Video content creator uses drone images to showcase Durban’s splendour and promote tourism in the city

Videographer and content creator, Juelz T. Picture: Supplied

Videographer and content creator, Juelz T. Picture: Supplied

Published May 14, 2024


Durban-born Julian Tharmiha, also known as Juelz, is on a mission to showcase Durban to the world.

With a professional background in the corporate world of banking, finance and insurance, he has also pursued his passion for photography and videography creating a successful online brand on all social media platforms, including TikTok.

According to Juelz, transitioning from such a structured environment corporate finance to the creative realm of content creation has given him a distinctive skill set.

And through Juelz Elevated Visualz, created by Juelz, he showcases Durban as a tourism destination.

“It’s not every day you find a content creator who can blend analytical precision with artistic vision. This blend of the best of contrasting worlds enables me to offer a unique perspective through my work, both on and my personal channels,” said Tharmiha.

We spoke to the video content creator about his work in drone photography.

An aerial shot of fisherman drawing in a net full of sardines. Picture: Supplied

How did you get into drone photography?

My fascination with photography and videography started as a hobby, long before smartphones transformed photography. I've always been captivated by technology and gadgets, owning various digital cameras over the years and honed some of skills practising at church as a volunteer.

Though I don't consider myself a professional photographer, the lockdown during Covid-19 sparked a deeper interest in videography and content creation.

Trapped at home with limited activities, I joined the TikTok community and began creating videos, which quickly became a passion as my skills in video creation and editing developed alongside the growing likes and views on my content.

Also as a tech enthusiast, I've always been drawn to drones. Watching stunning drone footage online, I always thought, “I could do that”.

When I finally got my own drone, I was a natural at it. My initial foray into drone videography coincided with the sardine season.

Instead of fishing, I was at the beach with my drone, capturing the netting processes and activities at the beach. These videos offered viewers a unique aerial perspective of the sardine shoals, netting activities and marine life like Bryde's whales, sharks, dolphins, birds and huge game fish interacting with the shoals.

The positive feedback on these early videos fuelled my passion, driving me to capture as much unique content as I could.

An aeriel shot Ushaka Marine World. Picture: Supplied

Why are you passionate about taking pictures of Durban and what do you hope to achieve?

My passion for capturing Durban through my lens is deeply rooted in my connection to this city. Durban is not just where I live; it's a hub of vibrant diversity, rich history, and stunning landscapes.

Through my photography, particularly from the unique aerial perspectives that drone technology affords, I aim to present Durban in ways that even locals might not have seen.

My goal is to unearth the hidden gems and narrate the untold stories of our city, while also casting new light on its popular attractions.

There are also thousands of people who may never have the opportunity to see some of these spots in person, and I hope my content brings them some joy.

As much as I want to reach that successful investor across our borders, I also want to reach that little kid in some remote place in South Africa who will be inspired to dream and motivated to one day visit some of these places.

Furthermore, I aspire to inspire, especially the youth, encouraging them to explore creative technologies such as drones not just for recreation, but as potential career paths.

Ultimately, my vision is to elevate Durban's profile as a premier global destination. By highlighting its beauty and cultural wealth, I aim to contribute to the local economy by boosting tourism and encouraging investment.

The Queen Mary 2 at the MSC Cruises Nelson Mandela Cruise Terminal. Picture: Supplied

What challenges have you faced along the way pursuing your passion and promoting the city?

Recently, I faced one of my most daunting challenges yet. I was detained, arrested, had my drone seized, and I spent a night in Durban Central jail for flying my drone near the cruise terminal.

The irony of the situation was that I wasn't even flying my drone at that moment. I had been contacted by someone from the Virgin Voyages Cruise ship who had seen my previous drone content.

They wanted me to capture their inaugural visit to Durban, which I was aiming to do.

In hindsight, I realise I should have educated myself and been more aware of the rules and regulations surrounding drone flights and restricted zones.

I fully support and respect the law, and I understand that consequences are necessary when laws are broken. However, I also believe that the punishment should fit the crime.

I apologised for my oversight, was educated on the matter and complied with everything that was asked of me.

An aerial shot of Anstey’s Beach at the Bluff, South of Durban. Picture: Supplied

What lessons have you learned from this experience?

This incident led me to share my experience on social media to raise public awareness about no-fly zones, aiming to prevent other hobbyists and professionals from facing similar extreme situations.

The response was eye-opening, many reached out to express their own lack of awareness regarding no-fly zones.

This highlighted a significant gap in public knowledge, which could be addressed through more effective communication from both authorities and companies.

There's a clear need for accountability to ensure that no-fly zones are well-marked, particularly in public areas like cruise terminals where signage is essential for informing the public.

Moreover, this experience has only strengthened my resolve to become a licensed drone pilot, despite the significant barriers to entry.

The licensing process is expensive, costing as much or more than many drones themselves. There are additional costs for medical exams and further licenses needed to operate a drone business.

These high costs and stringent requirements make it difficult for enthusiastic individuals to pursue drone photography as a business, potentially hindering the growth of a growing industry that could significantly enhance our tourism sector.

Countries that have embraced drone technology have seen its benefits in boosting tourism. It is a tool we can use to drastically strengthen and grow our very own tourism industry.

We need to adopt a more drone-friendly approach. We are a growing economy and need all the tools that can help us boost tourism and help bring tourists and investors into our beautiful country.