Artist Biography

Mike MacDonald sets up a landscape photograph of rough blazing star at Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins, Illinois. Photo by David Jagodzinski.

Mike MacDonald sets up a landscape composition of rough blazing star at Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins, Illinois. Photo by David Jagodzinski.

Internationally published nature photographer, author, comedian, educator, public speaker, computer programmer, and mathematician—these among the many pursuits of Mike MacDonald. However, the man can be described in just one word: passion. And Mike is passionate about Chicago nature.

For over two decades, Mike has photographed Chicago’s natural wonders: its prairies, savannas, woodlands, and wetlands. His celebratory work has earned him the distinction of being Chicago Wilderness magazine’s most prominently published photographer. His images have been nationally and internationally featured in many publications such as Outdoor Photographer, Petersen’s Photographic, Boy’s Life, and BBC’s Gardens Illustrated magazine. Read Mike’s article in Outdoor Photographer about how to photograph the prairie.

In 2015, Mike photographed, authored, and published his nationally acclaimed coffee table book entitled My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago: A Celebration of Chicagoland’s Startling Natural Wonders. Publishers Weekly wrote, “It was celebratory, soulful, and poetic.” Read full review here. And just a few months later, Mike doubled down on his commitment to connect Chicagoans with nature by launching ChicagoNatureNow!, a website that helps people discover the best nature that the Chicago region has to offer.

Mike is the creator of an immersive style of landscape photography, designed to give viewers a hyper-realistic experience of each breathtaking scene. His approach is a fusion of macro and landscape photography that transforms seemingly flat prairie landscapes into rich, three-dimensional panoramas. It has been said that a Mike MacDonald photograph allows the viewer to enter the scene and to share his experience.

Simplicity and emotion are also characteristics his photography, which are often compared to paintings. However, unlike a painting that illustrates a perfect moment from the imagination of the artist, Mike’s photographs communicate the emotion and experience of a perfect real moment in time.

Mike’s photographic playground includes many wild locations across the Chicago region such as Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Spears Woods in Willow Springs, Orland Park’s McGinnis Slough, Lockport Prairie, and Wolf Road Prairie in the town of Westchester.

Born in Chicago, Mike lives with his wife Cordula near Belmont Prairie in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove.

Watch Mike’s interview about his book on WTTW Chicago Tonight.
Watch Mike’s interview about Chicago nature on CBS 2 Chicago’s Sunday Morning News.
Listen to Mike’s interview about his book on WBEZ’s WorldView.
Listen to Mike’s interview about ChicagoNatureNOW! on WBEZ’s Worldview.
Listen to Mike talking about Chicago nature on WBEZ’s Morning Shift.
Read article in Make It Better magazine.
Read Mike’s Artist Statement.

View some of Mike’s published work:
Outdoor Photographer – March 1997
Petersen’s Photographic – October 1999
UIC Alumni Magazine – July/August 2000
Chicago Wilderness – Fall 2005
Chicago Wilderness – Winter 2006
Garden’s Illustrated cover photo – January 2009
Outdoor Photographer – November 2011

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