Project type: field school & expedition for documentation of cultural heritage. There is one two-week session available for participants. This field school is suitable for students, young specialists, artists and people with interests in medieval, esp. Byzantine or Christian Orthodox architecture and arts as well as digital photography, documentation of heritage monuments and travel. The program includes a special presentation on advanced photographic techniques for 3D documentation: Photogrammetry and Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI).
Both the expedition and the field school started: 2008
Site/s: up to two medieval Christian Orthodox chapels or small churches located in Western Bulgaria are the main sites for study, documentation and field school training ground. Many more located in Western Bulgaria and Eastern Serbia are to be visited during study visits.
Project venue: a hotel in Bankya, a small SPA town in the Sofia Metropolitan Area, Bulgaria. The fieldwork during the work days will involve travel to the church sites (they are located within 50 to 100 km /31 to 62 miles away from Bankya). The travel arrangements to and from these sites will be organized by the Balkan Heritage Field School (BHFS).
Period in the Project's focus: Late Medieval Period (fourteenth to seventeenth century): Late Byzantine, Post-Byzantine, Early Ottoman.
Major field school topics/activities: Byzantine/Christian Orthodox architecture, arts and iconography; Documentation of the architecture and frescos of late-medieval churches; Photogrammetry and Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) in collaboration with Queen's University, Canada; Study-trips and photo-excursions to significant heritage sites in Western Bulgaria and Eastern Serbia.
Directors: Ivan Vasilev (PhD candidate in Archaeology), president of the Balkan Heritage Foundation; adjunct professor at NBU and Dr. Vassil Tenekedjiev (PhD in Archaeology), Varna Regional Museum of History.
Dates: 13 - 27 May, 2017
Application deadline: 15 April, 2017
Minimum length of stay: Two weeks
Minimum age: 18
Number of field school places available: 8
Project language: English
Experience Required: All candidates are expected to have some familiarity with the basic principles of photography and digital SLR cameras. For those who don’t, the BHFS could offer the opportunity to take part in a special, brief but comprehensive online course about Digital Photography Basics by Sofia Photography School prior to their arrival in Bulgaria.
Special Requirements: The project is not recommended for individuals with special illnesses that might be exacerbated during the intensive outdoor activities. Participants should bring clothes and cosmetics suitable for warm and sunny weather but should also prepare for rainy, windy and chilly days. They are also expected to prepare for the field school by reading the BHFS handbook that will be sent by e-mail before the beginning of the project. Participants are expected to bring a laptop having at least 5 GB free disk space, a mouse and an USB flash drive. Bringing a personal DSLR camera is recommended but not mandatory. Anyway there is no better way of gaining new digital photography skills than exploring capacities of your own camera. All participants will be asked to release the copyright on all graphic materials they create/ work on during the expedition (maps, drawings, photographic images etc.) to the Balkan Heritage Foundation for non-commercial use.
Note, citizens of EU, EEA, USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand don't need entry visa for Bulgaria and Serbia! Citizens of countries not mentioned above should check in advance, whether they will need entry visa for both countries!
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THE EXPEDITION: "Fresco-Hunting" Photo Research Expedition to Medieval Balkan Churches provides a unique opportunity to students and volunteers to take part in an expedition for documentation of abandoned medieval churches/chapels and their frescoes in Western Bulgaria and to visit many other Christian Orthodox churches and monasteries, museums and archaeological sites in Sofia, Western Bulgaria and Eastern Serbia. The number of monuments in the project focus has been permanently decreasing due to the lack of effort to preserve and protect them from weather damage and vandalization. During the last nine years Bulgarian, Macedonian, US, Canadian and Japanese specialists and students from all over the world participating in the "Fresco-Hunting" Photo Expedition upgraded the existing database of drawn and photographic records of eleven churches and chapels in Western Bulgaria. Our aims are the publication of a "Corpus of Medieval Frescoes from Western Bulgaria" and development of further projects to support the sites in danger through conservation,restoration, development/improvement of the site's management and fund-raising. Our work raised the public awareness and some ecclesiastic edifices were partly conserved. Articles about two of them (Zimevitsa and Golesh) are now in print. Unfortunately many more remain in desperate condition awaiting either better times or slow deterioration.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL CONTEXT: The decline of Bulgarian and Byzantine Empires in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, rise and fall of Serbian Kingdom (an Empire between 1346-1371), Ottoman conquest of South-eastern Europe and the apogee of Ottoman power between the second half of the fourteenth and the end of seventeenth century highlight the Balkan Late Medieval Period. Churches and chapels that will be visited and studied were built during these turbulent times in one of the few Balkan areas where the traditions of all the major Balkan Late Medieval Art Schools and Guilds (those of Constantinople, Tarnovo, Ohrid, Thessaloniki, the Athos Holy Mountain, Epirus, Crete and the Danubian principalities) met. What we see today from the once flourishing medieval Orthodox art in the area are just small chapels and churches that survived the Ottoman invasion in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and the following social and political cataclysms. Many of these monuments are characterized by humble architecture and often hide exquisite frescoes behind their unattractive exterior. Most of them have been abandoned long ago. There is visible damage due to both vandalization(once in the period of the Ottoman Empire caused by either hostile Muslims or superstitious Christians, nowadays caused by looters and vandals) and/or weather conditions ruining them after they were abandoned.
THE FIELD SCHOOL In 2017 the expedition envisions to enhance the database created during the previous seasons by documenting architecture and frescoes (and their condition) of one or two medieval Christian Orthodox chapels or small churches in Western Bulgaria and collecting new data on their history, artifacts and environment. The region in focus is geographically and culturally very close to present-day Eastern Serbia, where a photo-excursion to a couple of medieval ecclesiastic monuments will take place. The students will be able to find parallels and make comparisons with the churches and their mural paintings across the border.
