Humans of Ransom Everglades: Behind the Perfect Shot with Carl Kafka


Courtesy of Carl Kafka Photography.

Kafka is a regular presence at both Ransom Everglades and University of Miami sporting events.

Whether you see him at a swim meet in Fort Lauderdale or a home football game, Mr. Carl Kafka P’10’12 is always set up with his camera to take stunning photographs of RE athletes in action. His passion for photography began when he took a high school photography class, but he set it aside while he pursued a career in law. After years of running his own law firm, Mr. Kafka decided to revisit his love for photography, starting off by simply taking pictures of his children’s sporting events at RE. Now he is a schoolwide photographer across all sports, as well as a photographer for the University of Miami Athletics.   

We sat down with Mr. Kafka in order to get a better understanding of where he comes from, how he got here, and what is keeping him going. 

Let’s start with the basics. What got you into photography? Where does your journey start? 

In high school, in Puerto Rico, I loved photography and was in the photography class (while we were still using film). In addition to this, I was a three-season athlete: throwing the discus, playing volleyball, and basketball. This is where my love for sports photography grew from. Being able to come back and photograph athletes is great [because I] see what I used to do. However, being a photographer is not my ‘real job.’ I have my own practice in Coral Gables as a criminal defense lawyer. 

Do you see any crossover between photography and law? 

Preparation. You have to know your material. In sports photography, knowing the sport, along with the players, and the dynamic of the team is vital to getting the best shots. The same goes in criminal defense: when you are representing someone whom the government seeks to incarcerate, you must be prepared for anything and everything. 

How about the realm of professional photography? When did that start? 

That was an evolving process. At RE, I would take photos, edit them, post them online, and make a video to send to the athletes and parents, all of whom loved the work. Eventually, I went to a week-long photography intensive in Atlanta in order to improve my photography. This experience elevated my photography and taught me a lot. I also went to another workshop in San Francisco that focused more on lights and portrait photography.  

My first ‘professional job’ was at the University of Miami, where I was granted access to photograph golf and baseball. After that, I was given free access to UM, where I started to photograph football, volleyball, and eventually the Orange Bowl. Nonetheless, RE keeps me busy, often reminding me of the Olympics due to the number of sports and events going on. 

Did you foresee photography developing into a profession for you? 

No, I didn’t think it was going to take so much of my time. Luckily, I am my own boss, so I can control my calendar. At the beginning of every season, I calendar all the important games and other events so I don’t have any scheduling conflicts. 

Do you think photography is something you will keep pursuing after your law career? 

Yes, without a doubt. This is something that I have passion for. If I am shooting a big game, for example, the Orange Bowl, I get nervous, and all of these thoughts are running through my head. Once I am finished at an event, I am eager to go back to view and edit them. This passion is something I see myself pursuing through retirement. 

What started your connection to the RE community? 

My children (Ms. Dorothy Kafka ’10 and Mr. Carl Kafka Jr. ’12) went to RE. Both of my children were athletes: Carl Jr. played football, soccer and volleyball; Dorothy played softball and was an equestrian. I started off photographing my son’s middle school soccer and football games on a Rebel camera. I would take and edit the photos, and even make a small video production to send to the parents and coaches. The rest is history. 

What is your favorite sport to photograph? 

Swimming and Water Polo are my two favorite sports to photograph. Sailing is also one of my favorites, keeping with the theme of water. The main appeal is the challenge of freezing the water in the shots.  

In addition to sports, what else have you captured at RE? 

RE has offered many other opportunities other than sports for me to photograph. Being able to get into the classroom, into the auditorium, or having exclusive access to the community has further expanded my photography and my love for RE. The freedom I have at RE allows for more creative freedom, which elevates my photography. 

What is your message to athletes at RE? 

I have seen wins and I have seen losses. Every time I see a game, I notice how you win and how you lose. In every instance, sportsmanship is exemplified, and noticeable. Through the hundreds of games I have shot, I have never once seen an athlete not carry RE’s sportsmanship. 

What is your advice for someone who wants to pursue a passion? 

Everyone needs something that you have passion for in order to forget about the stress of the world. That activity for me is photography: I enjoy getting out in the field and taking photos. This passion has always been inside of me, but it reappeared when my son started playing soccer in middle school. While it may sound cliche, you just have to pursue your passion. 

Why have you remained a part of the RE community? 

Ransom Everglades was very good to my children and family. My kids had a great education and made incredible friends. Being there so often, I became friendly with the coaches and faculty. Once my kids graduated, coaches would call me to come back and photograph games. I agreed without hesitation. I enjoy photographing you guys just as much as (I hope) you guys enjoy it. It fuels my passion and lets me forget about the ‘real world.’