Originally from a small German city called Münsterm, Merlin is a Scotland based adventurer with a passion to create compelling images around traveling, nature and cityscapes. His nomadic lifestyle led him to explore various countries around the globe and enabled him to collaborate with a number of brands along this journey. For him, combining travel and photography through a creative process is a personally rewarding experience which he is grateful everyday he has the opportunity to do something he loves. It has most recently led him to Slovenia, one of Europe’s hidden gems for hiking and discovering unspoiled nature.

Morning fog rolling in over Bled’s countryside

Your work has a unique muted tone look to it, how would you describe your visual style?

I like my images to have a nostalgic, atmospheric feel to them and my style tends to be a little darker than usual. Generally I find it hard to define my style, there’s such a wide range of subjects that inspire me from a photographic point of view – Someone once told me that my photos had a relaxing effect on them, and thinking about it, I can agree that I am trying to create a calming and clean aesthetic with regards to my visual style.

Bled island framed by nature during the most memorable sunrise

When you are out on location documenting your trip, what types of scenes usually catch your attention?

Symmetrical elements in nature, as well as clear and isolated subjects often catch my attention – I like my images to contain a clear message that is free of unnecessary visual ‘clutter’ in a way. Most of all though, I am attracted by great light – Great light can make anything look photogenic.

Amazed by the number of waterfalls that can be found in the Triglav National Park.
Amazed by the number of waterfalls that can be found in the Triglav National Park.

How long were you in Slovenia for?

I spent roughly six days traveling around north-western Slovenia with my focus being the Julian Alps in the Triglav National Park, a place I had long been wanting to visit. Most days I would drive around the National Park to catch sunrise & sunset in different locations or spent the day hiking – some of the places I visited were Kransjka Gora, the Soca valley, Tolmin, Bohinj, Bled and the Predjama castle. My decision to visit Slovenia was a rather spontaneous one – I was wanting to explore a place that was slightly more off the beaten path and Slovenia seemed like the ideal choice, considering how close it is to Germany. 

First light hitting Bled island on a lovely morning – What a view it must have been from the hot air balloon!

What about Slovenia inspired you?

What inspired me about Slovenia was that it seems to be such an underrated travel destination – with its jagged mountains, the nature reserves in the National park, numerous lakes and castles, Slovenia has so much to offer, but is yet not as frequently visited as some of its neighboring countries.

The over 700 year old Predjama castle, built inside a rock in western Slovenia.

What were some of your favorite locations you got to travel to while you were there?

Besides Lake Bled, I found some of my favorite locations in the breathtaking Triglav National Park – most of the time I had the hiking trails entirely to myself meaning I could enjoy places such as the Krn Lake completely alone.

View over Bled from one of the many hills surround this breathtaking lake.

What was one of the memorable experiences you had during your trip?

Lake Bled was high up my list of places to see in Slovenia – one day I set my alarm to 4 am to catch the sunrise at this magical place. It was still dark as I arrived at the entrance of the hike to Mala Osojnica, one of the hills surrounding the lake. Armed with the flashlight of my smartphone, I started my ascent up to what is supposedly one of the best views over Bled. Arriving at the viewpoint, the incredible panorama over Bled revealed itself in front of me – at this moment I knew the 4am start was totally worth it. Another advantage: I had the location entirely to myself. For the next hour I stood in awe of the sun that was slowly rising above the mountains on the horizon, bathing the water of the lake in a glistening, warm light. Another particularly pleasant experience was meeting a fellow photographer from Slovenia one early morning for sunrise – we had a great conversation about photography and he was so kind to share a few helpful tips regarding the region with me, which somehow stuck with me.

The early start was definitely worth it to catch the first light at Lake Bohinj.

What are 3 things that you would recommend some do when visiting Slovenia?

  1. On a clear and calm morning, visit Lake Bled for sunrise, the early start will definitely be worth it.
  2. Spend a day hiking through the Triglav National Park.
  3. Do try the hearty local cuisine after your hikes in one of the countless mountain huts.

After the 3 hour hike to the Krn lake, I had this place entirely to myself.

What type of gear did you use to capture your images?

I shoot almost all of my images using a Nikon Full Frame DSLR along with a wide angle lens and a normal prime lens – very rarely I use a tripod as well.

A cozy cabin nestled in the banks of Lake Bohinj.

Any tips on shooting landscape shots similar to yours?

Arriving at a location during great lighting conditions is key for me as well as being patient to find a strong composition – the most important thing for me is to stay open minded and not be too critical during the creative process of shooting. Once you have nailed the basic shots at a location, I love to experiment and find new compositions using details and new perspectives. 

If you look closely, you can spot a stand-up paddle boarder riding across the lake – I couldn’t think of a better way to start the day.

Your images have a very distinct look to them where they look muted and almost fantasy like. What are some tips you use to achieve this look?

  1. For all my images I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop for editing and retouching. 
During editing I like to desaturate and cool down my images slightly to give them a colder look.
  2. I use Split Toning to give my shadows a green or blue touch if it suits the image – this also helps me to create a more cohesive look overall.
  3. Dodging & Burning using brushes allow me to draw the viewer’s eye towards my subject and are tools that I heavily rely on.

The incredible aquamarine color of the water in the Bled Gorge is something worth seeing with your own eyes.