Dominique James, Photographer

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Free Hi-Res Photo Download: Lower Manhattan Skyline of New York City

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Free Hi-Res Photo Download: Lower Manhattan Skyline

This is a sweeping view of lower Manhattan's skyline.

This photo that I took shows the grand and sweeping view of a major portion of the Lower Manhattan in New York City. It also shows a little bit of Jersey City in New Jersey, the Hudson River, and at a distance, a tiny view of the iconic Statue of Liberty and the historic Ellis Island.

Download now for free (from this link) the high-resolution JPEG image file (11.41 MB) of the Lower Manhattan Skyline of New York City. You have full, non-exclusive, and perpetual license to the use of this image. The usage license is unrestricted and unlimited in any way for educational, commercial, personal and all other purposes. Please feel free to use, modify, crop, edit, alter, resize, and/or combine this image with graphic designs, objects, materials, other photos, and all other elements. There is no restrictions, limitations or conditions on the download and use of this image. Get this image now and tell others about it.

[Photographed by Dominique James. To get and collect fine art photo prints, visit  the Dominique James Zatista Store. For more information, send email to dominiquejames@mac.com.]

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Food, glorious food …

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Sisig

Sisig, one of the Filipino-themed all-time favorite specialty dishes served at the newly opened Side Grill Restaurant in Jersey City, New Jersey.

DOMINIQUE JAMES

When I was starting out as a professional photographer, my young and impressionable mind was blown away the very first time I heard that photographers[1] use mashed potatoes when photographing ice cream. It was a lightning bolt of a revelation! It totally made sense to me since the structure and consistency are visually the same, and mashed potatoes never melts—not even under very hot lights.

For good or bad, this bit of handy knowledge became part and parcel of helpful and useful things that I carry in my head, as if some kind of cardinal or even Biblical truth, a manna from heaven. Since then, the way I look at photographs of food, and even my relationship with food, has forever changed.

I don’t remember the name of the first person who told me about using mashed potatoes for an ice cream. Through the years, as if a mantra, this nugget of wisdom would be repeated to me often enough by all and sundry, many of whom were not even photographers. Surprisingly, hard as I try to recall, the one true master of food photography himself, Mark Floro[2], never ever mentioned this to me, not even once in any of our many conversations[3]. In any case, outside of the rarified domain of food photography, does anyone really care to know what a photograph of an ice cream is really made of as long as it looks deliciously real?

As my career progressed, and though my expertise, interest and focus leaned towards portraiture and fashion, I was lucky enough to have been entrusted with taking pictures of food for commercial campaigns of several fastfood chains and fine dining restaurants[4]. In almost all of these shoots, except for a trick or two here and there, I actually photographed real, edible food. Even the one time I took pictures of Ilustrado Restaurant’s[5] famous gourmet Sampaguita ice cream, we used the real thing[6], not mashed potatoes.

Still, even with a number of professional food shooting experience tucked into my increasingly widening belt (all from eating), I still somehow cannot help but doubt the authenticity of sumptuous-looking dishes photographed by others that I see in ads. In my skepticism, I even try to discern fakery whenever I look at pictures of food, but alas, none to successfully. Perhaps the idea of delicious dishes is too overpowering on an empty stomach?

I was once teased (or dared? or challenged?) by someone who is well aware of my terrible, terrible love of photography. If I had to choose one over the other, which would I prefer: photographing food or eating them? What a torturous question! This is one of the few questions that actually stopped me in my tracks and take the time to answer. I just hope no one ever thinks of torturing and embarrassing any of the Ms. Universe beauty pageant finalists in the Q&A portion with a question like this. To me at least, this is one of a deep probing that ranks high up with all the other questions on the mystical nature of humanity and the universe.[7]

At first, of course, taking the high road, I desperately wanted to answer that I enjoy photographing them more than eating them. After all, I consider myself to be an artiste; and artistic expression is what I live and die for, by culinary standards or not. I mean, choosing to photograph food rather than eat them seems like the right kind of answer—the one that judges of the Ms. Universe competition would certainly think as the right answer.

That’s the “intellectual” side of me rationalizing the whole deal. But then, who am I kidding? I mean, I’m really more concerned with what I put in my mouth than taking pictures of them. If I might confess one thing right here, I actually never bother taking pictures of food (no matter how incredible the presentation) before I eat them. I always end up giving in to the base instinct of my human nature, which, after all, is universal, and therefore, relevant to everyone. I eat them! So, the fact remains, I like eating more than photographing food.

