragliding with a giant fan strapped to your back is called paramotoring. The fan is loud, and when you are looking to simply relax on the beach, having these low flying engines whizzing back and forth over your head can be quite annoying. Adding to the engine noise, the festival's P.A. system was cranking out party music, so I couldn't even get clean recordings of the paramotor engines.
Luck struck at the end of third day of the festival when, as the sun was setting over the sea, they started packing up the P.A. speakers. I spotted a few paramotor pilots taking off for a sunset flight. I grabbed my portable recorder and ran off to the far end of the beach where there were only a few people milling about and recorded about 20 minutes of pass bys and engine revs as they flew back and forth only about 10 meters above the beach.
Since the sun was going down it was too dark to shoot video as I was recording, so here is a video I made, putting the sounds I recorded at sunset over footage of the paramotors flying around earlier in the day.
If you pitch the paramotors down they really start to sound a lot like smaller prop planes, and I know I will be using these sounds as sweeteners next time I am cutting an airplane dogfight or chase scene. Here is an example of the pitched-down sounds. These were pitched down 8 semitones.
Here are a couple of the better pass bys.
The cool thing about flying a paramotor is that the engine does not need to be on on the time. The pilots only use the fan in order to get lift when they want to go higher (or for tricks as was common at this event.) With the fan off it just becomes a regular paraglider and floats through the sky. As a result, you get a lot of short revs like at the beginning of the audio clip above.
I took this rare opportunity to try a little paragliding myself (without the motor) when I did a tandem jump with a local pilot. About halfway down he asked me if I wanted to try any tricks and I gave him the thumbs up... here is a video of what happened next:
All photos courtesy of my super-talented wife Ehrin Albright.