Contax 645 + Kodak Portra 800

Contax 645 + Kodak Portra 800

Dates 2020

Russia, Pearls of Siberia - in Winter | Sun. 23 FEB - Sat. 07 MAR | 14 days

Russia, Pearls of Siberia - in Spring | Sun. 21 JUN - Sat. 04 JUL | 14 days

Our Journey

We have no time to waste on this workshop! We plunge right into the heart of Siberia, which is, by right, the heart of Russia too. We’ll start our journey in the town of Irkutsk which obtained its roots from the first settlers in the middle of 17th century. Irkutsk saw an influx of intellectual and cultural growth throughout 19th century when the prominent figures were exiled here, hence obtaining its name “Paris of Siberia”. It went through Soviet transformation and shaped into a intriguing mix of styles, cultures, views on life, architecture and monuments.

Then we’ll take the historic Trans Siberian Railway train along the shores of lake Baikal, passing that tempting beauty, in a train journey, to Ulan Ude where will transfer to a car for the rest of our journey. In Ulan Ude we will submerge into Buddhist and Shamanism culture of a nearby region, explore their lives, their beliefs and their beautiful temples.  Here also lay villages of so called Old Believers, those mysterious communities who rejected the reforms in Russian Orthodox Church all the way back in the 17th century and found their sanctuary in Siberian valleys to preserve their faith, way of living and traditions, that they still reverently follow today. In a striking difference to what we’ve seen we’ll move on to a mining town, built and greatly expanded in Soviet times that sees its downfall, its ruined roads, blackened Soviet living blocks, chimneys that still fume to give hope for survival.

We’ll move on to small peaceful villages settled in harsh yet picturesque nature, see remnants of Soviet heritage, impressive cathedrals abandoned even earlier.

The road will take us through mountains of snowy peaks only to bring us to the green and flowery landscape of a hidden village with cows walking through the streets, children busy with their games, and Baikal glistening on the background. Its people are friendly and welcoming, open and honest. Though it’s sad to leave we need to move on to another village with breathtaking view on Baikal. There’s so much to do, have long walks and talks, visit people, walk on the old railway built in Tsarist time, visit locals, explore their lives. Is it coming to an end? It’s difficult to part, yet we need to head back to Irkutsk, but the secret is we will visit Baikal once again from Irkutsk just before our final group dinner.

We’re passionate about teaching the different aspects of photography. A good amount of time will be spent on reviewing your work during the travel with a detailed feedback and assistance from our side. Our aim is to help you to become comfortable photographing strangers in unfamiliar environment, recognise favourable photography situations, judge the quality of natural light and adjust to low light situations. We want you to become better photographers and we’ll make sure you return home with a beautiful photo essay.

This is a route seldom traveled by foreigners, a magical journey where we will engage with friendly Siberian people, and taste the local delicious cuisine.

The workshop

We’re passionate about teaching the different aspects of photography. A good amount of time will be spend on:

  • Giving you detailed feedback and assistance/suggestions from our side

  • Help you to become comfortable photographing strangers in unfamiliar environment with Respect and Dignity towards your subjects. Even if you don't speak the language, Empathy has no language. In return this will make you feel relaxed and confident, which is important for making environmental portraits or street photography.

  • Recognise favourable photography situations. Not everything is interesting to photograph. We will make your internal sirens go off meaning "We've got a situation!" when photographical interesting elements which are resonating with you are aligning. Find 2-3 a day and you had an amazing day. We speak about what such "situations" are and what to do when you find them.

  • Judge the quality of natural light and find the good light at any time of the day. Not only in the early morning or afternoon/evening.

  • How to adjust correctly to low light situations.

    We want you to return home with a personally meaningful photo essay.

Leica MP + Cinestill film 800T

Leica MP + Cinestill film 800T

Group Size

Small group size - Maximum 6 participants


Experience | Difficulty

Open to all levels (non-photographers also welcome)

Moderate schedule and elevation changes

lots of walking


Lecturer | Host

Harald Claessen  

Born in the Netherlands - Flying Dutchman (a legendary ghost ship that can never make port and is doomed to sail the oceans forever). Harald is a Dutch Social Documentary and Portrait Photographer who partly lives in Russia and Cyprus.

Harald’s Instagram

Host for Pearls of Siberia - (in Spring only).

Nadia Cherkashina

Born in the USSR, living in Cyprus, Nadia is a super host in the sense that her passion is to understand and explore the social fabric of the country and her people. She loves to read contemporary history, watch Soviet movies, sing Soviet songs and reading Russian classics to her son. If anyone can open peoples’ hearts on this trip, it’s her. You may find her shedding a tear talking to a villager about how life treats them and on another occasion, expect her to be ‘gone’, only to find Nadia chatting, drinking “refreshments” and playing cards with some soldiers on their way to their next mission…and expect her to insist that you join them)). Nadia embodies the search for the lost Soviet soul.


Leica M10

Leica M10

  • All Hotels / Accommodations

  • All Breakfasts

  • All Local transportation, Train, Car, Minibus

  • Social Documentary, Travel Photography, Street Photography, Landscape Photography, Portrait Photography

  • Professional photographer | host | tuition

  • Small group size

  • Advice on visa arrangements for Russia


Travel Information

Arrival and Departure Airport: International Airport Irkutsk (IKT) - Transfer time to hotel 30min

Travel Visa: A tourist visa may be required depending on your nationality. Contact your local Russian Consulate to find out.


Extend your travel to visit Moscow and Saint Petersburg. We will give you advice on places to visit according to your personal interests.

Custom options are available on request. Mail us with your questions.

To register, send an email to mentioning which workshop you would like to join.

Mamiya RZ67ii + Kodak Portra 160

Mamiya RZ67ii + Kodak Portra 160

Leica M10

Leica M10

What to expect?

Some images from our previous Siberian Photo Workshops.