City portrait #15 – Aleksa Milić

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Aleksa Milić – orthodox ikonographer. He is making ikons on a traditional way and with traditional materials (pigments, eggs, gold…). Originally, painter by profession. Works in a studio in monastery Klisina, 15 km from Prijedor.
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I have to thank to my friend Ogi and my lovely wife Dragana who helped me with this portrait. Here are some pictures from rehearsals two days ago:
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And here are two pictures I used for my final image:
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National treasure

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This is the last church in series. In Omarska, some 20km from Prijedor, RS, BiH. Today I finished my tour around Prijedor region. I met some interesting people, and I was disappointed how little, people who lives here knows about these churches.
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Idea was to collect all churches in one place and maybe to tell some story about it. I’m not satisfied with the informations I collect but I hope I succeed to inform someone about treasures that are in reach of our feet (at least for people from this region).
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Church in Marićka can be seen here, here is church in Jelićka, here church in Rakelići, yesterday I published a story about church in Busnovi and it can be seen here.

Secrets under ice

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Village Busnovi (near Prijedor, RS, BiH). Well preserved old church that is built in 1870. Beautiful position at the end of a village on a hill with view on a valley. Story about this church is no different then others in this series.
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While I was trying to find some good spot to take picture and to make better composition because of heavy fog and some frost, a guy came and say hello to me. He introduce himself to me as Milorad Maksimović – descendant of original church builder. He told me some basic info about church that I already know and then he asked me to follow him in to graveyard next to the church.
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I was amazed when I found out how big and how old that graveyard was. He showed me some old graves that nobody knows how old are they. I also saw a line of graves where 11 priests were buried – and all of them were inheritors to each other.
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I wanted to see if anything is written on tombstones and we started to clean all the ice and snow.
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On most of them, we couldn’t see anything because of many layers of ice and because of bad condition of the stone. But… we cleaned one… and here is what I saw
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I’ve never seen this symbol before in this region. Only thing that I could link this symbol with is Flower of Life and Seed of Life (an ancient symbol that could be found in many religions and represents perfection, symbol of Creator, Seven Days of Creation…). Also, nobody gave me any explanation of this and Milorad (guy that showed me all that) said that graveyard is neglected by local community and there is no enthusiasm for uncovering the real story about those graves. I promised him that I will come in spring when snow melts down and he will show me the rest of that old tombstones.
I’m still under the influence of that strange place. Is there a truly remarkable story or is it just a simple old graveyard with no significance? Maybe some detective work will help.?!

Mystery

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Third of five. Old wooden church in village Rakelići near Prijedor (cca 20 km south-east), Republic of Srpska, BiH. I don’t have much info about it. Tried to find local priest but without success.

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This church is very intriguing. That’s why I called this post Mystery. There is no any info about it on the internet, people who lives there (at least those I talked to) don’t know much about it. There are many strange things. I was first person who walked around church in some time seeing that snow was untouched. Windows are broken. There is no cross on the top of the tower. And new church which is only few meters away has been visited often. There is a number 1859 next to the main entrance door engraved in wood, so I assume that is the year of built.

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Some people asked me about my HDR workflow, so I decided to write it here.
First of all, I take my images on tripod and with delayed shutter of 2 sec. Usually, I’m taking not less then five images with different shutter speed (one full stop each). I generate HDR with Photomatix Pro (it is possible to do with both raw or jpg images). Slight tone mapping correction and after that I open my generated HDR image in Photoshop. I’m using NIK Software Photoshop plug in (which is great) and in it, Silver Efex Pro for BW conversion. Increasing contrast is only thing I do after the conversion. Then, if it’s necessary, I work on my image in Viveza (on of NIK applications) which is great with a unique U-point technology. A bit additional curves adjustment and that is it.

Storyteller

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Another old wooden church in village Jelićka near Prijedor (cca 30km sout-east) in Republic of Srpska, BiH. Church is between 200 and 300 years old and it is very accessible on the regional road to Banja Luka over Bronzani Majdan.

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Church is currently under reconstruction (internal) and it is under the state protection as a national monument.

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Characteristic of these churches are high roof and small entrance door. Why?

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Legend says that Turkish soldiers liked to go in to churches on their horses. So… people build small doors to prevent it. Not only that. They built it small so when Turkish soldier wanted to enter on foot, he would need to crouch so he would unintentionally “give respect to God”. Another thing that Turkish soldiers did, was taking women, so that is why high floors. There was hidden stairway next to the entrance door so women were upstairs in secret chamber so Turks couldn’t find them.

Next to this old church is new modern church.
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Again, first three pictures are HDRs. I had a dilemma, to shoot classic pictures or try with HDR again. Weather conditions were bad, heavy overcast with light mist. I decided to do HDR because of the snow which is very bright in opposite to very dark wood and trees. HDR gives you opportunity to bring out that light snow structure and gives better texture to image in general.

The real Holly Wood

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Old wooden (serbian orthodox) church in village Marićka near Prijedor. One of five in that region. Church is around 200 years old and was built in oak forest. Those kind of churches are characteristic for region of Serbia and BiH. Interesting thing is that there is one oak tree for which is believed that is more then 500 years old.

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There is a legend of how these churches were built and why. Turks (Turkish empire), who ruled these regions almost for 5 centuries, allowed to the local population to built churches but only if they could built it in ONE NIGHT.

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Another interesting characteristic is mobility of these churches. It was pretty easy to move one from one place to another.

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Here are some pictures of that old oak tree. It is amazing to stand next to it.
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Most of the pictures are made as HDRs and out of 7 images and more. I decided to do it with more images I could because clouds were moving very fast so I needed smooth transition in my final image.