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Photo of the University of Arizona College of Medicine Phoenix CampusUpdate: Be sure to read an update to this post with more detail on how the photographers created their pieces here.

26 Blocks is an art project that “…showcases the work of 26 of Metro Phoenix’s best photographers working with 26 of Metro Phoenix’s best writers.”  They worked together to offer their interpretation of one of 26 downtown Phoenix city blocks through photography and the written word.  Then the sculptor, Rafael Navarro, topped off each presentation with a 4″ x 4″ square block sculpture of each block.  The exhibit began at the After Hours Gallery in Downtown Phoenix last month and in now starting a tour of venues around the city.  I missed the opening at After Hours but was able to see the exhibit at the University of Arizona College of Medicine’s downtown Phoenix campus last Thursday, the first stop on its city tour.

The College of Medicine show was not in a normal gallery space.  Rather it was in the auditorium of the old Phoenix Union High School that has been renovated and now houses the college.  As a result a traditional gallery layout was not possible.  So each city block’s pieces were propped up on tables around the large auditorium room.  I do not think the unconventional setting distracted from the works however.  In fact, the history of the old high school building now having been re-purposed and given a new life, almost added another layer to the stories of the Phoenix city blocks being told through these photographers, writers and sculptor.

One of the most interesting aspects of this show was the unique interpretations each pair had of their individual city blocks.  Blocks that may not have been separated by more than one street could seem miles away as each photographer and writer approached them from very unique perspectives and visions.

The photography ranged from the very straightforward architectural and portrait to much more abstract interpretations involving post-processed works.

Two that stood out as favorites to me were Block E from photographer Chris Loomis and Block V from Stephen G. Dreiseszun.

Chris’ photograph of Block E, the lot of dirt that splits 3rd St into two separate lanes to the east and west of it, just south of Roosevelt, stood out to me for two reasons.  1) It was a bit more on the abstract side and 2) whereas most of the other lots were developed and alive with urban life, this lot was in more of a “what once was” state being dirt and foundations of former structures.  So some creative license had to be taken to make an image out of a vacant lot.  Appearing as though it was taken from high above, crop-circle like shapes fill the dirt and weeded lot while a girl in bright blue appears to be dancing inside the shapes.  Chris’ photograph is a great example of the art of photography to me.  The artist saw what was and turned it into his own vision through photography.

Stephen Dreiseszun’s photograph of Block V was very different than Block E.  Block V encompasses the construction site between Washington and Jefferson on the North and South and 1st Ave and Central Ave. on the West and East.  The very urban scene of high rise construction was captured by Stephen beautifully.  The lighting of late evening makes the sky a deep, rich blue while the lights of the street sign and construction crane highlight these urban elements.  The perspective captured in the photography for Block V is one that the casual passer by may not take the time to notice.  But this image captures what I feel the 26 Blocks project is all about, seeing urban downtown Phoenix at more than everyday street level views and taking the time to stop and notice the subtle beauty of the built environment.

The pairing of two art forms, photography and writing, has resulted in a show that speaks to a broad audience.  The art lover, the lover of the written word, the urban dweller, the suburban admirer of the urban environment and fans of a diverse and dynamic city such as Phoenix.

26 Blocks is on Tour through the remainder of the year at venues around the Valley.  This is a unique project that is well worth seeing regardless of which of those categories you fall into, or even if  you fall far outside of those categories.  Check for tour dates and locations and make sure you see the 26 Blocks exhibit before it is gone.

I have been using my new Sony Alpha 850 DSLR for about a week now and I love, love, love it.  This is more than a step up from my Alpha 100.  More like a giant leap forward.  Here are some of my first observations.  These are neither pros nor cons, just some things worth pointing out that you might want to keep in mind if buying one.  And if you are considering buying a Sony Alpha 850 the more you know before buying the better.

  • Weight – The Alpha 850 is not a light weight.  Without the accessories it weighs 1 lb. 14 oz (almost 2 lbs).  Add on the lens, flash, and battery and you will get a workout.
  • Battery – The battery is the NP-FM500H.  If you are jumping from the Alpha 100 to the 850 like I did you’ll want to keep in mind that they use two different batteries.  The NP-FM500H for the 850 allows for the remaining charge left in the battery to be displayed on the LCD as a percent.
  • File Size – At 24.6 mega pixel when you shoot in RAW you end up with a large file (but a very clear image file).  You might need to invest in a larger memory card, but its not a bad trade off for the image quality you get.
  • Noise – The sound kind, not the grain.  This has been reported in almost all the reviews, but the shutter sound is louder than I would expect from a camera of this level.  Not  deal breaker by any means however.

Overall one week impression – wow!

Case Logic’s SLRC-6 SLR Camera Holster Case

Photo of the Case logic Sling Camera BagI think I am up to 4 camera bags now and am either becoming a collector or obsessive.   I wrote about my Lowepro Fastpack 250 a while back and still love this bag.  But for some shooting situations it is a bit big and all the equipment it can carry is not necessary.  But at the same time my Tamrac Zoom 16 Camera Bag does not hold much more than the camera with a lens attached so it can be a bit small for slightly longer excursions.  So in a Goldilocks sort of way, for photography trips that require more than just one lens but don’t require the whole arsenal of equipment, I have found a middle of the road bag that is a very good fit for many outings.   The Case Logic SLRC-6 SLR Camera Holster Case is a medium size sling bag measuring about 10 x 6.5 x 18 inches and weighing just over a pound.  This bag has several great features aside from its ideal size.  Here are some of my favorite features of the Case Logic Sling Camera bag:

  1. The Sling – This was an ingenious invention that allows for quick and easy access to your camera without ever having to take the bag off your shoulder.
  2. Flexible Configuration – I haven’t counted but the padded Velcro dividers in each compartment make for countless possible configurations.  You can move them around to make separate compartments for each of your accessories from lenses to flashes.  My only complaint about these is that the Velcro sticks very easily to all the bag’s surfaces.  So as you are reconfiguring it takes some maneuvering to get it just right.
  3. Compartments – With six compartments (some hidden within others) this bag has more space than it looks like it would offer.  The aforementioned dividers turn those 6 into many more giving you a secure spot for just about everything.  I have managed to get 3 lenses in addition to the one on the camera, a teleconverter and a flash unit fit very nicely and then filled in the rest of the space with my smaller accessories.
  4. The Price – At under $40 this bag is a bargain.