Alison Brown Photography: Blog en-us (C) Alison Brown Photography [email protected] (Alison Brown Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:34:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:34:00 GMT Alison Brown Photography: Blog 120 80 Tips For Visiting Yosemite in the Winter If you're like me and born and raised in California, then your winter living/driving skills are likely limited. I'm from the San Francisco Bay Area and have only lived in other mild places like Santa Barbara and Australia. So when I was preparing for a winter trip to Yosemite National Park, I found it hard to find the information I needed to feel comfortable making the trip safely. Below are some helpful tips I learned from my recent trip in January!

1) Some roads are closed all winter

First rule of thumb before visiting Yosemite: ALWAYS CHECK THE WEBSITE. If you've seen images of Half Dome like the one above, that view is from Glacier Point and the road there is closed all winter. You may be able to snowshoe about 10 miles to a spot that will give you a partial view of Half Dome (Dewey Point Trail) but that adventure is very dependent on conditions. Yosemite National Park does have a ski and snowboard area and there are a couple free shuttles that take you there from the valley, otherwise it's usually chains/snow tires required. The road to Glacier Point usually re-opens in May, but given how much snow we've gotten this year it may be pushed further out. Other roads that are usually closed in winter are Mariposa Grove and Badger Pass Road.

2) Try to find lodging in Yosemite Valley

Bridalveil Falls in winterBridalveil Falls in winter
Conditions in the winter are unpredictable. We had no idea if we were going to get snow when we were there because the forecast kept saying rain likely. It wasn't until 11 p.m. on Sunday evening when the snow started falling. It snowed 7-8 inches overnight! It as so beautiful and a dream come true, but if I had stayed outside the valley it would of been hard getting back to the park because of road conditions (and it was mostly melted by 1 p.m.). Sometimes when it snows, they close all roads leading in and out of the valley. With the damage from recent winter storms, it's also a good idea to double check and make sure your reservation is still standing. In winter it is usually easier to find accommodation in the valley, but in spring or summer, I usually book accommodation at least 6-8 months in advance.

3) ALWAYS Carry Chains

If you're planning to visit Yosemite in the winter, you need to carry chains regardless of whether your car has 4WD or not. It's required by law and rangers can pull you over and fine you if you're not adhering to road restrictions. You can call (209) 372-0200, then press 1 and 1 again to find out the latest conditions. They are updated all the time and whenever conditions change. If you're unfamiliar with road restrictions this is what they will tell you in the message:

  • R0: No restrictions
  • R1: Chains or snow tires required
  • R2: Chains or 4WD with snow tires required
  • R3: Chains mandatory on all vehicles 

I took a 2WD car with me because it was unlikely that it was going to snow, but if I was planning to head up there again in winter I would definitely take a 4WD and buy chains for it. You can get them on Amazon or usually any auto center. Just make sure you buy chains that fit your specific tires since they come in various sizes. It's also highly advised that you try putting the chains on BEFORE you're in the snow and have no idea what you're doing, or to find out that they are the wrong size. 

Also.. funny side story, apparently my 2WD car that I brought to the snow HATES being cold, and the battery froze, even though it was above freezing temps... luckily we were in a super beautiful spot watching the sun rise over half dome where a coyote was also running around, so we had plenty to keep us occupied while we waited for some good samaritans to help us out with jumper cables :) So if you've never taken your car to the snow, I HIGHLY recommend googling your make and model and see if it has any known issues with cold starts or winter driving. Really wish I had done that!

4) Fill up your gas before you enter Yosemite Valley

One other thing I wish I had done was fill up my gas tank before entering the valley. I didn't use much gas last time I visited because I was hiking so much, but this time we were doing a lot of driving. I also got asked by several people when I was shooting where the closest gas station was. It is 30 minutes away. You really want a full tank for a couple reasons.

1) In case anything happens or you drive off the road and get stuck, you can leave your car idling for a long time and you won't freeze.

2) You don't have to constantly worry that if you miss a turn in the valley (which can add 25 minutes to your journey) it's not the end of the world. The loop around the valley is one way, so a missed turn can add on at least 25 minutes depending on conditions. 

5) Take highway 140 and avoid 120

Rule of thumb if visiting Yosemite in the winter: do NOT take highway 120. It's often closed or icy and it's just not worth it. I also recall it being a downward slope with 1,000 foot cliffs on the side and I really would not want to hit ice heading down that road. Highway 140 does have some rock slides from time to time, so again, call ahead of time and make sure you're in the clear. It can sometimes be a chain zone as well so make sure you leave yourself enough time. Max speeds when driving in chains are around 25 MPH unless you want to damage your car. 


