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Daniel & I have done some incredible mountain shoots recently. Every time we reach the top of a trail, my breath leaves my body in a giant gasp of amazement! We hiked the hardest mountain trail yet & those epic views at the top did not disappoint!
Whenever we prepare for a photo shoot, we do research on the location. We try to prepare for each session as best we can, but sometimes the interwebz can leave things out. Like every session before, I dug into Hawksbill what I could find about the trail. Nothing I read prepared me for the 3 mile drive down a winding gravel road & the last 1/4 of a mile straight up the mountain. We sure got our cardio in for the day and Katherine did in heels no less! I’m still in awe over her mad skills!
Last year I got to second shoot Katherine & Simon’s geometric wedding complete with a blue gown with McCardell Photography! Spending time with Katherine and Simon again was a real treat! I’m beyond proud of how they made it up that mountain with heeled boots no less! That huffing and puffing (and sweat!) was 100% worth it once we reached those views! My goodness, I had no breath left for a solid 10 minutes, WOW! If you ever get the chance to do this hike, DO IT! Just prepare yourself with lots of water & good shoes for hiking!
The Hawksbill hiking trail is beyond beautiful! If I could give anyone 1 million points for awesome, it would be Katherine & Simon for trusting us! It was wonderful to see their relationship a year later, deeper & more lovely than before. Thank you both for your adventurous hearts & not looking at us like crazy people once we FINALLY got to the trail head!



The Hawksbill Trailhead sign in Linville Gorge, NC Photography by Mabyn Ludke

After a bit of a GPS hiccup, we finally all made it down the winding gravel road to the Hawksbill Trail head.

Flowers along the Hawksbill Trail in the Pisgah National Forrest in Linville, NC by Mabyn Ludke Photography

There are so many lovely spots along this trail to stop and take pictures. I was enamored with all of the wildlife that the Pisgah National Forrest has to offer.

Couple snuggles on the Hawskbill Trail in Linville, NC Photo by Mabyn

Katherine & Simon are so amazing! Simon is a pilot in the Navy while Katherine runs her own phenomenal paper design business. Seriously, you need to check out Katherine Hallberg Designs to see her incredible talent & use of paper to create some of the prettiest backdrops I’ve ever seen!

Couple has fun on the Hawksbill Mountain Trail near Linville, NC with Mabyn Ludke Photography

One of Simon’s favorite activities is picking Katherine up and making her laugh…though he doesn’t normally do it on a mountain trail. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Black and White of a newly wed couple in the Linville, NC at the Hawksbill Mountain Trail. Photo by Mabyn Ludke

The further we walked the trail, the more we saw that a year of marriage had drawn these two even closer.

A husband holds his wife close as they gaze at the beautiful blue ridge mountain line by Mabyn Ludke Photography

One of our “rules” we tall our clients is to always stay connected. That can mean a myriad of things, but what it boils down to is natural poses. How would you naturally hold and love each other? Not only is it beautifully intimate, but it relieves any pressure of having to be stiff & posed. I just love this shot of Simon holding his bride close to him.

Mabyn Ludke Photography captured a beautiful couple on the Hawksbill Mountain Trail in Lineville, NC laughing with a beautiful mountin view behind them.

This was the first mountain view we found on the way up the trail. It was so beautiful, but we still had quite a bit of trail to go. Luckily, we had lots of entertainment for the hike!

Hawksbill Mountain Trail is a lovely spot for an anniversary photo shoot with Mabyn Ludke Photography

Katherine & Simon have done some modeling in the past, cuz ummm THEIR GORGEOUS! However, they’ve always been heavily posed. We take a very different approach when we do our couples sessions. Yes, we’ll pose if we need to, but we’d rather guide than physically put you into a pose. It’s always a weird shift, especially when you’re use to being in front of the camera and being told what to do. But when you’re in love, it takes no time at all to adjust to just being yourself. Katherine & Simon did it flawlessly!

A husband lovingly looks at this new bride while walking the Hawksbill Mountain Trail in Lineville, NC Mabyn Ludke Photography

Moody black and whites make my heart happy!

Couple cuddles on the Hawksbill Mountain Trail in Linville, NC Photo by Mabyn Ludke Photography

Katherine loves to pet Simon with her kitty claws…these two crack me up all day long!

Couple snuggles close in Linville, NC photo by Mabyn Ludke

Breathe each other in every day.

Hawksbille Mountain Trail anniversary Session with Mabyn Ludke Photography

Katherine’s eyes say it all in this photo, am I right?