But hey, once in a while, I get the chance to actually do both. Here’s the thing: I get to eat the food after the shoot! Most of it, anyway. For me, that is what’s actually fun about photographing food—taking pictures of it, and then eating it. What could possibly be better?[8]

I recently photographed the dishes being served by a newly opened Filipino restaurant in Jersey City, New Jersey, called Side Grill. Located right smack in the middle of West Side Avenue, where many of the half-a-million Filipinos living in that area are clustered tightly into a community, Side Grill serves some of the most awesome all-time favorite and all-time popular Filipino dishes originating from the different regions of the Philippines. Chef Herman Villadolid kept plating one exquisite dish after another which, in the end, resulted in an awesome culinary snapshot of the authentic Filipino cuisine. The pictures, taken as a whole, represented almost all of the major typical Filipino culinary experience not only in the Philippines, but of all Filipinos whichever corner of the globe they happen to work, or live, or be.

The thing about Filipino food is that it is truly comforting. Each dish has a distinct signature taste that is familiar to the palette. As Filipinos, we know how it should taste like, even as we compare and reference it to how we remember the taste from countless others that we’ve no doubt tasted in the past. We judge a particular food against the taste of how our parents, grandparents, or cousins, aunts and uncles cook it, based on the family’s heirloom recipe, or we compare its taste against that of a favorite cafeteria, fastfood, or turo-turo[9] restaurant. We compare it to our own cooking. And we form snap judgement, whether it is good or not. But none too harshly, I would suppose, because we still eat it, no matter how terrible we think it tastes. There is a sense of comfort to eating the familiar that it’s almost a solemn communion. It beckons to us, it calls us, it makes us, all at once, taste home.

[Note: The food photography project for Side Grill’s first major promotional campaign was done with Dennis Altobar, Together, we’ve photographed on location almost 50 mouth-watering dishes within the span of a week. We’ve also photographed Side Grill’s restaurant interior and exterior during the day, and at night time. Many of the pictures are now featured in Side Grill’s beautiful and elegant website, serving as a counterpoint to the fantastic logo designed by Mark Gonzales[10]. Some of the food photographs are individually featured as the main visual element of full-color posters and all other collateral promo materials designed by the creative artists of The Studio. These posters and promo materials has been professionally printed by Marisse Panlilio[11] of MPGrafx.]

[1] Together with an army of hardworking food stylists who collaborate with them on commercial food photography.
[2] I used to sneak in Mark Floro’s food photography workshops next door every moment whenever I’d get bored from the nude photography workshops I used to conduct at the Philippine Center for Creative Imaging.
[3] We were probably too preoccupied with talking about so many other topics of mutual interest to have time to actually talk about something like food photography!
[4] I’ve done food photography for Alfredo’s Steakhouse, Illustrado Restaurant, T.G.I.F., among others.
[5] Ilustrado Restaurant is located in the historic district of Intramuros in Manila.
[6] Never mind if it kept melting and we had to do it over and over again!
[7] Ok, that’s hyperbole right there, but it is what it is to me.
[8] I can think of one, but never mind.
[9] The word “turo-turo” means “to point at.” This is a kind of restaurant where you simply point out to the attending server which dishes you’d like to order.
[10] You can view the works of Mark Gonzales at his website http://www.smallzinc.com and you can email him at me@smallzinc.com.
[11] Marisse Panlilio can be reached at marisse@mpgrafx.com.

Great minds visualize alike …

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The Tale Of Two Buildings

A Tale Of Two Buildings: A side-by-side comparison of two photo images of two different buildings to show its striking similarities, as well as differences.

DOMINIQUE JAMES

“Great minds think alike!”

No doubt, it is a positive and uplifting truism, one that is said out aloud and a lot—mostly as unbridled expression of happy coincidences in moments that warrants it. Simple and direct, it is a phrase that aptly punctuates, with a significant exclamation point, many of life’s suddenly joyous eventualities.

However, woe unto us mortals, because unfortunately, no one actually remembers or knows from whom and from where that oft-quoted phrase originally came from. Lost in the mist of time is the definitive identity of the one wise man who first uttered it. In a sense, the very idea in itself, has become public domain[1]. There has been a number of brave attempts at mindful attribution, but in these days of the wild and wooly Internet, such can be deemed half-hearted and none too credible. So, reliably, whenever it comes up, it is best generally attributed to none other than “Anon.”[2]

I bring up this fascinating phrase because it was what immediately came to mind, perhaps as a matter of rightful inspiration, when not too long ago I was absently browsing the Internet, that I saw, for the first time, a picture that struck a deepest essence of my core[3].

It was a picture of a building.

