Artist Lab Report:
Experimentation, learning, collection, and wilderness adventures

by Christine Carr


Day 7 Saturday, May 19

Worked on journal most of the day. After dinner went to Loon Lake. Tried another time lapse and some recordings of the lake, spillway and drainpipe in the ditch. Started moving the microphone to hear how sound changes with direction and when it bounces off of walls like at the spillway.



Tried throwing my hand in the frame during the time lapse. Could lead to something-interrupting it somehow. This connects to silhouettes and interruptions, both of which have come up in my experiments in the past.

The podcast must have been floating around subconsciously-when I got back it all tumbled out of me. I wrote up the rough draft for the three parts and included some possibilities for the sound components as well.


Observations/musings: there has been someone bow fishing every time I visit the Loon Lake spillway, pulling some ideas together-the weekend is good for contemplation

Mood: happy for the weekend to get caught up and work at a different pace, excited about how my brain is working right now and looking forward to the upcoming week’s adventures.

Learned something new: Heard about R software and the possibilities of Arduinos at lunch. At dinner I learned that diatoms have a link to photosynthesis.


Day 8 Sunday, May 20

I woke up thinking about the time lapse experiment last night and wondering where I could go with that. Regardless of whether I end up using any I make here, I’m at least working through the technical side of getting them to work, which includes manually setting the exposure and focus, stabilizing the camera on a tripod (speaking of which, it fell over yesterday in the strong wind AND I caught my response on a sound recording!) and trying different time increments.


One of my reasons for coming here is I wanted the opportunity to experiment without the pressure of producing something fully resolved. I feel like I’m back in school where I’m trying new things and everything is fun and interesting and I’m having stimulating conversations with many other people. My brain is on overdrive in a way that hasn’t happened for years, like a switch has been turned on. This morning I was doing research on time lapses, tripods, frequency, reflections and mirrors.


3:30ish Had to go pick up some stuff and finally found some cigarette butts! And not in one, but two places! I went to Spencer, which is about 20 minutes south of Milford and found some in the parking lot of the South Park Mall and also a few miles away at East Leach Park in the parking lot next to the skateboard park and volleyball courts. I’ve been curious about how what I find in the debris corresponds to the location. In the collection from the mall area, which was in front of the Hobby Lobby, I found string and in the park I found bottle caps.



After dinner I went back to Loon Lake to find that the fish that I’d seen cut open and left a few days earlier was now covered in maggots. Since it was twilight, I had an opportunity to try some longer exposures and depending on the amount of time they looked like long worms or even string.


Observations/musings: I’m attuned to so many more sounds now-specific bird calls, a wind anomaly at the gas pump yesterday

Mood: focused yet contemplative

Learned something new: how to put together a time lapse in Photoshop


Day 9 Monday, May 21

Headed off to the Badlands! We left right after breakfast, accompanied by a fogscape that turned into blue skies with poofy clouds by noon. On the way we were met with much more open, distant skies and a slew of Wall Drug billboards. I’m thinking a lot about the vastness of this country, the American road trip, pilgrimages to the west and national parks, roadside attractions, etc. Speaking of which, we passed Mitchell, SD and the corn palace on the way.



We arrived before 3 pm and started with a visit to the ranger station and then a few stops along the way to walk through the landscape and see/record some animals including prairie dogs, goats and bison. A cactus posed for a photo. We took a dirt road a few miles to the campground and from there walked in to scout a location for our dawn recordings and set up for the night. The exciting/terrifying component of this area is that the buffalo are roaming free and can be as close as a few feet away. During dinner one made its way through the campground! Fortunately there were no traumatic incidents.



Observations/musings: Usually at the Badlands I’m taking in the landscape. This time I also focused on the animals a lot more than usual.

Mood: excited about the trip

Learned something new: received a description of metal casting today


Day 10 Tuesday, May 22

We got up a little after 4 am to record the dawn chorus, slept a little longer and then made our way back to the campground for breakfast. After that we meandered back though the park with a stop to say a very quiet hello to some bighorn sheep posing next to the road. Obviously a trip to the Badlands wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Wall Drug, where the surreal aspect of the place was taken to the next level by the raining cottonwood seeds. On the way home I did some landscape gazing, audiobook listening, contemplating and napping.



