High rises start to glow golden-warm as the city begins to awaken, the lucid sunshine casts over metal rods and defined lines preparing its inhabitants for the day ahead. For Merlin, this is the perfect setting to explore the everyday extraordinary unfolding. The cities of Asia are a fantasia, touched by ancient and western components. They are filled with blocks of visionaries and dreamers, treaded by wanderers like Merlin, inspiring his nomadic mind. We see his own interpretation of urban complexes woven throughout his photographs.
The vicinity in which Merlin feels most comfortable is when he is taking photos of urban domains. His marvel for photography started when he wanted to keep an archive of his travel experiences, thus starting his pursuit in photography.
Looking Down a popular street in Seoul’s old Bukchon Hanok village – Nikon D610, f/8, 1/200 sec, ISO 100, AF Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D at 24mm
Rainy days in Singapore, with an iconic landmark as a backdrop – Nikon D610, f/20,1/60 sec, ISO 800, AF Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D at 24mm
One of Hong Kong’s many residential high rises – Nikon D610, f/8, 1/400 sec, ISO 100, AF Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D at 24mm
“I have a passion to convey visual stories from a dramatic and atmospheric point of view. At first, my main interest was to document my travels, which helped me understand how cameras actually worked and to experiment with different settings and techniques. After that, I purchased my first DSLR and started taking photos on an almost daily basis - from there my devotion took off.”
As he becomes more at ease with photography, Merlin thinks of new ways to cultivate angles to sustain his need for originality, bringing a standard landscape photo to a new realm with framing and vantage points, whilst also paying attention to composition and light, his imagination comes alive in his creations.
He believes that when taking a photo, it is important to try new things such as unusual perspectives. There are many different factors that influence a photo after all. It is about the eye of the person behind the camera, which is unique to every photographer and can only be expressed through his or her photos.
While buildings and bridges act as a filter to his artistry, urban environments are not the only subjects Merlin is interested in; he also enjoys portrait and lifestyle photography. However, he says, his hardest challenge has been trying to be diverse in subject and consistent in style.
“I do not like to limit myself to one genre - I am hoping to particularly improve my portrait photography in the future. To combine all these different fields and ideas into one cohesive style is something I would like to achieve some time in the future. A more specific challenge however is taking photos from unique viewpoints, it is often a challenge to gain access to these certain locations but I have always found it to be worth it in the end.”
Overlooking Shinjuku from the Roppongi Hills tower – Nikon D610, f/2.8, 1/50 sec, ISO 1000, AF Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D at 24mm
Busy streets during rush hour in Seoul – Nikon D610, f/22, 30 sec, ISO 80, AF Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D at 24mm
Capturing a monsoon storm over Kuala Lumpur – Nikon D610, f/2.8, 6 sec, ISO 100, AF Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D at 24mm
Merlin has travelled all through out Asia redefining his boundaries. His base for his travels has been Singapore, with its incredibly creative community, he says, it was the perfect starting point to venture into other Asian countries.
“Asia offers such a variety of cultures, sceneries and environments and the big cities are generally easy to reach. A while back I spent a few months living in Shanghai, and recently I traveled through Southeast Asia - these experiences shaped my perspective on Asia and eventually made me want to come back to explore even more of it. Singapore has been a great location in the past months.”
Cities all across Asia have become a canvas for Merlin Kafka’s inspiration. He captures a city’s spirit while finding his own identity as a photographer. His imagination interplays cohesively with the camera, utilizing the lens he uses to its full capability.
Shanghai’s old expo area with interesting architecture – Nikon D610, f/7.1, 1/125 sec, ISO 100, AF Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D at 24mm
The vastness of Seoul as seen from the N Seoul Tower – Nikon D610, f/10, 30 sec, ISO 100, AF Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D at 24mm
“All my images are taken with a Nikon D610 and most of the time I am relying on my AF Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D, which is actually a fairly old lens! Back then I purchased it out of financial reasons, but now I love it for its compact size and low weight. My gear consists of 2-3 lenses, a tripod and a few accessories, which I carry all the time.”
Looking back, Merlin wish he knew how addictive photography would be to him, it has made such an impact on his life, so much so that it has shaped his future goals and aspirations. It has also modified the way he approaches the conditions around him, actively encouraging him to get out of his comfort zone and explore potential opportunities for diverse angles.
“My favorite photo is ’Taipei Taxi’, a photo taken from a rooftop in central Taipei with a view onto an intersection. After a few attempts, I managed to capture an iconic yellow Taxi right in the center of the frame. The photograph combines many aspects I am trying to achieve through my photography.”
Still early in his career, Merlin hopes to inspire upcoming photographers who also want to take the initiative and produce gratifying images. His impulse to capture moments has helped him shine in photography, and while travel does give us fresh eyes, he says, inspiration is constantly around us waiting to be uncovered.
“Like most photographers, I am hoping to inspire people through my photos. It may be true that traveling helps to discover great photography locations, but beauty can also be found in the ordinary.”
Merlin Kafka is a 22-year-old student from Germany who currently resides in the UK. He is a travel, urban and nature photographer with a passion to convey visual stories from a dramatic and atmospheric point of view. He became interested in photography when he picked up his father's Nikon SLR a few years ago and hopes to inspire others in creating their own stories through photographs.