Winter in Yosemite is one of my favorite things in the world. Its beauty almost brought me to tears and it is so very special, but it's important that you're safe if making this winter trek. Have questions or think I'm missing something? Feel free to shoot me an email

[email protected] (Alison Brown Photography) national park service national parks snow in yosemite travel winter driving winter tips for yosemite yosemite yosemite national park yosemite snow yosemite valley yosemite winter Sat, 09 Feb 2019 19:59:08 GMT
The Ultimate Guide for a Magical Couples Session Have you been wanting to do an engagement shoot, a couples session, or thought about maybe even eloping, but you don't know where to begin? This guide is meant to help couples plan for and feel confident about going in front of the camera so you can have fun while we're together. 

If You Look Good, You'll Feel Good Too

Ladies - even if you aren't into getting your hair and makeup done, you might want to consider it for your couples session. Professional hair and makeup photographs well, and there's a way to ensure it still looks natural. It's also an excellent time to do a trial with your wedding hair and makeup vendors! Contact them ahead of them to see if it's is possible to coordinate for your engagement session.

Another option - let your photographer help you out! Photographers are usually creatives at heart, which means they likely have other creative skills up their sleeves... Fun fact about me: when in High School I wanted to become a makeup artist and have actually done makeup for 4-5 of my clients before the shoot (they bring their own makeup ahead of time). If you're interested in this service, feel free to drop me a line

Another thing to think about - if we're doing an engagement shoot, consider getting your nails done beforehand since there will be some photos of the ring. And if you have time, try to get it polished before too so it's extra sparkly for the camera. 

Where Should We Shoot?

It goes without saying that location is everything. My dream locations are usually National Parks or definitely somewhere woodsy, mountainous, or by the beach. If you don't know where to begin, start by thinking about places that inspire you. Did your fiance propose somewhere that you'd like to visit again to recreate the magic of that moment? Did you have a special weekend getaway in Big Sur and have always wanted to go back? Do you both love skiing and want to do an adventurous session on the top of a mountain in Lake Tahoe? What about your favorite local coffee shop, or even your local park? Locations don't have to be far away from home, but they should at least have meaning for you. If you don't want to choose a location, I'm happy to provide some suggestions and help you decide on an ideal spot. 

A couple other things to consider that are sometimes overlooked - sometimes permits are required for certain locations, so we'll need to keep this in mind. Also, if you want to do a couple outfit changes, think about where you might be able to change - is there a bathroom there, or can you park nearby? Once the location and date have been decided on, the timing be worked out in order to ensure we have the best light possible.

What Should I Wear?

If you've seen any of my work, you know I love color, but I also love natural tones. If you're looking for bold and vivid, I can help you decide what to wear based on the location and complimentary colors. But generally speaking, stick to light and neutral shades for the base of your outfit with a pop of color. Blush, cream, soft blues and light gray are wonderful - perhaps with a pair of red shoes or earrings. 

But make sure that you and your partner are on the same page! You want to look like you're heading to the same place - the right amount of casual and the right amount of color to compliment the scenery. If you can't decide on an outfit, feel free to drop me an email and I can weigh in. One of my packages also offers two wardrobe options, so we can get photos in two different outfits!

Tips and Tricks for the Shoot

  • Relax, and have fun! This is meant to be a fun activity, so try to go with the flow.
  • The first few minutes will be awkward, but that is completely normal! Unless you're a model and are used to being in front of the camera, it will take a few minutes for it to feel natural.
  • Don't worry about what you look like - let me take care of that. Focus on your partner. Think about it as a date and flirt with each other! 
  • It's okay to be silly and whisper corny jokes in your partner's ear - the more you can make each other laugh, the better! 
  • Feeling stuck? That's okay - we can take a break anytime. Sometimes all you need is a little reset. Think about bringing some snacks and water so you don't get hungry or dehydrated. 
  • Poses to think about... I LOVE soft kisses on the forehead, getting close, hugging, kissing, holding hands, walking, dancing and twirling... once we're together I'll give you more cues. 

Any Questions?

If you have any questions on what I said above, please get in touch! I'd be happy to help. Ready to book? Head on over to my booking page!

[email protected] (Alison Brown Photography) bay area engagement photographer bay area photographer california couples session couples session guide elopement photography engagement guide engagement photography engagement photoshoot engagement session how to elope how to prepare for a photoshoot oakland wedding photography what to wear to a photoshoot what wear at an an engagement session Wed, 16 Jan 2019 21:27:29 GMT
Branding Photography: What is it, and why is it useful?

