Participants Galleries and comments


ON THE ROAD WITH FILM - Cuba roundtrip | March 2019 Joey Martinez, USA

Photography has been less of a hobby for me and more professional the last three years, and I felt like I was getting a little too comfortable. I personally wanted to find someone or something to get me out of that comfort zone. I signed up for Harald’s analog workshop in Cuba and it sure was an eye opening experience. We started out in Havana and then made our way east stopping in Trinidad, Camaguey, and then Santiago de Cuba. Then we made our way back west to Santa Clara, and Vinales. We even stopped in the town of Hershey when my Grandfather and Dad grew up. Harald has traveled to Cuba many times so he’s very well-connected and in most of these towns has many friends. Harald dials you in with everything you need for your journey (transportation, lodging etc) so you can solely focus on your photography. On top of all this Harald is a very seasoned photographer, his guidance, knowledge, and technique of the zone metering system will forever change how I will shoot film (and digital). I’ve traveled all over, and my 12 day workshop with Harald (and 2 other photographers) is hands-down one of the best experiences of my life thus far. And on a personal note we all became lifelong friends. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional photographer I highly recommend one of Harald’s workshops. I will certainly be back for another one. Thank you for everything Harald, it was a trip and a learning experience I will never forget, I will see you very soon my friend.

ON THE ROAD WITH FILM - Cuba roundtrip | March 2019 Ryan Muirhead, USA

I had a great time accompanying Harald to Cuba. It was nice to get to see so many different parts of the country in one trip. I appreciated his familiarity with the cities and the shooting opportunities he arranged. My favourite shooting situations were the things that had been arranged in advance where I could spend a significant amount of time with the people being photographed. Overall it was a very positive experience and I’d be happy to do it again. - Ryan Muirhead

CUBA GRAND ROUNDTRIP | DEC 2018 Cheryl Cooke, USA & Dominican Republic

I had been wanting to travel to Cuba for salsa dancing, but I really wanted to go to Santiago de Cuba where few people talk about and get a firsthand experience of Cuban people. In my search, I came across Harald's photography workshop in the Oriente and I thought, what better way to document my travel but with great pictures. In a day and age of selfies, I have been longing to get back to having 'great' photos of my travels.  As it turned out, Harald was going to be driving  by car from Havana to Santiago de Cuba and Baracoa and asked if I wanted to join for the ride.  I'm always looking for the next great adventure, so this was right up my alley.  What better way to really see and experience most of Cuba, except with a car, "casas particulares" and "paladores". 

I am by all means a novice photographer.  In the past, my 'extraordinary' photos were just by chance. Harald took the time to help me understand my camera and explain basic concepts such as aperture, ISO, etc. so I could learn to take great photos, on purpose. He help me expand on other techniques such as portraits, panning, and low light photography. He also taught me how to take photos of strangers and the unspoken rules of such.  I am more confident using my camera now and more comfortable with how to use it in modes other than automatic. Now that I think about it, I never used the flash for a single picture. I probably asked a thousand questions, and Harald happily answered each one. Harald taught me how to lookout for 'situations'.  I'll never forget the frenzy over 'teti'.

We toured old Havana, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, Baracoa, Camaguey, Santa Clara, and back to Havana's beaches.  Every location provided memorable photos, a little history and pleasant experiences with the Cuban people that I will definitely return back to.  The workshop was not only very informative, but so much fun.  Harald even made time in the schedule for enjoying the beaches, mojitos (mucho) and of course, salsa dancing. Between all the towns we traveled through, the local food we ate, the sometimes non-existent paved roads, the lack of constant internet access, and the genuine hospitality of the casa owners, this trip allowed me to see and photo-document the Cuba I would have never seen by plane or bus or even with a tour group. Thanks Harald for the creative adventure!

