Salt 'n Spar

Introducing Salt 'n Spar

Mon, 02/10/2020 - 8:00am

This is an introduction to a bi-weekly column I’ll be writing for the Boothbay Register/Wiscasset Newspaper. Some of you who are regular readers might recognize my name since I’ve been a frequent story contributor for the past four years. I wouldn’t call this an opinion column; my opinion doesn’t count any more or less than anybody else’s. And, I’ll warn you in advance the subjects will be wide-ranging, excluding politics, religion, or advice on how to spend your money. I may from time to time touch on an historical topic. I enjoy being outdoors, and might share with you a visit to a state park or a hike through one of the Midcoast area’s many land trusts.

When you write a column, you need a name. I came up with “Salt ’n Spar.” That’s an old sailor’s saying from when ships sailed from New England laden with lumber to the West Indies to trade for salt, molasses, rum and other goods. I liked the name and the editors, Kevin Burnham and Susan Johns, did, too.

Years ago, I wrote a newspaper column called “Shutter bugged.” It offered tips for taking photographs with a 35mm camera. Now all you need to take pictures, i.e. digital ones, is a smartphone. The images can then be downloaded to a laptop or i-Pad, edited and made into pictures to hang on the wall.

I never dreamed when I was teaching photography in the 1980s that digital photography would ever exist. In the old days, you needed a camera loaded with black & white or color film and had to rely on a light meter in order to get the right exposures. Films had different light sensitivity and were measured by an ASA/ISO rating. It was all pretty complicated and expensive, too.   

Indoors you often needed to use a camera flash to get a good picture. That was tricky, too. Color photographs of people shot head-on with a flash frequently resulted in “red eye,” the person in the picture looking like a zombie.

I taught people how to develop their 35mm film into negatives which were then enlarged and printed into mostly 8-by-10-inch black & white photographs. One of the best things about digital picture taking is you can enlarge an image and it stays sharp! This wasn’t so with film, the bigger you made a picture the grainier the image became. You can also take an almost unlimited number of digital images. The most a roll of film could hold was 36 frames.

I’ll revisit this subject again in a future column explaining why a lot of the old rules for taking good compositions and action pictures still apply in digital photography. You still need to train your eyes to see the way the camera sees. And there’s also the challenge of how best to store these digital images for the future.

Phil Di Vece earned a B.A. in journalism studies from Colorado State University and an M.A. in journalism at the University of South Florida. He is the author of three Wiscasset books and is a frequent news contributor to the Wiscasset Newspaper and Boothbay Register. He resides in Wiscasset. Contact him at