I'm Alex Noriega, ask me anything!

Hi Duane,

I would love to say that I make images 100% for myself, and I think I do for the most part. My own beliefs and preferences guide me more than anything else throughout the image creation process. But I’ve built those sensibilities of mine over the years not only by making my own work, but by observing the work of others and picking up bits of inspiration from everywhere. There are fellow photographers and artists I really respect and whose work I really love, and I would be lying if I said they didn’t influence me in some way during the image creation process.

Maybe when I’m honing in a composition I realize that the way I’m balancing it seems like something a certain photographer would do. Or maybe when I’m shooting a certain subject or type of light I think about how it seems like something a certain photographer would choose to shoot. Or maybe when I’m processing an image and trying to dial it in, I think about a certain photographer’s work and how I love their restrained approach, and wonder what they might think about this image I’m making–this may guide me to pull back the contrast or saturation, for example. Or maybe I come across a combination of composition and light and form that I just know is going to be widely popular. That won’t be the reason I shot it, but I’ll recognize that people are probably going to like it (which isn’t always the case).

So it’s not that I’m making images to try and meet the expectations of peers, but I do recognize that certain images will have wide or niche appeal, and I do draw inspiration from my peers, even if I’m not actively trying to do so. I don’t let this stop me from making an image I like. If I like it I’m going to shoot it, regardless of what people might like to see from me instead.

Regarding processing and keeping it “real”, that’s almost another answer on its own, but I’ll say that making my processing believable isn’t about satisfying anyone else’s requirements. It’s about keeping the “fourth wall” intact so that the processing doesn’t detract from the subject or the viewing experience.

Hey Alex!

Having lived on the road and given the opportunity to stay in a particular place for an extended period of time, I am curious on your favorite 3 areas you have been able to see on 4 wheels. My wife and I own a 4 wheel camper on a tacoma and have fallen in love with seeing our continent on wheels. We have been lucky enough to drive from our home (Oregon City, OR) up to Alaska as well as down to parts of Utah. I have yet to get down to the deeper SW but have always loved spending time in the desert.

Love your work, thanks for the inspiration!

Hi Jim! Those are kind words, perhaps too kind for the likes of me. :slight_smile:

I haven’t had any formal training in the arts. In fact, I just hit a decade of shooting as we ticked over into January 2020, so I’m a relative newcomer compared to many of the experts you probably refer to. But in those ten years, I’ve always been self-employed, even before photography became my profession, and so I’ve been lucky enough to have lots of time to dedicate to this pursuit–more time than most people would get in two or more decades, I suspect.

I would hesitate to say self-taught, because while I’ve never taken a workshop or purchased any educational materials, I’ve certainly learned an immeasurable amount from others, be it from studying their work or reading their writings.

I’ll be honest with you–I don’t always know what I want to say either. Many of my favorite images were just found by chance. By recognizing the potential for a composition when I came across it, I said what I felt intuitively about that landscape or that occurrence of light. What you may perceive as a great clarity in my vision may simply be my particular set of preferences and beliefs when it comes to composition, light, subject, color, and tonality. Maybe I’m good at executing them consistently and curating my output to only my best, but anyone can do that if they’re critical enough of their own work!

The way to develop these sensibilities is to distill your preferences down to their core elements–to recognize what specifically it is that you like about your own and others’ successful images, in terms of the types of compositions, the balance, the subject matter, the types of light, the color and tonality, etc. If you recognize those elements, you can deliberately (and later, intuitively) employ them in your own work, and if you’re consistent and true to what you really like, your work will take on that kind of consistency as well.


Hi Jeff!

I’d say Capitol Reef, Death Valley, and the Redwoods have been my favorite three areas. You can’t go wrong with the Southwest in general - you could spend a lifetime there and not see everything.

We just hit the road full-time in the fall, so we haven’t had a ton of time with the nomadic life yet, but I do love seeing North America this way. We will be spending some time in Alaska next year, most likely. Before getting the trailer with my girlfriend, I was living out of my truck on the road alone for a month at a time, so this is an upgrade!

Staying somewhere for an extended period really opens up the photographic possibilities, as you have the freedom to wait for and follow the light and weather wherever it’s best. And for me, it’s nice to have the freedom to wander, take my time, and not feel pressure to produce images in a short time.

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@Alex_Noriega Why do you keep avoiding me. :rofl: I kid.

