Monday, 31 August 2015

A Rainha do Fado

Fadista (fado singer)

If it wasn't for the fact I've now given up playing, I think I'd be craving one of the Portuguese guitars used to accompany fado singing.  If you watched the Ana Moura video linked in the previous post, you'll have seen one in action.

It's a lovely instrument, a sort of cross between a mandolin and a guitar, with six pairs of strings, with the bottom three in octave-separated pairs like a twelve-string guitar.  Its most distinctive feature is the use of a splayed fan of so-called "Preston tuners", rather than the geared machine-heads normally seen on modern guitars and mandolins.

Queen of Fado

A few people have asked about the "how" of these composite pictures (I'm ignoring the "why" constituency).  In principle, nothing could be simpler.  Good taste, skill, imagination and judgement aside, it's just a big stack of "layers" in Photoshop (in my case, Photoshop Elements 10, because I'm a cheapskate).  Figure out how to use layers, and Bob's your uncle.

The "Fadista" image above contains 16 layers, comprising 10 images plus 6 layers which are "shapes", duplicate layers, or adjustments.  I particularly like the bottom right corner:

The guy stepping through a portal into another dimension (or possibly a fado club) was snapped exiting from the dark interior of a Lisbon cathedral through a "wicket" into the overpowering sunlight outside.  I have a personal aversion to featureless white "blown" highlights, so to me the shot is unusable as a straight photograph.  Regrettable, as the way his lanky body fills the narrow opening is great.  However, by contriving a mousehole archway in the stone blocks of the tiled wall image I thought I'd found a suitable use for the picture.  I still hated the blown-out highlights, though, so I selected the area inside the wicket opening and converted it into negative values.  Yes!  I could probably refine this a bit (the bottom of his leg is still "normal", for example) but I quite like the roughness of the effect.

Hmm, I'm now also noticing the sharpness of the division between the "tiled wall" layer and the "decoratively-shadowed steps" layer...  More work needed there.  As they say: ars longa, vita brevis...


Debra Morris said...

Mike, I'm warming to this sequence of images. I've struggled to "read" many of the previous sequences of composites that you've posted. Mostly, I've found the contrasts of the colours, textures and scales too distracting to be able to engage with the composites as a whole work in themselves. There is something much more coherent in this recent group for me. The Rainha is stunning, just delightful. The Fadista's a real treat - having seen the images of the tiles and other decorative facades, the composite really works for me. The bottom right hand corner took my attention right away as well. Las Meninas continues to inspire, and the guitar makes an appearance as well.

Mike C. said...

Hi Debra, good to hear from you. Glad you're beginning to see what I'm up to, too! Obviously, they look more coherent at full size (around 45 x 30 cm).


Mike C said...

It's Rainha for me too - beautiful in its simplicity, darkness.

Mike C. said...


It's curious, I put that one together as a bit of fun -- the idea of those tuners as a crown tickled me -- and I suppose I had the idea of a pack of "guitarra" strings in mind. Looks like I've missed my vocation as a packaging designer!