I’ve seen countless pictures of buildings, some ornate, some historic, some, well, looks like—a buildings, or not. This picture of the building I saw was quite simple. But what struck me with this particular photo was that it looked almost the same as the picture of a building I recently photographed[4]. It’s not exactly the same, as you can see in the photo above, but despite the obvious differences in angle, theme, point-of-view, color, treatment, among others, I couldn’t help but be struck by its somewhat uncanny and essential similarity.

As such, I find it fascinating. To me at least, it’s a marvel of coincidence. I mean, how often can such a thing happen? Having been a professional photographer for more than 25 years, and I have photographed all sorts of things, and I actually can’t remember when was the last time something like this has happened.

The image I photographed (on the left) was for a commercial assignment, the facade of a newly named Filipino restaurant in Jersey City, New Jersey, called “Side Grill.”[5] Using an ultrawide, full-frame lens, I photographed it right in the front corner of the restaurant’s facade, in the middle of winter, as the last of the day’s light was about to be enveloped by darkness. The image was post-processed on Apple’s Aperture 3 and Adobe Photoshop CS5. The image that looks oddly and strangely similar (on the left), is a fine art photo taken by another photographer whom I personally do not know[6], with an iPhone’s camera that showed a similar angle and composition, but of a different building, in a different location, and post-processed in an entirely different way.

When confronted with two or more similar-looking photographs, it is but natural to make immediate comparisons and judgements. That seems to be the natural tendency, at least when looking at comparable pictures. And, I can understand and see why viewers might quickly decide which one they like best. But, I just want to make sure and say that I’m not showing these photos side-by-side because I am asking for you to decide which photo you like best, other than to share with you its striking similarity, perhaps in the same way that I first saw it when I did.

If you think about it, it actually doesn’t make sense to decide if one is better than the other. That kind of judgement, to say the least, is subjective. Not only is it notoriously dependent on the individual eye of the beholder (acting naturally as its own curator), but we also have to take into consideration the circumstances and the primary purpose with which the photograph was taken. In all and in particular cases, enveloped in a properly defined context, one will always be suitably better than the other.

In any case, it is not every day that I come across an amazing serendipity such as this. I’m happy I came across the other photographer’s picture, and I don’t mind discovering more similarities among my work[7] with that of others.

And so, just to paraphrase the line, “great minds think alike,” at this point I’m inclined to say that “great minds visualize alike!”

Note: I’ve had the delightful pleasure of photographing Side Grill’s delicious food for their first major promotional campaign. The entire shoot project was done and completed with a collaborator, Dennis Altobar. Together, we’ve photographed (on site) almost 50 mouth-watering dishes prepared by noted Filipino chef, Herman Villadolid, within the span of a week. (And that was quite a treat!) We’ve also photographed Side Grill’s restaurant interior and exterior during the day, and at night time. Many of the pictures are now featured in Side Grill’s beautiful and elegant website, serving as a counterpoint to the fantastic logo designed by Mark Gonzales[8]. Some of the food photographs are individually featured as the main visual element of full-color posters and all other collateral promo materials designed by the creative artists of The Studio. These posters and promo materials has been professionally printed by Marisse Panlilio[9] of MPGrafx.

[1] Which, if you think about it, isn’t a bad idea at all!
[2] Anon, if you must know, sands for anonymous.
[3] Ok, that’s definitely hyperbole right there, but I can’t resist.
[4] Together with Dennis Altobar.
[5] Side Grill Restaurant is located at 561 West Side Avenue, Jersey City, New Jersey 07304. You can call 201-360-2161 for inquiries. Visit their website at http://www.sidegrillonline.com for more.
[6] I saw the image on Tumblr.
[7] Including the works of my collaborators such as Dennis Altobar.
[8] You can view the works of Mark Gonzales at his website http://www.smallzinc.com and you can email him at me@smallzinc.com.
[9] Marisse Panlilio can be reached at marisse@mpgrafx.com.

Food

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Chopsuey

Chopsuey, one of the fabulous signature dishes from the new Side Grill Restaurant in Jersey City, New Jersey, photographed by Dominique James and Dennis Altobar.

BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

“When we no longer have good cooking in the world, we will have no literature, nor high and sharp intelligence, nor friendly gatherings, nor social harmony.” – Marie-Antoine Caréme, Chef (1784-1833)

The population of the Filipino community in Jersey City, New Jersey, has steadily grown through the years. The latest count estimates more than half-a-million who now takes up both permanent and long-term residence there. And from all indications, the population is expected to rise in the years to come.

A very good (and quite visible) indication of this growth can be seen in the steady increase of Filipino-owned establishments in the area. Stores, groceries, restaurants, among others, run mostly by enterprising Filipinos, pop up alongside all other small businesses serving the community.

One such new and exciting venture is Side Grill.