Cheryl Cooke, USA & Dominican Republic

All images © Cheryl Cooke, 2018

TRANS SIBERIAN RAILWAY | MAY 2018 Mary-Anne Thomson, New Zealand


Over the years I have always kept an eye out for the opportunity to do a photography course, preferably in a small group, which would be both challenging and inspiring. After viewing the same trip undertaken in 2017, I made the decision to go on this adventure. Russia was an unknown quantity which made it all the more intriguing. There were seven of us altogether, including Harald and Birgit our tutors, plus Nadia our interpreter who were all exceptional, personally and professionally. The train trip was a wonderful experience which strengthened us as a group and gave another perspective from a photographic point of view. While staying in various towns & cities, we spent a lot of time exploring the terrain on our own, which allowed us the freedom to wander wherever we wanted at our own pace and gave us a sense of place. It also took us out of our comfort zone, presenting challenges which we took on board to help build our confidence. We also worked as a group depending on the situation. We were very fortunate to be welcomed into a couple of peoples’ homes which was truly a rewarding experience. Our photos were reviewed as a group every couple of days, which enriched our skills as a photographer and helped us in our final selection in creating a body of work. Harald and Birgit were always extremely helpful and were always open to one on one tuition. As a group it worked very well, and as a result we had a lot of fun. I feel this workshop enhanced my passion for photography, taking me beyond the familiar, making me more observant and deliberate in my delivery. I am left with a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction, not to rest there, but to continue my journey in becoming a skilled photographer, at the same time giving me an in-depth experience of life itself.
Kindest regards

Mary-Anne Thomson, New Zealand

All images ©Mary-Anne Thomson, 2018

TRANS SIBERIAN RAILWAY | MAY 2018 Jorge Antonio Ayala Robles Linares, Mexico

When planning my trips, I think of exploring exotic places, meeting interesting people and living incredible experiences. This Transiberian Workshop went far beyond my expectations. 

We started this journey as a group of strangers from different parts of the world sharing just the passion of photography and we ended as a team of friends with so many good memories, extraordinary photos and incredible stories for years to come. 

We experienced 3 weeks of visually stunning landscapes, fascinating villages, tasteful traditional foods, welcoming conversations with Russian people and quality photo reviews and personalized lessons. All this getting on and off the exciting transiberian railway.

I learned not just to take better photos but to find my own approach to tell stories with my photos. 

Hats off to the remarkable team that made this possible: Nadia, Birgit and Harald. They did everything possible so we could enjoy, learn and get the most of this trip.

Nadia’s endless energy, friendliness and genuine interest in hearing each people’s story, opened many opportunities of meeting people from all the villages and cities we travelled. She translated not just words but emotions.

Birgit’s kindness, perceptiveness and creative skills opened our photographic eyes to capture things we couldn’t see. She found beauty and color in everyday moments.  

Harald’s insights, techniques and passion for photography helped us get the most of each moment. He became invisible when photographing people with his confident but relaxed approach.

An invaluable, unique and unforgettable experience that I’m thankful to have been part of. Highly recommended.

All images ©Jorge Antonio Ayala Robles Linares, 2018


The Trans Siberian train has been on my bucket list for many years. My objective was to photograph the land and people, not just transit the continent. The “ Trans Siberian adventure” led by Harald Claessen greatly exceeded my objectives. I have been on many photographic travel experiences and most are led by renowned photographers in conjunction with local travel guides and typically have too many participants. Harald’s tour is outstanding because there are just enough participants to be creatively challenging,  and not too many to overwhelm the people and locations you visit.  The absence of local travel guides is also an advantage because the trip is much less scripted and hence you can get a truer experience of the local culture.

The greatest joy in traveling with Harald is sharing his love of photography.  He has a sincere desire to teach the participants through suggestions as you are walking the countryside, and the periodic critiques of your work. I truly hope I can travel again with Harald!

