Fukuoka’s Central Fish Market

The main auction floor of the central fishmarket in Fukuoka, Kyushu, Japan

Now the shots for the feature have been chosen, I can show you a few out-takes from my recent shoot in Kyushu, for KLM Airways’ inflight magazine.

I’ve been to a few of the bigger fish-markets in Japan, including Tokyo’s Tsukiji and the central market in Hakodate, Hokkaido. As far as floorspace of the main auction area is concerned, Fukuoka’s Central Market has first-place nailed. It’s like several football pitches joined end-on-end.. as the picture above shows. This was shot at about 2.50am, just before the main auction kicked off.

Getting a shot which did the size of this place justice – whilst maintaining sharpness from front to back of the room – was a job for the widest lens in the bag: 14mm.

But a super-wide isn’t going to work with a room this large if I am shooting the picture from head height: too much ceiling, perspective’s all wrong. 

Solution? well, at this very point in proceedings there were none of the motorised trollies around, which are usually zooming across the floor picking up pallets of fish and threatening to mow-down anyone who gets in their way. No ladders either. The usual sort ladder I use for my paparazzi type work wouldn’t have been high enough. I didn’t have it anyway. It’s annoying to carry around even when I have an assistant, as I did for most of this shoot in the form of my good mate Chef, who lives in the city with his Japanese wife.

No, the solution was the monopod. It’s not something I tend to use in the traditional sense but something that more often becomes useful as a boom to get a light in over the top of a subject. Or, in this case, an elevated platform for the camera. I have a long cable-release for my Nikon – about 2m – and by using that, putting the camera on the monopod and holding it as far above my head as I can manage whilst still having the release in my hand, I can get the camera about 6ft above my head. Angled slightly down, that makes for a good enough perspective with the super-wide; in this shot so that the leading-lines of the boxes of fish and the lines of the roof meet at a vanishing-point which is higher in the frame. We see more of what’s in the boxes with this viewpoint.

It’s not easy framing this stuff without being able to look through the viewfinder. And the camera is too far away and at a down-angle, so using the Live View wouldn’t really help either. It’s a bit like shooting the 50mm from the hip for me: practice makes perfect. Do it enough, know your lens’ field of view and you can be fairly consistent and sure of the framing. It becomes like having your eye on the end of your arm.

The shot above is cropped to fit into the space on this web-page. There’s a more full-frame shot in the little gallery below.

One of the other shots in the gallery is of the auctioneer. Was very pleased I got that shot with him screaming the prices out to the crowd of buyers.

Getting into the flow of the auction, spotting where the action was going to happen next and having the flat-bed of one of the little trucks to hand helped me – again – get a slightly elevated viewpoint. I ended up with the auctioneer right across from me. That shot was made with the 50mm f/1.2 Ai lens at f/2.

Not a huge amount of light in this place and the light was a very weird colour. I shoot RAW, obviously, because the client is going to want choice [and they wanted colour shots]. But I shoot in-camera monochrome in situations like this; i.e. where there is a horrible mix of white-balance coming from the sodium and fluorescent lights. It helps me stay focused on the action and the exposure and not get bogged-down in worrying about the colour balance, which is something that I can easily fix after the event.

Here’s just a few more from that morning at the fishmarket. There’ll be more shots from this 4-day Kyushu shoot coming onto the blog and website over the coming weeks.

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Japanorama is run by British professional photographer, Alfie Goodrich, and provides practical photography teaching in Tokyo. Weekly workshops, group and one-to-one lessons bring together photographers of all ages and abilities.

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