Q8 Awal, a collection of old Kuwait photos

Posted by Mark

oldphoto

Q8 Awal is an instagram account with the sole purpose of collecting and sharing old photos and videos of Kuwait. There are a few out there that do the same but what I liked about Q8 Awal is that many of the photos I hadn’t seen before and also the fact that they don’t watermark the photos. Check them on instagram @q8_awal


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Faisal Al Fouzan: Portraits of Kuwait

Posted by Mark

faisal

VSCO has featured the very talented local photographer Faisal Al Fouzan and they’ve shared some of their favorite shots for the world to see. The photos are all incredible and I’m extremely jealous that I don’t have Faisal’s skills in recognizing and capturing moments. He’s super talented yet he only has 22,000 followers on instagram which I think is completely unfair when compared to some other instagrammers with the most horrid of shots and subjects. But that’s instagram for you.

Check out the feature [Here] and be sure to follow him on instagram @faisalthef

belly


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The Old Cinema Salmiya

Posted by Mark

cinemasalmiya

Last week when I got a hold of the really old Cinescape movie theaters I also got a hold of pictures of the old Cinema Salmiya before it got demolished. That’s the second movie theater I had ever been to (Octupussy at a dodgy cinema in Lebanon was my first) and I remember the movie I had watched was Steven Seagal’s “Under Siege“. I also remember the video store outside the theater where I picked up “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” from. Good days.


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Photos of Old Cinescape Theaters

Posted by Mark

oldcinescape

I managed to get my hands on some old photos of Cinescape (KNCC) movie theaters. Some of these photos were taken back when the theaters were still active while others were taken I am assuming before they were demolished. I wasn’t aware we had open air cinemas before, I knew of the open air drive-thru cinemas like the Ahmadi one but didn’t know we had seated open air cinemas. Must have been an interesting experience watching a movie outdoors in this heat.


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The Garmin Virb Elite

Posted by Mark

garmin virb elite

I’ve never been a fan of the GoPro cameras so that’s why when I wanted to get an action camera a couple of years ago I ended up getting the Contour+ instead, it had some exciting features the Contour lacked as well as a slicker form factor. But, that wasn’t enough to overthrow GoPro since two years later, GoPro is still here while Contour collapsed last year due to financial difficulties. Now it’s Garmin’s turn to try and take on the GoPro with the new Virb action camera. Garmin are known for their navigation devices and this is their first attempt at an action camera so the local dealer in Kuwait passed me one to review.

I’ve had the camera now for around two months and I think I’ve got a clear idea of what I think about it. I’ve used it to record my bike trips, I’ve used it off roading in Lebanon and I’ve even tried using it as a dash cam. Generally I like the camera, it’s not perfect but it has some cool features that might make some people choose it over the more popular GoPros.

The biggest feature I think that will win people over is the durable water resistant rubber shell. The camera feels very well built and can take abuse which is why I wasn’t afraid of dropping it. Actually during this one trip the camera flew off my ATV while speeding on a rocky mountain trail. Not a scratch, not even on the lens. But even if I did scratch the lens it’s a cheap $20 part I could replace myself. Garmin wants me to put this camera in risky situations not be worried about damaging it and I love that.

Another great feature is the fact the camera has a large color LCD screen which you could use to help you frame your shots, for playback or to adjust any of the settings. The camera also has a large record toggle button similar to the one I used to have on my Contour camera which means I can turn on the camera and start recording by just moving the switch forward. Specs wise the camera can shoot 1080p at 30fps, 720p at 60fps and for extra slow mo, WVGA at 120fps. It also has GPS, wifi, bluetooth and even ANT+ so you could connect it to your heart rate monitor or other ANT+ device and overlay that information onto your video.


[YouTube]

I think the biggest issue with the Virb is the weight of the camera. Because the camera is built like a tank it’s heavier than the GoPro and that might turn some people off. Also the majority of the footage I shot was coming out slightly underexposed and desaturated as you can see in the short video above. Finally the color of the device turned out to be problematic. The Virb I received for testing was white but after having it for a couple of months now and the abuse its taken from me the white now has a bit of a brown tint where it fell into the dirt and I had difficulty restoring it. Getting the black version would be the easy fix here.

The majority of the people interested in an action camera will most likely get the GoPro because thats the one everyone gets. But, that doesn’t mean it would be the best option for you. If you’re looking for a camera that can take some abuse or a camera in which you could overlay data onto your video like the speed you’re traveling or your heart rate, then you should consider checking out the Virb. The price of the Garmin starts at KD85 for the normal Virb or KD109 for the Virb Elite which is the one I tested.


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New currency on the way

Posted by Mark

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The Kuwaiti Air Force picking up their freshly printed money this morning at Newcastle

Posted by @lucyncollins, an airline pilot yesterday.

Thanks Ali


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Old Kuwait Postcards – Part 2

Posted by Mark

carlton-hotel-kuwait

A few months back I posted a collection of old Kuwaiti postcards which I had found by mistake on eBay while searching for something else. This time around I found a larger collection of old Kuwaiti postcards but I was deliberately looking for them.

phoenicia-hotel-kuwait

What I find fascinating about these old postcards is the fact they highlight important locations and buildings of that era, ones that are forgotten about or don’t even exist today. That’s why for this post I’ve highlighted these two specific postcards, one of the Carlton Hotel and the other of the Phoenicia Hotel. According to this old scan from a 1966 magazine, Phoenicia was the a beautiful place where you could experience the most beautiful days of your life. Good times, check out all the postcards below.

