Twitter: @Hotshoeuae

MARIO CARDENAS | Filipino Extraordinaire

It’s been a month of hiatus for me and during that long pause in writing, I was thinking on what to share to all of you since I’m not doing any personal shoots or project. I was browsing my facebook account one day and an acquaintance in photography bagged another prestigious award. Mario Cardenas whom I personally met during our Sony DI Challenge last year was again dominating the world of international photography competitions (he also won our Sony DI challenge, Pro category).
We started out in photography on the same year of 2009, as I am still finding my niche to success; Mario Cardenas had become a common house-hold name by being (in my opinion) the most multi-awarded photographer in UAE. Mario still considers himself as a hobbyist in photography as he still lives the normal life of an expat working as an architect with a worldwide consulting firm at day and a father/husband for his family at night. Being my fellow countrymen I am proud to impart with you my online interview, for you guys to know him further and his accomplishments.
When did you find your interest in photography?
Before photography, I was a self-taught painter artist. Back in high school, I used to represent our school in various local art and painting competitions. Due to our very modest living in the Philippines, I never had a camera until October 2009, when I became an OFW and bought my very first one in Abu Dhabi, an EOS Canon 50D with kit lens 18-200mm. I immediately recognized and appreciated photography as an excellent means of artistic expression. I got hooked in an instant! It is also related to my profession as an architect.

Photo supplied by Mario Cardenas


What was the first photo competition you've won and how significant was it to you?
My first win was the Yasalam-Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2009 Photo Contest organized by Flash Production. As I just got my camera a week before the competition and didn’t have any technical experience, I settled on experimenting with the camera settings and trusted my artistic instincts. I submitted the entry not expecting anything as I thought no one would appreciate the unusual style that I tried. This was the first time I had joined the photography competition. The win was a pleasant surprise!
My first win was significant as it brought back wonderful memories when I used to win art and painting competitions back in high school.

Photo supplied by Mario Cardenas
How many photo competitions have you already won?
I have received 40+ awards from local and international competitions.
Photo supplied by Mario Cardenas

Photo supplied by Mario Cardenas

With all the winnings that you had, for you, what was the most prestigious award you received at a photo competition?

I have a couple worth mentioning but I think my most favorite was when I won 1st prize at the UAE 40 Years National Day Photography Competition 2011 organized by Emirates Heritage Club. This competition awarded the biggest cash prize among the rest that I'd won.

Photo supplied by Mario Cardenas

What motivates you to continue your passion in photography?
Photography is an excellent medium in expressing artistry and offers challenges I never encountered before – circumstances are always different, even if I shoot in the same place at the same time. I like its endless possibilities, and the experiences involved in capturing a great photo. Photography gave me a medium where I could freely express myself creatively; it provided a sense of purpose, fulfillment and joy. Recognitions and prizes are just bonuses.
When I won my first major photography win in the UAE, I was called on stage as “Mario Cardenas from the Philippines!” I was swelling with pride and honor at that moment as I felt that I’m not doing it only for myself but for my country and countrymen as well. That inspired me to become better and motivated me to strive to win in more photography competitions.
Photo supplied by Mario Cardenas


Do you have any plans of switching to other types of photography as a career in the future?
I’m open to all types of photography, I also tend to experiment, explore, widen and dare to go beyond the norms and into the unknown. By going beyond the conventional and pushing myself to the limits, it provided a path for me towards self discovery.
Photography opened a new world of experiences for me – it enabled interaction with different kinds of people, culture, environment and habitat; it broadened my reach even to remote places that I would never have gone to if not for photography. I think I am inclined to Travel Photography; the world is such a huge place filled with amazing subjects, just waiting to be discovered. In the future, I hope I could exhibit my works in international exhibitions and join in more prestigious international competitions.
Photo supplied by Mario Cardenas

Where do you get inspiration from, with the photos you take?
Each one of us has the desire to contribute something in the world we live in. Perhaps my greatest contribution would be in photography field and I am inspired and motivated with this thought in mind. I’d like to capture photos with essence and meaning; hopefully, be appreciated by a lot of people and maybe, even make a difference.
But my greatest inspirations of course are my loved ones especially my family and all the people who believed, encouraged and supported me in my photography journey.
Photo supplied by Mario Cardenas


In spite of your full-time career, how do you manage to squeeze in your passion in photography?
In this case, the adage, “If there’s a will, there’s a way” applies to me. After work, I usually study and conceptualize my next shoot, travel etc. I do my outdoor shoots during weekends. Photography takes a lot of my spare time so sometimes, I take my wife and kid along in my travels, hitting two birds with one stone.

Photo supplied by Mario Cardenas

Out of your winnings in competitions, have you used it as an investment to further grow in photography?

Growing in terms of skills and knowledge, as well as a bit of networking, meeting a lot of people who are also passionate in photography.

Photo supplied by Mario Cardenas

Lastly, is there any specific photography competition you are aiming to conquer, to serve as icing on the cake?
I'll keep on joining photography competitions whenever there are opportunities as I enjoy the challenges so much. Hopefully I could join more and win in prestigious international competitions.
Photo supplied by Mario Cardenas

And also, kindly please impart a message to my readers, to those who are interested to join photo competitions; what can you advise them or what is the formula to a winning?
When someone decides to be a photographer, the person must create a personal mission, a powerful motivation behind capturing those great images. Never stop learning and focus on the goals. As I always encourage my fellow photographers, just join in photography competitions, we may lose a hundred times, but we can learn a thousand fold.
But at the bottom of it all, is to simply do the things that we love and passionate about, and give thanks and praise to God who is the source of all talents and blessings.

Photo supplied by Mario Cardenas
Photo supplied by Mario Cardenas

Photo supplied by Mario Cardenas

Most recently Mario bagged the Fujairah Photography Awards-4th Edition wherein 5 of his entries has been awarded as grand prize. It was under the patronage and presence of H.H. Sheikh Mohammad bin Hamad Al Sharqi, the Crown Prince of Fujairah, the Fujairah Culture and Media Authority (FCMA), held last May 26th, 2013 at the Fujairah Concord Hotel the awards ceremony of the Fujairah Photography Award (FPA).
Mario receiving his Hasselblad prize from Fujairah Photography Awards

Mario Cardenas another Filipino who gives pride to the Filipino community.

Proud to be Pinoy!

Thanks for your time...

Feel free to leave a comment if you like or not liked this post

The Hot Shoe Anthologist


  1. Very proud of you Mr. Mario Cardenas. You've got the Talent and Passion in the art of photography, BRAVO!

  2. very well done Mario! First time to see something new in photography.
    They all usually have the same effects or techniques to me. But this is different!


  3. Interesting Article. Hoping that you will continue posting an article having a useful information. Objektiv verleih