Behind the Book: Chasing Magic

Photography shown in hero image by Brynn A. Schmidt, Kathy Linford, and Maricel Quesada Jara

For every breathtaking landscape or wildlife photo, there’s often a personal story or tale of adventure that set the scene. The visionary minds behind the book Chasing Magic have captured exactly that—the talent and insight that goes into photographing moments in nature. This stunning collaborative book celebrates the beauty of the great outdoors as seen through the eyes of 136 female photographers from around the world. 

We caught up with Amy Miller, Kristen Ryan, and Megan Arndt to talk about life behind the lens and how this book project came together. 

What inspired this book project, Chasing Magic? And how did your team of female nature photographers find each other?

Chasing Magic began as a simple idea: a desire to bring to life a beautiful book that would celebrate the female nature photographer. Our team of three women—friends and passionate nature photographers ourselves—had connected for many years with each other and a growing number of women across the globe via social media, in-person photography conferences, and Kristen’s landscape photography course, “The World Around You.”

Amy, an experienced graphic designer, was interested in designing a coffee table book and had discussed the idea off and on with Kristen for months. When a strong vision for the book came together, Megan joined the team, and a pretty amazing adventure began! While the pandemic unfolded, the world felt heavy. Exploration was no longer possible, and there was a yearning for social connection. It was a perfect time to bring together female artists in a collaborative project that celebrated the way we see our beautiful world.

We saw an opportunity to launch the project from a new online community for female nature photographers called Women Capture Magic, founded by Kristen in early 2020. Women Capture Magic is a place to share, learn, inspire and connect, and is quickly growing. The community is filled with talented and inspiring female artists who kindly support and encourage one another. The response to the project was enthusiastic, and we were blown away by the amazing images submitted for consideration! Ultimately, the work of 136 artists was featured in Chasing Magic.

What elements do you look for in a nature photo that effectively captures magic”?

We feel that “magic” is a personal experience captured by the photographer. The eye of each artist is unique, and what captures the eye in nature is different for every person. When we selected images for the book, we did not have a rubric or a set of standards we were looking for. Instead, we looked for a sense of “magic” that was produced by artists who were truly present in that moment in nature. When artists are connected emotionally to the memory they create, that emotion shines through in the image, allowing us to feel as if we, too, were present in that moment. As though we could step right into the scene and be a part of that magic.

Tell us about your creative process for designing this book. How did you decide on the cover image, paper type, sequence of photos and stories, and page layouts?

We envisioned a thick book that felt good in hand and would look great on a coffee table. Blurb’s 10×8 inch Standard Landscape size was a great fit. We chose the ImageWrap cover for its clean, matte finish and 100# Premium Lustre paper that rendered the images beautifully and accurately. Early in our brainstorming, we came up with the idea of breaking the book into chapters, each based on a unique word or phrase. Structuring the book this way provided themes to which artists could submit their work for consideration during our image call. This also gave the book content from a wide variety of genres within nature photography, from macro to wildlife, long exposures, and astrophotography. The final collection of images is both diverse and cohesive.

Selecting the cover image was challenging! We considered numerous images that fit the book size and orientation, offered negative space for type, and had mid-tones and colors that would print well. The final cover image by Maricel Quesada Jara checked all of these boxes and also captured the essence of magic we were seeking. Once we completed the design, we decided to offer the book in two additional versions: a Softcover with the same Premium Lustre paper as our standard ImageWrap version, and what we call our luxury version—a hardcover ImageWrap with 140# Mohawk proPhoto Pearl paper that feels like a true photographic print. All three books are Blurb’s 10×8 inch Standard Landscape size.

What motivated you to include longer narratives from contributors in addition to photo captions?

As photographers ourselves, we know that images are often captured from a unique set of circumstances. The behind-the-scenes story of an image and the emotion that is infused in its creation can be powerful, and help the viewer to gain a deeper understanding of the artist’s work. For this reason, we invited each photographer to share the story that accompanied their image, and then selected a number of those to include in the book. Additionally, for each themed chapter, we invited one photographer to write a lengthier introduction. Their words lead readers into each section of the book. We feel strongly that including words throughout the book enhances the reader experience of Chasing Magic!

What are the most common mistakes people make when photographing natural landscapes? 

We believe there are no mistakes when it comes to art! However, there are some ways a photographer can elevate their natural landscape photographs.

  • Slow down and take in the experience of nature with all your senses. Allow yourself to wander and observe before clicking the shutter. Explore different perspectives, focal lengths and vantage points. Include the important elements, and try exclude the ones that distract from the story you want to share.
  • Learn how to use your camera comprehensively so you have a broad set of tools at your disposal to convey what you’re experiencing more fully.
  • Find your connection with the nature around you before capturing an image. Rather than quickly shooting ‘at’ the scene, take time to connect with how you feel and consider what details of the scene are calling to you. Part of the magic of an impactful nature photograph is the way each artist can interpret a beautiful scene in a unique way. Taking the time to make a personal connection will allow you to better express emotion in your photographs.

What advice would you give someone who wants to curate and publish a collaborative photography or art book? 

We knew what we wanted to create at the outset: a collaborative book celebrating female nature photographers. Our timeline and other small details shifted as we went along, but having a strong vision of the final outcome helped us to be successful.

We also knew that having a small, hardworking team that collaborated well together was essential. This project would have been impossible to do alone! Knowing that each member of our team had unique strengths and a passion for the book meant that we could rely on each other to complete tasks and fulfill our vision.

We also credit having a strong organizational system for managing the large amount of information and files that came with the project. From artist submissions and information to layouts and email replies, etc., we had a slew of spreadsheets and folders that helped us keep track of everything. Each team member could access and edit these items remotely, so we could all keep up with the material together from start to finish.


Chasing Magic was made with Blurb’s Large Order Services team. If you’re printing more than 100 copies of your book, our team can help you find the printing solution to fit your budget.


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