Side Grill, located at West Side Avenue and which opened just three months ago, is a contemporary Filipino restaurant serving many of the most popular and well-loved dishes from almost all major regions of their homeland, The Philippines. There are already a number of well-established Filipino and Asian-themed restaurants lining up West Side Avenue. But Side Grill, as the newest addition, is yet another visible Filipino “food culture” stamp on the area.

While Side Grill is decidedly and authentically Filipino, serving an amazing breadth and depth of selections featuring mostly all-time favorite dishes and catering primarily to the Filipino palette (a taste of home, so to speak), this is not to say that they are exclusively serving the Filipino clientele. As a matter of fact, since Side Grill threw its doors open, the restaurant has enjoyed very supportive patronage from Americans and a curious mix of people hailing from various nationalities. At any time, it is not unusual to see Americans and people of different nationalities share and partake meals with Filipinos. This is quite an unexpected but very welcome development since the Filipino cuisine, which is mostly an exotic fusion of Western and Oriental influences, has yet to enjoy as much popularity as other Asian cuisines, particularly that of the Thai, Japanese and Chinese cuisines.

So, what draws all sorts of people to Side Grill? The delicious food prepared by chef Herman Villadolid and his all-Filipino kitchen staff? The beautiful and colorful ambience of the dining area? The trademark and almost-patented happy and warm welcoming smiles of the Filipinos?

Most likely, it’s a magical combination of all of the above.

[Note: I’ve had the delightful pleasure of photographing Side Grill’s delicious food for their first major promotional campaign. This photo shoot project was done with Dennis Altobar. Together, we’ve photographed almost 50 mouth-watering dishes within the span of a week all on location. We’ve also photographed Side Grill’s restaurant interior and exterior during the day, and at night time. Many of the pictures are now featured in Side Grill’s beautiful and elegant website, serving as a counterpoint to the fantastic logo designed by Mark Gonzales. Some of the food photographs are individually featured as the main visual element of full-color posters and all other collateral promo materials designed by the creative artists of The Studio. These posters and promo materials has been professionally printed by Marisse Panlilio of MPGrafx.]

B, H, N, Y, C, U, S, A

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BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

A seemingly strange string of letters makes up the title of this blog post. If you’re a professional photographer, you probably have an idea what it means. If not, allow me tell you.

B and H, the first two letters in the sequence, stand for the name of a photo and video equipment store. Being a non-chain store, it is located only in New York City, which represents the next three letters. And it is the biggest in the United States of America, which brings us the final three in the string of letters. I could have added a W at the end, for it is also perhaps the most well-known in the entire world.

Sure, there are other B&Hs out there—an airline service, a publishing group, a music service, a brand of cigarette, a railroad company. But for our purposes, we refer to B&H as B&H Photo Video.

B&H started out in 1973 as a storefront shop selling film on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It is run by Herman Schreiber and his wife, Blimie, which pretty much explains what B&H stands for. Quickly outgrowing its space, it moved to a large loft on West 17th Street, in an area that was known in the 70s as the Photo District. Catering to the needs of neighborhood artists, the store expanded to sell film equipment and other photo products.

In 1997, B&H moved to its present 9th Avenue and 34th Street location. By October 30, 2007, it had opened the floor above the ground level sales floor, bringing the total to 70,000 square feet of sales space. Products such as pro lighting, binoculars and scopes, video, audio, darkroom, film, as well as home and portable entertainment are all on the first floor. On the second floor are analog and digital photography equipment, computers, printers, scanners and related accessories. With more than 235,000 products in stock, it’s almost certain that if a doodad exists, it can be bought at B&H.

B&H has more than 1,500 employees. On average, they serve an average of 11,000 to 12,000 in-store customers per day. In addition, B&H conducts a considerable amount of business on the Internet. In 35 years, B&H has grown into a “superstore.” With knowledgeable sales professionals and the installed  mechanical labyrinth to magically bring you each and every item you ask for wherever you happen to be in the store, B&H is the gadgeteer’s equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

B&H is so firmly established that it’s almost fair to say no self-respecting professional photographer (or professional videographer for that matter) from anywhere in the world has not heard of it. In fact, it is likely the world’s top photographers and videographers, at one point or another, have bought stuff from the B&H store, or at least ordered online.

When I moved to the city three years ago, I knew for sure I’d visit B&H soon enough—just to check things out. To me, it was an “attraction.” Of course, it doesn’t quite compare to the grandness of The Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty, but to a professional photographer such as myself, it’s one those not-to-be-missed places.

The first time I stepped inside B&H, I was somewhat overwhelmed and bewildered. I didn’t understand the store’s layout, directional signs, waypoints, and the many personnel stationed all over. But it soon enough made sense—these were all guides that had been carefully setup to orient where you were and direct where you should go.

