It’s in the way the camera slowly follows The Joker’s movement at the beginning of The Dark Knight to suggest the character’s looming presence; the way light and darkness are presented in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to contrast the protagonist’s relation to age; it’s the bright, fake sheen of suburbia in Revolutionary Road; the way camera distance denotes isolation in The Reader; or the mesmerizing energy contained in a still shot of a Mumbai street corner in Slumdog Millionaire. Ultimately, it can be found in every image seen on screen: The cinematographer’s contribution to the making of a movie.

But while a director may get most of the praise for his or her “vision” as it appears on screen, it’s often forgotten that it is the DPs who are making that vision an actuality, translating a director’s ideas into a physical—and very technical—reality to bring a story to life. With the upcoming 23rd annual American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Outstanding Achievement Awards, the best cinematographers working in feature films today have the chance to have their achievement and invaluable service to movies honored.

This year’s nominees include Claudio Miranda for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Anthony Dod Mantle, BSC for Slumdog Millionaire, Wally Pfister for The Dark Knight and a double nomination for Roger Deakins ASC, BSC for Revolutionary Road and The Reader, the latter of which is a shared nomination with Chris Menges, BSC.

The winner will be announced at this year’s awards celebration, taking place February 15th at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. But no matter who wins, according to ASC Awards Committee Chairman Michael Goi, ASC, the nominations are an opportunity to showcase some of the people whose very job it is to go unnoticed in a movie’s final form. “Artful cinematography is generally meant to be transparent to audiences but there are countless visual nuances that help to create a sense of time and place, while evoking emotional responses that are in tune with the intentions of the actors and directors,” he says. “In the opinion of their peers, who considered hundreds of movies, these five extraordinarily talented individuals have set the contemporary standard for artful cinematography in a very competitive field.”