A mere two months in and it’s already been a career-boosting, history-making year for cinematographer Rachel Morrison.

In January, she became the first woman nominated for a cinematography Oscar, for her work on Dee Rees’ 1940s-set period drama, “Mudbound.”

In February, her ability to bring Ryan Coogler’s kinetic vision of Wakanda to life hit screens in the box office smash “Black Panther,” for which she was the first woman to shoot a movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

And on Sunday, she will vie for a groundbreaking laurel at the 90th Academy Awards.

Has it all sunk in yet?

“Not really,” laughed Morrison, 39, between breaks in filming on a commercial shoot, in the midst of a hectic pre-Oscars week. “I’m also a mom, so what little time I have when I’m not working goes to my 3-year-old son and not to the processing that I probably should be doing.”

For the Massachusetts-born but Los Angeles-based cinematographer, it’s been a surreal journey with “Mudbound,” Rees’ $10-million indie drama about two families – one black, one white – trying to survive in the unforgiving Mississippi Delta amid the traumas of war and bigotry.

Directors of photography aren’t generally used to the spotlight. Since Netflix erected billboards celebrating “Mudbound” and its four Oscar nominations – emblazoned with Morrison’s likeness – all over L.A., the attention has been “a little bananas.”

“It’s crazy, I didn’t even know,” she said. “It wasn’t like Netflix said, ‘We’re going to put your face on a billboard.’ I just got a text from a friend and I was like, What is going on? It must be like winning the lottery.”

Morrison filmed “Mudbound” two years ago after wrapping HBO’s “Confirmation.” She was supposed to head to the Louisiana production of “Mudbound,” in January.

But delays pushed production to the grueling southern summer, which added enormous challenges – and copious amounts of the titular mud – with its unpredictable bursts of rainstorms.

“We were shooting very long, very packed days – in fields with no cover from the sun for most of the day,” recalled Rees via email, “and then suddenly racing the sun across the sky in the evening. One of the many things I really appreciated about having Rachel as a collaborator was her relentlessness and her tirelessness. She never sat down, she never took a break, she never gave up. She’s a great leader of her camera crew and is always searching for the better shot. She never settles.”

Rees is nominated for adapted screenplay, along with Virgil Williams; Mary J. Blige for supporting actress and original song, along with Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson.

Inspired by period photography from the Farm Security Administration, Morrison shot digitally on the Alexa Mini with vintage anamorphic lenses to achieve a filmic look. Her photography brings the elements and the environment around Rees’ cast to life in vivid textures, building intimate emotion into every frame.

“I liked Rachel’s references – she talked about the old WPA photographers including Dorothea Lange and brought in reference photos that felt very alive and candid,” said Rees, referring to the New Deal-era Works Progress Administration. “She’s a very humanistic photographer, which I love, and I admired the candor and ‘breath’ she brings to her subjects.”

“People – thankfully – are surprised that we didn’t shoot on film … I’m proud of what we accomplished digitally,” said Morrison, who also served as camera operator on the 29-day shoot.

She barely had a moment to rest between “Mudbound” and her work on “Black Panther” with Coogler. The two already shared a close director-DP shorthand after collaborating on Coogler’s acclaimed feature debut, “Fruitvale Station,” five years ago.

“We’re like family now, and on any film, but certainly one as long as a Marvel film, you end up playing the role of sister and psychologist; I try to be there for him emotionally and vice versa,” she said.

“Even on a bigger film, our instincts haven’t changed much. Ryan likes hand-held and experiential single-camera coverage and tight eye-lines, things that transcend the story itself. Ryan’s also incredibly collaborative. He really loves to hear everybody’s opinions, which I think is part of what really inspires the people around him.”

Morrison admits that going from the indie world to the Marvel Cinematic Universe was intimidating at first, given the heavy visual effects and action work “Black Panther” required. “But I pretty quickly realized that it was in large part just common sense and that VFX isn’t magic – it’s actually logic,” she said. “Once I got past the initial intimidation factor, I settled in.”

The part of the job she missed most? Operating her own camera.

“The biggest difference for me was that I operated almost every frame on ‘Mudbound’ and I didn’t operate on ‘Black Panther,'” she said. “When you’re so used to operating the camera, it’s an extension of your eye and your heart and your head. But even then, I learned to let go, and I had Scott Sakamoto, who is one of the masters of camera, operating as my camera operator, so I knew it was in good hands.”

Being thrust into the Oscar spotlight while scaling up to her first $200-million production has now placed Morrison in the company of many of her cinematography idols, veterans who she says have welcomed her into the ranks.

At this year’s American Society of Cinematographers awards, she was nominated with Roger Deakins (who won for “Blade Runner 2049”), Bruno Delbonnel (“Darkest Hour”), Hoyte van Hoytema (“Dunkirk”) and Dan Lausten (“The Shape of Water”) – all also nominated for Academy Awards.

“Hoyte and I have become friends, which is one of the highlights to come out of this,” she said. “Bruno and I knew each other a little bit; I approached him 10 years ago when I had a student film at Camera Image and he was there with a feature, and he had shot ‘Amelie,’ which is one of my favorite films – we loosely stayed in touch over those 10 years, so it was nice to be sitting next to him as a peer.”

With a background in photography, she was pulled toward cinematography as a teenager by the magic she found in the moving image.

“It was realizing that I would come out of movies incredibly moved,” Morrison said. ” … And as much as the static image resonated with me and left an indelible impression, it didn’t make me emote in the same way. I think I realized there was a power to the moving image that I couldn’t equal in still photography.”

She credits her early work on documentary projects as a fertile training ground for the intimate work she does now in narrative storytelling.

“Documentaries are inherently instinctual; you’re constantly moment to moment, determining what the best place for the camera is to tell the story, usually in service of natural lighting. I feel like my whole career has been basically trying to emulate that natural light with film light. I got to understand how light works, from years of not lighting.”

Morrison may not quite be comfortable with the attention her historic Oscar nomination has brought to her doorstep, but seeing how much the achievement means to many others – including the veteran male DPs who continue to dominate the field – has been “incredibly eye-opening.”

“I can’t tell you how many ASC members came up to me and said, ‘We’re just so thrilled for you,’ and ‘I’m just so happy I got to see this in my lifetime,'” said Morrison. “I think there’s almost an assumption that there’s a resistance on the other side, but that’s been really refreshing to realize.”