The GUANGZHOUNAUT at the Fish, Bird and Plant Market

HUADIWAN FISH, BIRD AND PLANT MARKET

LIWAN DISTRICT

One of the ways you can simultaneously get an understanding of the scale of markets in Guangzhou as well as gain an insight into what motivates Cantonese people is to visit the sprawling Huadiwan Fish, Bird and Plant Market in Fangcun District. This is sometimes known as the "Yuehe Fish Market", and it's the place you would head for if you are planning to have an aquarium or fish tank or are toying with the idea of having any sort of domestic water feature. Enthusiasts will revel at the prices and the range of paraphernalia  which is  displayed along gigantic  covered  walkways like great  railway station forecourts. There are birds and pets for sale too. Huadiwan has earned the shadier reputation  of being the place where the global SARS outbreak began in 2002-3 and as you discover this section of the market you can perhaps understand why.
  Swirling goldfish for sale at Huadiwan Market, Guangzhou

Swirling goldfish for sale at Huadiwan Market, Guangzhou

On my first visit here, it was to fill a minivan with potted plants , growing herbs in pots, bags of soil, fertiliser, bug spray and decorative orchids for our first apartment and its balcony. Its is a little like wandering in a botanic garden when shopping for plants here. For those who are not green-fingered or less likely to be interested in keeping pets of any sort, there are great halls of rustic furniture, tea sets and tea tables, screens, outdoor / indoor rock and wood decorative features, amidst Aladdin's Caves of plastic flowers, exotic sea shells and corals.

  Colourful parakeets for sale at Huadiwan Market, Guangzhou

Colourful parakeets for sale at Huadiwan Market, Guangzhou

My next visit to this market was as a photographer. The situation presented me with  the kind of visual overload you'd expect in crowded passageways and trading halls. A bustle of people, long perspectives and varied light conditions (mainly low light but also diffused light from the walls of LED and neon- lit fish tanks).  I spent some time shooting and experimenting for a while with the camera down at the ground level (not for the feint-hearted in a busy place like Huadiwan) or standing up on something to capture the melee of people and the colourful 'tunnels' of products. I soon realised that it was going to be difficult to encapsulate all these details successfully in a well composed, correctly exposed image. So it seemed sensible then to work with the details themselves.  That day I had decided to concentrate on looking essentially for colour and I had also decided to work with my 50mm f1.4 lens only. Here is the photo essay from the day there.

  Songbirds in traditional Chinese birdcages at Huadiwan Market, Guangzhou

Songbirds in traditional Chinese birdcages at Huadiwan Market, Guangzhou

I found Michael Freeman's: "The Photohrapher's Exposure Field Guide", useful reading before going out on this shoot. As most problems with shooting there seem to arise due to an exposure issue.  The dynamic range of the scenes at the market tend to be greater than the sensor in your camera can capture in one exposure.

Guangzhounauts can reach Huadiwan Fish, Bird and Plant Market by taking the metro to Huadiwan Metro Station on Line 1. You will need Exit D and as you emerge you will be directly opposite the market. (A taxi fare from Tianhe area will cost approximately 50 RMB).

Huadiwan Metro station is interesting because it is the only one with a 'cut and cover construction' and both directions of metro line appear from a single vault tunnel between two platforms with mezzanine-style concourses at either end. It feels like a more European experience alighting there.

  Got vermin trouble? The place to buy a "Mouser" is at Huadiwan Market, Guangzhou

Got vermin trouble? The place to buy a "Mouser" is at Huadiwan Market, Guangzhou

 View more images from the Guangzhounaut at: The Guangzhounaut Dailies, a page set up for daily iPhone photographs taken in and around Guangzhou.