Surf Photographer Questions Beach Drones: ‘They Make a Lot of Noise’


A surf photographer has raised concerns over the proliferation of drones at popular surfing spots.

Ella Boyd tells PetaPixel that drones could use “a little more public etiquette” while recording surfers.

“They are pretty loud and obtrusive, especially when they’re hovering a few feet above you as is the case in the water when shooting surf,” she says.

In a piece for The Inertia, Boyd questions the need for multiple drones at popular surf spots such as Hawawii’s Banzai Pipeline.

“High-pitched, whirring, buzzing, annoying sounds. Constantly. Even at more popular breaks like Pipeline, the presence of four-plus drones at once literally drowns out the few conversations had by those in the water below.”

Aside from the noise issues, Boyd also holds a nostalgic view of surf photographers who are immersed in the culture of the sport.

“Drone footage shows waves and surfers very accurately, but not very artistically,” she explains to PetaPixel.

“A lot of [surfing] photographers are looking to capture that creativity, those specific moments where a surfer is hitting the lip or throwing buckets of spray or exerting a lot of power in a turn.

“And surfing is so fleeting, I think those single photos that show that euphoria, like a surfer super deep in a barrel, where the photographer had to wait patiently and sit in just the right place for the wave, really communicate the joy and adrenaline that surfing brings those who partake in it.

“Surfing shouldn’t be a linear experience, and to me, it’s difficult to feel immersed in the experience watching it happen through the perspective of a drone.”

PetaPixel puts it to Boyd that it’s a bit like viewing a picture created by a human photographer versus one that an AI image generator spat out.

“I think that’s mostly right, the issue isn’t in the final product being better, or different, but in the way the product came about and the faults with the making of the photo itself,” she says.

“Maybe some of my reluctance is in losing that human touch. With most advancements in technology, like photography switching from film to digital, and now from digital to drones, it feels like anyone can capture moments that used to be more demanding to document and share. And, partially, it feels as if there’s a loss of creative freedom with that shift as well.”

Boyd is a surf photographer herself who loves immersing herself in the ocean.

“I get to be right in the action, from sizing up the rip on the beach to swimming out through the whitewater to watching people get barreled from the channel or wherever,” she says.

“I love meeting people out in the lineup and feeling the ocean’s energy. You can’t fully comprehend the power of a wave until you’re right there in it!”

More of Boyd’s work can be found on her website and Instagram.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.