Wildlife cinematographer Austin Alvarado has a passion for the wild and rugged Big Bend region of Texas. He fell in love with the place while working a summer internship at Far Flung Outdoor Center while in college. After earning a bachelor’s degree in recreation, parks, and tourism from Texas A&M, Austin set out on an epic adventure, biking from Portland, Oregon, down to the Mexican border.
The need for a job led him back to Big Bend, and, fortunately for him, a river guide position was available at Far Flung. He spent the next five years leading commercial trips on the Rio Grande, learning every twist and turn of the river along the way. His home base is in Terlingua, where he’s been living for close to a decade.
“I never intended to be out in Big Bend for so long, but I became part of a community there,” Austin said. “I owe a lot of my success to just being out there.”
For Austin, being “out there” has led to some incredible experiences.
“I’ve hiked around every protected piece of land on both the Mexico and Texas border throughout Big Bend. I put a lot of importance into being in the back country and being in uncomfortable positions. Outdoor challenges seem to always lead me to another venue in my life.”
His knowledge of Big Bend and proficiency as a river guide led to Austin being selected as a featured character in the 2019 documentary film, The River and the Wall. Through that project, he connected with filmmaker Ben Masters. That filmmaking adventure led to the next turn in his career.
“I knew I could learn film skills, and I just needed a chance and some guidance. Through that project, I became really good friends with some extraordinarily talented people who have been incredibly generous with their time. I started doing location scouting first, then pitched in doing general labor, and that led to picking up a camera.”
Just a few short years later, Austin is part of Masters’ Fin and Fur Productions and has already racked up an impressive list of credits on wildlife and adventure film projects for National Geographic, Disney+ and PBS. The team’s latest project is Deep in the Heart, the first blue-chip wildlife documentary ever produced about Texas wildlife. The film will premiere later this year and aims to inspire Texans to conserve our remaining wild places, to show the connectivity of water and wildlife, and to recognize Texas’ conservation importance on a continental scale.
“We traveled all over the state, and it’s been an amazing adventure. I filmed bison in the Panhandle, ocelots in South Texas, gators along the coast, and bears in Big Bend. What’s so incredible about this whole project is everybody on the team loves the state so much and we are so proud of everything that Texas has to offer. We’re excited about sharing it with Texas and the world.”
The project underscored Austin’s understanding of private land conservation in Texas.
“What really hit home for me was that the vast majority of the state is private land. We filmed on public land too, and access is important. But to understand that these private landowners across Texas do the utmost to protect and conserve their land, because they’re proud of it, because they’re proud of Texas, and they are proud of their land legacy. Kudos to private landowners in Texas who do everything they can to protect and conserve their land and habitat and the incredible wildlife that lives in that habitat.”
Austin is proud to join the ranks of We Will Not Be Tamed ambassadors for Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. We Will Not Be Tamed calls us to appreciate the wildness of Texas, the vastness of our Texas spirit, and why we should be inspired to conserve it.
“The filmmaking experiences I’ve had over the last few years have instilled a desire to be more of an advocate for what I love. It all started on the Rio Grande in Big Bend, and I hope I can be a voice and help spread the word about conservation of the wild places we love in Texas.”