Olympic Sport; The Birds Eye View of Art

Olympic Sport; The Birds Eye View of Art

Written by Montanna Macdonald

Have you ever wondered what sports look like from a bird’s eye view?

Well, this is what Sydney Based photographer Brad Walls set out to explore. 

Brad Walls, known as Bradscanvas, is an aerial photographer. Keeping it unique with drone photography, Brad adds flair to scenes such as sport; showing the art form of us. Winning the Skypixel awards for his synchronised swimming team photo series this year, Brad explores a different perspective of Olympic sports like tennis, ice skating, gymnastics and synchronised swimming. Not only sport, but Brad also photographs the world from the eye of the sky that genuinely leaves you in awe; Imagery using symmetry and majestic patterns creating art with geometric flair.

We pondered, how does Brad get these fantastic shots from above so perfectly? And also, maybe there should be cameras from above more often rather than just side on in sports to appreciate the beauty we may have never noticed? 

Ponderings had the pleasure of talking with Brad about his incredible photo skills.

Where did your photography journey start? What do you love about the art form?

As a teenager, I was quite creative, borrowing friends’ cameras, playing with 3d software, building stuff with my hands and generally being a curious kid. It wasn’t until I bought a drone that I began to take it seriously. I started with video snippets of clips for Instagram, but it was a lot of work and didn’t enjoy the process as much as working on one photographic composition. I’m drawn to photography as it has the ability to blend creative concepts and the real world, creating a hybrid environment to let your mind wander but also being quite grounded truly.   

What led you to do aerial photography and sport and Olympic photography? 

Aerial photography provided a realm of new opportunity within the photography space. A space, which I believe has lacked creative innovation. 

The sports series was inspired by the shapes from above. When thinking and exploring, many sports provided those shapes that without an aerial perspective may have never been exposed. As you can see from the synchronised swimming, ice skaters and gymnasts series, all of which offered new and intriguing perspectives.

What is your creative process to deciding what you will photograph and how from an aerial view? 

My creative process is varied; it could come from out in the everyday world and spotting a moment or a structure and wondering what that could look like from above. Or it may be looking on google earth and spotting something that may look beautiful from the air; this method worked particularly well with my’ pools from above’.

Ultimately, it comes down to curiosity, as an artist, you constantly need to be curious, questioning “what could be.”

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Can you share with our Ponderers some of your favourite photo series from your works and the meaning behind them, we see you have just released a new series called “pools from above”? 

Great question and obviously a very hard one to answer as each series has their own identity. However, the pools from the above series are my favourite. 

The pools from above series sparked a transition in my aesthetic and deep understanding of composition. I remember spending hours trying to perfect this image named “A Palm Springs Ting” on my Instagram “It must have taken me 50 edits to get that image to sing, but that learning process was the foundation of the entire series. I cannot stress the importance of failing time after time to find a winning formula. 

Do you have any new series in the works? 

I am continually working on my “pools from above” series, working towards a coffee table book in the near future. 

I’m in the middle of launching a series with an Australian Ballerina, which has been very popular with viewers. Watch out on my Instagram for that to drop. 

Could you please share with us one of your favourite photo series concepts you have done, and why it is a favourite?

That concept would be the upcoming release with the Australian Ballerina. It’s my favourite because I loved the experience of being pushed to try a perspective that hadn’t been attempted before, and ultimately that is what drives me to do what I do.

Brad’s upcoming Australian Ballerina series is a beautiful perspective that we know you ponderers will appreciate, as well as the many other creative shots Brad captures. You can check out his Instagram @bradscanvas

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Gen Anthems That Rocked Our World  Part 1: 1920s-1950s

Gen Anthems That Rocked Our World Part 1: 1920s-1950s

Written by Montanna Macdonald

From the 1920s to the 2020s, from Blues, Jazz, swing, pop, rock, reggae, rap and everything in between, here at Ponderings we have brought together the generational hits of the western world in a three-part series.

Highlighting the political discourse and issues of the time, the art form of music as a communication platform for social change is evident throughout our history. These artists have succeeded and confronted the many facets of revolutionary, culturally challenging ideas and civil movements for the greater good of a collective human feeling. In Part 1, we will be exploring the 1920s to the 1950s and their music scenes. 

First, let’s take our Ponderer’s back to the 1920s, the roaring Gatsby era of speakeasies and the Harlem Renaissance. 

