Thursday, March 01, 2012

Environmental impact blues (and reds, oranges and yellows)

click photo to enlarge
I once tried to discover whether an artificial Christmas tree was "greener" than a living tree that was bought, used once and then composted. I discovered that there was no consensus on the matter, but that the problem had engaged the minds of many. Some studies said yes, some no, and yet others that there was little, if any, difference.

The other day, as I was feeding our small incinerator with dry garden waste, the result of our clearing the borders ready for spring, I was considering the pros and cons of burning versus taking it to the municipal refuse site for recycling into compost. By the time I'd ticked off every advantage and disadvantage of each method that I could think of my poor old head hurt and the waste was almost gone. My conclusion, if it could be called such, was that it isn't obviously better to compost centrally than to burn locally. The fact is, more knowledge than the layman can put his hands on is required to weigh such factors as the energy used in the transport of waste and in commercial composting, the energy saved by using the locally burnt residue as garden fertiliser compared to sourcing it from elsewhere, etc. We compost and use quite a lot of our garden waste ourselves, and most of our woody, green waste goes to a local collection that visits the village fortnightly during spring, summer and autumn. However, this doesn't operate in winter, hence the small amount of burning that we sometimes undertake at this time of year.

As I fed the flames, trying to keep an efficient blaze that produced minimal smoke and particles, I grabbed my camera and took today's photograph. However, flames are like water for the photographer; alluring to the eye, but impossible to capture with a still image because their attraction lies as much in movement as in the other qualities that they display. I tried to contrast the fragments of burning waste with the swirling flames in this shot, but not very successfully. The truth is, as spring approaches I am hungry for deep, strong colours and these flames offered me a fix before nature has fully revealed itself.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 100mm macro
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/125 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On