Friday, October 28, 2016

Video and Photos - Custom 2016 Audi A6 Supercharged!

Those of you that know me well, know that I will never turn down a request from any of my life long friends, so when my friend of 15 years asked if I would edit a video of some footage that he shot of his awesome Audi A6, I did what I always do, I gave it my best effort. Matt had recently purchased a gimbal stabilizer for his cell phone and shot some video of his car along with our other dear friend Amir. But there wasn't enough good raw footage to make a decent video and I just felt an undeniable urge to get my ass out to California and shoot a proper video for him.

This was no small undertaking, it involved loading my Prius C with all my gear and driving from El Paso, Texas to La Quinta, California, a trip of 1400 miles round trip, 10 hours each way. With driving taking up 2 days, it left me only 2 days to scout locations and shoot as much raw footage as possible.

The Coachella Valley offers stunning views in every direction you gaze. The San Jacinto mountains are breathtaking, Joshua Tree National Monument is only 30 minutes away and is famous for it's colorful Southwest fauna, picturesque Box Canyon is found on the road from Joshua Tree to Salton Sea. I ended up shooting at all of the aforementioned locations and threw in a few shots of highway 74, which winds it's way up and down the mountains into and out of Palm Desert.

Matt's Audi is a 2016 A6 3.0T Supercharged, with customization by Boden Autohaus. The 21 inch amber toned, forged wheels are by Vossen and the air suspension system is supplied by a hard line AccuAir system. The end result is a gorgeous European luxury import that turns heads every where it goes.

The focus of the shoot was video, not photos, but naturally, I'd flip my camera out of video mode and snap a few shots. I hope you enjoy the video and photos of this marvelous automobile.

Cameras and gear used on this production:

Sony A7RII
Sony AX33
Sony Action Cam AS100 and AZ1VR
Sony RX100 IV
Beholder MS-1 3 axis gimbal
CAME Steadi Cam Rig

2016 Audi A6 3.0T on the road leading into Joshua Tree National Monument.

Photo location: Hwy 74 scenic view, Palm Desert, Ca.

The air suspension system allows the car to be raised and lowered by remote control or smart phone app. The wheels recess into the wheel well and seemingly disappear. 

Mother nature lent a helping hand with a stunning sunrise on day two of the shoot.

One of the ideas I had for a scene in the video was to feature a classy and sexy female model to accentuate and match the stunning lines and curves of the Audi. We ended up only using two short video clips of the model in the final video edit, however, you'll be able to see more of her when I post the behind the scenes/making of video coming in a couple weeks. Stay tuned. (Model: Patrica Cromwell

The crew: (L to R) Amir Afsar (, model Patricia Cromwell, car owner Matt Rifkin ( and photographer Felix Mena (me).

Special thanks to Matt for these behind the scene photos.

The sunrise sequence and time lapse required a 4am wake up plus a 45 minute drive out to the Salton Sea location. But the effort was well worth it as the sunrise was one of the most spectacular I have ever seen. 

Photography can be extremely rewarding and I feel fortunate to be able to capture and share.

Some of the best shots of the video were captured with my DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus drone. However, in the future, I will employ Matt's new DJI Mavic which has a ton of new, useful features.

View of the shoot from inside the car.

The sky was sort of blown out and dull at sunset during the model shoot but I had no choice but to make the best of it. Most of these shots did not make the final cut in the video.

Thanks for reading my blog and I hope you enjoyed the video. You can see more of these shots and some additional video clips from this shoot on my Instagram at

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Landscapes of the Organ Mountains - What I learned

Organ Mountain Range, New Mexico. As viewed looking West from White Sands Missile Range.

Traveling from El Paso, Texas to Las Cruces, New Mexico last week, I opted to take a route through the White Sands Missile Range and military base. I chose this route for a couple of compelling reasons. Firstly, it is the shortest route to Las Cruces from my office and secondly, it takes me very close to the East facing slopes of the jagged peaks of the Organ Mountain range.

