A Conversation with Randall Ball

A Conversation with Randall Ball

We recently spoke with friend of Gura Gear Randall Ball. Ball started as a photographer while in the Marine Corps, and has since led a fascinating career as a commercial photographer. Randall uses the 22L Kiboko 2.0 for his Nikon Z9 kit. 
One of our favorite questions, is what is the craziest thing you've done to get a shot - Randall's work with special forces is probably our all time winner! See below
Randall Bal bioHow did you get started in photography?

I enlisted in the US Marine Corps and was assigned the military occupational specialty (MOS) of Combat Photographer.  Once I went to my military technical training, I fell in love with the camera and knew that photography was what I wanted to do in life. I won several awards for photography including the US Marine Combat Correspondents Distinguished Performance Award.  After military service, I enrolled and graduated from Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, CA.  Probably one of the best decisions I ever made was to go back to school because it exposed me to different genres and gave me a solid technical background much more in depth than military training.  After I received my degree, I became a commercial photographer specializing in advertising, corporate, and editorial assignments.

What was the first camera you ever owned? and what are you shooting with these days?

The first camera I ever owned was a Nikon FM2 and these days I’m still with Nikon and shooting with a Nikon Z9.  I’ve always shot Nikon, because one it’s a great camera and two, it’s just something I became comfortable with over the years.  It would be very hard to pick just one lens, but if I had to, it would probably be the 70-200, f/2.8 Z Nikkor AF-S, because it’s such a workhorse lens for me!

Where are you currently based? 

My wife and I currently reside in Houston, TX.  As a native Texan with Louisiana roots, this is home to me.  I would like to maybe find a place somewhere with a little acreage for horses and our German Shepherds.  My wife just adopted and is training a wild mustang, so the acreage part is starting to get real appealing!

Elephant Family by Randall BallWhat are some of your favorite places to photograph and why?

I absolutely love Africa, mainly East Africa.  In recent years I’ve fallen in love with wildlife photography and host photo tours there.  I’m just addicted to the scenery and the wildlife, especially the big cats!  I especially love taking clients who’ve never been to Africa because I absolutely love seeing the wonderment on their faces of being someplace like the Masai Mara and experiencing the wildlife there.

Who are some photographers that have inspired you and/or continue to?

So many and so many genres to choose from!  I’ve drawn my inspiration from the likes of the masters Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, to modern day photographers like Dan Winters, Paul Nicklen, Kristi Odom, Michael Kenna, Shaaz Jung and Nick Brandt.  These are just some of the photographers’ work who I love to draw inspiration from.

What or where inspires you next? 

I would love to go to Namibia for its landscapes and wildlife or maybe Svalbard, Norway for polar bears!

 When Titans Clash by Randall Ball

  What do you look for when creating a photograph? Do you go in any order like "light, subject, composition, action" or is it a different process? 

 If I had to go in any order, it’s got to be light as the first one! I would take great light and an ordinary subject matter over an awesome subject in poor light any day!  I’m drawn to scenes that have a lot of mood to them, whether it’s backlighting, deep dark clouds, dust, rain…just something other than boring frontal light!

How would you define your style of photography?

These days I would say I’m more a wildlife portrait artist.  I want to try to photograph in a way that makes my viewers fall in love with my subjects.  I really want my viewers to connect and feel something about my subjects.  A lot of them are endangered and if I can bring attention to their situation, then all the better for conservation.  I come from doing people photography and I try to bring the same sort of style to wildlife subjects with light, composition, and mood that takes viewers to their world.

 African Buffalo

How does photography play into your daily life? Do you have any specific practices on taking breaks or compartmentalizing?

Having an iPhone with me means that I always have a camera with me so even though I don’t have my Nikons with me, I always have the ability to take a photograph!

Ball with Kiboko 22L Camera backpack

Ball with his 22L Kiboko 2.0 backpack: "[a] very impressive bag...plenty of room, lightweight, tough as nails and incredibly comfortable!"


What are some of the most interesting changes in photography that you've observed over your career?

Clearly digital changed everything and it just keeps getting more amazing all the time.  Also some of the editing programs like Lightroom have really changed the way I shoot and edit images.

How far do you go to capture a truly unique moment? and what is the craziest thing you've done to capture a photograph? 

I was telling a client the other day, how when I’m holding a camera to my eye, all my fears seem to fade away…heights, snakes, and dangerous situations don’t seem to bother me .  It’s when I take the camera from my eye, I usually get a dose of reality and ask myself what the hell am I doing! 

When I was in the Marines, I photographed a special operations team doing hostage rescue training by standing next to live fire targets in a “shoot house”.  I wanted to get the perspective from what the “bad guy” would see…

Note:  I probably wouldn’t do that again upon further reflection of intentionally having bullets coming in my direction and so close to me!  I thought I was invincible in those days…now not so much!  It also bears to mention, I had a huge amount of TRUST built up with those guys after spending a great deal of time with them!

Depth by Randall Ball

Where can we find more of your work? 

You can find more of my work on Instagram or Facebook @rballphoto or my website at www.randallballphotography.com

Can you tell us about the project(s) you're currently working on?

I’m currently hosting photography tours in the US and Africa.  I absolutely love being able to go out with folks who share a similar passion of photography and being able to help them with their photography.