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

- Maya Angelou



As a photographer, I strongy believe in the power of visual communication. Whether this communication takes place through photos or videos, the use of visual multimedia helps people feel a connection to you.

This is especially true for images that are used for marketing. Photography has been used to tell compelling stories for many years. A recent example that comes to mind is the National Geographic magazine cover "Planet or Plastic" that depicted a floating plastic bag that could be mistaken for an iceberg. This confronting use of imagery had people talking about the world's plastic pollution problem for weeks. What a powerful message.

Creating an Emotional Connection

Branding photography is all about communicating the story behind your brand through visual imagery. Are you a lifestyle brand trying to show people how they will feel when eating your healthy food, or how fun it will be to drink from your reusable water bottle? Or are you a small business trying to get people to purchase your awesome product online? Even if you're a coach or freelancer, a branding photoshoot can be used to help people get to know you better by letting your personality shine through. 

If done correctly, the branding aspect of marketing is a very detailed and carefully thought out process that defines the core of your brand. Who you are, and how you want to be perceived in the market. Once defined, the use of visual imagery ties into this message by really showing people who you are. 

Don't underestimate the power of vulnerability

This really depends on your brand and the type of product or service you are selling, but I believe that the more vulnerable you are through your use of multimedia, the more likely people will be to choose you over others. People want to feel connected to the product or service you are selling. They want it to feel personal, even if they aren't conciously aware of this factor. 

Branding photography helps your brand come to life, it gives it a persona and an identity. Something that people can relate to. They can actually start to visualize your product/service in their life. They want to know who you are and what you're about. They want to know how your product will change their life.


So, how is branding photography useful?

For one, it is a very powerful marketing tool. Not only can you use this content for your website, but you can also use it on social media. If you plan ahead, you can capture a ton of great images in one photoshoot and have great content stockpiled for 6-12+ months. I know of many small businesses who have received a lot of business through Instagram and other social media platforms because they created a powerful persona through great branding photography that magnetizes the right clients. Not only do these branding images bring their products and services to life, but others will want to re-share these beautiful images too - driving even more traffic back to their page and increasing brand visibility.

Vita Kitchen ShootVita Kitchen ShootSONY DSC

Interested in doing a branding photoshoot?

If you've thought about doing a branding photoshoot or want to create more visual imagery for your website or social media profiles, I'd be happy to answer questions and provide you with a free 30 minute consultation. Please send me an email or fill out this lovely booking request form so I can better understand you and your needs.    

[email protected] (Alison Brown Photography) brand photographer branding branding photographer branding photography content curation digital marketing marketing online marketing social media Mon, 25 Jun 2018 22:43:42 GMT
Can Coral Reefs Adapt to Climate Change? The Great Barrier ReefThe Great Barrier Reef

By Alison M. Brown

Coral reefs are some of the ocean’s most spectacular attractions. Their vibrant, glistening colors are hard to miss, especially with the right kind of the sunlight. But coral reefs aren’t just aesthetically pleasing, they also provide unique habitats for 25 percent of all marine life and act as a primary source of food and income for over 500 million people.

Coral reefs currently face a number of risks, but the one posing the greatest threat to their long-term survival is climate change. Even though we’ve only experienced a global temperature increase of one degree Celsius, the impacts so far have been devastating. 

Ocean researchers estimate that approximately 75 percent of coral reefs are considered threatened or deceased because they are highly sensitive to changes in ocean chemistry. When we burn fossil fuels and gases like carbon are released into the atmosphere, our oceans absorb it, just like trees. Carbon emissions also impact global temperatures because they amplify a phenomenon called the greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere act as a blanket for the earth, keeping temperatures within a habitable range. But as we add more of these gases to the atmosphere, global temperatures rise, which leads to climate instability. 

Coral bleaching

The reason why reefs are so sensitive to these global changes is because of a symbiotic algae that lives on coral structures. The algae is known to scientists as zooxanthellae (zo-zan-THELL-ee) and provides corals with nutrition and their vibrant colors. When the ocean starts to warm, these highly sensitive algaes expel from the coral, causing their skeletal systems to become bleached and vulnerable. This phenomenon is called ‘coral bleaching’ and it’s currently happening to reefs all over the world.

Can other coral reefs survive?

