Hudson Valley Wedding Photography by Kevin Ferguson » Recent photographs from Hudson Valley, NYC, NJ, PA Wedding Photographer Kevin Ferguson

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Johnny Cash at the Lackawanna Station Radisson

There are few places like the Lackawanna Station Radisson Hotel in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  Few that look as gorgeous from the outside and the inside.  Few that took the time to add accent lights precisely where they work their magic the best.  Even fewer that can throw a cocktail hour party in such an incredible foyer.

Obviously, expectations were high for this wedding.  A great couple with fantastic friends and families had chosen an incredible location for their wedding reception, and Scranton did not disappoint.

One of my favorite moments from the wedding reception was when the band busted out a few familiar chords.

Immediately recognizable.

Completely unexpected.

Pure Genius!

“Folsom Prison Blues” with only the bride and groom on the dance floor parading around as only they could.  A long way from the inspiration for the song, but an incredible sight to see at this Pocono Wedding.

Johnny Cash would likely have been impressed.

I know I certainly was!

A bride and groom dance in a ballroom washed in red lights.

Nothing beats an energetic couple dancing to a classic Johnny Cash song towards the end of their wedding reception.

Congratulations Jeff and Kim!

Titan arum: How Can I Save a Vulnerable Species?

Every once in a while, something happens that makes you stop and think.

Sometimes those moments are filled with sadness and grief.

Sometimes they are filled with such happiness that tears of joy can come back years later at the mere thought of that moment in time.

As a wedding photographer in and around New York City, those moments abound for me.  The sense of enchantment that surrounds all of the events of a wedding day.  The intimacy of a first kiss, even when it happens in front of hundreds of your closest friends and family.

Those moments are valid justifications to follow a passion in life.  For me, they played a huge part in leading me to become a wedding photographer back in 2001.

On November 12, 2014, a special ”every once in a while” moment happened to me that came from a most unusual place.

Upon checking local news near my hometown, I came across a news article about a rare species of plant that was about to bloom at Cornell University.  With my interest sparked, I began researching everything I could about Amorphophallus titanium, the Titan arum.  I was drawn to online data that showed the plant was growing at an astounding speed.  (In fact, between October 23 and November 19 when it began to bloom, the plant grew an amazing 55.6 inches in height.)  In addition, the plant would emit a foul odor reminiscent of rotting meat that has earned it the nickname of the “Corpse Plant.”  It was the largest flowering plant on the planet, endemic to Sumatra, and is found in a quickly disappearing habitat that threatens its existence.

This research piqued my interest and I knew that this was an opportunity for me to do something.

What that something was, I really had no idea.

Research into the plant also taught me that the plant known affectionately as “Wee Stinky” would only be in bloom for around 48 hours.

Time was of the essence.

Now came the hard part.

What exactly was I going to do?   On top of that, how exactly was I going to go about doing it?

On the morning of November 13th, I figured the first part out.

I was going to do what I could to take a “portrait” of Wee Stinky when it bloomed.  It was a logical choice.  In my research, there were portraits that showed Titan arum plants in greenhouses.  There were images that even showed them in their native habitat, including video footage of famed BBC narrator David Attenborough from his Botany series.  However, there were no images that I could locate which showed a portrait of the plant like I had envisioned.

After running into some roadblocks and quickly running out of time, a light bulb went off!  I used to work as a freelance photographer at the University of Denver.  Thinking of how I landed that job, I knew I needed to reach out to the Media Relations Department at Cornell and share my idea.  Through that initial contact, I was fortunate and was put in touch with the right people to make things work.

Now came the hard part.

To pull this image off and bring my concept to a reality, it would need to be taken in the greenhouse without moving the plant.

Of course there were obstacles.  You know, the usual obstacles that every photographer runs into.  Reflective surfaces everywhere due to it being in a greenhouse.  A 24-hour live feed of the plant blooming.  The dangling collection tubes used to contain and analyze the noxious gases being released by the plant.

Noxious gases?  Oh yes!

