Go Karting in Kuwait in 1964 and more

Posted by Mark

I was trying to find information on the Anglo American School of Kuwait and by chance ended up finding a whole bunch of old photos of Kuwait dating back from 1960 up till 1984. I hadn’t seen any of them before and the one that grabbed my attention the most was the one above of a karting track in Ahmadi back in 1964. Most likely the first go-kart track in the region. There are a ton of photos, some are more interesting than others but all help paint a picture of life in Ahmadi back in the 60s and 70s. Check them out [Here]


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Follow me on my vacation

Posted by Mark

I’m currently on vacation in Lebanon and get back to Kuwait tomorrow. While here I’ve been taking a lot of great shots of my activities which you can check out on Instagram [Here]

Will be posting in detail about them once I get back.


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Kuwait Oil Fires, 1991

Posted by Mark

40 years ago, NASA’s Landsat program launched it’s initial satellite into space (July 23, 1972). Since then the program has been tracking and recording changes on the Earth’s surface via satellite imagery.

Since it’s been 40 years, NASA commemorated the anniversary by selecting and compiling a list of its top ten stories or revealing images which it had stored up during its four decades of existence. One of the stories that made the top 10 was the 1991 Kuwait Oil Fires.

As Iraqi troops withdrew from Kuwait at the end of the first Gulf War, they set fire to over 650 oil wells and damaged many more, just south of the Iraq border (yellow line). These Landsat images show before, during and after the release of 1.5 billion barrels of oil into the environment, the largest oil spill in human history.

You can check out the top 10 stories and images on [WIRED]


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Review: Sony NEX-7

Posted by Mark

I’ve had a love and hate relationship with the Sony NEX-7 even before I got my hands on it. Specs wise the camera is nearly flawless and Sony have somehow managed to fit a ton of great features into a really compact camera… that is until you mount the lens onto it. Thats where the hate comes in. Because the sensor on the Sony is so large, the lenses needed to be large which turned a very slim compact camera without a lens into a not so practical I might as well carry a DSLR size with the lens. In addition to that, the only lens I wanted for it cost as much as the camera itself. But, I’m an open minded person and I change my mind all the time and after trying the camera out it might have.

I picked up the Sony NEX-7K (comes included with a 18-55mm lens) last week from the Sony dealership along with the Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 lens. The Zeiss lens is the one I really wanted to try with the camera and it’s the one I ended up using 95% of the time. The packaging for the camera is one of the nicer ones out there and feels premium right away with the black velvety textured interior and the way the items are laid out. The camera is also solidly built and doesn’t weigh too much even with the lens on which was unexpected. The camera without the lens as I mentioned is very compact and could easily slide into a jeans pocket which makes me wish Sony releases more pancake lenses for the camera (currently they only have the 16mm f/2.8). There are two circular knobs on the back of the camera which are used to control certain options in the camera like aperture, shutter speed and exposure. The viewfinder is electronic but is the first one ever to use an OLED screen which means the blacks are really black. Finally there’s a high resolution tilt’able 3″ screen on the back which tilts down 45° and up 80°.

I took the camera and headed to Souk Mubarkia on Friday afternoon since I wanted to see how easy it would be to capture moving people. I got there as the sun was setting but the weather wasn’t really great and the lighting was very poor and flat. Still, I tried to make the best of it and started walking around snapping pictures. What I like about Souk Mubarkia is that it’s frequented a lot by tourists so the people there are not intimidated by cameras. One of the few places in Kuwait where you can snap away without worrying you’re going to offend anyone. I shot with the camera’s ISO set on Auto since I knew the camera had great ISO capabilities. My favorite feature in the camera has to be the tilt’able screen on the back. Most of my first digital cameras like the Nikon Coolpix 2500 and Sony F717 used to tilt and I used to like that. But lately none of the cameras I’ve purchased had such a feature and until I started using it again on the NEX-7 I had completely forgotten how practical it was. I actually found myself using the rear screen a lot more than the view finder but that might also have been because of the fact people are less aware you’re taking a picture of them when the camera isn’t plastered to your face. The camera is pretty fast and by fast I mean it focuses quickly and shoots instantly which really helped when I was walking around trying to capture certain moments. I did get some blurry shots, maybe around 4 or 5 shots out of a hundred but that mostly had to do with the poor lighting conditions and moving subjects. The Zeiss lens is superb and really is the lens to have for this camera.

I did have some issues with the camera. I was walking around Mubarkia with the camera on and in my hand ready to shoot at any moment, sometimes I’d have two hands holding it sometimes one. When I’d find a shot I’d raise my camera and shoot, thats when I started noticing two annoying issues. The first is the fact I thought the rear knobs were too easy to turn. Every time I put up the camera to shoot I would notice either the exposure compensation shifted or the aperture wasn’t what I had previously set. Maybe I’ve got fat fingers, or maybe I was just holding the camera wrong but if only the knobs were slightly more difficult to turn, that would have made a huge difference with my clumsy hands. The second issue I noticed is when I tried to shoot from my waist (only works with a tilt’able screen). I’d hold the camera with two hands from the sides and then suddenly the rear LCD would go dark for a second or two. It happened a few times before I realized what was going on. The viewfinder has a sensor that detects when the camera is close to your face so it shuts off the screen and turns on the viewfinder. Somehow while holding the camera my thumb was sometimes passing in front of the sensor which was shutting off the screen. Annoying to say the least but by the end of the day I had gotten used to keeping my thumb away from that area.

