Photographing the Mid-Autumn Festivities in Hong Kong
If you are visiting or transiting through Hong Kong in September and early October, you are going to witness Hong Kong at its festive best!
The Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the most significant and colourful festivals on the Chinese cultural calendar is celebrated on the full moon day, the 15th day of the eighth lunar month – 29th September 2023 in the Gregorian Calendar. Also known as the Mooncake Festival, Moon Festival, or Lantern Festival, it’s a deep-rooted custom that traditionally heralds the end of harvest and dates back over 3,000 years to the Shang Dynasty, when people thanked the moon god for the crop yield.
Hong Kong continues to celebrate this time of giving thanks, and under the full moon high in the sky, the city comes alive under a dazzling display of colourful festive lanterns. Seen dotted throughout Hong Kong’s many green spaces and across all precincts in the territory, the lanterns shine bright each evening. In 2023, the official start date (and Full Harvest Moon) falls on September 29th, in 2024 it’ll be September 17th, with approximately 8 days of celebrations following.
Where to Photograph the Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong
For a stunning immersive display on Hong Kong Island, a quick trip down to the Kennedy Town Waterfront Praya is well worth the effort. Likewise, Lee Tung Avenue & the Blue House in Stone Nullah Lane in Wan Chai, or if you have time on your side – venture further off the grid in the quaint fishing village of Tai O on Lantau Island in the New Territories.
The largest display of lanterns lies in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay, where families flock to see the giant lantern display across the parkland on the first day of the festival in particular. Children and adults alike put on show their carefully chosen lanterns dangling from a small bamboo stick; young and old coming together to celebrate this time-old tradition, one of the happiest festivals of them all.
The totally heady display of lanterns and joyous faces, lighting up Victoria Park is truly infectious and it is always hard to resist not to be swept up in the euphoric celebration by grabbing your very own rabbit or fish lantern from one of the many vendors in the markets or on the streets to join in on the celebration – this is definitely THE not to be missed experience in Hong Kong!
Photographer Nicole Claringbold on the Mid-Autumn Festival:
Absolutely nothing beats the Mid-Autumn Festival, it truly is the most wonderful time of the year and by far my absolute favorite festival! From the moment the traditional “early off ” from work starts, marking the kick off to the festivities, the city comes alive buzzing on the day of the full moon and you cannot help but be caught up in euphoria. As families young and old are out and about on their way to the traditional family get-together meal, they all justle like kids at a candy store at the lantern stalls in the streets and markets all over the city, searching for that ultimate token lantern on a stick to parade with later in the evening, under the full moon. The feeling is palpable and you cannot help but be cast under the overwhelming spell of the lure of the lanterns, the colour – the movement – like a moth to the flame – your camera in hand!
Photographing the Mid-Autumn festival under the full moon is an exciting time to experiment with your camera. I am a huge fan of giving the image a human element, making a photo more interesting, thereafter I am always seeking out reflections and especially at night, opportunities to incorporate bokeh. Photographing portraits of those dressed in the traditional Qipao or Cheong Sam is always fun. I typically opt for using my Olympus 40 – 150mm pro lens set at f2.8, and zoom in to experiment with various focal lengths, watching as the background magically melts away into colourful bokeh.
Also, a little tip if you’re photographing the festival, as it’s primarily low light conditions, don’t forget to pay attention to your ISO setting and avoid any unintentional blur. Shooting in lower light or dark environments can be tricky at first, but once you align the settings with the scene, it’s exciting to capture the glow of the lanterns and play around with various creative settings and longer exposures to incorporate movement.
Clickable Google Map of the locations noted plus a few extras to explore –
Travel Notes – Accessing Hong Kong’s Mid-Autumn Festival Highlights
– Access from Hong Kong International Airport to Hong Kong Island is 24 minutes via the Airport Express to Central Hong Kong Island.
– Kennedy Town can be reached by transferring to the Island Line towards the western terminus of Kennedy Town in 7 minutes. Take exit A and follow the signs to the Waterfront Park, a 6-minute walk towards the Harbour.
– To reach Lee Tung Ave, take the Island Line towards Chai Wan, ride 2 stops (4 minutes) and take Exit D to emerge up the escalator straight into the heart of the action!
– Victoria Park is accessible via Tin Hau or Causeway Bay Stations or is a short walk along the waterfront from Wan Chai Ferry Pier if you’re travelling across from Tsim Sha Tsui.
Happy Mid Autumn Festival – 中秋節快樂
To continue reading about photographing Hong Kong, take a peek at The Wandering Lens Guide to Hong Kong Photography Locations.
An expat photographer with a passion for people, their culture and particularly Asia. Since settling in Hong Kong, I have revelled in discovering Asia’s mystical hidden beauty, colour & artistry of the incredibly diverse diaspora of people in the region. In this ever evolving decade of change, being an observer to a country under going a massive change of identity, I am constantly seeking the unseen to share.
Follow Nicole via Instagram @forevernc