Virtual Tour of the Sand Sculptures

Posted by Mark

sandsculptures

If you haven’t visited the Remal Sand Sculpting Festival yet you can now take a tour of it without having to leave your house. A reader called Alex has created a virtual tour of the festival and you can check it out by visiting this [Link]


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A Photographic Journey Inside Qasr Al Salam

Posted by Mark

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I love exploring abandoned buildings and from all the abandoned places in Kuwait the one I’ve always wanted to explore was Qasr Al Salam. Its the holy grail of abandoned buildings and the only one I could never get the guts to jump over the fence and explore (luckily I didn’t cuz it turns out there are two guards). After trying to get legal access to the site for what seems like forever, I finally got the approval thanks to Al-Diwan Al-Amiri.

Qasr Al Salam was a guest house that was built back in the 60s and hosted high-ranking visitors. Supposedly the first guest to stay at the palace was the Shah of Iran but I couldn’t find any source online to back that up. Actually, I could find very little information at all on the palace online. I know that Princess Diana and Prince Charles stayed at the palace back in 1989, but I can’t find the date it was built, who the architect was or even pictures. I’ve literally only found a handful of photos of the palace pre-1990 and nothing else. During the 1990 Gulf War the palace was destroyed and it never got restored and has remained abandoned for 24 years. That is until now.

Now some good news, unlike the rumors that have been circulating, the palace will NOT be getting demolished. Instead, the palace is going to be restored to its former glory and be turned into a museum. I saw 3D renderings of how the palace will look like when completed and it’s going to look very similar to the original with some minor facelifting here and there and addition of a new wing or two. The bad news is I can’t share the 3D renderings just yet since I’m still working on trying to convince them to allow me to post them here but right now I can’t.

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Whats even more interesting is whats going on right next door at the old flag square. The site is currently under major construction and I also got to see renderings of the project and I was just awestruck. There are four very angular buildings being built, an opera house, a music center, a theatre and a library. The buildings will be made out of titanium shells and will have no pillars at all on the inside. The landscaping around the project is also going to be nothing like anything in Kuwait as well and the best part is they’re expecting to have it all done and completed in just 18 months. Thats a timeframe fit for Dubai. I’m trying to get permission to share the drawings and renderings of this project as well and hopefully I will be able to by next week.

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After getting briefed on the projects above I was taken to the Salam Palace to explore and take photos. The palace even though completely destroyed still had so much beauty left in it. The famous large chandelier that used to hang from the ceiling in the main hall had been dismantled and removed so I didn’t get to see it sadly. But a lot of the original mosaic, wallpaper, carpets and marble floor were still in place. One thing that struck me was the amount of colors used inside the palace and all very tastefully. There was a lot of colored glass everywhere and the mosaic in the main hall was a beautiful metallic purple color. There was a lot of carpeting everywhere but in places where the carpet was removed you could see the beautifully preserved marble floor underneath. It seems at one point in time the palace must have gotten a makeover and a lot of the marble floors were covered up in carpet. I took a lot of photos and I’ve shared them below. I honestly could easily have spent a day in there trying to document every single corner of the place but sadly I didn’t have the luxury of time on my side. I hope you enjoy the photos below and I’ll try my best to get permission to post the renderings next week.


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Beautiful old photos of Ahmadi

Posted by Mark

ahmadi

Found these photos in the @alahmadi_town instagram account. The one above is my favorite because of the fact it looks like it was taken in a small American town.


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The Art of a Portrait Shot

Posted by Mark

passport

Recently I needed to get two portrait shots done, one for my Civil ID and the other for my passport. Ever since I was a kid I used to get all my portrait shots taken at Boushahri Studio in Salmiya but since they closed down their studio I haven’t been able to find a decent alternative. I’ve tried two places so far and they’ve both been horrible. The first place turned my photo into a glamour shot with so much retouching I looked like I was made out of plastic while the second studio had the most mind boggling photographer.

According to my passport requirements, I should have my photo taken in front of a white background and it shouldn’t be edited in any way. So I go into the studio and I see a bright green background. I sit down in front of it and ask the photographer shouldn’t I be in front of a white background? He’s like yes and proceeds to set up the lights and is getting ready to take a photo. I’m like the background behind me is green. He was like yes we’ll change it later (as in he’ll edit it later on the computer). I was like but the instruction clearly say the photo shouldn’t be altered in anyway. He was like yeah but we always do this. So I was like don’t you have a white background? So he goes yes and then presses a button on a remote and a white background comes down. I mean wtf? If you have a white background that requires a click of a button to drop down, why would you shoot me in front of a green background and then edit the background to white on the computer? It’s so much easier and proper to just shoot me in front of a white back drop in the first place.

I miss the old days when the photographer would shoot with film and had to get the shot right on camera.


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Kuwait City and Flamingoes at Sunrise

Posted by Mark

flamingoes

Beautiful photo taken by Mohammed Alsultan. Check out the image in a larger size [Here]

You could follow Mohammed on Instagram @alsultan


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City Skyline

Posted by Mark

kuwaitskyline

A beautiful shot taken by Hasan Alshakhs. It was taken a couple of years back but someone posted it onto reddit today. [Link]


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The Sony QX10 and QX100

Posted by Mark

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The new QX series cameras from Sony are part of their new range of mobile phone cameras.Sony realized that camera phones in general are pretty limited with the majority for example lacking any kind of optical zoom. Phone cameras also have really tiny sensors so the photos aren’t very sharp or detailed neither do they do so well in dimly lit situations. Thats why Sony came up with the idea to create a new line of cameras that would clip onto your current phone giving it a big boost. I picked up both the Sony QX10 and the slightly larger QX100 from the Sony dealer for this review.

