Nature photographer, public speaker, comedian, computer programmer, author, mathematician, educator, and Chicagoan. These are some of the words that describe the background of Mike MacDonald. But only one word is needed to describe the man: passionate. And Mike is passionate about Chicago nature.
Chicagoland is home to wondrous habitats: kaleidoscopic prairies, sublime oak savannas, and magical fens. Yet these remarkable places remain a secret to most Chicagoans. As an ambassador of Chicago’s natural wonders, Mike is on a mission to change that. Playing the role of “nature matchmaker,” he introduces Chicago’s natural beauty and biodiversity to people in the hope of sparking love affairs. Through passionate public speaking, inspirational writing, and breathtaking photography, Mike conveys the marvels and magnificence of a wild Chicago that rivals any place on Earth.
For over twenty-five years, Mike has been photographing Chicago’s natural wonders. As Chicago Wilderness magazine’s most prominently published photographer, his images have been nationally and internationally featured in many publications, including 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. And most recently, his landscapes of Chicago’s nature beauty were selected for inclusion in the 2019 and 2020 editions of the Sierra Club Wilderness Wall Calendar.
In 2015, Mike photographed, authored, and published the literary coffee-table book entitled My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago: A Celebration of Chicagoland’s Startling Natural Wonders. The book earned national acclaim when Publishers Weekly described the photography as “glorious” and the writing as “celebratory, soulful, and poetic.” (Read full review.) Building upon the book, Mike then created ChicagoNatureNOW!—a free website that helps Chicagoans discover the natural beauty that surrounds them.
Mike is also the creator of The Chicago Style, an immersive style of landscape photography, designed to give the viewer the feeling of being in the scene. The technique also emphasizes simplicity and sensitivity as a way of communicating the essence and emotion of complex panoramas—the hallmarks of Mike’s work. Another characteristic of Mike’s work is his exacting compositions that are frequently confused with paintings. But unlike a painting, Mike’s work conveys the beauty, magic, and emotion of the real world—one that is perfect, just as it is.
Watch Mike’s interview about his book on WTTW Chicago Tonight.
Watch Mike talk about Chicago nature photography on ABC 7 Eyewitness News Sunday Morning.
Watch Mike give photography tips on Fox 32 Chicago’s Good Day Saturday.
Watch Mike’ talk 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.
Listen to Mike talking about photography on WCGO-Radio.
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