Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda - 2020
Bunyenyeri is the second silverback in the Umubano group in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda and the biggest of the three. I knew that I had the opportunity to take a portrait of him as he is relaxed in my company.
A key part of the camera puzzle in the jungle is the depth of field, as the light can often be suboptimal. Luckily on this occasion I could compromise shutter speed and treat myself to some depth in the focus. The bigger issue was the size of the gorilla’s head. To shoot landscape format risks either losing the top of the head or going looser and having a load of negative space above both shoulders. But to shoot portrait is not my default position - it is, in fact, quite rare for me.
I do remember my cognitive processing at the time and, as all times with gorillas are intense, sometimes that processing is sub optimal and a little panicky. I simply thought if I can’t shoot portrait on this occasion, I may as well forget that a camera can be held at 90 degrees.
The image works and the bigger the print the more the impact. When I think of silverbacks, I think of their sovereignty, their power and their wisdom. When they appear lost in thought - as Bunyenyeri does in this portrait - I doubt those thoughts have a limited narrative, in fact they could well put us all to shame. He has seen a great deal in his 21 years and the camera does not lie.