So is it still a love and hate relationship? The answer isn’t that straight forward. The camera is ridiculously good and if I hadn’t taken the shots myself I would have guessed they were taken with a DSLR and that’s because the NEX-7 is basically a DSLR in a compact body. Where my view on the camera hasn’t changed is with the size. It’s not a compact camera. Yes, it is more compact than a DSLR that’s for sure but it doesn’t compete with Point & Shoots in the same way the Panasonic GX1 or Leica X2 do. The NEX-7 competes against the bigger guys and if you’re looking for DSLR quality but want something in a much smaller package than this is the camera to get. Just don’t expect it to fit in your pocket. The price of the camera with the kit lens is actually pretty good in Kuwait. The local dealer is selling it for KD449 which is not far off from Amazon who are selling it for KD418 without tax and shipping. The Zeiss lens on the other hand which is the must have lens for this camera sadly costs KD515. It’s still not available on Amazon yet although they have a pre-order price of around KD340 without tax and shipping. Even at the Amazon price it’s not easy to dish out a price of a camera on a lens. The most expensive lens I’ve personally purchased is the Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 for KD200 and that was second hand and it’s really a huge lens with lots of glass. KD340 for a prime lens? Not sure I’d have the courage to pay that.

If you’re interested in checking the camera out Sony have it on display at their Avenues branch although I picked up the review unit from their new branch at Tilal Complex. The next two cameras I’m trying to get my hands on are the Sony RX100 as well as the Olympus OM-D.


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CNN’s Daily Snapshot

Posted by Mark

Kuwaiti sailors fix the old Kuwaiti flag on a dhow during preparations in Kuwait City on July 11, 2012, for the upcoming annual Pearl Diving Festival, meant to honor the nation’s former trade mainstay.

Kuwait’s on the main page of cnn.com under “Daily Snapshot” [Link]


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Star Trails Photography Workshop

Posted by Mark

The Q8 Expats Photography Club is organizing a star trails photography workshop this weekend. Star trails photography involves long exposure shots of either the sky or landscapes where the movement of the stars in the sky form light trails in your shots.

If you bring an extra camera or if you get bored trying to capture star trails they will also be painting with light so you could participate in that.

Here is a list of gear you need to bring:

1. A DSLR
2. A tripod
3. Cable release or intervalometer (for star trailing shots)
4. Bring extra batteries or at least fully charge yours
5. A high capacity memory card
6. Torch/Lights/Flash (for light painting)

The gathering will take place in Al-Rai outside The Sultan Center right next to McDonalds on the 4th Ring Road. It’s opposite all the car dealerships. The meetup will be at 4:30PM and they’ll then depart to the main location at 5:00PM. For more information visit their Facebook page [Here]

Photo above taken by Saleh AlRashaid


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Fujifilm X-Pro1 Review

Posted by Mark

Late last month I picked up the Fuji X-Pro1 camera from Xcite to review and after spending a lot of time with it I can confidently say I loved it. How much? Well I wouldn’t mind it over the much more expensive Leica M9 but more on that later. I took the camera with me to Lebanon while on vacation and I carried it around and shot with it as much as I could.

The first thing I loved about the camera is the way it looks. When I first saw pictures of it online I was like I need to have it! It’s a simple black boxy looking camera that has a very timeless look to it. It’s bigger than I expected it to be but not that much different from the Leica M9. One thing that’s a lot different to the Leica is the weight. While the Leica M9 is a pretty hefty camera, the X-Pro1 is a lot lighter and that’s a good thing. I walked around with the X-Pro1 strung across my shoulder and I never felt the camera was bothersome or heavy. On the other hand I’ve walked around with a Leica M9 slung over my shoulder before and it’s presence was felt very quickly. Although the camera doesn’t look very ergonomic it felt comfortable in my hands and during use.

The X-Pro1 is a 16MP camera with a sensor that’s similar in size to most DSLR’s. I had the very bright 35m f/1.4 lens for the review and it’s really the only lens you need. The 35mm lens is equal to a 50mm lens on a full frame camera and that’s generally considered the most popular focal length since it’s close to what the eyes see. There are two knobs on the top, one for the shutter speed and one for the exposure. The camera also has a quick menu button which brings to focus the most commonly used options and a customizable FN button which in my case was calling up the ISO list.

Carrying the camera around and shooting with it was a lot of fun. The camera has a hybrid viewfinder similar to the Fuji X100 which is always fascinating to use. The hybrid viewfinder is something unique to Fuji and it’s basically an opticalviewfinder with information digitally displayed on top of it. There is also a switch on the front of the camera which when pressed turns the hybrid viewfinder into an electronic one. I didn’t use the EVF much since I’m not a fan of them but many people will appreciate it’s accuracy over the hybrid viewfinder. Although I read online about the camera’s focusing issues I didn’t run into any while shooting with the camera. I didn’t shoot any sports or fast action but I was shooting with the camera wide open and in different lighting conditions and maybe only once or twice did I have difficulty getting focus. ISO performance is another thing this camera is good at. At ISO1600 the noise is barely noticeable.

