Interview With Travel Photographer: Noel Alvarenga

Cruising through Instagram, it has been difficult for me to find something truly eye catching recently. Portraits, bridges and coffee shops have all began to merge under #exploremore and it was getting old. Until I happened upon Noel Alvarenga. Under the handle @noel.alva, this travel photographer held a style I hadn't seen much of before. Hopefully through this interview, you'll begin to see why. 

How long have you been shooting professionally?

What defines a professional photographer? Is it when you get paid to shoot photographs or when your only source of income is taking photographs? Because I’ve been getting paid to shoot since I was out of high school. As soon as my friends began to marry each other, they would ask me to take their engagement and wedding photos and I did, but up until last year, photography was always a second source of income and not my main job.

There is a very unique style to your photos. What would you say are your top 3 tips for branding yourself as a photographer?

Well, this is a tough one. I shoot every style of photography but not all of it ever appears on my personal Instagram. What I showcase there is very specific to what I’ve always enjoyed growing up, which is adventuring with friends or strangers in beautiful landscapes. I tend to not  show a face because I want anyone to look at my photographs and be able to place themselves in that moment in time as well. So, my account ended up branding itself as a travel  account of girls looking off into the horizons.

All time favorite place to shoot?

My favorite place to shoot has to be Yosemite or Australia. Truth be told, I haven’t done much traveling to many different countries, but I hope to change that in the coming years. I’ve been to four total: Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and El Salvador, which is where my parents are from. But I enjoy going to new places I’ve never been before.

Did you always think fashion/travel photography would be where you’d end up?

It’s not where I thought I’d end up, but it is what I always wanted to do with my life. I have been taking photographs of my adventures with my friends since I was 15. That’s now half my lifetime and to finally be able to do that is wonderful. But it was never something I thought would happen. I did it because I loved to.

The idea of No Anchor is that nothing should hold you down from reaching your goals. What has been your biggest challenge getting to where you are now? Advice for getting past it?

The biggest challenge for me was putting your name out there. I never put my name out there when I began to take photos. It was all word of mouth between my friends. But as I began to shoot more weddings, I was then asked to make cards and a website so people can reach out to me. I did but was hesitant because I just took photographs because I enjoyed it. I see lots of people today who want to become Instagram famous and whatnot, but do not perfect their craft of photography or have no original ideas and just copy and paste so to speak with their work. I feel that can be toxic. Do what you do because you love to. If you’re not having fun and experimenting, you are doing it for the wrong reasons.

Looking at your Instagram, there are so many stunning scenes, paired often paired with the back of someones head. So why never show their faces?

I get asked this question the most. What people don’t realize is that I do take photos of peoples faces; however, when it comes to my personal Instagram, I prefer to not include those images. What my intention with my photographs are to fuel someone to get out and explore the world, near or far. It doesn’t matter, but to just go out there, alone or in company, and see the beauty that surrounds us. My photos with the hidden faces make it possible for anyone to put themselves into the images.  

You got to work with Head and the Heart?! Tell us a little about that. Is music photography something you enjoy?

I actually live with the piano player from The Head and the Heart and we have been friends for well over a decade. It’s been incredible getting to see them start from nothing to selling out incredible venues and performing at festivals for thousands and thousands. But music to me is everything. My life is a long soundtrack of songs that fuel me and inspire me. I love photographing concerts, but I don’t do it as often as I should. But to go on tour with a band would seem like a fun thing to do. Maybe I’ll convince The Head and the Heart to take me on their next tour!

What’s your favorite “get motivated” quote or song?

This is a bit embarrassing, but the song that gets me pumped and motivated is a song from Drake called ‘Over’. I lived in Australia for a year when I had moved out there for a girl. It didn’t work out as soon as I got there, but it was my first time I had ever been overseas so I decided to just ride the wave out and stay for my one year visa. I knew nobody. I had no friends, family, or idea of what I was doing. Nobody knew I was a photographer so I had to start from the ground up and I had about 2k followers on IG so I began to just do me and live life, which is one of the main lyrics of the song. It fueled a fire in me and I still listen to it to this very day to get pumped.

What’s next for you?

I want to expand. I want to shoot for more companies and travel the world with my photography. I have lots of friends that I had met in Australia that do tourism photography and get to travel the world and I’d love to do more of that. I had a taste of that last year when I was flown to The Great Barrier Reef to adventure and shoot for 5 days with several other Australian photographers. It was so magical and I want to do more of that.

Any advice to the young bloods looking to follow in your footsteps?

My advice would be to do it because you love it. I never sought fame or popularity or any of that, I shot and adventured with individuals because it was a beautiful story and memory for me that I wanted to capture through my lens so I could remember it myself for when I’m older. Perfect your craft. Have fun. Because if you’re not having fun, then you are in the wrong business.