1920’s 

 

First, paint yourself a picture, immerse yourself into Bazz Luhrmann’s 2013 Great Gatsby to encapsulate what a liberating, radical age the roaring 20s were.  

As technological advancement changes the music industry forever, society can take music home via radio and vinyl. In 1919 America, the manufacturing and sale of alcohol is banned, resulting in the ‘prohibition era’ where many people were flocking to speakeasies jazz bars to listen to controversial revolutionary music and illicitly drink alcohol. 

Beginning in New Orleans in African-American communities, Jazz and Ragtime roots spread to Chicago and New York, with African American and European American jazz music colliding, transforming the social landscape. Famous artists that iconically represent this era include Bessie Smith, Cliff Edwards, Duke Ellington Orch, Louis Armstrong and one of the first famous European American white women recognised for singing Jazz, Marion Harris. We also cannot forget the slow emergence of southern country music.

Artists like Vernon Dalhart became the first national success country singer with the song ‘the wreck of the old 97’ about the derailment of the Southern Railway Fast Mail train No. 97 in Virginia after crashing into a ravine and killing nine people on board. 

This was the decade of artistic, intellectual and social African-American culture blossoming in Harlem, Manhattan, New York.

The birth of the American flapper girl also arises, inhabiting what was considered “male” like behaviour with short hair, smoking cigarettes and dancing in speakeasies. The roaring twenties generation came to a halt in 1929 on October 29 ‘Black Tuesday’ after the fall of Wall Street stock prices, leading to our next generation, the 1930’s and the Great Depression. 

1930’s – 1940’s 

The Jazz and blues era was influencing a new sound, swing music—a world puzzled by the losses and successes of war, the Great Depression and racial prejudice. The 1930s becomes the gateway platform for Old Hollywood romanticised swing music and communicating African-American generational pain. We see the birth of ‘pop stars’, mostly recognised as male blues singers such as Rudy Vallee and Bing Crosby. 

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With the emergence of Old Hollywood, film had a significant influence on music, creating global western world hits like Judy Garland’s 1939 Somewhere Over the Rainbow for the film The Wizard of Oz directed by Victor Fleming. 

 

However, the 1930s began to see music as an instrument for protest.

One of the most influential songs of the time includes Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit 1939, protesting the monstrosity lynching of African-Americans that were terrifyingly common at the time in Southern America. This song is considered the revolutionary beginning of the civil rights movement. 

The 1940s strives with Jazz, swing and blues, big band sounds but also the rise of country music.

With global communication in World War II, radio and recordings made artists’ as well as musical genres globally’ famous and influential in the western world between allies, even in Australia. As a sign of the times, music is primarily focused on producing war songs, but also becoming a propaganda tool, surrounding the want to end the war and bring soldiers home. 

Even after the war, the culture of Jazz from the west could not be ignored, with Minister of Propaganda for the Nazi’s Joseph Geobells, creating a Nazi swing band called Charlie and his Orchestra as a war tool to turn western music songs against itself. Songs were released called “let’s go bombing”, and “so you left me for the leader of the soviets” as mimics of popular American songs. They did not become a huge success. 

1950’s

Ahhh the age of rock and roll; not a lot of social change, but a whole lot upbeat post-war celebratory love making music. Welcome Baby Boomers. The 1950s were the parents to world-class Jazz, pop, rhythm and blues, swing, doo-wop, country and, American southern rockabilly. Elvis, Chuck Berry, Bill Hayley & His Comets, Louis Armstrong and more Elvis! 

 

To listen to many of the songs that rocked our world, you can listen to Pondering’s Music Playlist here! 

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The Evolution of Dogs

The Evolution of Dogs

Written by Montanna Macdonald

I am sitting in the sun on the grass in a pandemic lockdown,

looking into the puppy dog eyes of my three-month-old dog as she eagerly watches the tennis ball in my right hand.

She tilts her head like mine, mimics the movement of my arm following the ball, and with tails wagging and tongue out, she happily leaps like lighting to catch it. 

I ponder what the evolution of the dog is? Have modern-day breeds always existed? Did our caveman ancestors cuddle our fur friends of joy and play fetch with bones? 

 

How in the world do I domesticate and train my dog? Is my dog a genius?

Let’s  dive into the history of our intelligent, globally superior favourite pet. 