As I settled into the city, I began to visit there to do something more purposeful: buy stuff. I can imagine that many cards like mine have thinned a millimeter from being constantly swiped at B&H’s checkout counters, more than at any other establishment in New York. Visa would be justifiably happy.

Everyone’s B&H experience is encapsulated between two points: an expectant beginning at the entrance door with Pedro, the cheery greeter who ushers one and all into the store; and a happy ending at the exit door with the smiling Sheila, who hands out survey coupons, and Alfonso, who expertly shows the proper way out.. In between, of course, is the heart and soul of the B&H experience, the encounters with the Davids, Solomons, and Jacobs at every nook and cranny of the two-floor selling area. This carefully controlled piece of Manhattan real estate hums with efficient commerce under a veneer of genuine, professional friendliness.

Lately, I have been hanging out at B&H—almost every day these past two months, more than I ever did at any other place in the entire amazing city of New York1. Just check out my recent check-ins at Foursquare2. And I don’t even work there! So there, that’s all there is to the string of letters that serves as this week’s blog title.

But wouldn’t you like to know why I’ve been spending a lot of time at B&H? I mean, how often do I (or anyone for that matter) really need to go there? Sure, I’ve been buying stuff, only because no one can remain impervious to the temptation on display. But shopping is not the only reason that I go there day to day. That’s the story I wanted to tell you.

Tucked in an area on the 2nd floor is a compact space called Event Space. It’s actually almost so inconspicuous that many people who go to B&H may not even notice it. I’ve been going there for photography lectures, seminars, and workshops, conducted by some of the most talented pros from around the world.

The B&H Event Space, launched in November of 2007, is a learning environment designed to educate, inspire, and cultivate a community of like-minded individuals who aspire to be great at what they love to do. By offering workshops and lectures in photography (and also video and pro audio), their mission is to help those in the community achieve their goals. David Brommer and Jennifer Diamond are two of its central figures. They are supported by a team of photo, video and audio experts: Allan Weitz, Andrew P. Byrd, Casey Krugman, Gabriel Biderman, Jason Friedman, Joey Quintero, and Larry Cohen.

Finding the right speakers to conduct talks at B&H is important. In many instances, they directly reach out to those whom they want to speak at the Event Space. “We find photographers on blogs or other industry websites, and will contact them if we like their work. Other times, we find speakers through recommendations,” Diamond said.

“The qualifications that we look for in a speaker are: first and foremost, quality of work; secondly, it’s important that the photographer has good public speaking skills. If the photographer is an instructor, that is a very good quality to have because it’s a strong indicator that they speak well. The usual concerns when getting speakers are scheduling—deciding what day is most appropriate for them to speak.”

The B&H Event Space also partners with major manufacturers in the imaging industry and academic institutions in the arts to produce a wide range of workshops and seminars, covering a vast spectrum of topics.

“There are times where speakers are sponsored by manufacturers, in which case the company chooses the speaker,” Diamond said. “Not all speakers are sponsored by companies, only about 10 percent are. Sometimes speakers will ask us to help find them sponsorship, and this can be very challenging. It’s really the responsibility of the speaker to find their own sponsorship. If we can assist, we will at times but it doesn’t always work out. It’s challenging to find sponsorship, especially in this economy.”

In addition, B&H “Mavens,” employees who are experts on a specific topic, teach classes in the Event Space. On Sundays, high-profile and emerging photographers, as well as industry professionals, deliver inspirational lectures about their work and spin their personal tales of success. “We like to have more artistic lectures on Sundays,” Diamond says.

The very first speaker at the Event Space was Mike Corrado from Nikon. It was a D300 and D300s product launch. Since then, the Event Space has hosted a number of prominent speakers including Brian Storm, Vincent Laforet, Joyce Tenneson, Joe McNally, and John Paul Caponigro. (Oh, by the way, just like everyone else, most of the speakers often shop before and after their lectures, sometimes spending thousands of dollars.)

The most requested topics are on software, mainly Photoshop and other editing tools like Adobe’s Lightroom and Apple’s Aperture. Lighting seminars and travel photography are also very popular.

The sessions that were the most memorable, Diamond says, were the Lensbaby photo safari through Times Square, Real Exposures with Harvey Stein, The Women Photography Panel, the f295 symposium, Sarah Small’s lecture, and David Brommer’s Composition class.

The best-attended session of all time was Joe McNally’s lecture—92 people!

All the sessions at the B&H Event Space are free. “We believe in providing free education to the public so that everyone has an equal chance to learn and benefit from the service we are providing,” Jennifer Diamond says. “We are not interested in gaining a profit from our events, but we realize that attendees who visit our Event Space may be inclined to shop once they are inside the store.”