To purchase any of these postcards visit this [Link]


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Kuwait at Night by Daniel Cheong

Posted by Mark

kuwaitatnight

I’ve posted about the photographer Daniel Cheong on the blog before [Here] and I just found out that he has a section on his website with some beautiful shots of Kuwait at night.

kuwaitatnight2

The two photos in this post are my favorite out of the bunch but you can check out the rest of the shots [Here]


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One eye on you

Posted by Mark

owl

One eye on you. A short-eared owl stretching and relaxing in a nature reserve in Kuwait. (© Mohd Khorshid/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)

The photo above is one of the entries to the 26th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest. Check out some of the other entries [Here]


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Review: The Sony RX1

Posted by Mark

rx1

A few months back I started looking for a new digital camera to replace my aging Panasonic GX1. I had been using the GX1 constantly since 2012 and it was by far one of my favorite cameras I had ever owned. But, on one trip to London last year I carried my much larger and heavier full sensor D800 camera with me and I just loved the results. I realized the much larger sensor on the D800 allowed me to capture shots I wouldn’t be able to with my GX1, mostly very high ISO shots in very dim light. Because of the size though the D800 isn’t a very practical take everywhere camera and so I started doing my research trying to find a replacement for my GX1. Some of the cameras I considered were:

Fujifilm X-T1
Fujifilm X100s
Leica X2
Olympus OM-D E-M1
Olympus OM-D E-M10
Panasonic GX7
Ricoh GR
Sony Alpha 7R
Sony Alpha 7
Sony RX1
Sony RX1R

From the list above the only ones that ended up grabbing my attention were the Sonys since they were the only cameras on the list that had full framed sensors. Having a full frame sensor would mean I’d be able to capture a lot more detail, have shallower depth of field in my shots and most importantly have better dim light capabilities. In the end I opted for the Sony RX1 because of the size. One of the things I loved about my GX1 camera was the size and the RX1 was practically the exact same size except the lens on the RX1 made it slightly thicker (check the GX1/RX1 overlay visual below). The newer Sony A7 was tempting but since I already had a main camera (the D800), I needed a secondary camera, something small and inconspicuous to take with me on my restaurant reviews and when I traveled. The A7 was a lot more bulkier especially once you added the lenses.

gx1-rx1-size

I’ve had the RX1 now for around 2 months and I’ve already traveled with it a number of times and used it in various situations and I really really love it. It’s by far the best compact camera I’ve had. The camera has a full metal body and feels very solid, we’re talking Leica M series quality here without the Leica price tag. The lens is a really bright 35mm F2 Carl Zeiss, its fixed which means I can’t zoom in or out but that isn’t an issue since I was only using the 20mm lens (40mm equivalent) on my GX1 anyway.

rx1-sample-3

The RX1 has allowed me to take a ton of great shots and I’ve been carrying it with me everywhere I go. It has a lot of physical controls as well as customizable buttons so I always have quick access to my most used options. I love the way the camera looks and feels in my hand, it has a slightly retro look but it’s really understated which is how I love my cameras. Another great feature about the camera is the fact that the shutter is silent. When I turn off all the sounds I can take a photo in a quiet room and no one would be able to hear me take photos. It’s how I was able to take the photo of the guy sleeping on the car below without having to worry about waking him up. Finally the ISO capability on this camera is nearly as good as my D800. I’m so confident about the capabilities of the camera I have it set on Auto ISO with the max limit at 12,800. That’s how good the noise at high ISO is, I can shoot up to 12,800 and not have to worry about noise. Combine that with the bright F2 lens and there really isn’t a condition anymore where I would have trouble shooting in.

rx1-sample-2

I really can’t think of anything negative to say or highlight about the camera but I will bring up issues I had read about online and answer them here. Battery life, it’s not that great but that’s an easy fix, the batteries are very cheap, I bought two more and now carry three batteries with me. In the two months I’ve had the camera I don’t think I’ve ever needed more than one battery a day so even though battery life isn’t that great it’s good enough to last you a day out. Some people have complained about the focusing being slow. I don’t think its slow and only faced an issue focusing once and that was because there was hardly any light. I just ended up shooting in manual focus mode and that solved the problem. Finally a lot of people online complained about the fact the screen isn’t tiltable or the fact the camera doesn’t have a built in view finder. Both are good points but Sony built the most compact full sensor camera in the world so I’m sure they had to cut some options to keep the size compact. Personally I’m glad they kept the size small and instead released the A7 with all the extra features they couldn’t fit into the RX1.

rx1-sample-1

I can’t recommend this camera enough, the sensor and lens combo is just unbeatable and I can’t believe how small this camera is. The price is the only reason why not everyone is walking around with this camera strapped to their necks. Amazon sell the camera for $2,800 which is pretty expensive when compared to all the other compact cameras in the market. But, I personally think the only real competition is the Sony A7 and the Leica M series. The Sony A7 costs $1800 without a lens and another $800 for the 35mm F2.8. That brings the total to $2,600 for a larger camera with a lens thats not as bright. The Leica M series on the other hand costs nearly $7,000 without a lens. So when you compare the RX1 to the two the price becomes pretty reasonable. If you can afford the RX1 then get it, you’ll have a hard time finding anything else as good with the same form factor.


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