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Meet Dawn Browne of Degrees North Images in Sandy Point

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dawn Browne.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My business didn’t start in a garage, my kitchen or even over a cup of coffee. I had NOT been an amateur photographer for years, simply on the path to taking the next logical step. No, my photography journey and business started in a closet during a major identity crisis.

I grew up in Michigan, loving the fact that I lived in a state surrounded by water. When I was eight, I decided I wanted to be a marine biologist after watching dolphins swim near the beach on a trip to Florida. I began planning for that life in elementary school. In high school, I enrolled in a special co-op medical program wherein our second year we had to complete a 600-hour internship, so I got a job at a veterinary hospital. A year after graduation I switched to working at an emergency vet to get broader experience. I had decided I wanted to do rescue, rehab and release work, so emergency experience seemed like a good fit. I got myself certified in SCUBA diving, too. I was already completely at home in the water after four years of varsity swimming.

After high school, I went to community college to get gen eds out of the way and to save money on tuition, which I was paying for out of my own pocket because I didn’t want to be in debt. I took a big leap and applied for and was accepted to an internship at Walt Disney World. It was super entry level and had me selling turkey legs and princess dresses. After I completed that internship, the company hired me on full time and after a year, I was accepted for another internship more in the vicinity of my field in the education department at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Since I was on such a role with the big leaps, after my internship and subsequent graduation from a community college, I joined the Navy. I had been considering for a few years and it seemed like now or never. I was brought in as a Nuclear Machinist Mate, working in the engine room on an aircraft carrier. The training for this job was intense, akin to completing a bachelors degree in 18 months. But, I thought ship experience would be helpful. It was the last stepping stone in my “become a marine biologist plan” and then I could finish my last two years of school with incomparable experience and amazing life stories. As a bonus, I was able to volunteer with the Virginia Beach Stranding Team while I was on shore duty. It was amazing to get a taste of the life I was working toward. There was no way I wouldn’t have my choice of dream jobs after all this!

Upon my Navy discharge, my new husband and I moved to Texas where I started the home stretch at Texas A&M Galveston. I slayed my first semester, even nabbing a perfect score on one of my final exams. I was meant for this. What luck to know at the sweet age of 8 what my purpose in the universe was.

Three months later, I collapsed in exhaustion in the hall of our house, crying that I just didn’t have “it” anymore. I left school in March vowing to return in August. I thought I just needed a break, a minute to gather myself after years of mental stress, a trauma in the military, and the struggle of trying to readjust to civilian life.

By April, I knew I was done and I was in a panic. If I didn’t do this thing that I always said I was going to do, then who am I? I started looking at everything as a possibility. Maybe I can be a travel agent, a translator, a journalist… my husband tried to get me to chill out, stop putting so much pressure on myself and to just let it come to me. A month later I was eyeball deep into a cleaning spree when I came across a box of old cameras on the floor in the back of one of the closets in our house. As soon as I opened the box, I think I did a face palm.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It definitely has been a struggle. In the beginning, it’s learning your craft and dealing with completely mean and unconstructive critiques from people who either don’t get what you’re trying to do or have been doing the craft for decades and forgot what it was like to be a beginner or even people that are just nasty for the sake of being nasty.

I went to school for photography which was a complete waste of time. I could have learned everything in a third the time and without all the bad habits. In school, we were taught editing at the same time we were taught shooting, so I got into the terrible mindset of “I’ll fix it in photoshop” and that had to be completely unlearned. I spent more time unlearning the bad habits than I did earning the degree.

I got a lot of snark from professors about my business ideas, which held me back for years after I graduated. Only in the past year have I really embraced and followed through on those ideas and ironically, it’s what people are seeking me out for, so I was right all along.

My local Rising Tide Society chapter in Galveston has made eased the struggle. Our monthly meetings give me a recharge and bring to the reality that it’s not just me… we are all struggling to grow and be our best business and personal selves.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Degrees North Images story. Tell us more about the business.
My company is Degrees North Images. I specialize in elopement, small wedding, portrait and vacation photography. The couples and families that I work with are playful and adventurous. I definitely specialize in a vacation style of photography in my portrait sessions and in uniquely themed or non-traditional weddings.

I love to travel, explore and try new things, so I try to infuse that vibe into everything I do. I think having a deep love for travel is something that sets me apart. A lot of people like to travel, but I do it differently than most of the people around me and I think the way I share my adventures and my client’s stories help other people to slow down and get more out of each experience. I’m also very much a historian. I am in my element when I am sitting on the floor in my parents living room and we have the albums and photos spread out on the floor as we share stories about our favorite shots. People, whether they’ve figured out how to or not, crave living in those photos with stories that can be told again and again. For as many photos as I deliver after a wedding day, I know the couple will likely emotionally attach themselves to about 20 of them, and those will be the photos that induce every story told about that day.

My friends and clients mostly know me as the color-loving, beach going, Disney obsessed girl. In my free time, I’m always working on a new Disney inspired shoot or planning my next trip or daycation.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I make my own luck.

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  1. Alicia Yarrish

    April 18, 2018 at 5:56 pm

    Aww Dawn this is perfect! I loved learning more about how you got to photography! And I’m honored I made the interview 😉

  2. Barbara Young

    April 20, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    I loved reading this, Dawn! Very interesting life you have had.

  3. Marixa Andrade

    May 1, 2018 at 4:34 am

    What a journey! It’s amazing how photography can heal us when we have found ourselves lost. You will continue to do great things capturing these moments for others, I’m sure of it!

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