The B&H Event Space can comfortably sit around 60 people at a time. Reservations to any of the events can be made online.

I found out about the Event Space during my first visit. I’d attended a couple of sessions before. Then two months ago, I decided to check it out again. Like a sudden addiction, I ended up attending most of the scheduled events, all within the span of 8 consecutive weeks. I sat for 2-hour stretches at a time, listening to different speakers: Peter Turnley, Katrin Eismann, Tim Grey, Adam Barker, Jim Vecchi, Will Crockett, Kareem Black, Andrew Gruber, Kerrick James, Jem Schofield, David Guy Maynard, Marc Silber, Allan Weitz, Rudy Winston, Quest Couch, Amy Kosh, Rick Berk, Victor Ha, Lili Almog, and Lindsay Adler.

Sitting in these sessions, I also got to know some of the other regular attendees. There’s Tina, the professional pet photographer who taps extensive notes into her netbook PC, There’s Meryll, who always asks questions about matters that are unclear. There’s Emmanuel, who listens attentively, absorbing everything like a sponge. And then there’s Jim who records the sessions with his Flip Mino.

After each of the 2-hour sessions, I invariably hang around the store a bit, wandering here and there, and almost always deciding which of the thousands and thousands of items on display I will  buy next. If you hang out in B&H long enough and often enough like I did, you’ll soon come to one inescapable realization—you want to buy everything.

But the B&H Event Space experience doesn’t end when the session ends. In fact, the lectures, workshops and seminars are just the beginning. The B&H Event Space is turning out to be a hub for a small but growing community. Beyond sitting in the sessions and receiving pro-level instruction and inspiration, anyone who might be interested can get involved in other ways.

For instance, you can sign up on their Facebook and Twitter pages to keep abreast of the goings-on, including additional unscheduled sessions, pop quizzes with special prizes, and many other surprise goodies. You can join and contribute photos in their Flickr group. On iTunes, you can download podcasts of some of their recorded sessions. And, here’s something that very few people know about—you can become one of the B&H Infinitists by joining the Infinity Photographic Society’s monthly gathering.

With all this, no wonder Sergey Brin, president and co-founder of Google, said that B&H is his favorite camera store. And yes, if it isn’t obvious yet, it’s mine too.

THE ART OF IPHONE PHOTOGRAPHY: I’m happy to share with you this good news—my book, The Art of iPhone Photography, (Rocky Nook) will be available soon. You can now pre-order this book online from Amazon. Do check it out! Thanks.

ONE MORE THING: As a way of saying thank you to the readers of The Pictorialist blog, I’m giving away a free high-resolution, full-color image of the Statue of Liberty. You can download this professionally photographed 7.57 MB JPEG image file now for free on my Flickr gallery. Just click here. You can do whatever you want to do with this photo, no restrictions and no strings attached. You can use this picture for personal, educational, commercial or any other purposes. This is the first of many more free images I’m going to be giving away. To keep up to date, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter. Also, check out and bookmark my blog here. Thanks!

Notes:

1The other places in New York where I spend a lot of time are museums and art galleries.

2Foursquare is a social networking software application that allows you to “check-in” and broadcast your location in real time using mobile devices such as an iPhone.

[About the author: Dominique James is a New York-based professional photographer. You can contact Dominique James through email or visit his fine art photography website Zatista. For more information, please click here.]

A professional shoot for models and talents

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Model Caroline Heinle photographed by Dominique James. Copyright © 2009. All rights reserved. For authorized use only.BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

Have you ever been approached by a police officer to be told that you cannot do a photo shoot on a location you have selected because it’s a public park and that you needed a permit? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me recently. I didn’t think it would, but it did. Have I known that we needed a permit, I would have gotten one. That’s just how it’s supposed to be done. But because I thought there was no need for it, considering the very small size of the shooting production, of which we were only a handful, our little group was literally thrown out of the park—unceremoniously, almost. I was caught by surprise. I was baffled because we weren’t obstructing anything and we weren’t bothering anyone. We were in fact very careful and very conscious not to be too conspicuous. And, the fact is, we didn’t have any thing that resembled a major production setup—not one of those things that has hundreds of people all around, with parked cars, trucks, trailers and generators. There were only five of us during the shoot. But apparently, because the photo session we were conducting looked “professional” enough, we were firmly told that we needed to get a permit to be allowed to shoot. Without the permit, we cannot continue with the pictorial. Thinking back on what we were doing, I still couldn’t imagine that it would have merited a permit.