And then there’s the fact that the last time “Wee Stinky” bloomed, in 2012, nearly 10,000 people visited the plant in a 48 hour timespan, while some 500,000 checked in online.

This was going to be a HUGE deal and I had to nail it!

Around 7pm on November 19, 2014 a phone call I had been hoping for came with an Ithaca area code.  Could this be it?

“Kevin.  The Titan arum has begun to bloom.  Can you make it up here tonight?”

Absolutely!  It was time to harness my inner-Wolowitz!

Around 8pm, I was loaded up and in my vehicle with a fellow Science Geek and a Photo Buddy.  The three of us were headed to Cornell for a chance of a lifetime, uncertain of what to expect and jumping with excitement!

The images below show two of the portraits that I captured of “Wee Stinky” on the night of November 19, 2014.  The first was taken as my interpretation of an environmental portrait showing the growing conditions in its greenhouse at Cornell.  The second was what I had envisioned when I began this journey.  A low-key portrait of Cornell’s Titan arum.  It was lit using three Profoto B1 strobes and three reflectors.

Shortly after we left Cornell, around 4am on November 20, 2014, the news came that the Spadix of the plant had begun to collapse.  The blooming event was already beginning past its peak, having peaked well past visiting hours.

Please click here to view the live cam feed at Cornell University, as well as for the latest news and information on the November blooming of “Wee Stinky.”

To learn more about the species Amorphophallus titanium, please visit this Cornell University page.

 

Titan_arum_Corpse_Plant_Kevin_Ferguson_01

A blooming Titan arum (corpse plant) as photographed in the Kenneth Post Laboratory at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York on November 19, 2014. Copyright: Kevin Ferguson

Titan_arum_Corpse_Plant_Kevin_Ferguson_02

A low-key portrait of a plant known as “Wee Stinky”, a Titan arum, taken in the Kenneth Post Labortary grrenhouse at Cornell University. This photo was taken mid-bloom on November 19th, 2014. Copyright: Kevin Ferguson

Although this species of plant is not yet endangered, it is listed as a vulnerable species.  With that in mind, the images needed to be shot with a photojournalistic standard in mind.  No photoshop tricks here.  What is captured in the image cannot be altered much in post-production when being used for editorial purposes, techniques that are often not used with the editing of wedding imagery and portraiture.

 

How to Photograph a Developing Sunset…

One of the coolest aspects of growing up as a kid of the 80s was taking photos with a Polaroid camera.

Clicking the camera was just the beginning.  Taking that piece of film out and shaking it was when the start of the real fun began.

Seeing the colors change from yellows to greens to reds and oranges while an image magically appeared was something that words simply cannot do justice.  You had to see it to believe it.  In fact, I still can remember the very first time I ever saw a polaroid picture.  It was one my sister took of me sitting on my mom’s couch wearing those old 80s tube socks with the red ring-stripes pulled up nearly to my knees.  Certainly not a stylish picture by any means, but it was so groovy to watch that picture develop itself.

This past weekend, I came to a realization that sunsets and Polaroid pictures share that cool, colorful “developing” that I still find pretty awesome about a Polaroid picture.

I was shooting an engagement session, and the images I walked away with show this off as it applies to sunsets.  Just like a Polaroid, each sunset develops in its own unique way, often involving color changes that can be quick and fleeting or lasting and vibrant.

Each one is different.

Some are incredible.

Some, not so much.

In some regards, I guess I have become a bit of a “connoisseur” of sunsets.  I get butterflies in my stomach and get all giddy when I am shooting and sense that all of the components are coming together just in time for a flash of nature’s true brilliance.

If you or your clients are loving the idea of sunset photos, here are some of my tips that will help to make it possible for you to reliably capture some amazing images at just the right time.

1)  Location Scout.  Every location is different, but finding a spot where the sunset will be visible and unobstructed usually helps.  Yes, I sometimes will include environmental components in sunset shots as well, but if there are clouds in the sky, they are my go to composition element.  Getting on top of a hill or mountain isn’t always necessary.  As a result, check the area for a good composition with the sunset in it, and go from there before having clients take an unplanned hike.

