Showcase 2021 Winner: Hector D. Astorga

“Silverback Mountain Gorilla Portrait," Bwindi National Park, Uganda, Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Mammals © Hector D. Astorga.
“Pensive Silverback,” Mountain Gorilla Portrait, Bwindi National Park, Uganda, Showcase 2021 Judges’ Choice, Mammals © Hector D. Astorga.

Artist’s statement

I created this image on one of my trips to Bwindi National Park in Uganda. On this day the dominant silverback sat by himself in the dark canopy of the cloud forest.  The reason I  love to photograph mountain gorillas is the fact they are so similar to us humans.  The looks that I got from him this day reminded me of a shy, pensive person.  I wondered what was crossing his mind as he saw me photographing him.   Do they think like us? Or is he just an innocent being wondering who this intruder to his world is?  I believe the mystery of what is going through his mind tells his story.

How I got the shot

After trekking for two hours ,we reached the mountain gorilla family in the Bohoma sector of Bwindi National Park.  Right away I noticed that the dominant silverback was sitting by himself in a dark, covered part of the canopy.  I approached to about 20 feet from him and sat in the forest to watch him.  I had very little light but luckily I had my 70-200 f2.8 lens that allowed me to shoot in low light.  I observed and photographed him for about 10-15 minutes before he moved away and closer to his family deeper in the cloud forest.

What I used

Nikon D5 with a Nikon 70-200 f2.8 lens.  The settings were f2.8, 1/640, ISO 2400

About me

I am a full-time wildlife photographer based in south Texas.  I’ve been a full-time professional for over nine years now.  I am the ranch manager of the Santa Clara Ranch, a wildlife photographers’ destination that hosts photographers from all over the world.  I lead and conduct photography tours and workshops all over North, Central, and South America, Scandinavia, and Africa.  I love and enjoy every part of the world I photograph, but Africa holds a dear place in my heart.

My interest in the outdoors and wildlife started at a young age in my native country of Honduras.  Wildlife photography became an extension of my outdoor activities.  What I most like about photography is the time spent out in the field.  Observing and learning wildlife behavior is probably my favorite thing to do.  Capturing this behavior is my goal every time I step outdoors with a camera.

My photographic journey

I have been an outdoorsman my entire life.  My involvement with the Valley Land Fund and Wildlife in Focus competitions in Texas were a huge catalyst for my wildlife photography career.  Being the manager and head guide/instructor of the Santa Clara Ranch launched me as a professional wildlife photographer.

NANPA and me

I have been a NANPA member since 2010.  I volunteered during the 2011 convention when it was held in my hometown of McAllen/Mission TX.  This is the fifth year (out of the last six) that one or more of my images made it into the Top 24 images.  I have won Best of Show, First Runner-Up and Judges Choice Awards a total of 6 times now.

See more of Hector’s images

  • Silverback Mountain Gorilla Portrait, image by Hector D. Astorga
    Silverback Mountain Gorilla Portrait, Bwindi National Park, Uganda, 2021 Showcase Judges' Choice, Mammals © Hector D. Astorga