Sailors' Guide

From Pictorial Artistry: The Dramatization of the Beautiful in Photography
"At the southern point of Nova Scotia where the Bay of Fundy begins stands this proud sentinel of the sea.
The night when first I saw it was brilliantly clear and luminous. The radiance of a full moon danced on tiny wisps of clouds overhead. As I watched, the broad sweeping beams of the great light searched the sea in endless rotation, sending unfailing word to seafarers far beyond the horizon that here was the entrance to Yarmouth harbor. For I knew the shield that encircles the powerful light in the ever-turning top had openings of various sizes, which interrupt the beams at certain intervals. The periods of duration and interruption of the beams speak the language of the sea, identifying the light and its position to those who go down to the sea in ships.
Monumental and pyramidal. The radiating light arrangement tends to draw the attention repeatedly back to the hidden source of light. The somewhat circular grouping of the moonlit clouds, prevents the attention from wandering out of the picture or away from the motif. Then, the tapering structure of the tower itself carries directly and forcefully to the motif, the source of light.
Technical Approach:
The sides of the lighthouse are striped red and white. In moonlight, a faint reproduction of this contrast in tones is visible. Since long exposure to register these in proper values would result in recording themotion of the light source, other means and conditions of taking the picture had to be worked out. Daylight exposure, with the sun behind the tower was the happy solution. By heavy reduction in the sky a night effect was created, followed by careful balancing of tones on groundglass substitute behind the negative. The light beams, so important to the drama of the composition, were introduced afterwards with chalk.
Camera: Linhof 9x12cm
Lens: Schneider Angulon
Stop: f.16
Filter: Dark Yellow
Exposure: 1/5 on tripod
Film: Agfa Superpan
Print: 14x17 Direct, on Tuma Gas"
by Adolf Fassbender, 1937
Currently not on view
date made
before 1937
Fassbender, Adolf
place made
Canada: Nova Scotia
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
image: 11 in x 8 3/8 in; 27.94 cm x 21.2725 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Adolf Fassbender, Pictorial Artistry
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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