Dominique James, Photographer

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Midnight in Manhattan

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Midnight in Manhattan

Midnight in Manhattan (Photographs by Dominique James)

Geographically speaking, the Empire State Building is not the center of New York City. That distinction belongs to a little-known pastoral patch of grass in the lower portion of Central Park called Sheep Meadow.

But the art deco-designed Empire State Building, a 103-story skyscraper occupying a considerable city block that intersects Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street, with a full height of 1,454 feet—once the tallest building in the world—might as well be, the center of New York City.

As far as anyone in Manhattan is concerned, the Empire State Building is unquestionably the heart of New York City.

For most New Yorkers (and visitors alike), the Empire State Building is the one true compass on which to navigate the city without a map. From street level, those who are a little lost and wanting to geo-locate might simply look up to see where the Empire State Building is; and then, from high up the Observation Deck, on a clear day, one can visually map out the sprawling lay of the land for thousands of miles, not just the boroughs but across other states.

Movies such as An Affair To Remember, Love Affair, and Sleepless in Seattle, among many others, have established the Empire State Building as a major cultural icon.

And above all else, the Empire State Building is an office building.

Of its many notable tenants, Filipinos might find one to be of particular interest. The Filipino Reporter, a weekly newspaper founded on July 2, 1999 by Filipino newsman Luigi Andrei Eusebio, catering primarily to the Filipino-American community in New York City (the only ethnic newspaper that holds the distinction of being a regular member of the New York Press Club), has its office at the Empire State Building.

A compass, a cultural icon, an office, the heart of the city—very few buildings can claim to be all that, and more.

Yes, there is indeed so much more, so let’s add one bit: the Empire State Building is a veritable magnet to photographers.

Countless shutterbugs have been to the top of the Empire State Building to take pictures of the spectacular 360-degree view. Because of the ubiquity of the pictures taken from its perch, even those who have never been up the building, or in NYC for that matter, can have some imagined sense of what it might feel like to be up there. (Although of course, as with anything else, nothing really comes close to the experience of actually being there to see and experience it for one’s self.)

The Observatory Deck of the Empire State Building is open to the public from 8 AM to 2 PM. In 2008 alone, over 110 million people went up to marvel at the grand view all around down below—many of them with camera, of course.

I was one of them.

According to NASA, Manhattan’s bright city lights at night, bounded by New Jersey, Brooklyn and Queens, is visible from outer space. It glows a collective, bright amber.

Because of this bit of curiosity, instead of the usual and far more common daytime images of Manhattan’s sprawl, I decided I wanted to go up there (again) after dark to take pictures of the city down below, bathed in millions and millions of electrical pinpoints collectively battling darkness with valor. Armed with a compact camera, up I went on a chilly spring evening, determined to snap at whatever there is to see of the city at night.

Of course, I wasn’t disappointed. From that clear evening, close to midnight, I was able to take many, many pictures all around, and from it, a set of black-and-white landscape photos that has more in kinship with abstract paintings than realistic photographs.

Lacking the many telling details visible in daylight, and with no colors, one can only glean hints of the familiar shapes of the buildings and of the streets silhouetted in countless glimmering, shimmering lights. You are keenly aware of the city’s palpable existence down below, even if most of it is shrouded in darkness.

The black-and-white, abstract-looking pictures, stark in minimal shades of gray, informed only by specific arrangements of lights to suggest forms and structures, with most everything hidden in shadows, turned out to be a fascinating representation of New York City at night—a seeming state of incompleteness. Naturally and quite automatically, viewers cannot help but imaginatively fill in and map out the blanks of familiar nooks and crannies. Even if the individual frames of pictures were to be stitched to form one grand panorama of Manhattan in the dark, it would still appear incomplete, and one would still strive to imagine the personal, familiar blanks.

But there is another interesting way of looking at the incompleteness of each picture from this black-and-white photo set—for me, and for many others who have lived and called New York City home for quite some time, the experience of the place is somehow encapsulated in each of those largely incomplete photos—in the low-lying buildings, in the bustling city streets, in the city corners, in the patches of parks, in the soaring skyscrapers, and in the pinpoints of light everywhere, which, while appearing to be expansive, is actually well-contained and constrained in each of the finite frames. If there’s anything true about New York, it is a city unto each and every one’s own.

Pulling back a little, if we are to impose some sort of organizational structure to this set of photographs, we can divide them into two subsets.

The first obvious subset will have to be the almost vain attempt at photo-realism, where every image is a stark, clear-eyed impression of the sprawling urban landscape from a bird’s eye view. These are pictures that, although they are, almost aren’t.

The second, and perhaps less obvious subset, would have to be the painterly depiction of the views. These pictures, consciously taken with longer than usual exposure times, even deliberately moving the handheld camera in certain patterns or directions of motion while the digital sensor is being exposed, produced artful blurs that are somewhat impressionistic.

But despite the distinctiveness of the photographic approaches, styles and techniques, all the images, individually and as a set (or a subset), aims to invoke yet another facet of what New York City is all about—or whatever it might be—to the hopeful transients and transplants attempting to dig in and latch on to its granite foundation, to the wandering, wide-eyed tourists gawking at everything with undisguised awe, wonder, and curiosity, and to the jaded New Yorkers themselves who long ago have been blinded to everything around them.

For me personally, during the almost 4 years that I lived in New York City, and from out of the countless photographs I’ve taken of everything I’ve seen there, this set of black-and-white nightscapes is nothing but an open embrace of the ravishing, glittering bejeweled city that I’ve fallen madly in love with, which to this very day, I happen to be still madly in love with.

So, New York City, I love you … still.

Come and take a look at my set of “Midnight in Manhattan” black-and-white photographs at http://bit.ly/1nokw5c.