Being directly responsible for the shoot, no matter how small, I had to think, find a way, and act fast. For one thing, I didn’t want the people I was working with to get into trouble. Heck, I don’t want to get into trouble myself! I had to figure out a way to make sure that we get to do what we wanted to do without getting into trouble. The last thing my little group wanted was to stop shooting, but the last thing that the police officer wanted us to do was to stop shooting. Clearly, we were in a bind, but I wasn’t just about to give up, pack up and call it quits. That would have been unprofessional, and I didn’t want to end a shoot this way. I had to find a way.

The name of my model (and client) for this shoot is Caroline. Caroline wanted to come up with a professional portfolio. It wasn’t a photo shoot for a huge media or production company. We embarked on a simple project to produce a simple portfolio that Caroline can bring along and show around.

Caroline was about to make her big move. She made some plans, had things figured out, and was slowly ticking off one item at a time in her personal to-do list in order to move things along. She has her sights on a goal. She was very organized, methodical, and determined. And, she was also very beautiful. A mutual friend, who felt that we can work something out, introduced us to each other. Caroline and I hit it off well. We got to talk and exchange emails several time for about two weeks before we finally decided to schedule a meet for the pictorial.

Along the way, the many details of the shoot were ironed out. Though what we wanted to do for this pictorial was something simple and straightforward, it was quite surprising that we somehow found ourselves ruminating through a mountain of details. Usually, a typical pictorial involves figuring out what kind of images to produce, who to work with for the hair-and-makeup and wardrobe styling, where to shoot, and how many layouts to do. From experience, these details can be worked out quickly and easily. But what surprised me all the more is that I actually didn’t mind all the in-depth planning and discussions we were having. To my mind, the more we plan things out prior to the pictorial, the better it would be. For one thing, this will give us a chance to really be ready and to concentrate fully on what we wanted to do during the shoot, and we’d be able to minimize unpleasant surprises or snags. Of course, we were well aware that we couldn’t possibly be ever 100% ready for anything, but we tried nonetheless.

Because both Caroline and I wanted to make sure that we cover everything so that we can have a productive and creative session, we communicated constantly, sharing ideas and concepts. Personally, I was thankful that Caroline knew exactly what kind of images she wanted. This helped a lot because, along the way, we were able to refine what we wanted to achieve. And, it probably helped too that we somehow got caught in the excitement of what we were about to do. So, we simply let it grow. It sometimes help to start with a blank slate where both the photographer and the subject can thresh out details through a series of pre-production meetings, but in the case of Caroline, it was better to focus right away on what she wanted since she had to leave New York for Hollywood in the next few days. Besides, on her own, Caroline already had much time to consider the concept of the shoot. She just needed a photographer who can help her make it all happen.

On the day of the shoot, everything started smoothly—selecting the clothes, doing the hair-and-makeup, preparing all equipment. We breezed through the first two outfits with impeccable timing, moving along at a comfortable, steady pace. It helped that the weather was great. We were getting really good shots. But as we moved on to the third layout, that’s when a police officer unexpectedly came up to us to tell us that we have to stop shooting, pack our things and move away. Many unexpected things can happen in a shoot. I know this because I’ve been through countless pictorial sessions. But getting thrown out wasn’t one of the things I thought would ever happen. Life, as they say, is full of surprises.

At that moment, I didn’t quite know what to do except to comply. The first thing on my mind was the safety of those whom I was working with, but at the same time, I didn’t want to abruptly end the shoot and walk away empty-handed. I was determined to finish what we’ve started. That’s when an idea hit me.

As everyone was packing their stuff while the police officer was sternly looking at us, I figured that we’ll just move to a different nearby location, away from the constantly patrolled public park where we were started shooting. Having walked around the area a few times, I know that there was one particular spot where we can continue doing the shoot. I didn’t know if we were going to be stopped too, should an officer come along, but I had to give it a shot (so to speak).

With feigned confidence, and without really explaining what I had in mind, I asked everyone to gather their things. The only thing I told everyone was that we were moving to a different location. For one thing, I didn’t want them to lose their hope, with things ending badly.

I did my best to keep up the mood as I led our little group out of the park and into one of the streets across a multi-lane highway where I thought we can continue from where we left off. I can sense that a couple of the members of my team was becoming disappointed and confused, but I happily (and bravely) chatted on. As we arrived at the new location, an open street, I announced right there and then that it was on that exact spot where we will continue our work. Everyone was surprised but I simply told them that we have a job to do and we should get back to work to finish it. And so, right there and then, and without a fuss, everyone started to get right back to work as if nothing happened.