My question is about progression as an artist/photographer. I pay attention to your work a lot. Do you push yourself to evolve or is it a natural progression? Are you influenced by trends that occur in landscape photography or other photographer’s work?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to develop a natural, less influenced progression of my work besides disconnecting completely from the interwebs, in search of creating a unique or individualistic style.

I hope that makes sense. Thanks bud. :slight_smile:

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Hey Gary! You’re one of the few photographers I’ve known online for the longest, and still haven’t met, but would like to meet! Unfortunately I don’t hang around Mt Hood much these days…

I haven’t really deliberately pushed myself to evolve. It has just happened naturally as I get bored of doing the same thing and find something new that excites me–be it a certain subject, type of light, type of composition, or style of processing. I think part of this might be due to the months-long hiatuses I’ve taken over the years. I still think about photography even when I’m not doing it, and I feel as though every time I come back to it, my tendencies have changed (though some have always stayed the same).

I’m not influenced by trends, but I am absolutely influenced by other photographers’ work when it inspires me. I feel like there’s a balance to be struck between disconnecting from influence and being inspired by others. If I was totally disconnected, I’d lose one of my sources of inspiration, but when I’m too connected, I think about other work too much when making my own, which can cloud my vision.

Lately I’m feeling like my work has maybe gotten a bit too literal and static, and I’d like to incorporate more movement, more mysterious light, and more impressionistic techniques. Our friend @TJ_Thorne has inspired me to think about this after seeing his new experimental collections of works in progress. I was also inspired seeing the Monet exhibit at the Denver Art Museum a few days ago–I envy the creative freedom painting allows when compared to photography! (Of course, it also requires a lot more skill… :rofl:)

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Hi Alex. Wonderful images. They are magical. Do you have any specific approach that you take when it comes to studying and scouting for new locations?


I’ll try to sneak in a question to follow up Wes and Pat if it’s not too late…

What, if anything, do you do to try to enhance your ability to be open to find images that call to you in the field? How do you cultivate that mindset? How do you help your workshop students move towards that approach?

(Do you find that there are things outside photography that help or hinder that ability? Reading certain books/poetry/non-fiction, or listening to certain music? )


Hi Alex. First, thanks for your photographs. I’ve been following you since around 2011 and can definitely see the change in style.

How big of a role, would you say, image processing plays in photography? In general and for you personally.
Some people say that the only way photographer can add a part of himself into the image is by processing image heavily. That art starts only after image is already shot.
Is it location, nature, light and composition, or post processing, or both, and in what degree?

And a small followup. Would you still do it if you couldn’t process images?

Hi Alex, I’ve been following you for many years and I really appreciated your change of style over time and maturity. What type of habitat and natural landscape do you prefer?

Greetings Alex. Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. I am a big fan of your work and have been following you for a few years. Over the years I notice your transition from grand landscapes to more intimate landscape, I would like to know if you could talk about adding or including emotion in intimate landscape photos.
I love photographing in fog or with dramatic and moody clouds for my grand landscapes but I also know the importance of capturing smaller more intimate scenes. Besides these more common elements what else can be done to add more passion to intimate scenes?
Thank you Ashley

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Hi Alex - Thank you for sharing your knowledge through this NPN-AMA. A lot of accomplished photographers use the terms “personal expression” and creating “expressive photography” but that concept can seem elusive to those newer to this craft. How do you define and think about those ideas with regard to your own work?

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Hi Alex. Love your images!
My question - your images have a clarity about them that most images simply do not have. Even when comparing your images to other great images (Sean Bagshaw, Guy Tal, Colleen Minuik, Alister Benn, and many shooters on NPN) yours always seem to be somewhat clearer. Is this due to processing or some other little secret?
Bill Chambers

Hi Alex,

Obviously your images are all beautifully crafted. What prompted your change from shooting big wide landscape to increasingly more intimate anonymous scenes?

Can’t wait for our workshop together in October :smiley:

Hi Rajiv, welcome to NPN!

The answer is no, not really anymore. I used to plan ahead like that, but now I just find hikes/trails that seem neat and wander them until I find light and subjects that compel me to shoot. In order to find a place to shoot, I may study topographic maps for interesting-looking terrain, or look through lists of hikes for whatever area or National Park it is. I stopped trying to make specific planned shots happen, because most of my favorites over the last few years have been things I’ve unexpectedly stumbled across.