2)  Use the compass in your phone.  In most instances, the best sunset colors are going to be in the west.  Occasionally, it will be in the east.  I do not recall ever shooting north or south for a sunset.  With that in mind, I usually plan to capture the images from this series in a westerly direction and try to have an easterly alternative just in case.

3)  Have your gear ready.  Lights, batteries, tripods, triggers!  Check!  Have it all, and have it all fine tuned for an exposure to start.  On wedding days, I will take my assistant outside and get all set up and do a light test before ever asking the bride and groom to step away.  It only takes moments, but my philosophy is that the bride and groom should be able to enjoy as much time at their reception as is possible.  Any setup should be done without them as their time is valuable, and their party is as well!

4)  Vary your setup.  For the images below, I used three different lenses.  My camera bag was ready, and I was able to quickly change lenses to get different positions.  The lenses I used were a 70-200, a 45 tilt-shift and a 14-24.  I also had one light (a Profoto B-1) on a tripod along with a Profoto Air TTL-N trigger.  The advantages of this system over others are many.  I love the power and quality of the light from the B1.  I also like that the Air Remote gives me with the ability to easily adjust the power on the flash, while also giving me the ability to use it in TTL mode, use the modeling lamp if I choose, and the ability to turn off the flash all with the press of a button or two from my camera.   An added bonus is that Profoto also makes some snap on grids which allows you to direct the light and control the spill in the event that you do not want to have any light other than on your subjects.  This makes the Profoto B1 a quick and easy, albeit expensive option, to use in a timeframe that is often very short.

5)  Expose for the sky.  If you let your camera choose the settings, it will likely overexpose the sky.  Unfortunately, that often leads to skies that are blown out or otherwise just not interesting.  When you choose the exposure of the sky, you can control what is light and dark, while also adding quite a bit of contrast and saturation to the scene.  These are invaluable tools to me, and LiveView is a tool that has made this much easier and quicker than in the past.  Once that is set, you can easily adjust your light as needed to expose your subjects properly.

6)  Know when sunset is going to happen.  Yes, it sounds obvious.  However, it is often overlooked.  Whenever you have a session, if sunset images are a part of the plan, know when it will happen.  This will give you a starting point for when the light lighting up the sky may be most likely to color the sky.  Keep in mind, however, that brilliant skies can occur 20-30 minutes before or after that timeframe.  Keep your eyes open, and be patient.

7)  Gain Experience.  The more you are attentive to sunsets and the atmospheric conditions on any given day, the more in tune you will become.  Temperature, humidity, and pressure all can have an impact on the brilliance of a sunset.  Unfortunately, there is currently no app for understanding all of those variables that I am aware.  Take the time to pay attention, and look up the temperature, humidity, and pressure later if need be.  The most important factor about experience is that you can only gain it by being outside and looking at sunsets as they happen.

8)  Plan to work quickly.  I have seen amazing sunsets that lasted less than two minutes.  They were gorgeous and colorful.  They had a brilliance that is rarely seen.  Had I been 30 seconds later getting there, I may have missed it.  On the other hand, I have been fortunate enough also to have photographed engagement sessions and weddings when the colors in the sky danced for nearly 30 minutes.  You never can be sure how long a sunset will last, but experience will help you better be able to gauge it.  Whatever you get, you get…so be ready to make the most of it!

9)  Communicate.  Knowing that your clients want sunset photos is one thing.  Communicating with your assistant (if you use one) as well as the clients so they know what to expect during their session or wedding reception is a key component in maximizing your images.  You all should be on the same page as far as a location and a general timeframe.  Typically at weddings, I will chat with the bride and groom 30 minutes before sunset to let them know that it is getting close to being time for sunset photos and to make sure that they are still up for heading outside.  At the end of that conversation I give them a reminder that I will be back to get them shortly, but when it is time to go, we need to go quickly.