I have been in awe of the Organ Mountain Range since moving to this area and being an active duty military service member, I have access to the missile range, which regular ordinary civilians do not. And I always like to try and get some images that capture perspectives perhaps not yet photographed by others. I figured my somewhat special access to the Eastern side slopes of the Organs might provide me with some unique images.

I have been feeling sort of melancholy as of late and lacked any motivation to go out and shoot photos, but laying in bed yesterday afternoon, I said "enough it enough" and made up my mind to go back to the Organs and see if I could get a shot of the view I had taken in during my recent drive through. The time was 3:30pm.

Sunset was around 6:30pm, however, knowing I would be close to the mountain peaks, the sun would drop behind and out of sight well before 6:30pm, so I had to get a move on and hustle to get my camera bag packed and get on the road for a one hour plus drive.

For my camera, I decided on the Sony A7RII because it's simply the best camera in my inventory, and at 42 megapixels, gives me the confidence to shoot any panorama or composition because I won't suffer a decline in resolution if I have to crop a little. For lenses, I brought along the Zeiss 16-35mm wide angle lens and the Zeiss 24-70mm general purpose lens. I also brought along a variable ND filter and Cokin graduated filter.


Photography is an on-going learning process and what I learned today is to never take your knowledge and certainty for granted. For example, the ND filter I brought along is threaded for a 72mm lens barrel. I WAS CERTAIN that both my lenses were threaded for 72mm filters, however, that is not the case as my Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 lens is threaded for a 67mm filter! Had I bothered to simply DOUBLE CHECK I would have seen that and could have therefore put a 67mm ND filter in my camera bag. But alas, once I was on location and realized my error, I had to make due without the filter. The result is the image you see below. Shot after sunset, utilizing the in-camera high contrast black and white feature. Make lemonade out of lemons as they say, right?

Black and white high contrast image of the Organ Mountains. Captured with Sony A7RII and Zeiss 24-70mm f/ lens. ISO 100, f/22, Exposure 1.3 seconds @ 57mm.

Zeiss 16-35mm @ 35mm, f/22, ISO 100, Exposure 1/25 seconds.

There weren't many clouds in the sky, which is too bad, on the other hand, it gives me a reason to go back to this spot. Southwestern sunsets with clouds in the sky are often a gorgeous fiery red, orange and purple. Still, I managed to get a couple of decent shots. And as is usually the case, I enjoyed (and needed) the quiet solitude of landscape photography. There was a warm, stiff breeze blowing. Two cows grazed in the distance and I, alone with my thoughts, composed a few nice images, I hope you enjoy.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

El Paso Fashion Week - Mercedes Benz Runway Show

UPDATE: Someone from Bazaar Models was nice enough to return my email request for a list of all the designers featured in the show. I have updated the post to give accurate credit for their fashion designs.


El Paso is trying, trying really, really hard and that's all you can ask for isn't it? While there was no disguising the fact that this was not a runway show in Los Angeles, New York or Paris, it was an excellent effort thanks in no small part to a pair of promising local designers.

My attendance at the show was very much a last minute thing. My neighbors are a wonderful family who I get along with extremely well. Danny, the son, is a car enthusiast, big time. He came over early yesterday to ask if I could shoot a short video of him doing a "burnout" in his dad's 2009 Corvette. One of the tires needed to be changed and he wanted to do a "burnout" before pulling the tire off the car. So I shot a video for him, as a result, I spoke to the mom and dad and they mentioned that their daughter Daniela had a runway show that evening. Daniela is an aspiring model and I feel like can I can give her some direction and advice to get her going, not to mention I'd be happy to shoot some photos for her portfolio. I volunteered my services for the evening and joined the family at the fashion show to snap some photos of Daniela rocking the runway, which she did!

It must be no small task to find enough local models to fill the needs of a runway show, and much like the line up of fashion designers, there were a few outstanding models who caught the attention of the attendees and a few who needed some practice and maybe some good coaching?

I also had my eye on the plethora of cameras and video gear that I spotted around the show and I've highlighted some in my photos below. And with that, enjoy my photos from the El Paso Fashion Week Runway Show hosted by Mercedes Benz of El Paso.

