The Salt of the Earth

Las Salinas Salt Pans in Lepanto, Guanacaste


Story and photos by Sean Davis

When you buy sea salt, you may not realize how this process has worked for millenia. The seawater is let into the perfectly manicured flat pans during a very high tide. The opening is closed. Then it’s a matter of waiting until the sun evaporates the water away, leaving just the white crystals. You can often see the salt pans from overhead during air travel, looking like stained glass rectangles reflecting the sky.Sometimes you wait a decade to get the photo. I had been driving by these salt pans on the way to the southern beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula for years, waiting for the day when someone would come out and harvest the salt that had evaporated in the pans. 

On this day, I finally got very lucky to find a very fit older gentleman and his assistant harvesting the salt in perfect light. Despite the man’s age, his posture was that of a young man, virile and upright from a lifetime of hard work. His much younger assistant was having a hard time keeping up and was sweating profusely.


I parked the car, pulled out my camera and greeted the pair, then got to shooting with an ancient 100 mm. manual-focus lens.


The salt farmer’s face was amazing — creased from the parched work that he had spent a lifetime doing, with a perfectly trimmed mustache and intense eyes. He paid my camera no mind, and went about his work as I we

nt about mine.

When I was done, we shook hands and went our separate ways.

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