What we do know is that your cute puppy was once a wolf. Dogs evolved from their canine ancestor, a Gray Wolf. To date, scientists are baffled  by the timeline where wolves merged into dogs and the art of domestication. 

Dog fossils date back as far back as 20,000 to 40,000 years ago in the Neolithic Era, so our fur babies are Stone Age, a friendship that has lasted eons. 

 

In studies by Professor Dr Krishna Veeramah at Stony Brook University, ancient fossils of dogs in Germany were very similar to our modern European dogs, even many of the breeds we have today as pets. 

Another interesting study by Brian Hare, Director of Duke University Canine Cognition Center found that wolves have domesticated themselves into dogs, changing not only their behaviour to survive as companions with humans but also their physical features. This self-domestication process of changing eyebrows, floppy ears, splotchy coats, are all a visible byproduct of their “friendly” evolution from wolf to dog. This is evident in the study of domesticated foxes in Russia, who made themselves look adorable over time and pick up on human social cues.  

Your dog was once a snarling member of a pack that radically altered its appearance and manner to quite literally become our best friend! Crazy right? 

So next time your dog gives you that puppy dog looks when they want your dinner, remember, they are purposely putting on that face to get what they want.

Cute, but oh too easy to give in. 

There is also a unique bond between dogs and humans; when they look at each other, equally both brains produce the chemical oxytocin, a hormone which is likened to maternal bonding and trust. Dogs are the first animal proven to have this bond with humans, and one of the first animals to domesticate itself with humans, well before humans were herding sheep, cows, pigs and growing crops. It is a beautiful connection between human and dog, and incredible to know a little history; from wolf to friend. 

 

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The Ghost Lights of Australian Nights

The Ghost Lights of Australian Nights

Written by Montanna Macdonald 

Paranormal Investigator Craig Powell recalls the time he witnessed a Min Min light in the dead of night. 

“There is the old wives tale, hundreds of years ago, you know you don’t follow the Min Min lights, or you will get lost. But you wanted to, everything in your body was telling you to follow it, go towards it, see what it is.”

You may have heard of the spooky Australian folklore about the Min Min lights around the campfire, in Aussie shows like McLeods Daughters, Slim Dusty songs, or maybe you have witnessed this hair raising phenomena yourself. With hundreds of sightings around Australia for thousands of years, perhaps these lights are not a myth? 

 

Often reports of Min Min sightings are in outback regions of Australia at night. 

Witnesses report a silent circular fuzzy light, quarter the size of a full moon that dances in the dark sky. They claim these balls of glowing light can appear in colours of white, yellow, red, green and even blue, with an edge that looks like a swarm of insects. 

The erratic nature of a Min Min light is what often frightens those who spot one. Known to suddenly divide into two lights and appear like headlights in the distance, then frantically looking to move closer, further, up down and around the horizon. Some claim that Min Min lights have followed their movements as they drive, then disappear. And, as the old folktale goes, those who follow the Min Min light often never return. 

This mystery has been around for thousands of years, Australia’s First Nations people say these lights have appeared more frequently since settlement. 

It is unclear when sightings began, and due to the oral traditions of these indigenous stories pre-settlement, there is not a substantial amount of written evidence of sightings and indigenous names for these lights. Aboriginal studies researchers such as Larrakia man and Senior Lecturer at Charles Darwin University, Dr Roman, have found consistencies in light descriptions among Indigenous communities. For example, the lights being like snakes, which could be connected to the Indigenous belief of the rainbow serpent, and that they have a ‘guardian role’ on sacred sites. 

The name Min Min was adopted in 1918, named after the small Min Min settlement and Hotel in between the two Northern Queensland towns Boulia and Winton. The story goes that a stockman was riding his horse down the Kennedy development road past the now burnt down Min Min Hotel when suddenly a light appeared above the graveyard that was behind the premises. Boulia is now a major tourist hotspot for Min Min sightings.

photo credit Boulia Shire Council

These lights are not just in Boulia; there are sightings predominantly on fine winter nights among the Channel Country of South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory and in the Kimberleys in Western Australia.

The lights have been spotted all year round, including above seashores. Not only in Australia, but similar mysterious lights have been seen in Saudi Arabia, called Abu fanoos. Similarly, global folklore lights exist, such as ghost lights, ignis fatuus, the Celtic will o’ the-wisp, Mexico’s brujas, South America’s luz mala, phantom lights and fairy lights. 