While the future of the Great Barrier Reef is uncertain, not all hope is lost for other reefs around the world. Recent research from the country of Palau suggests there are some types of coral that can adapt quite easily to changes in ocean chemistry and warmer waters. Palau is hotbed of biodiversity which offers scientists a lot of clues for reef adaption strategies. This includes identifying specific traits that adaptive corals carry, which is similar to how researchers are looking for human traits that are resistant to cancer.

Another organization, the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), has also launched program called “Adaptive Reefscapes” that studies how corals can adapt to changing conditions. The program combines cutting-edge science that focuses on coral adaptation within well-connected and diverse networks of healthy reefs. The strategy has a strong focus on diversity, meaning the greater the ecological diversity of the reef, the greater its chance of adapting to a changing environment over time. 

While the future of the Great Barrier Reef is uncertain, not all hope is lost for other reefs around the world. Recent research from the country of Palau suggests there are some types of coral that can adapt quite easily to changes in ocean chemistry and warmer waters. Palau is hotbed of biodiversity which offers scientists a lot of clues for reef adaption strategies. This includes identifying specific traits that adaptive corals carry, which is similar to how researchers are looking for human traits that are resistant to cancer.

Another organization, the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), has also launched program called “Adaptive Reefscapes” that studies how corals can adapt to changing conditions. The program combines cutting-edge science that focuses on coral adaptation within well-connected and diverse networks of healthy reefs. The strategy has a strong focus on diversity, meaning the greater the ecological diversity of the reef, the greater its chance of adapting to a changing environment over time. 

This is important because these special corals can be used to help regrow reefs in other regions of decline. Researchers believe that with the help of local and international communities, we can support the long-term viability of these reefs for generations to come. Nature has an interesting way of being able to adapt to environmental changes, only time will tell if our reefs can adapt fast enough.

[email protected] (Alison Brown Photography) Sat, 15 Apr 2017 01:21:15 GMT
5 Ways to Live a More Sustainable Lifestyle

By Alison M. Brown

If you've read the news lately, you've probably seen the proposed cuts to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the dismantling of energy efficiency programs, rollbacks on drilling regulations, and the repeal of a law preventing mining companies from dumping coal in streams. Unfortunately for the environment, this news is rather bleak.

For most of us, this comes as a complete shock after spending eight years under the progressive leadership of Barack Obama. We thought we were moving in such a positive direction! But we can't rely on the government to protect our environment. Personal commitments to conservation and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions are now more important than ever. Here are five easy ways to contribute.

1. Say no to single-use plastic bags

This is one of the easiest things you can do to help the planet. Experts estimate that single-use plastic bags (like you get at Walgreens or Safeway) can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. That's a lot of years taking up space in a landfill! You can easily get reusable bags created from sustainable materials such as bamboo, canvas or things like recycled plastic. If those are a pain to carry around, just grab a compact one on Amazon or next time you see them at the check out stand. They can fit in your purse or backpack when you're on the go. Not only are these more durable than single-use bags, but you'll be helping the environment a TON. This goes for anything plastic as well, including ziplock bags, garbage bags, tupperware, or those bags you throw veggies in at the supermarket. Unless your bags say "compostable" - just don't use them. Bring your own, or shop at places that keep this in mind. If you're looking for compostable garbage bags, Seventh Generation has a great line of eco-friendly products - they're available at Target.

2. Be a conscious consumer

As I mentioned before, plastic anything is terrible for the environment and most of it winds up in our oceans. Scientists estimate that over 5 trillion pieces of plastic currently inhabit our oceans, which accumulate into garbage patches twice the size of Texas, or wind up being consumed by wildlife. So if you see a product that uses a lot of plastic wrapping, try to buy another brand that doesn't. One other way I like to be a conscious consumer is by purchasing household appliances or other gadgets that have multiple uses. This strategy has been a good way to simplify my life, and also ensure clutter is kept to a minimum. One of my favorite gadgets is my beloved Blendtec blender, which I received as a birthday gift last year (thanks, KB!). Not only can it make delicious smoothies in under 30 seconds, it can blend soup, grind coffee beans, puree vegetables, juice fruits, AND it's self-cleaning. When you're finished, you just add one cup of water with a bit of soap and run the cleaning cycle. Talk about efficient!  

3. Stop using paper towels

Ending the use of paper towels is another great way to help the environment. Surprisingly, this is one I have trouble with. If I make a sticky mess, cloth towels only absorb so much and they become sticky themselves. The push for sustainable business practices and advancements in technology mean that more sustainable paper towels are on the market, but they aren't a necessity - they're just convenient. Bounty paper towels, for example, are now 100% made from responsibly managed forests. While that's great news, trees are also absorb carbon dioxide, one of the main contributors to climate change. Imagine if we cut down no trees at all? We'd have that many more available to absorb carbon and keep our air clean.