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Both the QX10 and QX100 follow the same principle, they both don’t have any screens and other than the power, shoot and zoom buttons, both cameras don’t have any other controls. The Sony QX10 is the smaller and cheaper of the two, it has a sensor delivering 18MP and it has a 10x optical zoom. The QX100 on the other hand has a large size sensor that delivers 20MP as well as an added bonus of having a bright F/1.8 lens. On the downside, the QX100 has only 3.6x optical zoom, it’s double the size of the QX10 and it’s also a lot more expensive.

Lets get something out of the way. Both these cameras perform much better than your mobile phone cameras. Between the two cameras the QX100 was obviously and clearly the better of the two because of the larger sensor and better lens optics. Because of the fact both these cameras easily out perform camera phones I decided this post wouldn’t focus on the quality of the photos but instead I’m going to focus on the practicality of the cameras.

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Because these two cameras lack a screen you need to connect them to your phone. That’s a fairly easy process, you turn on the cameras and then you connect your phone to the cameras wifi. You then need to download the Sony app “PlayMemories” which will allow you to control the camera and take photos. Every time you want to use the camera, you launch the PlayMemories app and turn the camera on and wait for the two to connect. This is where I start having issues.

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When it comes to capturing a quick moment both cameras fail miserably. If the camera isn’t already on and connected to your phone then you’ll most likely miss your shot because turning it on and then connecting it to your phone is a process that can easily take over 10 seconds. By then whatever moment you were trying to capture is long gone.

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My biggest issue is that fact the cameras really aren’t that compact.Between the two the QX10 fits into my pocket but it’s still thick enough to create a bulge, a similar bulge to one I would have if I had a slim full featured point and shoot camera in my pocket. Actually the Sony DSC-TX30 is even slimmer so I would have less of a bulge with that. The QX100 on the other hand won’t even fit into my jeans pocket.

Now both these cameras do have one very cool feature that no regular point and shoot can compete with. The QX series cameras don’t have to be attached to your phone to work. If you’re at a concert you can hold the camera in your hand way above your head and while checking and taking photos from your phone at your eye level like a periscope. You can also set up the camera on a table in front of you and then use the phones screen to setup your selfie. You could even setup the camera in one room while taking photos from another and the reason you can do all this because the cameras work over WiFi. This I think is the coolest thing about these two cameras.

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Which brings me to a question, who would prefer these two cameras over Sony’s other cameras? I honestly don’t know, I guess it’s for people who would take advantage of the fact you don’t have to have the camera connected to your phone. Price wise, both cost nearly the same price as Amazon with the QX10 costing KD69.9 and the the QX100 KD147.9 at the Sony dealer. If I was to choose between the two I would go with the QX10, its cheaper, its smaller and it has the added benefit of a 10X optical zoom.


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Beautiful Destinations chooses local photographers

Posted by Mark

beautifuldestinations

@BeautifulDestinations is an instagram account in which they post beautiful shots taken by instagrammers from around the world. With over a million followers they’re very popular which is why they just launched a Kickstarter campaign to print a hardcover book of the top 100 liked photos from their account in 2013. From the list of photographers who’s work was chosen, eight photographers are based locally including:

@ajfotoworld
@albanay
@alhashemiphotos
@bu_khaled
@fahadrb
@mashael_39
@s_alroudhan
@salehalrashaid

If you haven’t checked out the accounts above before you should, theres a ton of talent there. Also if you want to support the Kickstarter campaign and help get the book printed, visit the Beautiful Destinations Kickstarter page [Here]


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Printing Digital Photos

Posted by Mark

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There are a number of places to get your digital photos printed but my favorite place is Boushahri in Salmiya. I’ve been going to Boushahri ever since I was a kid when they were THE photography store/studio. Nowadays things are a lot different. They moved from their large location in the old Salmiya Salem Al Mubarek street into a building off of Baghdad street. They’ve even closed down their portrait studio and all that’s left really is a tiny store that sells a few Fuji and Leica cameras and a corner where they print photos.

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I like them cuz they’re conveniently located near my place, they’re not in a mall and they’re fairly quick. If I have a few photos they usually print them out while I wait and if I have a bunch like 30 or more I usually pick them up a few hours later. Their prices are pretty cheap as well, a regular small 10x15cm photo costs just 100fils to print while a larger 10x15inch photo costs KD1.5.

They open every day (except Friday I think) from 9:30AM to 1PM and then again from 4:30PM to 9PM. Here is their location on [Google Maps]


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Old Kuwait Postcards

Posted by Mark

I was searching for random stuff on eBay when I spotted a bunch of different sellers selling old postcards of Kuwait. I saved the most interesting ones to share below. Notice how much greener Kuwait was back in the old days? Also you might notice some of the postcards feature the Kuwait Towers while still under construction. The postcard I decided to highlight above is of “The Yachting Club”. [eBay Link]

There are two images of the back of the postcards with writings. I don’t know what language they’re in (my guess Bulgarian and Italian?) but if anyone can translate them to English that would be fantastic. Also what happened to all the seagulls??

Update: A friend noted the seagulls might have been super imposed on that shot. Looking at it closely I can’t seem to find any shadows of the seagulls so that’s probably the case.


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