Salt is an integral part of our daily diet, but we rarely ask where it comes from and how it is produced. The journey of salt begins from the sea, with salt ponds usually located around shallow shorelines where the sun and wind evaporate most of the seawater, leaving behind water with a high salt concentration known as brine. Each salt pond has a unique salt density, and the color of the water indicates the salinity of each pond. Microscopic algae change their hues as the salinity of the water increases. Shrimps eat the algae, and as the water becomes too salty, the shrimps disappear, causing the algae to bloom and the color of the ponds to intensify. As a result, the colors can vary from light shades of green to vibrant red. Once the salt ponds dry out, a crust of salt is left behind which is harvested by workers for onward processing into table salt.
The strong contrasts and geometric shapes of the salt ponds resemble abstract paintings. These colors and shapes speak to our need to find order and pattern in the world around us. Photographer Tom Hegen has beautifully captured the surreal patterns of salt ponds on camera which he make into artistic prints like abstract paintings whose ultimate artist is nature (www.tomhegen.com). Below is a small sample of his works in a series called The Salt Series III.