I have a few issues with the camera but none very major. First the on/off button gets switched on by mistake all to often and I can’t even count the times I found the camera on when it should be off. I have a similar issue with the aperture ring on the lens, it’s too loose and easily rotates with a minor bump or rub. Another more important issue is manually focusing with the camera. Manually focusing using the hybrid viewfinder isn’t an easy task since there are no markings on the screen to aid you and you can’t estimate using the focus ring on the lens since the focus ring works digitally (it also rotates infinitely).

Now the difficult part is deciding if this camera is right for you. If you’ve always wanted a Leica M8 or Leica M9 then get this camera. Other than the fact the Leica is nearly 4 times more expensive, the X-Pro1 has another advantage and that is the fact it has auto focus. The lenses are also like 10 times cheaper so really it’s a no brainer. If you’ve considered the Sony NEX-7 at one point then you should also consider the X-Pro1. I think the NEX-7 is a great camera but let down by a terrible collection of lenses. Personally I want this camera but I can’t seem to figure out when I would use it. I have the Panasonic GX1 which is my compact camera I take on vacations and dinners. Then I have the Nikon D800 which is what I use for my important stuff. The Fuji would have to replace one of those two but it wouldn’t be able to do the job of either of them right. It’s not compact or versatile like my GX1 and it also doesn’t have the large full frame sensor of my D800 or the lenses to compete with it. As I said earlier, deciding on this camera is the most difficult part.

The camera is selling as a kit for KD646. The kit includes the X-Pro1 camera, the 35mm f/1.4 lens and the original case kit. It’s only available at the new photography section in the Xcite store in Avenues. I just found out the camera kit is actually available at three Xcite branches:

X-PRO 1+X35mm Lens+X-Pro 1 Case (kit) – KD646 – Available in Rai, Fahaheel & Avenues
X18MM (Prime Lens) – KD159 – Available only in Avenues
XF60MM (Macro Lens) – KD182 – Available only in Avenues
EF-X20 (Shoe Mount Flash) – KD58 – Available only in Avenues


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Qatar Airways Photography Contest

Posted by Mark

Qatar Airways currently has a photography contest taking place that’s fairly simple to take part in. The four categories you can submit pictures to are Magnificent Cities, Vibrant Cultures, Breathtaking Nature and Exciting Journeys. As for prizes they’re going to be giving away 10 Business Class return tickets and 50 Economy to the winners so your chances of winning something is pretty high. I just checked the gallery and there’s already a bunch of people from Kuwait participating so if you’re also interested then you need to hurry up since the contest closes at the end of the month. [Link]


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The Fuji X-Pro 1

Posted by Mark

Over the weekend I was at the Avenues and ended up passing by Xcite’s new photography section. Two things grabbed my attention, the first is the fact they have 4 incredibly expensive Nikon lenses on display including the 400mm f/2.8 which I’d love to have at the next Gulf Run event. The second thing that grabbed my attention was the Fuji X-Pro 1 camera.

When the camera was first revealed online my heart sank into to my stomach since I had just purchased the my Panasonic GX1 and there was no way I could buy this as well. The camera was everything the Fuji X100 was except it was better in every way.

Once I got home I sent an email to my contact at Xcite and asked him if they’d be able to hook me up with one to review and they did. Not only that but I’m traveling to Lebanon for two weeks and I’m going to have the camera with me there which is perfect since the X-Pro 1 is a great camera for street photography which is something I like doing in Lebanon.

I’m going to be using the 35mm f/1.4 lens with the camera and expect a thorough review in around 10 days time.

Update: Below is a picture of the X-Pro 1 next to my GX1.


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Automotive Photography Contest

Posted by Mark

The Historical, Vintage & Classic Car Museum is holding their 2nd ever Automotive Photography Contest starting from now till June 2nd which will be the last day you can submit your shots.

The following are the categories of the contest:
Best Photo of a car
Micro Photo of the Car
Black and White
People’s Choice
(voted on by the museum visitors)

The prizes for first place are KD500, second place 300 and third 200. Each of the top 50 will also get KD50. The overall winners will also get KD1,000 for first, 750 for second and 500 for third. So there is a substantial amount of money to be won here.

I went through the rules, everything seems ok, the only issue I had was with the following statement:

- When you participate in the competition you will grant the Museum ALL copyright of the images submitted, and you may not reclaim any rights.

At first I thought they meant that they will basically own the photos after you submit them but turns out they just mean they will have the right to use and reprint the images for calendars, posters etc.. without requiring your permission which is fine by me.

I’ll most likely be taking part with my McLaren and Fiat 500 shots if I can figure out where to get my photos printed and boarded. If you’re also interested to participate then download the PDF with the full details of the competition from [Here]


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