Supernatural Wonder

by: Minh Huynh

Louis I. Kahn's Salk Institute, the inspiration behind 'Supernatural Wonder'


uring the past two weeks, New York has been going wild or maybe even insane. Yes, the Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week started on February 9, but that's not the reason for the insanity. In fact, you can even call this madness "Linsanity." The reason? Jeremy Lin - a real life "Rudy" story that has taken over the hearts of New Yorkers (and perhaps the rest of the nation) and transcended sports into being the biggest story in the world. A true Hollywood underdog story, this once little known point guard has done something no player in New York Knicks recent history has done: win. The Knicks' success is attributed to Lin's ability to make his teammates better through constant teamwork. A great basketball coach and motivational speaker, John Wooden, once said "The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team." It is with this mantra that Mahal Style operates. We motivate, inspire and learn from each other through team-oriented creative projects.

The team: Nicole caffeinated the team whilst Rochelle cheered everyone up with her dance moves


ahal style's latest photo shoot project was a collaboration in every aspect. We teamed up with the dynamic duo, Kim Carrasco and Alaina Munoz of Carrascography, Vienna-based photographer Matthias Hombauer, Claire Harlin of A Photo A Day 2012 and our favorite models Anna Weeks and Bethany Farrington to capture designer Osbaldo Ahumada's latest and greatest inspirations among the breathtaking architecture of the Salk Institute.


e love sharing and learning from the talent that surrounds us. We've found that the infectious energy of collaboration is the key ingredient in the Mahal Style social media soup that is an incredibly potent tool for everyone involved. Just like Jeremy Lin, we connect and get everyone involved in the creation process. We share their experience with you for an unprecedented look behind a Mahal Style photo project.

Minh Huynh - Director of Photography

Photo: Minh Huynh, Model: Bethany Farrington


ebruary 11, 2012 was a day of seized opportunity. There were four photographers that I have been planning to collaborate with for quite some time. However, timing has been our enemy in collecting the talent together on the same day. Feb. 11 showed up on the calendar, which was the perfect storm of opportunity gathered. It was this day that our resourceful Editor-in-Chief Nicole Quiroz was able to secure the iconic but often unavailable location: The Salk Institute. With the location secured and all four aforementioned photographers available, I contacted our favorite couture designer, Osbaldo Ahumada. His imaginative designs are often both ahead of the times and classic, traits that are akin to world-renowned architect Louis I. Kahn's structures at Salk. Now we just needed the perfect models to complete the dream team. That's where our "automatic models," Anna Weeks and Bethany Farrington come in and they were both fortunately available ("Automatic" because we can always count on these fabulous ladies to bring their "A" game!).

Photo: Minh Huynh, Model: Anna Weeks


he shoot flowed smoothly like the brisk wind present in La Jolla. I split the four photographers into two teams where they would alternate between shooting and assisting. Although we came prepared with our assortment of Elinchrom strobes, everyone was moving swiftly in and out of their sessions that the bright Southern California sun became the preferred lighting tool. Using shadows cast by the massively inspiring architecture and an assortment of diffusers, we shot to our hearts' content. Tip: I found the use of neutral density filters to be tremendously useful for such bright conditions - allowing me to control exposure and aperture as necessary. Sunny 16 rule be dammed! Technology really saved our butts. After shooting the whole day under such harsh lighting conditions, my appreciation for photography master Helmut Newton's work grew by ten folds. I also brought along a light HDSLR rig equipped with one of my favorite Nikkors: 85mm 1.4D. This allowed me to shoot some film footage over the shoulders of the other photographers in anticipation of a potential fashion film for MS Films.

