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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Telling A Story With Pictures

Montana-based photographer Gordon Wiltsie is one of the world‚’s foremost expedition photographers, having recorded the exploits of many great explorers, including Alex Lowe, Conrad Anker, Will Steger, Jon Krakauer, David Breashears and Norman Vaugh

Telling A Story With PicturesAfter four decades of work on assignments that have ranged from climbs in the Himalayas to treks across the frozen Arctic Ocean, Gordon Wiltsie has released To the Ends of the Earth: Adventures of an Expedition Photographer (W.W. Norton).The book is an amazing page-turner of adventure stories and images taken on many great assignments.

Outdoor Photographer:
Give us a little background on yourself and explain what drew you to photography?

Gordon Wiltsie:
I was born in Bishop, Calif., directly under the spectacular eastern Sierra Nevada. I grew up surrounded by a wonderland of natural creations. I fell in love with photography at age eight and began shooting a Kodak Brownie. I remember following friends into the mountains to test my photographic skills on spectacular cliffs, crags and summits.

Outdoor Photographer:
Looking at your work, it seems that your assignments have placed you in harm’s way on numerous occasions.

Telling A Story With PicturesWiltsie: At first, this was a result of inexperience, then later, by teaming up with some of the world’s most talented climbers, skiers, jungle explorers and other eccentrics who pushed me to my limits. I need to make an important caveat here, though. My collaboration with these experts works because I’m experienced and competent at my job. I’ve never jeopardized anyone’s safety, but our jobs are very distinct. They're the foremost adventurers in their field who take the greatest risks, and I’m the photographer brought along by magazines and equipment companies who sponsor me to return with the best imagery possible.

Outdoor Photographer: How do you capture the essence of the moment through your images?

Telling A Story With Pictures
Nikon D200
Wiltsie: Clearly, a collection of a dozen beautiful pictures doesn’t necessarily make a story. It seldom does. Storytelling comes from communicating an essence and visually engaging the readers so that they feel part of the story and care about it.

Outdoor Photographer: And the human element is often a vital part of adventure stories.

Wiltsie: Yes, the kinds of stories I cover have everything to do with people. I think that the audience is curious about how others react in extreme situations. What are their facial expressions? What goofy quirks make them lovable or possibly even obnoxious? What relationships are going on? That curiosity also needs some variety to maintain the reader’s interest—the thrill of the sport, the majesty of the landscape, the rock-bloodied hands of a climber, a group of howling sled dogs. How people feel about being where they are is what makes an expedition come alive.


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