4. Stop drying your clothes in the dryer

This one is tough for Americans. If you grew up in the US, you're accustomed to drying your clothes in the dryer. But in most countries around the world, dryers are viewed as wasteful and people don't own them. When I was living in Australia, all of my laundry was done by hanging it to dry the natural way. Because I lived in Melbourne with some painfully long winters, I had to get pretty strategic with my laundry because sometimes clothing would take up to a week or more to dry. So if you are one of the lucky ones who live in regions such as Southern California, you have plenty of opportunities to dry your clothes in the sun. You can use a clothes horse, or even go the old fashioned way with a clothing line. Drying your clothes naturally also improves longevity and helps retain color.

5. Wash your dishes with one sink of water

As a native Californian, I'm surprised this hasn't become a widely adopted practice. Many experts believe the next resource crisis will focus on clean water supplies. According to National Geographic, "while nearly 70 percent of the world is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of it is fresh. Even then, just 1 percent of our freshwater is easily accessible, with much of it trapped in glaciers and snowfields." With access to very limited amounts of fresh water, it's imperative we conserve this precious resource. When I was living in Australia, I noticed a lot of people washing dishes using just one sink of water. I grew up by endlessly running the tap while I washed dishes, clearly an inefficient and wasteful practice. Australia has a drought-prone environment (as does California) and during one of their most severe drought periods, the government implemented educational campaigns to help people learn basic water saving techniques. These included filling your sink with soapy water and washing/rinsing all dishes there, instead of running the tap. It also included keeping a bucket in the shower to catch runoff to use for watering plants. As an American, these techniques took some getting used to (especially having a bucket in the shower) but it really makes a lot of sense. 

*Bonus: Get rid of your car*

For the last six years, I've been a proud non-car owner. I decided to get rid of my car not for environmental purposes, but because I was moving overseas. But not having a car has been a breath of fresh air. Not only have my stress levels decreased significantly, I've helped decrease carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. Over the last six years, I've been fortunate enough to live in Melbourne, Australia and San Francisco, California where I had access to great public transportation systems. The sharing economy also provided services such as Lyft and Uber, so I could get around for a lot cheaper than owning a car. I also had Flexicar, Getaround and Zipcar memberships, meaning I could rent cars by the hour whenever I needed wheels. While ditching your car isn't feasible for everyone, I challenge you to think about using your car less frequently. Could you walk to the store instead of drive? Can you carpool to dinner? Do you really need to drive to get a coffee, or can you make one at home?

Making a conscious effort to think about your impact will change your perception and your lifestyle overtime. It's changed mine, and I hope it can change yours, too. To learn more about sustainability or my work in this area please visit

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[email protected] (Alison Brown Photography) car sharing carbon emissions climate change conservation energy conservation plastic pollution save energy save water sustainability water conservation Sat, 25 Mar 2017 22:02:46 GMT
How does shark finning affect the ecosystem? Coral Reefs of Nusa LembonganCoral Reefs of Nusa Lembongan By Alison M. Brown

Sharks are some of the ocean's most fascinating creatures. They are one of the planet’s oldest, with the first evidence of sharks dating back to over 450 million years ago. Over 400 species exist today, which range from 8 inches to up to 40 feet in length.

While great white sharks are the most feared by humans, it’s not commonly known that the bull shark is actually the most dangerous. This is due to their extreme aggression, coupled with their ability to swim in both salt and fresh water. Another shark that poses a risk to humans is the tiger shark, primarily because of its willingness to eat almost anything - hence how it earned the name, ‘maneater.’

But despite being the most revered fish of the sea, sharks are actually more likely to be killed by humans than the other way around. According to environmental organization, Wild Aid, approximately 100 million sharks are killed by humans each year. In 1995, only 15 species of sharks were considered threatened, and by 2010 this figure had grown to over 180.

There are two primary reasons why so many sharks are killed each year. One is related to bycatch, where sharks are inadvertently caught in commercial fishing nets and aren’t returned to the ocean. The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) estimates that approximately 3.3 million sharks die this way every year.

The second, and perhaps the most alarming reason, can be attributed to the demand for shark fins. According to the WWF, shark finning accounts for 73 million deaths annually. If you haven’t heard the term ’shark finning’ before, it refers to the process of capturing sharks, removing their fins, then discarding the body of the shark (usually alive) in the ocean where it slowly sinks to the bottom of the sea. A sad and cruel process - one that doesn't need to exist.