The tops of Hawksbill Mountain Trail in Linville, NC Mabyn Ludke Photography

We finally reached the top of the trail & OH. MY. GOODNESS! Look at these epic views?

A gorgeous mountain view of the Linville Gorge from the Hawksbill Mountain trail near Linville, NC photography by Mabyn Ludke

You could practically see the whole of Linville Gorge from our vantage point! Absolutely amazing!

Man takes in the epic mountain view at Hawksbill Mountain in Linville, NC Photo by Mabyn

Simon was most grateful for the breeze that came through and he took a moment to “cool down” before we continued the shoot. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Grumpy Photographer at Hawksbill Mountain Trail in Linville, NC Mabyn Ludke Photography

This is the look I get when I tell Daniel “Hey! You’re in my shot boo!” Woops!

Couple basks in the sunlight on top of Hawksbill Mountain in the Appalachian mountains. Mabyn Ludke Photography

I think the grump look from Daniel was worth the shot tho…don’t you?

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what real love looks like. ๐Ÿ˜‰ These two are all about Dat Jelly!

Black and white of a couple snuggled together in Linville, NC on Hawksbill Mountain with Mabyn Ludke Photography

Once we get Katherine down, cuz that dress wasn’t the easiest to sit in, we got some spectacular cuddle shots!

Married couple explores the trails a top Hawksbill Mountain in Linville, NC with Mabyn Ludke Photography

This last bit of the shoot Katherine & I have been so excited about. She rented a gorgeous red gown that is incredibly beautiful. I’ve been having visions of mountains with red for months now just waiting for this shoot to get here! It did NOT disappoint!

Couple spends their anniversary exploring Hawksbill Mountain and all it has to offer with Mabyn Ludke Photography

Oh you know, we’re just going for a stroll on top of a mountain in an evening gown…LIKE YOU DO! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Lady in a red dress at Hawksbill Mountain in Linville, NC by Mabyn Ludke Photography

Katherine is so elegant she doesn’t have to do anything other than be her beautiful self. Every photo is just stunning!

Golden light streams through as newly weds snuggle at Hawksbill Mountain near Linville, NC. Photo by Mabyn

We got lots of funny comments from “real” hikers as we passed them on the way up the trail, but all of them were super encouraging. Our favorite comment tho was from a teenage girl who blurted out “AWE! Prom pictures?!” as soon as she saw Katherine & Simon. We all had a laugh as we imagined the most epic prom photo shoot ever!

Gold hour at Hawksbill Mountain with a beautiful couple celebrating their anniversary. Photography by Mabyn Ludke

There’s nothing quite like that mountain top light. We rushed to get as much of it as we could as storms rolled in from the west.

Couple holds hands in Linville, NC on top of Hawksbill Mountain. Mabyn Ludke Photography.

I’m obsessed with the subtle touches in this photo. The light breeze in Katherine’s hair, the soft clouds rolling in the background, and that look of love as Katherine gazes at her husband.

View of Linville Gorge from Hawskbill Mountain during an anniversary session with Mabyn Ludke Photography

As that yummy golden light got covered by the storms coming in, the mountains started to get that gorgeous blue tone that gives them their signature name. It gets me every time.

Hawksbill Mountain views are perfect for a couple celebrating their anniversary with Mabyn Ludke Photography

That look of love is definitely mutual. It’s written all over Simon’s face!

Blue and orange clouds surround a couple during their anniversary session at Hawksbill Mountain with Mabyn Ludke Photography.

Mountains are just one of my many obsessions in photography, but a close 2nd is clouds! They can be just as majestic and awe inspiring and they’re always changing and shifting. I noticed this pocket of golden light and just had to frame these two against it.

Couple climbs rocks on Hawksbill Mountain in Linville, NC with Mabyn Ludke Photography

We spied an even more epic view and attempted to make our way to it. It proved to be a bit more challenging than expected. Especially with dress shoes on! But these two wouldn’t back down!

Woman in a red dress against the blue ridge mountains of North Carolina on top of Hawksbill

Once we got to the spot tho, wowzah, another spectacular view! I’m so glad Katherine found that red dress too, it’s a perfect rich color to contrast the blues & greens of the mountain-scape!

Black and White of couple snuggling in Linville, NC with Mabyn Ludke Photography

After hours of hiking and photo taking, Katherine still looked flawless!

Epic views from the Hawksbill Mountain Trail during an anniversary shoot with Mabyn Ludke Photography

Once the sun was setting behind the clouds you could really start to see a fog settle over the gorge. It was so eerie and romantic. We kept shooting as the light started to fade and more clouds rolled in.

