Kamil Kisielewicz’s winning photo depicts a lush Smoky Mountain scene, imbued with nostalgia and a distinctly dreamlike feel
“Summertime in the Smoky Mountains calls us home. It’s an inevitable pull. For weeks we drifted through winding roads, engulfed by lush greenery and the songs of wildlife – settling to rest wherever our travels took us. One night, after setting up our tent, I was unloading items from our car when my eyes fell upon the dreamy scene before me,” Kamil effuses about his winning contribution.
“I wanted to encapsulate the cozy vibe of our tent – which was already gently lit by our warm, red portable light – while also incorporating the brush in the foreground and contrasting night sky. There was zero light pollution, so the conditions allowed for quite a view of Sirius and the wider cosmos.
“I used XF16mmF1.4 on my X-T2, mounted on a tripod, with a 1/2-stop mist filter, to create a diffused, dreamy halation around my tent,” Kamil notes, recalling key technical detail. “I set the self-timer to avoid any shake from pressing the shutter button, and did a long exposure of 20sec. I chose ISO 1600 and the aperture was wide open.”
As thoughts shift to inspiration, Kamil continues: “Every year throughout my childhood, my parents, sister, and I returned to Poland, where we spent two months living on my family’s farm. It was nestled deep in the wilderness, so I often wandered the nearby forests with my sister. I want to remember the natural beauty that I encountered during those summers. I also draw from many esoteric films. They’ve inspired me to document my perception of reality, to evoke mood without the use of words, and create a perspective that makes the viewer conjure their own emotions.
“Becoming a seasoned nature photographer has often immersed me in solitude. When it’s just me and my mind, living in the present moment, photography is absolutely a meditation for me – and my most beneficial form of it. The art has been a major catalyst in the journey of my soul through this life.”
Kamil’s intentional approach was enough to move Seth. “Kamil created an ethereal image of the night sky, that tells a story with a compelling, uncluttered composition. He was able to fill half the frame with bright stars, planets, and a portion of the Milky Way, while also including a well-placed, dynamic foreground element,” he says. “The image conveys a feeling of the place, and a sense of mystical travel, with the glow of the tent catching our eye – leading it deeper into the scene’s middle ground, then drawing us beyond, into the cosmos.”