As we were all set for the third layout, a patrol car with two officers unexpectedly crawled its way slowly into the street where we were. My little group, fresh from the embarrassing and disappointing sting of being thrown out just a few minutes ago, was suddenly quiet, trying to keep a very low profile. You know the feeling when you wanted to just disappear? That was exactly what we were all feeling. Having been in New York for quite a while, I’ve seen what can happen when an officer stops to take notice, and instantly call for backup. In a matter of minutes, the area will be teeming with police cars, firetrucks, and an ambulance, with lights going on all at the same time. There’d be so many people gathering and yellow ribbons would have to be put up just to mark the perimeter off. It would be an instant crime scene!

But then, another unexpected thing happened! The patrol car didn’t stop. While the police officers glanced at us for a much longer time than usual, they simply drove past us without stopping. Can you just imagine our collective sigh of relief? That’s when we sensed, finally, in the new location, no one’s going to bother us for the rest of the shoot

And that was when the magic really started happening!

On this new location, a seemingly unassuming street, we were able to work our way to the end of the shoot. As a matter of fact, we were able to add a couple more layouts that during the planning stage we thought we wouldn’t be able to pull off. And the really nice thing is, probably because of the adrenalin rush for all the “excitement” that happened, we were able to finish on time. It turned out to be a really productive and creative shoot. Because of the new location, many other creative possibilities which were unavailable to us in the previous location simply opened up. We were able to do layouts that, while far different from what we originally thought, proved to be much better. The new location, with the many textures that portrayed different moods, depth and character, proved to be a blessing in disguise. We managed to create some really amazing images that was very much in line with our original concept. And, because we got inspired to try out other things in the new location, we were able to achieve something more.

Back to my studio a few hours later, as I was looking at the shots, I felt (oddly enough) glad that we were thrown out. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to create the many images we ended up making. A major part of it of course has something to do with the bunch of people I was working with—they had been the most unflappable professionals who continued to do what needed to be done despite the odds. What can I say? Nothing really shocks New Yorkers anymore.

As for Caroline, she got her pictures—another thing ticked off from her to-do list. And just as planned, she moved on to Hollywood to embark on an exciting new career in show business.

[Note: For inquiries and for information on professional photography assignments for editorial and/or advertising purposes, as well as for post-production digital image editing and enhancement, please send email to Dominique James at dominiquejames@mac.com or call 912-246-1131. For information on models and talents portfolio shoots, please click here. Thank you.]

So very posh nails

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This is a photograph of Rica Peralejo for Posh Nails ad campaign photographed by Dominique James.

In a time such as now, when nothing seems to be no longer new, it is getting harder and harder to capture and hold the attention of the viewing public. The idioms of photographic imaging, it seems, have grown stale. Photography today is so ubiquitous that people are hardly surprised anymore with whatever pictures they see. Is the public eye now jaded? Or, is there just a need to exercise more daring and creativity when it comes to image-making? The question of attracting and holding public attention is one that marketing professionals and advertising executives are constantly grappling with. One question is always being asked: What visual idea can be created to make an image stand out from the countless photographs that constantly vie for the public’s fickle attention? In other words, what will make a photograph “sell”? Of course, there is no single right answer to this kind of question, and is there certainly no fail-proof formula to the process of creating a compelling image designed to grab the viewers’ attention, and then hold it long enough to make it memorable. There is, however, one thing that always seems to work. And that is by injecting a photograph with an element of surprise. While there is no guarantee that this will always work, one way to keep the public interested, and hopefully consistently excited, is to come up with images that feeds upon their unexpected expectations. When the public is used to seeing one thing, designing a photograph that is different from any other that has been done in the past, by the sheer force of juxtaposing seemingly unrelated ideas and concepts, often seems to be the thing that works best. It is the antidote to the tragic same-ness of visual expression that characterize many advertising campaigns. By playing it safe all the time, products which the photographs purport to promote, can easily be ignored. With this in mind, and as a perfect example, I photographed Rica Peralejo for Posh Nails in a way that is different from any of her previous pictorials. Together with a dedicated and talented team of creative professionals, and in keeping with the client’s vision and direction, I decided it’s time for a Posh Nails campaign to move away from its previous imaging and to try out something quite different. While there is really nothing new to the “new image” I was trying to achieve, it cameout as something that is unexpected. What I did, was to focus on the element of playfulness that is portayed in the surprised facial expression, the in-your-face pose, and the bursts of bright and happy colors. Putting together three new elements changed the imaging so much. And so far, it is working. People are noticing “Posh Nails.” The gamble to try “something else” has paid off. Personally, it is commercial photography projects like this that makes for a lot of excitement not only in my studio during the photo shoots, but, also for our clients and their target viewing public. While I do a lot of perfected catalog shots, I always take on the opportunity to stretch out in all directions, and to cross boundaries. As they say, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

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