The driving force behind the unsustainable demand for fins is associated with the increasing hunger for ‘shark fin soup.’ It’s a popular delicacy in China and Southeast Asia and is usually served at weddings or other special events. Experts believe shark fin soup dates back to Ming Dynasty in the 14th century, and unfortunately, demand for this dish has been increasing as the population grows and globalization expands access to wealth.

But the demise of shark populations is not just a sad story for conservationists - the loss of these creatures has far-reaching consequences for the rest of the ocean. Most sharks are considered to be apex predators, which means they sit on top of the food chain and help regulate the population sizes of the species below them. If some population sizes grow uncontrollably, this can lead to ecosystem instability.

Sharks also serve as an indicator for ocean health. They usually go after the sick, weak and slower fish populations, which helps keep the food web healthy. Not only does this result in fewer unhealthy fish, but this also strengthens their gene pools, contributing to the evolution of species overtime.

However, regulating marine populations is only one role that sharks play. Because of their feeding habits, sharks also indirectly maintain seagrass and coral reef habitats, which are both integral to keeping oceans healthy. Marine life found in these regions are constantly needing to relocate in order to hide from predators, which generates a balanced distribution of organisms.

While both of these contributions are extremely important, one aspect in particular poses the biggest threat to ocean stability. Because sharks are considered by scientists to be a “keystone” species, that means removing them from the ecosystem will cause the whole structure to collapse. A food chain without a keystone species means that other marine populations in the web will also decline substantially, or cease to exist all together. When other marine populations start to decrease, a complete destabilization of the ecosystem occurs. Ocean’s are extremely complex systems that are responsible for regulating the temperature of the earth, and their destabilization can lead to the destabilization of the entire planet.

This may sound fraught with gloom, but not all hope is lost. Wild Aid has produced educational campaigns to discourage consumption and NGO’s around the world have banned together to fight against shark finning. Fisherman are learning how ecotourism is a more sustainable source of income compared to deceased sharks. According to Live Science, the shark ecotourism industry is presently valued at $314 million and projected to double over the next 20 years. While there is still a long way to go, sustained efforts that focus on education and conservation will lead to preservation in the long run, and hopefully, will help prevent an oceanic ecosystem collapse.  


This article will also be published on

[email protected] (Alison Brown Photography) bull sharks conservation ecosystems environmental conservation great white sharks marine life ocean health reef health sharks tiger sharks travel Fri, 17 Mar 2017 07:15:46 GMT
Trekking in Mù Cang Chải, Vietnam Mu Cang ChaiMu Cang Chai

By Alison M. Brown

If you've seen photos of Vietnam, you've probably come across images like you see below. The Northern regions of Vietnam are filled with captivating rice fields that span as far as the eye can see. The terraced rice fields are best to visit in September since that's right before the harvest season in October. If you go after September, the fields will either be yellow in color or completely harvested.

Mù Cang Chải

When I went trekking, I headed to Mù Cang Chải, which is located in the rural district of Yên Bái Province - the Northeast region of Vietnam. It's about a five hour drive north (220km) from Hanoi if traveling by car or motorbike. It's quite remote and English is very limited, so it's best that you also hire a local guide if traveling to the area and you don't speak Vietnamese. 

On the way to Mù Cang Chải, we stopped at a village to see the tea farm at Suoi Giang town. Vietnam is known for its jasmine green tea, and it's delicious!

After that, we continued north and stayed the night at the Muong Lo Hotel in the Nghia Lo township, a small village about an hour away from Mù Cang Chải. In the morning we drove to the infamous Khau Pha Pass which is known for its terraced rice fields. After completing our 13km trek, we spent the night along a river at the Khau Pha Hostel.

What you need to know

For booking a trek like this, it's easiest when done through a tour agent. They are easy to find all throughout Vietnam and since they speak the local language, it's more likely that your reservations will be made correctly.

The trek itself was steep at times, and a lot of it uphill. We witnessed some people riding motorbikes up the mountain instead of walking. But if you're in reasonably good shape you'll do fine if you take your time. In total, the trek took about five hours to complete. We were walking at a rather slow pace, as I stopped to take many photos and absorb the breathtaking scenery. 