Minh at work capturing Bethany's brilliant movement. Photo by Claire Harlin


atthias would not have time to work on the post processing of his photos so he kindly allowed me to work on them in the mean time. After loading the RAW files into Adobe Lightroom, I was amazed at the quality of the collaboration. The architecture of Salk, the beauty of the models enhanced by Rochelle's touch, the dramatic shapes of Osbaldo's designs all came together perfectly. Only minor touch-ups in Photoshop and some light film emulation using Alien Skin Exposure (Fuji Pro and Fuji Reala) to add a sense of surrealism was necessary. The rest was untouched. In this particular collaboration, less was more in terms of post processing.


t is often the case that when you put four or five photographers together in a group, competition and fear of losing trade secrets often take over. On contrary, I see opportunity to learn and share. The collaboration on February 11 proved Wooden's quote to be true, "The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team."

Rochelle Huynh - Styling, Hair and Makeup

Photo: Matthias Hombauer, Model: Anna Weeks, Hair, Makeup & Styling: Rochelle Huynh


ith the new phenomenon of Pinterest, we were able to approach our mood board in a different way. We created a board that allowed our collaborators to pin and share images that inspired them. We initially started out with rough ideas of makeup and hair. We were particularly drawn to images with strong contour features. The original idea for hair included lots of texture and voluminous shapes. These ideas were a good starting point while we finalized setting up the shoot location as well as wardrobe.

Rochelle expertly applying makeup on Anna. Captured by Matthias Hombauer


fter reaching out to our good friend and frequent collaborator Osbaldo Ahumada, we found that he had a new swimsuit and jacket in the works. The clothing items really helped bring the complete styling together. We had model Bethany Farrington wear the highly architectural jacket with plain black bikini bottoms. She happened to have a wonderful pair of black and metallic platform sandals that matched the outfit. Our other model Anna Weeks wore a metallic patterned swimsuit and a black, ballooned-sleeved swimsuit. Anna's basic black pumps were the perfect pairing for these suits.

Cracking Bethany up while she's doing her styling work, Rochelle is always the jokester

Once we were on site at the Salk Institute, the first order of business was to get Anna ready since she would modeling two different suits. I decided to use a neutral color palette for her makeup. I used a strong contour to define her cheeks and her eyes, which I smoked out to help her bright blue eyes pop. To finish her look, a sleek ponytail helped keep her hair in place to combat the day's windy conditions. I played with different accessories in gold tones to accent the colors of the beige suit. When Anna changed into the black suit, I gave her a chained body harness to fill the empty space of the deep v-cut. For Bethany's look, I again used strong contouring to accentuate her features. I used cooler tones in gunmetal, silver and black to create a smokey eye. I contrasted that with a bright red lip that mimicked the shade of the jacket. As for Bethany's hair, I created a ballerina topknot inspired style to create volume. Bethany also wore gold-toned jewelry to accent the gold hardware on the asymmetric jacket she wore.


he end result was one that the team was really happy with. The hair, makeup and styling all worked together to create a look that fit in with the architecture of the location. The goal was to have our models look very sleek, sophisticated, modern yet timeless. I feel that was accomplished and portrayed the mood we were aiming for.

Osbaldo Ahumada - Designer

Photo: Carrascography, Model: Bethany Farrington, Designer: Osbaldo Ahumada

A fresh new design in Osbaldo's studio, next to another masterpiece


ne thing I love from past decades is the modest yet form fitting bathing suits from the '40s. More particularly the classic hour-glass figure. Also, the covered-up approach portrays more class and femininity. That's why I was thrilled when I started to see some of the silhouettes of yesteryear coming back in the form of classic shapes and designs of swimwear. For these swimsuits, I added a fresh modern take on the swimwear styles of the '40s. As for the jacket design, I let the fabric speak to me and I decided to take a more futuristic, sci-fi approach.

Matthias Hombauer - Photographer

Photo: Matthias Hombauer, Model: Anna Weeks


y name is Matthias Hombauer and I am a people photographer based in Vienna, Austria. I've known the guys from Mahal style for a couple of years, and we were discussing our pictures via internet on Flickr and Facebook. It was and still is always a joy to hear Minh's opinion about my work.

