Photographer's Note

I took this picture during a festival near the ruins of the castle of Fleckenstein in the extreme north of Alsace. The theme of this festival is charcoal burning, and for about a week, two large heaps of wood covered with leaves and earth go through a slow combustion to produce charcoal. The method is traditional and was apparently already used in the first century AD. The combustion has to be controlled very carefully throughout the process, and if it appears to be too fast or too slow, the charcoalman plugs or digs holes in the earth covering the burning wood to get the right amount of oxygen. The charcoalman has to get up several times during the night to watch if the smoke is the right colour and indicates an appropriate combustion rate.
The men in the picture are all members of an association of wild boar hunters who catered for the visitors that evening. Guess what was on the menu... The animals were grilled on a spit, then cut, and served with spaetzle, a sort of traditional noodle preparation.
The lighting is provided by this long log of birch wood, cut lengthways several times using a chainsaw and set alight simply using a folded paper serviette. I must confess that before I saw it burn, I did not believe it would catch fire so easily. It must have burnt for nearly two hours.
I don't know what these men were talking about but I'm almost certain they probably spoke the local dialect, which, although this is in France, is rather close to German.
I've always found it difficult to photograph fire, but I think I did alright in this one.

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Additional Photos by Djib Brahil (Djib) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Silver Note Writer [C: 121 W: 16 N: 12] (426)
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