Couple laughs on top of a mountain near Linville, NC at Hawksbill photo by Mabyn Ludke

Clouds, mountains, laughter, & love. The perfect recipe for a photograph!

I’m not sure if these two were still being รผber cute or sleeping at this point. ๐Ÿ˜‰ They were workin’ it HARD!

Keep shooting past sunset, that twilight light is unlike anything else!

Just as I was about to setup one last shot raindrops started to fall. I scrambled to find the perfect spot to snag the raindrops. It took some maneuvering, but we finally got there!

Within moments the rain had fled and night had officially fallen. There was JUST enough light to grab this last epic view before heading back down the mountain. This shoot put us all to the test, but the results were 100% worth every drop of sweat and sore muscle that we encountered. Thank you Katherine & Simon for everything! <3

To see more epic photo shoots click here!







An Adventurous Hawksbill Mountain Anniversary with Katherine & Simon

the sunlight kisses this engaged couple during their photography session in the mountains of North Carolina. Photography by Mabyn Ludke.

For Photographers

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Before learning about aperture, shutter speed, ISO, lenses, and flash there is one element of photography that is intrinsically more important than any other. That is of course light! At the most basic of levels, photography is all about light, how we see it, how we manipulate it, how we utilize it to tell our stories. By understanding light you understand photography. I wish I had known more about light and how to use it well before diving into the photography world, but I did learn quickly that everything I did was related to it. Here are some examples of lighting situations that you will most likely encounter at some point in your photographic experience.

Harsh Light
– Harsh Light tends to be late morning to early afternoon where the sun is almost directly overhead. Not only does it create squinty eyed people, but it also creates extreme shadows. Contrast is very distinct and racoon eyes are something to look out for. There are some jobs where we just can’t avoid this light, so learn how to utilize it to your advantage. Tilt faces towards the sunshine, but close eyes, play with the contrast of dark & light in the shadows, Keep your clients in between you & the sun, & expose for the lightest thing (typically the wedding dress).

Back Light
– Backlight is when your subject is position between you & the sun and against a darker background. If you’ve got open sky or a light background then you wont see this effect. There will typically be a rim light along the edges of your subject creating beautiful separation between them & the background. My favorite time of day to shoot his is during Golden Hour, but you can do this practically any time of day.the sunlight kisses this engaged couple during their photography session in the mountains of North Carolina. Photography by Mabyn Ludke.An intimate close up of a sweet couple kissing during their anniversary session in the Blue Ridge Parkway of North Carolina. Mabyn Ludke Photography.
Golden Hour
– Golden hour typically takes place 1-2 hours prior to sunset. It’s that time of day where the sun is getting low in the sky & everything has a beautiful golden hue to it. It’s the most popular time of day to shoot because the light is so soft that most people can enjoy the sunshine without squinty eyes!

– Shade is normally a safe bet. Running to a nearby tree or a building that has cast a shadow will help you if you’re not sure what to do in that Harsh Light I mentioned above. Depending on the time of day though, you’ll want to watch out for hot spots. This happens when you’re standing under a tree & light is filtering through the leaves creating all sorts of weird lighting. To prevent this either find a tree where there are little to no hot spots (lots of leaves) OR look what direction the sun is coming through and place your subject’s back to the sun. This will automatically stop the hot spots.

Pisgah National Forest engagement session with Mabyn Ludke Photography at Looking Glass Falls

Window Light
– You can create some amazing photographs by simply utilizing a window. Again, depending on the time of day, the intensity of light coming through a window will differ. You can create both soft & beautiful portraits along with dramatic ones simply by choosing the right window at the right time.

Artificial Light
– Artificial light is any light that is created and not naturally occurring from the sun. This can be indoor lights or outdoor lights, but it’s light that is available for you to use. During the daytime this can be helpful, but it often can be a distraction too. During the getting ready portion of a wedding day I tend to turn off any artificial light and utilize what natural light I can. BUT during the evening I’m a big fan of bringing in the Artificial light into my photographs to create atmosphere. Most of the time I use this in combination with Flash.

– Flash is that little black box that sits atop your camera & pumps out light whenever you click the trigger. If you’re a wedding photographer (or want to be one) I can’t emphasize enough how learning flash is 100% necessary. You may be more comfortable with natural light, but trust me, no camera is amazing enough when you’re in a low light situation. You need to be able to CREATE light when it’s important. There are different ways you can use your flash too: direct, bounced, off camera. Each of these options comes with challenges of their own, but can create some seriously awesome photographs.

