Gordon Wiltsie, who is perhaps best known for his expedition work in National Geographic, has been on photography assignments everywhere from Montana to Mongolia. But he found himself faced with a real challenge when Alta Journal assigned him to photograph California’s invasive wild boars for Denise Hamilton’s feature on the animals in our Spring 2022 issue. “Wild boars, I barely even knew they were there, much less how to find them,” Wiltsie told Alta Live. “Everything was very discouraging: that you could only find them in the wee hours, early dawn and dark, and that they smell people so well—they’re terrified of people and just disappear. I had to make sure that I had some way to get close to them before I took the story.”
After getting turned down on photographing the government agencies that work with the pigs, Wiltsie tried a new angle. He hired a hunting guide and embarked on a muddy ATV journey through the Trinity Alps, and he found a rancher who feeds the hogs in the hills above Castro Valley. “John Goecke, the art director, did understand that I might come home with nothing, which I almost did,” Wiltsie revealed. He pointed out an image of a group of pigs—or a sounder—photographed from a distance and clearly wild. “Finally, Shawn [the hunting guide] spotted these off in the distance, and we sneaked up as close as we could get.… Why they were out there that time of day, I have no idea, but somebody was on my side,” Wiltsie said. “It was a miracle that I got the pictures that I did.”
Check out these links to some of the topics Wiltsie and Alta Live host Beth Spotswood brought up.
- Read “California Is Hog Wild,” by Denise Hamilton, from Alta’s Spring 2022 issue, with photographs by Wiltsie.
- Read “The ‘Orderly Anarchy’ of Ancient California,” by Robert Roper, with photographs by Wiltsie.
- View Wiltsie’s beach and nature photos in Alta.
- Read Wiltsie’s book, To the Ends of the Earth: Adventures of an Expedition Photographer.
- Find out more about Wiltsie’s work at AlpineImage and follow him on Instagram.•