Hey Mark!

I find the most helpful thing is to have no particular expectations for a shoot. If I have an expectation of finding a certain shot, then I get tunnel vision for it, and I miss other opportunities. If I don’t feel pressured to come up with anything in particular, then I’m open to anything new that presents itself.

I do try to pass this mentality on to students–that the workshop is not about getting a list of specific shots, but about learning how to find their own based on what interests them in nature. More practically, I show this to workshop students by simply wandering without even pulling out my camera, observing aloud when I see subjects or light that interest me, and mocking up compositions on my smartphone by zooming in and out. This allows for more freedom to quickly explore many potential images than looking through a specific lens on a tripod at eye level does.

I do draw inspiration from art outside of photography (films, paintings, music, and even some video games), but this doesn’t affect my mindset in the field. I don’t like to listen to music in the field, as I prefer to hear the sounds of nature and feel more present wherever I am. These inspiring things outside photography mostly come into my mind during processing, when I’m trying to imbue an image with a specific feel.

Hi Anton! Thanks for following my progression for so long.

I would say it plays a huge role, because indeed, it’s one of the main areas a photographer can add a part of him or herself to the image. I would strongly disagree that it’s the only way, because I think the composition is the most important contribution the photographer makes to any image–it is the image. The light and subject can also be their deliberate choice, or those things can happen by chance. But the composition is always deliberate, and always what makes or breaks an image (with light being inextricably tied to it, as certain light often makes a composition possible or impossible).

Getting back to processing, it is very important, because a whole lot of an image’s atmosphere and feel can be creatively made or altered in this stage. Color and tonality are a large part of the final product, and processing gives one total control over these aspects. If one left these things up to the limited presets available in-camera, they’d be giving up a major avenue of creative expression. I’d rather sculpt everything carefully with a scalpel than take a hatchet to it with global in-camera processing presets (aka picture styles).

I would still do it if I couldn’t process, but I would be annoyed by all the things I couldn’t fix or control with these blunt tools built into the camera. You can’t always remove distractions in the field!

Hi Antonio! I began following you last year and I absolutely love your tree/forest work. Thanks for sticking around to see my style change!

I prefer deserts, by far. I recognize the beauty in mountain landscapes, and I love trees and forests, and the ocean and coasts are really nice, but nothing speaks to my soul like the canyons, mesas, red rock, and vast expanses of the desert.

Thanks for doing this Alex!

My question was related to the one you answered above.

I really enjoy photographing the night, or sunrise and sunset. Unless the case of a very short hike from the car, all 3 of the above cases seem to involve hiking and being in nature in the dark. This is something i enjoy much less, especially if alone or in unfamiliar territory.

Do you do much shooting or hiking at night? If so, how do you manage that without scouting or otherwise knowing the area? I have concerns about wildlife, injuries in new terrain, getting lost, etc.

Hi Ashley, welcome to NPN! I think that emotion and passion will come through if you feel that way about what you’re shooting. If grand landscapes are what make you feel that way, by all means shoot them! I have gone down the intimate path because that’s what has spoken to me.

That said, ethereal effects like fog and light can be just as effective in smaller scenes. Look at a grand landscape where this kind of drama is occurring–it’s not happening over 100% of the frame, is it? Maybe the fog is swirling around a mountain peak. Why must it take a grand composition to capture this dramatic event? A tighter shot of the peak and its more immediate surroundings might actually better showcase the fog that made you feel something. Or maybe the storm light is poking through the clouds and illuminating a stand of trees in the midground–again, the whole scene isn’t necessary to convey something about this dramatic detail.

Intimate compositions are not just a simple matter of arranging a flat pattern within a rectangular frame in even lighting–they can have depth and drama just as a grand composition can. And light can be just as important, if not more so, since you’re seeing how it interacts with the details of nature. The things that light does on a grand scale can also happen on smaller scales. You may get dappled light poking through the canopy of a forest onto small plants below, or a small tree glowing from reflected light on one side in a canyon. The same kinds of drama that you see in a grand landscape are available on smaller scales, you just have to look closer and think smaller. And the same ideas that can be used in grand landscapes also apply to intimate ones in post-processing: emphasizing your subject, dramatizing the light, working with color to suggest a certain feel or atmosphere, etc.

I hope this helps!