BEADS of sweat rolled down the face of the tanned worker as he pulled the weeds at a pineapple farm.
At a glance, you would not be faulted for thinking he was just one of the farm hands; but to my surprise, he was the owner of one of the leisure farms we had visited.
I noticed all of the leisure farm owners I met during my eight-day trip were tanned from toiling under the sun, their hands calloused from all the hard work.
One would not expect the owner of a leisure farm to personally toil under the sun, yet they undertake various duties around the farm on their own.
From driving tractors to harvesting, mending fishing nets and repairing machinery, they toil from dawn to dusk.
I was impressed with their dedication and hence, they became my inspiration for the final photo essay in the Malaysia Media Photography Competition at Taiwan Leisure Farm.
I was pleased the judges liked my work, which had won in a few categories.
Aside from the photo essay, there were also daily competitions where I was the champion twice and also selected as the overall winner, which netted me a US$1,000 (RM4,163) cash prize plus a trophy.
The biennial competition saw 19 photographers from various newspapers and magazines in Malaysia
taking part to capture the beauty of leisure farms in Taiwan.
This year is its fifth installment, and I was invited to participate.
It was co-organised by Apple Vacations and Conventions and the Taiwan Leisure Farms Development Association to promote Taiwanese leisure farms as tourist destinations.
It was the first time I had taken part in this photography contest, along with experiencing the challenges of being under heavy rain and the scorching sun.
Taking photographs according to the theme was hard but the scenery and rural lifestyle inspired me a whole lot.
The Star’s photo editor Ng Kok Leong and Taiwan’s famed author and photographer Kaas Chen Chih Tung were the judges this time around.
In this year’s contest, we had to take pictures of selected leisure farms such as Lan Yang Shrimp Land, Zhuzihu Hydrangea Flower, Xinshe Mushroom Farm, Guihou Fishing Harbour, Chungu Farm, Nanzhuang Trout Fish, Fangshan Mango, Wandan Bitter gourd, Pingtung Pineapple, Oncidium Dancing-Doll Orchid and the Zhuo Ye Cottage over four days.
Each day, we had to submit 20 pictures, representing the different themes given, to battle for the top five places and a consolation prize.
They drew lots and we were divided into groups which were then sent to different locations to complete our assignments.
On the first day of the contest, I scouted for scenes that would reflect that day’s theme, “Green and Fresh”, at the prawn farm.
I came across fresh prawns caught in a net. That picture made it to first place among all submissions from that day’s field trips.
I always love to use elements of movement in photos, as they make the pictures look more lively and artistic.
This could be seen in the pictures captured at a hydrangea flower farm at Zhuzihu Hydrangea Flower on the second day of the contest – agriculture sprayers covered the fully blossomed flowers with mist, creating an ethereal feel.
The pictures were deemed special because they captured the scene surrounded by huge swathes of flower and mist, making it look like a sea of flowers, which fitted that day’s theme, “Wave”.
On the final day of the contest, photographers were given the chance to flex their photojournalism skills and produce photos accompanied by a short, descriptive story.
The countryside is beautiful with lush greenery and cooling water flowing in the streams, but the weather could get quite hot.
It was tiring scaling all the different terrains to get the pictures, but winning the competition made all the hard work worth it.
To view all the winning shots, go to apple101.com.my or www.taiwanfarm.org.tw