Below are few of my favorite photos from the trek. For more photos from Mù Cang Chải and Vietnam, please click here


[email protected] (Alison Brown Photography) countryside mù cang chải rice fields rice terraces travel travel photographer travel photography trekking vietnam Wed, 23 Nov 2016 03:02:00 GMT
Travel is the Only Thing You Buy that Makes You Richer

By Alison M. Brown

Half-way through my last quarter in college, a couple friends and I explored a local hostel in Santa Barbara, California. One of the walls was decorated with a brightly colored mural, depicting a life-size map of the world. 

"Let's go on a trip after graduation," I said to my friends.

"I'm going to close my eyes and wherever my hands land, that's where we'll go."

I gently closed my eyes and stepped towards the wall. I laid my fingertips against the cold paint and let my imagination guide me. The wall was bumpy and smooth, and my fingers wandered from left to right. When I felt the time was right, I slowly opened my eyes and saw that my hands had lead me to Southeast Asia. 

Later that year, my friend and I agreed to backpack through Asia for five months together. Graduation was approaching, so we booked a roundtrip ticket to Bangkok for $1,000 USD with a two week layover in Tokyo on our way back.

During that five months of travel, I learned more about life than twenty-three years of living. I learned how to save money, how to live on a strict budget, how to negotiate on the spot, how to talk my way out of difficult situations, how to be a good judge of character, how to communicate without words, how to be open, how to make friends quickly, and how to feel confident in my ability to navigate the world and make connections with people from all walks of life. 

I saw how other people lived with less and were happier than a lot of people I knew back home. It taught me how simplicity is key, and how little you actually need to be comfortable. Vietnamese FishermanVietnamese FishermanMui Ne Fishing Village, Vietnam

Ever since this trip, I've had an insatiable curiosity for other cultures. In 2011, I packed up my life and moved to Australia for nearly four years where I worked in the environmental industry and completed a dual master's degree.

From an American point of view, excessive travel is indulgent, but for me, it's a necessity. It's how I thrive, and it's shaped the values that are most important to me. This September, I'm heading to a wedding in Hanoi, Vietnam in September, followed by one month in Bali where I'll be staying at an artist residency in Ubud, then six weeks in Melbourne, Australia, a.k.a my second home. I'll primarily be focusing on my photography and spending countless hours marketing myself and also making connections with people from around the world. I'm going to be working out of two co-working spaces, one called Hubud in Bali and the other called One Roof in Melbourne for female entrepreneurs. 

Please check in on my website for updates + new content! I'm going to be writing more frequently and publishing images from my experiences over the next several months. You can also follow me on Instagram @alisonbrownphotography.

Let the adventures begin :)

[email protected] (Alison Brown Photography) bali indonesia southeast asia travel travel photographer travel photography vietnam wanderlust Fri, 02 Sep 2016 02:02:00 GMT
Perth: Australia’s Isolated Paradise

By Alison M. Brown

Perth might be one of Australia’s lesser-known destinations, but don’t let the lack of popularity fool you. This idyllic city is located in Western Australia, which doesn’t attract as many tourists because of its distance from east coast and the fact that it’s practically uninhabited. During my ten-day stint, I stayed in a town called Cottesloe just outside of Perth, but only one hundred meters from the ocean. Even though my stay was short and I was tempted to overindulge in the laid-back beach lifestyle, I had enough time to explore some of Perth’s most fascinating spots such as Rottnest Island, the sand dunes in Lancelin and the Pinnacles in Cervantes.

Rottnest Island

Since Western Australia borders the Indian Ocean, it’s the perfect haven for white sandy beaches and turquoise waters.Rottnest Island is home to some of the most breathtaking beaches and it’s just a short boat ride away from Perth. If you buy your ticket online for a Tuesday it’s half-priced, just make sure you leave early since there’s a lot to see. Once on Rottnest you can hire a bicycle and do a 25 km (or 15 mile) loop around the island. It’s a pretty easy bike ride if you are fairly fit, but there are some inclines (followed by exciting declines, if you like going fast). You can stop at some of the secluded bays around the island, eat lunch at the lighthouse, swim and snorkel, or check out some of the wildlife. 

Rottnest is home to a marsupial called the quokka, which looks like a cross between a rat and a kangaroo, and they’re only found off the coast of Western Australia.

Lancelin Sand Dunes

The town of Lancelin is only an hour and a half north of Perth. If you hire a car it’s a pretty straightforward drive, or there’s always the option of doing a tour. When traveling I try to avoid tours as much as possible, so luckily a bunch of mates at the hostel I was staying at wanted to rent cars and caravan up there for the day. We hired sand boards for a couple hours and either slid down while sitting, or if you could manage, while standing! It’s harder than it looks since sand is a lot more slippery than snow, but it’s definitely fun if you’ve never tried it before! If you aren’t particularly interested in sand boarding, you can drive through the dunes in 4WD’s, which also looked awesome. If you would prefer to do neither, then just a drive by the sand dunes would be worth the detour as the sight of the dunes overlooking the ocean is quite remarkable.

