“Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky”- Genesis 1:20-22.

Words and photographs by Francesca Larrain
And Bryce Raley

“Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky”- Genesis 1:20-22.

The waves crash sending particles of sea foam into the air where they bounce off the feathers of pelicans gliding gracefully over the ocean surface on the lookout for lunch. An eagle ray grazes the sea floor while a shark swims slowly towards a school of mullet. A manatee glimpses up at them from afar before continuing feasting on seagrass. This is the ocean that brings us peace, prosperity, and hope. It is our ‘Garden of Eden’.

Unfortunately, many people do not view the ocean as a ‘Garden of Eden’. Ignorance, greed, and the pursuit of money is threatening this fluid place we go to for tranquility. Chemicals flow from processing plants into rivers and canals and end up in the ocean. Cruise liners dump millions of gallons of wastewater in the sea, commercial fisheries trudge through the waters casting stadium-sized nets along the surface, scraping up the ocean’s bottom and what’s left of its marine life. Instead of preserving what we have, we are draining Mother Nature for all she has.

We must be stewards of our environment. We must protect the Earth in all its glory and essence. Simply put, we cannot survive if the Earth is dying. It is clear that many people are aware of what is happening around them but decide that they can’t make a difference because the problem is too large. They would rather spend that time on their own personal issues. Instead of considering the problem to be too big to handle, they must make preserving our Earth a part of those personal issues. The state of our planet is something we should all take personal. Rather than be bystanders, we need to call out environmental injustice and strive to do better. If we do not stand up against the injustice we see, we will be forced to realise what we have done.

These realisations may come slowly at first, but they will become exponentially more evident. This can be seen in climate change. As we burn more and more fossil fuels, the Earth is continuing to warm at an unprecedented rate. Sea ice is melting, tropical cyclones are increasing in prevalence and intensity, and more and more marine species are reaching the IUCN’s Endangered Species list. How is all this affecting us? Less fish available is leading to more world hunger, sea level rise and super cyclones are destroying communities, and bad air quality is causing increased prevalence of respiratory issues and cancer.

We can become blinded by the societal pressures and the distractions of life’s responsibilities which can prevent us from seeing what is really happening to our ocean. We all need a new perspective. A fresh set of eyes to see the world from above. We all wish to possess omniscience and the foresight to be ready for what is ahead. But the answer may be simpler than it seems: Drone filming. Drone filming provides an eye in the sky and reveals hidden clues that can help us understand the science behind anthropogenic threats to our oceans, and more importantly, how to mitigate them.

Drone photographer and videographer Francesca Larrain is the founder of the platforms Fran7Films and Blue Dream Project. She started these platforms with the help of her partner, Bryce Raley, who studied marine science at the University of Miami. The inspiration behind the platforms Fran7Films and Blue Dream Project arose from Francesca’s passion for filming the ocean and nature’s elements. They are platforms that advocate for change. They display the natural beauty of our environment and the heartbreaking impacts human carelessness has on its beauty. Francesca and Bryce hope to spark a sense of responsibility for our generation and generations to come to reverse the effects of pollution, the burning of fossil fuels, overfishing, and the looming threat of careless coastal real-estate development.

Francesca and Bryce began their work in South Florida. Many people view South Florida as a vacation destination, a place to discard all worries while watching the palm trees sway back and forth. Bustling cities line the coast while beaches become overthrown by partiers and retirees alike. Living right in front of the waters of Biscayne Bay in Miami, Francesca decided to start documenting what she witnessed via drone filming during the start of the infamous Covid-19 quarantine back in March of 2020. From dolphins dancing along the surface to sharks gliding past surfers, marine life seemed abundant while the rest of society was in standstill.

As international travel resumed and the world slowly awakened, marine life seemed to disappear from view. As thousands of boats sped along Biscayne Bay’s waters and industrial processing plants began churning again, pollution and bacteria levels came back to an all-time high. In Biscayne Bay, sea grass meadows turned into barren patches of sand while manatees starved. Francesca and Bryce decided that, in order to create a global footprint of conservation, they first needed to help their local environment.

Drone filming helps us uncover hidden clues in our fight to save our ocean. Francesca and Bryce realised that the evidence was in front of their faces the entire time. In order to be stewards, we need to understand what we are fighting for. We need to see what used to be unseen so that we feel inclined to step in. Rather than simply film the beauty of nature, Francesca and Bryce began to film ocean plastic, overgrowths of sargassum, boat tracks along the sea grass, and other human-based ocean threats and effects. They realised that they needed to not only film the beauty, but also the effect that we are having on this beauty. We have all seen pictures of ocean plastic from the beach, but have we seen a shark swimming near a plastic bag or an eagle ray swimming over artificial flowers?

With a bird’s eye view, the drone can spot anything, from a manatee caught in construction debris to sargassum clouding thousands of square yards of water on our beaches. Within these 15 images, you will be able to witness how humans are impacting our ocean. There is a synergy that exists within the delicate balance of the Earth. As long as we respect and preserve what we have, this synergy will continue. We hope that through these images you will be inspired to become a steward for the environment, whether in the ocean or on land.

And Bryce Raley