10)  Know your tools.  If you have done all of the above and still feel that you missed the sunset, you always can adjust your exposure.  Know that there are colors in the sky regardless of whether your eye can see them or not.  Know that your camera can if you tell it to.  If you do that, you always can use Lightroom or Photoshop to enhance what is there.  (I personally do not believe in adding things that are not there.)

Below are some selected images from a recent engagement session taken over a span of about 15 minutes in Bear Mountain State Park north of New York City.  To me, they show how the colors of the sky continue to “develop” throughout the sunset.  In turn, these color changes have the ability to dramatically impact the feel of the images.

Couple in a field of grass with an orange sunset behind them.
A couple in a field with an orange sunset behind them with clouds.
An engaged couple beneath a tree at sunset with pinks, oranges, blue and purple colors in the sky.
A young couple stands beneath a tree at sunset at Bear Mountain State Park.
Two people touch noses in a field at sunset.
A young man wearing a hat smiles at his girlfriend at sunset.
A silhouette of a couple at sunset under a group of trees with a purple and orange sky behind them.

Colorful Silhouettes Make Amazing Images

Silhouettes are a favorite of mine, and generally pop up in some form from each event that I shoot.  Portrait sessions, weddings, and even concerts all create opportunities for gorgeous silhouettes, and I am always game to capture them when they present themselves.

Keeping your eyes open as a photographer is a key in being able to see things differently.  Sure, I can create a silhouette if needed.  However, some of the most incredible ones I have ever taken are those that just occurred organically.  With that said, knowing what conditions you need to create a jaw-dropping silhouette is certainly something that needs to be in your repertoire in order to help you put yourself in the right position at the right time to capture it.

A recent wedding in Saratoga Springs provided me with an amazing set of circumstances, as we stopped by Yaddo for the family and bridal party portraits.  If you haven’t been to Yaddo yet, I highly encourage you to make a visit, as I find the property provides an incredible opportunity for some amazing artistic soul-searching.

With the timeline allowing for a couple of hours for portraits, there was ample time after the family and bridal party images to spend some time on the grounds with the bride and groom.  On our way back to the limo to head to the reception at the incredible Saratoga National Golf Club, some of the most amazing light I have ever seen happened to be streaming towards us, helping me to create one of my favorite images of 2014.

Yaddo provides an amazing setting in Saratoga Springs for some artistic soul-searching and portrait sessions.

Yaddo provides an amazing setting in Saratoga Springs for some artistic soul-searching and portrait sessions.

Moonrise at Indian Ridge

Indian Ridge is a phenomenal venue for a wedding.  This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of shooting my first wedding at Indian Ridge, and it could not have been more perfect.  If you are thinking about getting married in the Hudson Valley, I would highly recommend that you look at it if the words outdoor, rustic, apple orchard, lake, or field have come up in conversations about what your dream wedding may be like.

It rained.

Nearly all day long.

Still, everyone had an absolute blast because it was perfect.

Weddings are all about the  memories that are made thanks to the family and friends that come to show their love and appreciation for the newlyweds.

Years from now, Megan and Steve may think back to the rain on their wedding day.  More likely, they will remember the fun on the dance floor and the words they each said during their vows that caused each of them to tear up.  The weather likely won’t even come up.

As the reception came to a close, the skies cleared completely.  Stars were shining everywhere we looked, and Megan and Steve were up for a quick couple of portraits.  Ricky, the owner at Indian Ridge, was kind enough to drive them out into a field where I was set up for a short 5 minute portrait session.

I must admit that I was a bit disappointed with the first frame.  However, when I started working on the images later that night, I couldn’t have been happier.  The second image is the vision I had in my head and was trying to create.  The first image, however, speaks volumes to me about the perfection of their wedding day.  They show their love for each other.  The moon is just starting to rise.  The stars are perfect, including the Little Dipper near Megan’s waistline.  Just like their wedding day, these images of the two of them at the end of the night simply couldn’t be more perfect.  A perfect end to a most perfect wedding.

F e a r l e s s   P h o t o g r a p h e r