The Pinnacles

After our adventures at the sand dunes, we continued north to the Pinnacles, which are 45 minutes away of Lancelin. The Pinnacles are limestone rock formations located in the desert of Nambung National Park near a town called Cervantes. Geologists believe that they were formed from seashells when the desert used to be full of rich marine life. Also, because Australia doesn’t have a lot of seismic activity, the rock formations have been able to stay intact for thousands of years. How they were formed is still under debate, but the sight is not to be missed. The best time to see the Pinnacles is usually in the early morning or late afternoon to watch the sun rise or set over the ocean. It’s when the colors are most vibrant, and when you have the best chance to see kangaroos and emus. While we were watching the sunset, we spotted a kangaroo foraging in the bushes nearby. Just make sure you keep an eye out, for they can be easily missed if you’re focusing on taking pictures and enjoying the stunning scenery!




This article was also published by Vagabundo Magazine.

[email protected] (Alison Brown Photography) australia lancelin sand dunes perth rottnest island the pinnacles travel travel photography western australia Sun, 07 Jun 2015 01:45:00 GMT
The Sacred Monkey Forest in Bali, Indonesia

By Alison M. Brown

Bali, Indonesia is a magical place known as the land of a thousand temples. It definitely lives up to its name, as you can find hundreds of temples strewn along the dramatic coastline or tucked away in remote regions. Many people choose to visit Bali each year to see these remarkable temples. Some are drawn to its paradise appeal, and some are on a mission to find the perfect beaches or unearth the incredibly coveted waves that don’t seem to have an end. Whatever your reason for choosing to visit, make sure that you take some time to stray from the well-worn path.

A Detour Worth Taking

If you are willing to detour away from the coast, you will find that the city of Ubud is just as enchanting. Located several hours away from the main backpacker area of Kuta Beach, you can escape the masses and get lost in the mystifying Monkey Forest Sanctuary. The sanctuary is considered a sacred Balinese Hindu site and represents coexistence between humans and nature as it is teeming with a healthy ­­­long-tailed macaque monkey population.

Balinese Hinduism

The island of Bali is unique in that it is the only Hindu island of Indonesia, which is comprised of an archipelago of over seventeen thousand islands. Balinese Hinduism is different from typical Hinduism because it incorporates aspects of Animism, Buddhism, Ancestral Spirits, and Hinduism and isn’t practiced in other regions of the world. It has a large focus on rituals and art and less focus on scriptures and law, making the fundamental nature more spiritual at its core.

Entering the Sanctuary

The Ubud Monkey Forest encompasses the essence of Balinese Hinduism since it is such an extraordinary place of worship. As you walk through the entrance of the sanctuary, you instantly feel like you are in the middle of a jungle, even though you are in the center of a town. All of your senses are stimulated as you stroll past burning incense sticks while listening to the deafening sound of monkey chatter, all while being engulfed by lush terrain that is entangled in draping vines and moss-covered pathways.

Seeing the Monkeys Up Close

Seeing the monkeys in their natural habitat is a pretty incredible experience. You can watch them groom each other, swim in the pond, jump off trees, argue with each other, and even spot mothers feeding their young. Some of the monkeys can get aggressive if provoked, but if you respect them, they will respect you. I once had a couple climb on top of my head and shoulders and start pulling on my shirt, but as long as you’re not frightened by their curiosity they are pretty harmless. If you choose, you can even buy bananas that they will eat out of your hand, but be careful or they may take more than food, so keep an eye on your belongings.

Don’t Be Afraid to Explore!

If you’d like to take a stroll even further into the forest, you can come across a mossy footbridge with a canopy of vines and carved dragons. It’s quite a majestic spot, so don’t be afraid to keep exploring even if you don’t see many people around. All the carvings of the sanctuary are spectacular and covered in moss so everything you see is very vibrant and lively. It also only costs $2 USD to take a stroll through the forest, so even if monkeys aren’t your thing, the carvings alone are worth it.


This article was originally published by Vagabundo Magazine.

[email protected] (Alison Brown Photography) bali hinduism indonesia monkey forest southeast asia travel travel photographer travel writing ubud Thu, 10 May 2012 22:37:00 GMT