We chat with German expat and passionate photographer MARIO PAECKE about the striking photos he takes of Hong Kong – when he’s not busy in the kitchen!
Mario Paecke has been a professional chef for more than 20 years; a great career opportunity to work for The Landmark Mandarin Oriental brought him to Hong Kong in 2017. Then, in 2021, he became Chef de Cuisine of Margo in Central, where he creates modern European dishes that highlight German influences and a balance between tradition and innovation.
Yet Mario has more than one string to his bow. He’s also an amazing photographer who loves capturing iconic Hong Kong scenes – from streets ablaze with neon signs in Kowloon, to mesmerising landscapes showing the convergence of city and nature. He lets us in on a few of his secrets below.
# Background in Photography
I first became interested in photography back in Germany when I wanted to photograph my own food. I got into food photography and built up a studio piece by piece. In 2012, I was working for a five-star cruise and that was the first time I visited Asia. Since then, I started to visit this part of the world at least once a year, and I gradually shifted to travel and landscape photography.
# Favourite Hong Kong Photo Spot
That would be Tai Mo Shan. As Hong Kong’s highest peak, it offers an amazing view overlooking the bustling city; at the same time, the fantastic landscape there always makes me forget I’m in one of the busiest cities in the world, especially during sunrise, sunset and the season of the “sea of clouds”.
# Favourite Hong Kong Photo
Lost In Clouds – this photo was taken in 2021, and I didn’t have much hope of capturing the sea of clouds as the season had just passed. To my surprise, the rising sun and the layers of cloud created a nice gradient, and the low clouds lingered among the peaks. I’m still impressed by the magical view I witnessed that morning.
I use a Canon R5, a DJI Mavic Air 2S and a Canon F-1 35mm film camera.
The unpredictable weather conditions in Hong Kong can be very challenging. I’ll often check the weather forecast and make a plan to photograph something, and then it will be pouring rain and I can’t even get the camera out of my bag. It’s no great surprise to have to visit a place four or five times to get an ideal shot with the perfect weather and mood.
# Hobbies Outside Photography
Hiking and camping – along with my camera equipment, for sure!
# Photography Tips for Readers
Unlike food photography that is meant to showcase the best look of a dish, landscape/ urban photography is more about capturing something that’s changing all the time, especially in fast-paced Hong Kong. If you’re interested in this field, I would encourage you to pick up your gear and go out to discover and capture as much as you can. It takes time to find out what your ideal subjects are, and to develop the style you prefer.
# Highlights as a Chef
The first one that comes to mind was working on a cruise in 2012 from Europe to Asia. It was my first look at Asia, and those 14 days were without doubt an unforgettable experience.
The second one would be the 2015 G7 Summit in Germany. I was cooking for Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, David Cameron and all other leaders of the participating countries. It was a different experience from cooking in a restaurant.
Lastly, I once joined a tour with the culinary team of The Landmark Mandarin Oriental and travelled to cities around the world, where we were featured as guest chefs at renowned local restaurants. I was able to experience different cultures and a variety of food that inspired me a lot.
Follow Mario on Instagram @mariopaecke_photography or visit his online store at mariopaeckestudio.com.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.