All images ©Marvin Crossnoe, 2018

TRANS SIBERIAN RAILWAY | MAY 2018 Nick Barratt-Boyes, New Zealand

Personal reflections 

Under a blood red sky we clambered aboard the train. It was almost midnight on a chilly Vladivostok evening. Fireworks from the 9th May Victory Parade were exploding above us and ringing out over the city. I had always dreamed of going on an adventure to Siberia and forging a path to Lake Baikal. I had read so much about the crystalline water, it’s fathomless depths and the extreme harshness of life, in winter, on the lakes unforgiving fringes. This trip did not disappoint.

 It was a workshop that had the hallmarks of adventure and comradery combined with the opportunity to meet wonderful people in remote parts of the country - all through photography. I learnt a great deal about how to make a beautiful photographic image and what that meant. There was tuition on composition, low-light photography and techniques on how to approach and photograph strangers. We learnt to experiment with Lightroom CC and post production.  Every second day there was a critique and review of each participants photos by Harald and Birgit. Many hours were spent in the evening preparing, editing and drinking strong black coffee (with a little slice of smoked horsemeat ) for the following morning’s review session. As we criss-crossed the country heading to Moscow exploring villages, towns and cities, getting on and off the train, we were challenged to head out each day to be fearless and look for interesting situations and human encounters that could be just around the corner. I learnt to be hyper observant, follow my intuition and wander like  a “stray dog” searching for that special moment when a photograph can capture a lifetime in a split second.

 In Tultuk, Lake Bailkal down by the dilapidated wharves on a spring afternoon I was fortunate to happen upon Alexander “Sasha” the captain of a classic trading vessel who spontaneously took Nadia, our interpreter, and myself out on the lake for an adventure. It was  a crystal clear afternoon. The lake was a mirror and like marble. We drank lake water from a wooden bucket, drank homemade vodka and ate lard on stale bread. My lake Baikal unforgettable experience complete. I will never forget this workshop, my fellow photographers from all around the world and our two workshop directors Harald Claessen and Birgit Kripnner. Both acclaimed photographers who were so generous with their time and tuition. It wildly surpassed expectations.

 I am hoping to have a small exhibition in Seatoun, Wellington New Zealand where I live -a Trans Siberian photographic essay. Family and friends have been inspired and fascinated by the stories of all the wonderful and crazy Russian folk we met and the images that I took.  I am very keen to join Harald and Birgit  again on another workshop and go to Cuba if I get half the chance. Until then I am carrying my Leica Q with me everywhere and looking for soulful and powerful images at every turn.

 Nick Barratt-Boyes, New Zealand

All images ©Nick Barratt-Boyes, 2018

TOKYO IN COLOURS | MAY 2017, by Andreas G. Rutsch (Germany)

"An intense and amazing week has finally come to an end. Having never been to this magical city before I explored it a few days on my own before joining Birgit and Harald's workshop. Starting from our apartment in Shinjuku-Ku we ventured out, met great people, enjoyed hot and cold Japanese food and experienced the vibrant contrasts of Tokyo life. I wanted to challenge myself to a different level of photography and got truly inspired by these two wonderful photographers . . . and shot for a long time in colour again ! Tokyo - I will be back and Birgit and Harald hope to see you soon ! You are the best!

TRANS SIBERIAN RAILWAY | MAY 2017, by Linda Omelianchuk (USA)

"The journey on the Trans Siberian Railway, traveling 6,000 miles through seven time zones between Vladivostok and Moscow, was a photography experience I will never forget. Stopping along the way in small villages and cities to visit with everyday Russian people, we discovered the hearts and minds of many Russians as they reached out in friendship, curiosity, and hospitality and as we shared feelings of family, work and patriotism.Traveling second and third class in the train was an authentic Russian experience. We mixed our tea, coffee, soup, and oatmeal with the hot water supplied in each car, made our beds with the clean white sheets given to us, fell asleep to the sound of the wheels on the tracks. I loved it. Harald and Birgit were organised, yet flexible in our schedules, leaving room for staying longer in places that interested us most. They, along with Galina, our Russian translator, managed all the train tickets and hotel reservations, so all I had to do was follow along and take photographs! I would take this journey again and recommend it to anyone who wants to go on a very special, unique photographic experience."