Okay, so that’s your overview of lighting situations. Now that you’re aware of them you can start to look for them when you’re shooting. From here all of our photography discussions will be based off of light and you’ll be better equipย  to understand what I’m talking about when I break things down.

Next week we’ll start with some camera basics before moving onto things like flash, posing, composition, anticipating moments, and more!




Photography Basics – Light

A silly moment in the mountains of NC during Mallory & Peter's engagment session. Photography by Mabyn Ludke.


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Since moving to North Carolina and getting to experience the beautiful Appalachian mountains, I’ve dreamed of getting a couple to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway with. When Mallory & Peter came along, it quickly became clear that they were going to be the perfect couple to realize this dream with their engagement session. Daniel & I were not disappointed! I may still be on a mountain high, because we all know how I get, but this may be my favorite session to date! It was the perfect combination of a beautiful couple letting their guard down for our cameras + one of the most amazing settings in NC – the Blue Ridge Parkway! I think I’ll always swoon over this engagement session!

Getting to know Mallory & Peter, their love for each other, & their dedication to serve & protect this country has been more amazing than I can express. These two have found the real deal in each other and it shows in every single look, smile, and touch. It’s days like this that set my heart on fire for photography. Thank you both for trusting us to be your genuine loving selves!

Mallory & Peter snuggle at the Moses Cone Manor in Blowing Rock, NC

We started the day at Moses Cone Manor in case the weather proved to be nasty. Thankfully everything was sunshine & beautiful! Especially Mallory & Peter’s snuggles. There is nothing more sweet!

Wide shot of an engaged couple at the Moses Cone Manor of Blowing Rock North Carolina

There was an amazing row of giant and beautiful old tree’s lining the road at the Moses Cone Manor & I was drawn to them like a moth to a flame. The were the perfect frame for our sweet couple!

Mallory & Peter walk together while visiting the Moses Cone Manor in North Carolina

Sometimes during a photo shoot we’ll give our clients prompts to get them interacting together. Something and simple as walking down a hill hand in hand can create some gorgeous moments!

Julian Price Lake was a great backdrop for this sweet couple on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Snuggles are my favorite and these two do it so well it’s ridiculous! Add in that gorgeous afternoon sunlight and there is just pure magic going on!

The wind blows gently through Mallory's hair at Julian Price Lake

Our original plans for their engagement session got derailed due to the weather, so when we met up we looked at all of the fun places we could visit on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Mallory & Peter loved the idea of having some water in their shots so we ventured over to Julian Price Lake and found it to be most accommodating!

A sweet kiss on the nose at Julian Price Lake in North Carolina

Engagement sessions + nose kisses = melting hearts!

Mallory & Peter walk hand in hand on the Rough Ridge Trail in the mountains of NC

Our third location in our adventure with Mallory & Peter was to climb the Rough Ridge trail. There were so many perfect spots to stop along the way!

Engaged couple make silly faces on the rough ridge trail

I got to snag funny little moments like this one all day long! It’s so much fun being silly together!

Mabyn Ludke Photography captured an amazing engagement session at Rough Ridge in North Carolina

These two are already amazing, but Mallory definitely added bonus points when she blazed the trail in her adorable booties!

Bride smacks her groom's butt at their engagment session

Mallory & Peter had us laughing all day long…case in point.

bride looks lovingly at her groom on the blue ridge parkway

The way these two look at each other…there’s no one else in the entire world!

a sweet embrace during an engagement session on the blue ridge parkway

This engagement session was more than just a dream come true, it is an incredibly important time in the lives of Mallory & Peter. In just a few short weeks they’ll be deployed to serve & protect our country. I couldn’t be more honored to capture a couple and their love and I pray it will bring them comfort during their time apart.

black and white of a couple on the rough ridge trail in NC

Knowing this kind of love is such a gift and Mallory and Peter understand that like few people do. We truly loved every moment we got to spend with them that afternoon.

A silly moment in the mountains of NC during Mallory & Peter's engagment session. Photography by Mabyn Ludke.

After navigating the muddy trail at Rough Ridge we made it to the top where the winds practically howled they were so strong!

The wind blows bride's dress during their mountain engagement session on the blue ridge parkway photos by Mabyn Ludke Photography

See what I mean about rocking those booties? Mallory is something fierce!

an epic view of the appalachain mountains at Mallory & Peter's Rough Ridge engagment session

It was so clear on the Blue Ridge Parkway, you could see for miles!

the sunlight kisses this engaged couple during their photography session in the mountains of North Carolina. Photography by Mabyn Ludke.