That night the guest speaker for The Friends of Lakeside Lab Science Seminar Series was Connie Mutel and she presented a very informative lecture called “A World of Change:  Land Transformation and Climate Change in Iowa.” One big takeaway for me was learning that since prairie grasses have very deep roots, with fewer prairies we have more soil erosion, water contamination and flooding. Another was that climate change was being written about in the 1800’s!


Observations/musings: really took in the change in the landscape and the skyscape from South Dakota back to Iowa, thinking about the varied visibility of distance in different parts of the country

Mood: went through a lot as sleep was intermittent last night-sluggish to excited to thoughtful

Learned something new: So many things today with a van full of knowledgeable people. Highlights included understanding how the Badlands were made, hearing about depositional vs. erosional landscape and rock composition differences.


Day 11 Wednesday, May 23

Morning was spent in the lab labeling and marking sound files. I like the recording made in the woods a lot-it records the whoosh of the wind in the leaves without the abrasive sound that comes with the wind hitting the microphone. I’m getting better at recognizing low vs. high pitch sounds and am recognizing in many recordings that the biophony doesn’t pick up until I’m away from the recorder for a bit. I’m also enjoying seeing the difference in the sounds on the spectrogram, especially low contrast wide vertical stripes vs. high contrast brief markings. After lunch I worked on compiling some time lapses and at three pm we soldered some contact mics! After dinner I worked in the studio-did some scans and compiled a video and time lapse piece in preparation for the next night’s open studio.



Observations/musings: thinking about my In the Air project from the micro to the macro scale and the possibilities along those lines

Mood: focused-it’s production time. Have to prepare for the open studio and work on the podcast.

Learned something new: how to make contact mics


Day 12 Thursday, May 24

Up early to record at Loon Lake near the cemetery. Spent a good chunk of the day working on the podcast edit and in the afternoon finished prepping for the opening by adding some captions to a few of the photos in the slideshow. The open studio was fantastic-I really enjoyed that everyone could get a sense of what I do, but the most exciting part was the conversation. I got questions about how the work was made or where photos were taken, but also got to hear what people thought about in connection with the images and ideas.



Observations/musings: the open studio was in stark contrast to the disconnect I feel when sending work off to a distant show

Mood: exhausted, feeling a little stressed, turned into lots of fun at the open studio

Learned something new: learned about the term “the tragedy of the commons” from a student (thank you!)


Day 13 Friday, May 25

Whew-what a couple of weeks! Woke up early to work on podcast script, then back to Loon Lake for final recordings. While there I got a little sidetracked and recorded my 1st 55-gallon drum solo. Yes, it was awful, no, you can’t hear it, yes, it was a whole lot of fun and yes, it probably looked very strange to see someone with headphones on hunched over two large containers pounding away, especially to the guy passing slowly in the red pickup truck. The rest of the day was spent working on the podcast and after dinner the sky was amazing so I roamed around looking at that. I finished the podcast early the next morning and since it was the last day, I packed up my room and studio and made my way home.



Observations/musings: I prefer driving E/W to N/S

Mood: trying to power through the podcast editing

Learned something new: some new Audition software editing tips and strategies


Final Thoughts and Thank Yous

I feel like my growth during this time has been tremendous and was likely a mix of the interactions I had with others, being in a science/art environment, learning new skills, going out of my comfort zone and working intuitively. I appreciate having this opportunity and the thoughtfulness and kindness of everyone I encountered.


A huge thank you to everyone involved at Lakeside Lab including:

Executive Director Mary Skopec and the incredible staff

The kitchen crew and the wonderful meals

Matt for hooking me up with burns

The faculty, students and artists/writer-in-residence for your conversation and insight

My incredible Acoustic Ecology classmates for your humor and conversation and for allowing me to take this journey with you. I really enjoyed seeing what you accomplished!


And a special thank you to Alex Braidwood, Director of the Artist-in-Residence program, not just for bringing me here, but also for your gift of time and knowledge in the Acoustic Ecology class. The whole experience was wonderful!


Finally, I’d like to thank The Friends of Lakeside Lab for making this possible. I appreciate your role in creating this resource and for providing this opportunity!





“Artists and scientists are both asking questions about the world, they’re just doing it in different ways”
Alex Braidwood
Director, Iowa Lakeside Lab Artists-in-Residence Program
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