Also, if you haven’t already, please sign up (and do invite others to sign up as well) to my brief monthly photography email newsletter at http://eepurl.com/QBGCv. Thanks!

[Note: All photos from the official http://www.dominiquejames.com photography website are now directly available for download and print order for personal, editorial, and commercial use. Thanks!]

Ram, a New York model’s portfolio

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Ram • Portfolio

The main title page of Ram's New York fashion portfolio available for viewing online.

I enjoy working with professional fashion models. I love the idea of creating all sorts of interesting looks. It’s hard work for sure, but at the same time it’s undeniably pure play. Working with a expert team of innovative and professional hair and makeup artists, fashion stylists and some of the fashion designers themselves, the whole process has been a thrill. It is all about bringing imaginative fantasies to visually believable and oddly compelling realities.

I particularly had a blast shooting Ram, one of Ford New York’s prominent Asian male models. In this portfolio, we recently created all sorts of looks, from casual to formal, with the multifaceted Big Apple as the grand backdrop. Take a look at Ram’s complete 50-photo NYC fashion portfolio set. Click here.

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.]

Free Hi-Res Download Image: Rockefeller Center Doppler Radar

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Free Hi-Res Image Download: Rockefeller Center Doppler Radar

This is the Doppler Radar on top of the Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, New York City.

This picture that I took is an image of the Doppler Radar situated at the top of the Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan of New York City. Not too many tourists or visitors look at it and take notice when they go to the Top of the Rock. I can’t say I blame them. Only the most die-hard of weather enthusiasts would probably be really interested to see or look at this. This Doppler Radar has to compete, unfairly, with the magnificent and awe-inspiring 360-degree view of NYC’s downtown and uptown areas.

Download now for free (from this link) the high-resolution JPEG image file (9.90 MB) of the Rockefeller Center Doppler Radar in 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.]

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.]

Free Download: The Statue Of Liberty

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The Statue Of Liberty

The Statue Of Liberty

BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

The Statue of Liberty is a universal symbol of freedom. It is a beacon of hope to countless people from all over the world—including myself. When I moved to New York three years ago, it was one of the first things I wanted to see. But as I went about my new life, I would only be afforded, from time to time, a very distant glimpse of her. It wasn’t until recently that I finally got the chance to see her up close. She is every bit as magnificent and as inspiring as I thought her to be.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Lady Liberty:

“The Statue of Liberty (French: Statue de la Liberté), officially titled Liberty Enlightening the World (French: la Liberté éclairant le monde), dedicated on October 28, 1886, is a monument commemorating the centennial of the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence, given to the United States by the people of France to represent the friendship between the two countries established during the American Revolution. It represents a woman wearing a stola, a radiant crown and sandals, trampling a broken chain, carrying a torch in her raised right hand and a tabula ansata, where the date of the Declaration of Independence JULY IV MDCCLXXVI is inscribed, in her left arm. Standing on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, it welcomes visitors, immigrants, and returning Americans traveling by ship. Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi sculpted the statue and obtained a U.S. patent for its structure. Maurice Koechlin—chief engineer of Gustave Eiffel’s engineering company and designer of the Eiffel Tower—engineered the internal structure. The pedestal was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt. Eugène Viollet-le-Duc was responsible for the choice of copper in the statue’s construction, and for the adoption of the repoussé technique, where a malleable metal is hammered on the reverse side. The statue is made of a sheathing of pure copper, hung on a framework of steel (originally puddled iron) with the exception of the flame of the torch, which is coated in gold leaf (originally made of copper and later altered to hold glass panes). It stands atop a rectangular stonework pedestal with a foundation in the shape of an irregular eleven-pointed star. The statue is 151 ft (46 m) tall, but with the pedestal and foundation, it is 305 ft (93 m) tall. The Statue of Liberty is one of the most recognizable symbols in the world, and of the United States. For many years it was one of the first glimpses of the United States for millions of immigrants and visitors after ocean voyages from around the world.”

On my visit to Liberty Island, I took many pictures of Lady Liberty. I didn’t really know what to do with all the pictures I shot, until I thought it makes perfect sense to just give one away for free.

So, as a way of saying thank you to the readers and followers of this blog, I’m giving away a free high-quality, high-resolution, full-color image of the Statue of Liberty. This is the first time that I am giving away a professionally-created photograph. You can download this high quality, un-watermarked picture in full 7. 57 MB JPEG image file right now from my Flickr gallery. Just click here and download the largest file size available. You can do whatever you want to do with this photo. I impose no restriction whatsoever. As they say, you can get it with “no strings attached.” You can use this picture for whatever purpose—personal, educational, and even commercial. It’s nice if you can credit me as the photographer, and if you can provide a link, but that’s something I’m not requiring you to do. This is the first of many more free images I’m planning to give away. To find out when I’ll be giving the next free photo image, follow me on Facebook or Twitter. And, if you want to check out what other kind of free images I might be giving away, visit my fine art photo print collection over at Zatista.

Thanks, and do tell all your friends to come over and download this professional quality Statue of Liberty photo image file for free!

New York, New York

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New York, New York 03

BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

[Monday, January 4, 2009  | Thanks to Zatista for featuring me as their first Artist Of The Day for 2010!]

This exquisitely crafted original fine art photographic artist print, showing a grand view of Manhattan from Liberty Island, is from my exclusive 15-image New York Platinum Collection. The photographs in this set have been digitally toned using a special and unique artistic Platinum post-production process. Each is printed on a thick archival fiber-based paper. All of these valuable limited-edition artist prints which are available for the first time are signed and numbered, and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. To purchase this and other fine art photographic prints, please visit Zatista.

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