The Field School is comprised of:
All participants will receive:
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How to Organize My Expedition’s Field Journal?;
Arrival and check-in by 7.30 pm
A pick-up can be arranged from the Sofia airport, train or bus stations upon request.
Presentation of the Balkan Heritage Field School, the project and the participants. Ice-breaking and orientation. LECTURES, WORKSHOPS and Sofia Downtown Tour.
Lectures and workshops in the area of South East European medieval history, Christian Orthodox iconography, introduction to documental photography and project methodology.
Fieldwork at the sites (approx. 7-8 hours per day).
Guided visit to the Rila Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
The largest and oldest surviving Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria, est. in tenth century by St. Ivan Rilski (St. John of Rila).
Fieldwork at the sites (approx.7-8 hours per day)
Photo excursion to Eastern Serbia.
Workshops for processing of digital images and development of digital archives as well as hagiography at the hotel. Presentation of preliminary project results.
Optional courses in Illustration of architectural features and frescos (using graphic software)
Departure. Check-out by 12.30 pm
A drop-off can be arranged to the Sofia airport, train or bus stations upon request.
Raykovska, M., G. Bevan and I. Vasilev. The Integration of Different Computational Photographic Modalities in High-Accuracy 3D Building Models: The Case of the Church of St. Petka, Bulgaria – In: Virtual Archaeology (Methods and Benefits) Proceedings of the Second International Conference held at the State Hermitage Museum 1-3 June, 2015, Saint Petersburg, The State Hermitage Publishers, 2015; pp. 139-157
Iconography and Wall-paintings
Camera Exposure and Metering
Understanding the Histogram
Understanding How Camera Works
Camera Lenses: Focal Length and Aperture
Understanding How Depth of Field Works
Choosing and Using a Tripod
Color Temperature and White Balance
Light in Photography
Nearest Air Terminal: Sofia - don't forget checking the low cost flight options!
How to get there? If participants arrive at either the Sofia airport or bus/train stations, a taxi transfer to the project venue in Bankya may be arranged by request for an additional fee of 15 EUR (Please, specify this in your application form!). Otherwise, there are easy and cheaper ways for participants to reach Bankya by using Sofia public transport (bus, subway, train). Details will be included in the Info-sheet disseminated to all participants approx. a month before the project starting date.
Visa requirements: Citizens of EU, EEA, USA, Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand do not need a visa to visit Bulgaria and Serbia. Citizens of all other countries may need a visa. The Balkan Heritage Foundation can send an official invitation letter that should be used at the relevant embassy to secure a visa to the program. For further details please visit our Visa information page.
Accommodation and Food: in comfortable rooms with two to three beds (bathrooms with shower and WC, TV) in a hotel located in the downtown of Bankya, which also provides free Wi-Fi. Laundry service is available once a week. Three meals per day are covered by the admission fee. They usually take place in the hotel restaurant except the brown-bag-lunches (when on sites and during the excursions). Requests for vegetarian food are accepted. Participants have to pay extra for additional days and single room accommodation as well as any meals & beverages, services and products outside the project package. Extra day B&B accommodation’s price for shared/single-room occupancy is 20/30 EUR. Single rooms are available upon request for the supplement of 350 EUR (for two weeks).
Free time: Bankya and Sofia offer a lot of opportunities for good entertainment, SPA, sports, sightseeing and shopping. For more information look at: http://www.sofia-guide.com. SPA treatments, hiking and horse-riding are the possible leisure activities in Bankya! Guided visits of Sofia, including the Downtown, National Museum of History, Boyana Church (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Rila Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site) in Bulgaria as well as Poganovo and Temsko monasteries and Pirot Castle in Serbia are organized for all field school participants and covered by the admission fee.
Insurance: The admission fee does not cover insurance. It is necessary to arrange your own insurance before your trip to Bulgaria. All EU citizens can use Bulgarian medical services, just like Bulgarian citizens, as long as they can provide evidence of their home-country health insurance with a card/certificate, etc.
Weather: Moderate continental climate influenced by surrounding mountains dominates in Sofia and the area of expedition making springtime refreshingly cool and rainy (12-25 C, 56-77 F). Accidentally lower temperatures may occur, but May could also be surprisingly hot (up to 30-35 C; 86 – 95 F).
What to bring?
The Admission fee includes: educational and fieldwork activities, full-board accommodation (hotel + 3 meals per day), tools, materials, project e-handbook, issue of Certificate of Attendance, excursions/sightseeing tours/entrance fees and administrative costs.
The price in USD is for orientation. Please check current exchange rates!.
The Early bird admission fee is 1286 EUR (approx.1440 USD).
The regular admission fee is 1429 EUR (approx.1602 USD).
Admission Fee Transfer Options:
- Bank transfer
- On-line transfers via the Balkan Heritage virtual POS Terminal VISA, MASTERCARD & MAESTRO cards are accepted.
For further information contact Admissions Office at [email protected]!
* 5% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:
* 10% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:
* 12% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:
* 15% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee is available in case of:
Note, 7% of every admission fee for this project directly supports the Balkan Heritage Protection Fund's activities!
New Bulgarian University grants 6 ECTS credits to students for attending this field school. Transcripts of Records (ToR) are available upon request for an additional tuition fee starting from 282 EUR for six ECTS credits. For details please read carefully the Regulations for obtaining Transcripts of Records.