Paranormal Investigator Craig Powell shared with Ponderings his own Min Min light experience when on a field research trip in the notorious NSW Pilliga Forest.

This is what Craig had to say:

“This light appeared, but the light started pulsating, and it would get really bright, and it got really dim, and then it would start dancing around through the bush. At one stage the one light broke into two lights. They would change colours from like a bright white to an orange type colour. It would look like it would come down the gorge towards us, and then it would look like it was heading back away from us.

So we sat there, and we watched these two lights dancing around the forest. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen.

If we go out on a night hike, we travel that route during the daytime hours, so we get our bearings, and know exactly what points we want to stop.

You take yourself back to the daytime where we were sitting, and you think well what’s down there? And it was like a big cliff so these lights would’ve been coming up halfway up on a cliff.

You think about it; there is no way a possible person could get to that position, especially at night time, it was really odd. The light seemed to disappear at one point, and then we just continued on our way back to camp.” 

Now it wouldn’t be a mystery without a few hypotheses. 

What is a Min Min light? Can it be debunked with a scientific explanation, or is this phenomenon a conspiracy of the unexplainable?

In different Aboriginal legends, the Min Min lights are elders protecting the country. First Nations people in the Channel Country don’t regard the Min Min lights positively, but also not harmfully. 

Conspiracy theories for the Min Min lights also include you guessed it…aliens, UFOs and ghosts. However, polymath and neuroscientist Professor John Pettigrew has several hypotheses. 

Bioluminescence from birds, insects and fungi is a possible theory. 

Still, no one has ever caught or observed these proposed organisms maintaining the intense illumination and circular shape of a Min Min light. Another is burning marsh gas, which is a well-known phenomenon causing what is called the will o’ wisp, but this natural occurrence lacks the shape, height and brilliance of Min Mins. 

The most probable theory is the Min Min lights is a refraction phenomenon, otherwise called an inverted Fata Morgana; a mirage. A Fata Morgana is where light in the day can be reflected from a hot ground layer of air, like when you see the sky reflecting on a hot road when driving. 

Similarly, an inverted Fata Morgana mirage is where at night, a temperature inversion can occur, where a cold ground layer of air can refract light due to a gradient increase in refractive index, meaning the light can appear above the horizon. It can travel over the horizon for hundreds of kilometres with possible magnification, reduced dispersion and dissipation. 

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Natural atmospheric light and human-made lights like headlights can cause phenomena. 

Pettigrew in 1992 made his own Min Min light. On a cold calm night, he drove his car 10km North of his camp where it is not viewable from the campsite. As the headlights were on, campsite observers confirmed via radio the headlights were causing phenomena with the characteristics of a Min Min light. When the headlights were off, the light also vanished. 

A Fata Morgana mirage is also common overseas, where sea cliffs in Ireland can be seen clearly in the middle of the North Atlantic sea, even though they are hundreds of kilometres away from their location. 

Documentary filmmaker Don Meers created the critically acclaimed AustrAlien Skies series, with the third 2019 film dedicated to the “Search For The Min Min.” This documentary is a must-watch, exploring the varying theories with balanced scepticism and in-depth research. Don also appears to catch the Min Min phenomena on camera. 

When Ponderings asked Don about how it felt to finally catch a Min Min light, he said:

 

“We were on location for many days, staying up through the night, camera-ready, resting and filming through the day. So you can imagine it was quite exhausting. By the time we actually saw the light, it was like a rocket taking off. It’s an instant hit of adrenaline after many nights of nothing. Your brain just goes into overdrive.” 

 

Don believes the majority of sightings are explainable, being misidentified causes like distant headlights or mirages. Still, he also explains:

“Temperature inversions need specific climate conditions to manifest. One main factor is that they can usually only happen in winter and surrounding cooler months, and because of climate change, scientists are noticing a significant drop-off. So I think that they can explain a lot but not all and that more research is needed. I think there are a lot of plausible explanations for Min Min lights, but there is still an outlying percentage that is unexplained as yet.”

 

You can watch the series across the major streaming platforms including iTunes, Google, Amazon Prime, Hulu and more. 

 

The Min Min lights remain one of Australia’s biggest mysteries, and whether you are the sceptic, the witness, or the mystically minded, remember, if you ever find yourself in the Australian wilderness in the dark, you won’t find the lights, they find you. 

Some extras: Want to listen to the Slim Dusty Song? Click here

 

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