Our last stop during their incredible engagement session was at the Beacon Heights trail where we discovered hundreds of amazing spots to shoot!

A sweet embrace on a mountain top in NC by Mabyn Ludke Photography

By that time the sun was on it’s way down and the light just got better and better.

Engaged couple poses for their session on the Beacon Heights Trail in NC. Mabyn Ludke Photography

Look at how the light just filters so beautifully through those trees? It was like butter!

A black and white sillohuette of an engaged couple at Beacon Heights in NC

Beacon Heights offers another spectacular view of the Appalachian mountains, we just can’t handle it!

A romantic kiss on the mountain top at Beacon Heights on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo by Mabyn Ludke Photography

There were mountains and kisses for days on top of Beacon Heights!

A gorgeous mountain view for this engaged couple during their photography session by Mabyn Ludke in the mountains of NC

I’ll never get sick of love & mountains!

The Appalachain Mountains in NC are the perfect backdrop for an engagement session by Mabyn Ludke

A funny story, as we prepared for Mallory & Peter’s engagement session, I got a little distracted by an ad for a beautiful dress. I was considering buying it…guess who wore it to their engagement session? Mallory’s got great taste!

A sunset mountain view during Mallory & Peter's engagment session at Beacon Heights. Photo by Mabyn Ludke.

When Daniel & I visited Beacon Heights a few weeks prior to this shoot, it was at least 15 degrees colder & there were tons of people there trying to capture the sunset. Somehow at Mallory & Peter’s session we got it all to ourselves!

Mabyn Ludke Photography captured this silly moment from Mallory & Peter's Beacon Heights engagement session

We had to push Peter to do this shot a little bit. It’s something they both do on a regular basis, but Peter didn’t want to get makeup on his tongue! These guys were SO funny!

This romantic moment was captured by Mabyn Ludke Photography during Mallory & Peter's Blue Ridge Parkway engagment session

When you’re in love & you let it show, there’s no need for poses. It’s raw & real and we love that!

A romantic sunset kiss during this engagement session on top of the Beacon Heights Trail

This shot looks like it was taken right out of an epic romantic movie doesn’t it? So much happiness!

Mallory & Peter hug as the sun goes down during their Blue Ridge Parkway engagement session by Mabyn Ludke Photography.

This, THIS is why I love engagement sessions people. When else do you get several hours to just breathe each other in? We get so busy in life, everyone needs to hit that pause button and remember why we love!

An epic view of the Appalachain mountains from the top of Beacon Heights during a Mabyn Ludke Photography engagement session

Blue mountains at the end of our Blue Ridge Parkway adventure. Just perfect!



To see more amazing photo sessions click here!










Blowing Rock Engagement Session – Mallory & Peter

Newly weds Nicki & Brad snuggle close with a breathtaking view of the appalachian mountains on the blue ridge parkway.


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Western North Carolina Wedding Photographers Featured on Otterplan Connect

I am a big fan of community over competition. I spent most of my musical theater collegiate years fighting for a spot on the stage, fighting to be heard, fighting just to feel accepted. Those years were hard, but they taught me to never give up! Plus, I’m pretty sure that’s where I get all of my dramatic flair from in photography.

When I tumbled head over heels in love with wedding photography, part of my joy was finding a community of people who wanted to help me succeed. It was incredible to go from fighting the world all by myself to having a family of like minded photographers cheering me on. I am so grateful for each and every person who poured their time, knowledge, and sometimes even money into. I am forever grateful for your investments!

All of this mushy stuff is leading to a point and that point is I’m always on the look out for amazing communities to connect and invest in. If I can help just one other photographer reach a goal, get inspired, or never give up, then it’s all worth it! One such community that I was recently invited to join is called Otterplan Connect. Their motto is “Connecting wedding creatives. Growing together” and it’s specifically designed for North Carolina Wedding Professionals.

Otterplan recently reached out and asked to interview me for their monthly member spotlight! What an extreme honor! You can read the full interview here:

March Spotlight: Mabyn Ludke Photography

Interview sample from the otter plan connect spotlight blog on Wester North Carolina wedding photographers Mabyn Ludke Photography

Now that Daniel & I have settled in Western North Carolina, we’ve been looking for new ways to connect with professionals in the area. Otterplan is a great way to meet new people & they’re constantly revamping & implementing new connection strategies into their site! I’m looking forward to the network of amazing wedding creatives that Daniel and I will continue to connect with through this site!




Western North Carolina Wedding Photographers! – Otterplan Connect