A combination photograph shows participants in the China Birdman contest in the southern Chinese city of Jiangmen in Guangdong province September 21, 2010.  REUTERS/Bobby Yip

When a flying machine is made in the shape of a flying horse, a dragon head or a television set, I wonder if anyone expects that it will really fly.

That was the case at a birdman competition held this week at a downtown lake in Jiangmen, a city in China’s southern Guangdong province.

Dozens of contestants only took a few seconds to nosedive straight into the water, right after taking off in these “flying machines”. Some of the inventions, mainly made of foam and fiber, fell apart before hitting the lake. Others flew further with broken wings. Out of 34 contestants, a couple managed to fly as far as 50 meters.

The wing breaks as a participant takes part in a birdman competition in the southern Chinese city of Jiangmen in Guangdong province September 21, 2010.   REUTERS/Bobby Yip

I tried to symbolize dreams of flying in an image showing a contestant on a flying horse, with another birdman in the background, waiting his turn. “I am scared,” the one sitting on the horse said to me. “I try not to think about how I’m going to fail. I just want to take the chance to fly my way.”

Participants prepare to take part in a birdman competition in the southern Chinese city of Jiangmen in Guangdong province September 21, 2010.  REUTERS/Bobby Yip

I covered them ‘flying’ from as many angles as I could. I shot on the take-off ramp, from several side-on positions on the ground and from head on, with focal length lenses ranging between a 16 mm wide-angle to 300mm telephoto. My initial plan to bring a 500mm super telephoto was dropped after reading information on the official website about the site and the size of the flying machines. The lens raincoat I took was useful due to rains after a typhoon hit the day before.