Dan Ballard is an internationally known travel and landscape photographer and keynote speaker. He is best known for creating intense, dramatic images – venturing to over 60 countries on five continents across the globe throughout his career. The intention behind his work is to elicit the true essence of a being in a strange new place, whether that be in the high mountain passes of Ladakh or the vast deserts of Syria.Influenced by his early years growing up in a small town in Southeast Colorado, Dan’s approach is stemmed from a profound desire to share a sense wonder for the world with others. His introduction to photography began with a love of travel, transpiring into a vibrant passion for creating photographic art.Dan’s work has attracted the attention and praise of some of the biggest names and companies in the photo industry. His images have been on display around the U.S. in museums and galleries, and he has sold images to clients around the globe, including The National Geographic Society and The Travel Channel.
Photography Genre: Travel and Landscape
Hometown: Kim, Colorado
Resides: Living on the road
Career Highlight #1: A big turning point for me was taking an image I call “Path to Wonder.” Before taking this photograph I was struggling to create work that truly captured the essence of being in an amazing place. It felt like this piece was finally at the level I had been striving for.
Career Highlight #2: When I started seeing my work featured as magazine covers and in publications.
Career Highlight #3: Receiving invitations to speak internationally in places like London and Moscow.
BlackRapid product of choice: That’s a hard one to answer. Black Rapid Double Breathe. I use this primarily when I am shooting western photography – as everything happens so fast! There’s cowboys and horses coming at me in every direction. I have to have two bodies, with a wide and telephoto lens to capture everything. The strap allows me to trade between both cameras and their prospective focal length almost instantly.
Age you took your first photo? What camera did you use? My family owned a photography studio when I was growing up, so it was something I have always been involved with. I can’t remember what age I first started using a camera. My mom is a professional photographer so I started playing with her cameras when I was really young on family road trips. She’s always shot Nikon, so I am sure it was some sort of older Nikon model.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a professional photographer? My love for photography came with my love for travel. I started traveling when I was 16, I was an exchange student in New Zealand where I was visiting some of the most amazing places in the world. I started taking a lot of photos with a SLR so I could share the experience and emotions of the place I was seeing with others. That inspired me to learn the art of photography. I spent years learning everything I possibly could about creating a better image from both photographers and painters and spent my life shooting basically non-stop. It was years after that when I finally felt I was ready to go pro.
Who inspires you: I’d have to say Gaylin Rowel, while he is no longer around he was one of my biggest inspirations when I was getting into photography. He was always traveling the world and going to these amazing places. I loved reading his books and features in outdoor photographer and was intrigued by his thought process for photography.
What camera do you use to capture most of your work? Although I’ve been shooting Nikon for years and still love their gear, I just switched to the Sony a7R III. It’s so much smaller and has very few downsides now. The size and weight was really what pushed me to switch, as I am always in challenging situations where size makes a significant difference.
What do you do when not taking photos? Traveling is one of my biggest loves after photography, followed by playing music, mountain biking and rock climbing. When I am lucky I can combine several of these things in the same day or the same trip. I always try to bring guitar along on trips and when possible I’ll rock climb or mountain bike during the day or in-between shooting. I also teach workshops through-out the year and do my best to share my knowledge with aspiring photographers.
Favorite place on earth? Patagonia is absolutely epic — both the Chile and Argentina sides. Being from the plains of Southeast Colorado, I love vast open spaces. Then add soaring mountain peaks that predominate the landscape along with blue icebergs, emerald forests and pristine rivers. It’s truly one of the most incredible areas in the world.
One piece of advice for someone at the beginning stages of their photography career? Create amazing images first. While the business aspects of photography are really important – if you create an amazing body of work first, then everything will fall into place. I’ve seen quite a few photographers trying to go pro long before they have truly mastered being a photographer. And while I certainly think people should be sharing their work and getting feedback, I always encourage people to put in major time and effort before they go pro.
How do you “Live The Moment”? Luckily as a landscape photographer, I am trying to capture a few minutes out of an entire day. Which means I can focus on shooting for the periods of time where the light is great, then spend the rest of the time enjoying the view. I always make time to sit and take it all in. When I am not shooting, I am out exploring or enjoying the area.