Through creator Brittany Eliza Kunkel’s eyes, the urban Manhattan landscape is transformed into ‘dreamscapes’ overflowing with emotion and intrigue. Brittany uses the environmental elements to stir up emotion and mood in her images.

Using weather to your advantage

While inclement weather may hold some photographers back, I find that’s the time I reach for my camera the most. Rainstorms, snowstorms, and fog are some of my favorite conditions to shoot in because of the ethereal and mysterious atmosphere these elements have the power to create.

Brittany also uses the elements to enhance the scene in front of her camera.

Mist and snow act as natural diffusers, resulting in soft light and dream-like auras, as well as creating more separation and depth between layers of a scene. 

Brittany Kunkel photo of a bridge in Central Park, during a snowstorm, colored with soft tones
Bow Bridge, Central Park, NYC. This was captured during a serene snowstorm walk through Central Park early one morning before sunrise. Brittany elegantly depicts the enveloping stillness and serene tranquility she felt as the first to wander the snowy path.

The most colorful time of day

Her favorite time of day is blue hour—just before sunrise or just after sunset—which lend itself to soft, magical light and quiet moments of introspection. She adds, “I love how a cool blue cast on a landscape can be juxtaposed with warm details from amber-tinted streetlamps or glowing windows of a farmhouse to invite the viewer in.”

My go-to color palette is filled with delicate pastels and dreamlike hues, as if viewing the world through rose-tinted glasses. My goal is to spark viewers’ imagination and sense of wonder, giving them a glimpse into a whimsical world where reality blurs with fantasy.

Brittany Kunkel photo of a path in Central Park lit by streetlamps in low light
The Mall, Central Park, NYC. Brittany notes that she loves how the Central Park Mall when it is drenched in amber light after dark. The combination of the thick fog and golden fall leaves accentuated the mood, making for an eerie and mysterious scene, with the viewer’s eye drawn along the leading lines of lights and trees into the unknown.

Seeing with a painter’s eye

Brittany’s background is in the arts. From picking up her first Nikon camera in high school and falling in love with the darkroom process to studying fine art in college and experimenting which shaped her own artistic identity. She turned to producing videos for music festivals in her early 20s, eventually shifting gears into television editing. “I settled into a world where storytelling reigns supreme over visuals but found myself craving an outlet to express myself more creatively. Today, through my personal photography and video projects, I enjoy the freedom to explore my artistic vision without constraints,” she explains.

Brittany says, “as a classically trained painter, I’m inspired by the dramatic lighting of painters like Caravaggio and Turner, and the dreamy impressionism and pastel tones of Monet.” Because of this, she’ll construct a scene through her lens as if it’s an (almost) empty canvas and making choices on how to compose and frame based on how she’d paint the scene.

Brittany Kunkel photo of a B&W landscape in Norway with water in the foreground and dramatic clouds in the sky
Skagsanden Beach, Norway. Brittany rarely takes or edits a black & white photo, but when she stepped foot onto this beach, she knew it was screaming for the Nikon Z f’s black & white mode, which helped to emphasize contrast in the natural patterns of the landscape, adding more drama to the scene.

I seek out light sources and shadows and reposition myself to paint with that light in order to create the right emphasis on my subject. I utilize reflections to create depth and texture, and to add a bit of abstraction and a feeling of nostalgia. I survey the surrounding area for elements I can use to build an interesting frame that directs the eye in the same way I would with a paintbrush. I use natural lens flares and prisms/crystals to craft sparkle-like texture and add a layer of whimsy.

Framing can be a useful tool to lead the viewer’s eye through an image, setting the stage for the story to unfold. All sorts of objects can be framing elements: flowers, leaves, windows, etc. Brittany explains that framing builds layers of depth in an image, to help drive the narrative. “I always hope to make the viewer feel as if they’re experiencing the magic of a scene firsthand,” she says.

Brittany Kunkel photo of sea stacks in the ocean, with fog and a pink sky
Rialto Beach, Olympic Peninsula, WA. Just after sunset, the sky filled with cotton candy tones that perfectly complemented the soft ocean mist hovering above the crashing waves. The mist helped create separation between the sea stacks and the background.

Photographing changing seasons

Fall and winter are Brittany’s favorite seasons of the year to create her dreamscapes, as the colors lend themselves well to the mood and feeling she’s trying to convey.

I feel most inspired when the rest of the world settles into hibernation. The quiet lends itself beautifully to rare moments of peace and solitude in a world where that’s often hard to find. I’ve become addicted to the rush of chasing enchanting scenes of fleeting beauty—like the vibrant hues in changing leaves and falling snowflakes that seem to float in time.

I love the rich, inviting colors of fall just as much as the cool colors of winter. While it can be easy to see winter as dull and lifeless, the right light and weather can bring out surreal, almost otherworldly blue and purple tones.

Britttany Kunkel photo of trees in snow under the Northern Lights
Nordland, Norway. After a week of severe storms in the Lofoten Islands and only hours left until her flight home, Brittany was desperate for one last glimpse of the Northern Lights. She set out in blizzard conditions, trekked through thigh-high snow, and waited for a brief break in the falling snow. The effort and patience was well worth it in the end!

Brittany Kunkel

Brittany Eliza Kunkel is a Manhattan-based photographer who transforms everyday urban settings into ‘dreamscapes’ overflowing with emotion and intrigue. With a background as a large-format oil painter, her style today is heavily influenced by her painter’s eye. She seeks unique ways to capture NYC’s most iconic spots, her work often evoking nostalgia, romance, and wonder. Brittany’s passion for visual storytelling has led to a career in television editing, and in her free time she immerses herself in the sights and culture of NYC to create videos for organizations including NYC Tourism and Central Park Conservancy. Locations on her photographic bucket list include hot air balloons rising over Cappadocia, Turkey at sunrise, cherry blossom season in Japan and both the Arctic circle and Antarctica.

Check out Brittany’s website at

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