Matthias in between shooting sessions


ince I had a trip to Los Angeles, I stopped by at a photo shoot that Mahal Style organized at the Salk Institute in San Diego. This was an overwhelming location and the models were just gorgeous. Meeting Minh and Rochelle in person was so much fun and so inspiring for me. I was able to shoot both models with different outfits and I learned a lot by observing how the team of Mahal Style works together. In the end of the day I was very pleased with my pictures and I can say that this was one of the best fashion photo shoots I have ever done. Thanks again for the friendly and motivated atmosphere and the opportunity to be part of the fantastic Mahal Style team!


Photo: Carrascography, Model: Anna Weeks

Matthias shooting in between the Carrascography gals. Photo: Claire Harlin


arrascography specializes in Natural Light Portrait Photography and Event Coverage. Our focus is usually Family Portraits, Weddings, Maternity Photos, etc. So when we were asked to collaborate with Mahal Style on an editorial shoot we were ecstatic! The styling and makeup was so different, than what we usually shoot that it not not only made us excited to take a different approach to our shooting style but to also try new editing techniques. The resources that Mahal Style used proved to be very effective in planning and team collaboration. Thank you Mahal Style for allowing us team take part in this shoot, it really inspired us!

Claire Harlin - Writer/Photographer

Photo: Carrascography, Model: Anna Weeks

Claire hard at work capturing behind the scenes images.


f had to narrow down the the people I am most impressed, inspired and intrigued by and compile one little list, the locals who have pioneered Mahal Style would rank pretty high on it. Judging from their Facebook page, which has almost 54,000 followers, you’d think there was a whole office full of professional stylists and photographers and web gurus cranking out their daily posts, videos, photos and awesomeness. But it’s just a core group of a handful of passionate people — comprised of two married couples and a couple others — who love each other and love what they do. Love, after all, is what the word “Mahal” means in several Asian languages, and as I tagged along at a shoot today at the Salk Institute, I saw firsthand that this group truly exudes every drop of that word.

Photo: Minh Huynh, Model: Bethany Farrington


inh and Rochelle Huynh (he mans the site and shoots photos/video, and she styles the models) have been married for eight years, and the site is in part a product of their mutual desire to follow through with a stylistic vision — one they weren’t getting out of hiring others to help them with their portfolio work. Instead of breaking into the fashion scene, they decided to be their own scene, so to speak, and they’ve created a respected product that’s united kindred spirits worldwide and provided an outlet for other talented locals. Minh and Rochelle not only love each other, but they love their thousands of followers (by responding to each and every one!) and they love those who collaborate with them. Take for instance model Bethany Farrington (the beauty in red). To my surprise (because I see models as being revered), she said models are not always treated reverentially on shoots. Bethany leaped at the opportunity to work with the Mahal crew today, however, because she loves their work, loves their philosophy and simply loves — them.

Photo: Matthias Hombauer, Model: Anna Weeks


ochelle treats the models like princesses, smiling and loving her work as she makes them look stunning with her makeup and hair prowess. She’s even sure to have snacks and blankets to make the models feel as comfortable as possible (on this day, it was abnormally cold and choice of attire for the models was minimal). Minh is gentle, calm and sincere. He respectfully and creatively guides the models through their poses, still nurturing their own personal style and intentions. For example, when shooting live footage of Bethany for a fashion film, he told her a story to put herself into — that she was from a different planet and just arrived on Earth, seeing everything for the first time. Being so talented with her acting ability and movements, she dramatically and confidently followed through with his vision. After, the two stood smiling, proudly and contently, and watched the footage. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure it was perfect.


he collaboration I saw on this shoot made me feel as if I was the alien seeing everything for the first time — not only an industry I know nothing about but now appreciate so much more than I did before this day, but the beauty that can come out of a collaborative, creative partnership that’s rooted in pure love.

"Supernatural Wonder"


Article & Director of Photography:
Minh Huynh
Nicole Quiroz
Hair, Makeup & Styling:
Rochelle Huynh
Osbaldo Ahumada
Salk Institute
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