Flare on Harvest Moon

I’d promised myself to shoot a picture of the harvest moon rising Thursday night, but then promptly forgot about it.  A reminder from Sheila, my wife, jolted me into action.  By the time I got to the park, the moon had risen clear of the East Bay hills and their haze.  Its light cast hard shadows, and I needed no flashlight to find my way.  Apart from a young couple talking quietly on the Open Circle artwork bench — and not thrilled by my appearance with camera — I had the east edge of the park to myself.  After taking routine moon shots that left me unsatisfied, on my way back I noticed that the tower of the flare station, clearly visible from the eastern path, looked to have an orange light on it that I had never seen before.  Walking up closer, I saw that the light was something like a peephole, maybe two or three inches in diameter, revealing the glow of a fire inside.  That would be normal, of course.  The purpose of the flare station is to burn off the landfill gases generated by the buried garbage that underlies the park and most of the rest of the Marina.  Motor-driven blowers inject the collected gas into a set of burners at the bottom of the tower.  The burners, similar to acetylene torches used in welding, incinerate the volatile components of the landfill gas, mainly methane, at a temperature of around 1400 degrees F.  The tall stack then vents the resulting carbon dioxide and byproducts into the air.  As I walked around the fenced installation, thinking to get a shot of the moon together with the tall stack, I saw a surprising and interesting display.  With my camera positioned so that the moon stood just above the mouth of the stack, the escaping hot gases warped and refracted the moonlight.  Sometimes it looked as if the moon was burning.  At other moments the silvery orb seemed to be washed in rapidly moving water.  Sometimes its face seemed obscured by smoke.  In every case, the moon rendered clearly visible a process that was otherwise almost invisible.  In broad sunlight some months ago I had been able to photograph the flickering shadows that the escaping gases cast on the grass, but the brilliant, cold light of the Harvest Moon showed the flare station’s exhaust with unmatched clarity.  

The Harvest Moon in Clear Air
The flare station by moonlight. Red light between second and third rung of ladder) shows fire inside.


Harvest Moon over flare station exhaust

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