One of my favorite shots of the night, featuring a design by Jose Luis Victoria.

This guy has what looks like a Nikon (right) and a micro 4/3 Olympus (left) attached to a nice leather, double camera harness.

Sony A7S on a simple rig with 5 inch monitor.

Backstage after the show with my neighbor and aspiring model, Daniella

Canon EOS 70D?

Above and below, these two models made the top of my list for most stunning of the show and the exquisite dresses are by Gionni Straccia were some of my favorites.

This woman has no idea how ridiculous she looks shooting video with her enormous iPad. Someone should tell her that her iPhone shoots video too.

This gorgeous wedding dress is by Gionni Straccia.

Some of the best dressed people at the event were not even in the show. This gentleman looks absolutely classy and is setting trends for El Paso. It's this kind of confidence combined with unmistakable style that can help establish El Paso as a new fashion capitol.

Miss Teen El Paso, Abigail Velez.

Daniela, taking a phone call from interested agents bidding to sign her to a big contract, obviously.

Child models often steal the show at local runways, this cute Asian girl won many hearts!

These colorful designs from Nabyl Zarina were the most impressive of the night.

Above: Daniela models a casual dress from Hommework.

The runway show was hosted at Mercedes Benz of El Paso.

Red digital video camera. Outstanding cinema quality video rendering from this bad boy!

Miss Teen El Paso, Abigail Velez

I really liked his fashions but Jose Luis Victoria's logo needs a major redesign. Sadly, the amateurish logo blasted as large as life on the big screen detracted and distracted from the outstanding designs. The logo looks like it was designed for a new gangster rap group who are desperately trying to rip off the Yves Saint Laurent logo in an effort give themselves a luxury appeal, but it falls short because it was designed by that one guy in the rap group that thinks he is a graphic designer with mad skills but in reality he is just high on weed and can't do graphic design for shit.

The model pictured above opened the show and scared everyone with the blank, psychotic stare on her face. Has no one talked to her about this? Or perhaps she's just getting bad coaching? Two thumbs down from this observer.

The first collection of the night was very hit and miss. What I can say is that I appreciate the risks that Jose Luis Victoria took, however, his choices for which designs were shown on the runway leave me less than impressed. Not to mention his god awful company logo.

Perhaps I shouldn't be too hard on him because most of his designs were spot on. Then again, I couldn't locate a web site, Instagram or Facebook page for his company. Maybe they are waiting until the new company logo is released? ;)

As you can see, gorgeous designs, but please, please design a new company logo!

There she is again with that crazy, scary look. Was she on something?

Why would you put this design on the runway. One word comes to mind... frumpy. Perhaps it's just the model slouching and poor posture? Either way, the show director should never have let this on the floor. Really people.

Sony A7S is known for capturing stunning video, even in low light.

The kids models always seem to steal the show.

There's plenty of beauty to be admired in the crowd as well. This gorgeous hispanic woman caught my eye. Lips like a goddess and she did her make up as well as any professional I have ever seen. Her outfit and shoes were classy and sexy.

The Hommework collection was one of the highlights of the runway, showcasing contemporary styles for teens and 20 somethings. Visit their web site here to see more fabulous styles and designs!

Daniela Dominguez

So this guy was one of the sharpest dressed men in attendance, however, as exemplified by this photo, he was completely detached and uninterested in the show. And I think that says a lot about the show itself, when the best dressed people in the audience aren't taking an interest, that's bad news.

My favorite designer, by far, was Nabyl Zarina. I'm arranging an interview with her and will save my in depth thoughts for that post. Stay tuned!

Iwa Lee Haute Couture

Iwa Lee Designs from Peru were impressive.

Above: this flamenco inspired dress with stylish choker was simply jaw dropping!

Daniela has her game face on!

Above: Daniela models a casual outfit with leather vest by Kenneth Cole.

Dillard's presented the collection by Kenneth Cole, however, I was more interested in the original collections by local designers.

Daniela has a great look, she was confident and her walk on the runway is quite exquisite. He walk is natural not no labored or forced like a lot of the other models. Well done Daniela!