Creative Eye WorkshopsTM

Your Instructor Mike MacDonald

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

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

Your instructor, coach, and the creator of Creative Eye Workshops™ is Mike MacDonald. Self-taught, Mike started out taking pictures like everyone else. But, eighteen months later, Mike became a nationally published photographer with an article called “Frozen Images” in Outdoor Photographer Magazine. (Click here to experience one of Mike’s articles from Outdoor Photographer Magazine.)

As an internationally published conservation photographer, author, comedian, computer programmer, and mathematician, Mike has a deep and insightful grasp of the technical and creative aspects of photography. But, most importantly, he knows how to teach. The information he presents and the way he presents inspires students to take it to the next level. Enthusiasm and passion are at the heart of Mike’s teaching, and the passion is contagious.

With degrees in mathematics and physics, and careers in scientific computer programming and professional comedy, Mike possesses rare and symbiotic credentials that make him stand out as a photographer and a teacher. He draws upon his unique background to simply explain complicated information, including the creation of custom graphics and animations to help students visualize, imagine, and absorb even the most complex material.

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.

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 is 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 national-park quality natural events that happen weekly in the Chicago area.

Never satisfied with his own work and always pushing the envelope, Mike’s goal has been to create images of the flat Illinois prairie that rival calendar shots of the mountainous western United States. And he’s done just that. The 2019 and 2020 Sierra Club Wilderness Wall Calendar will feature Mike’s images of the Chicago region.

In an effort to create dramatic photographs of the horizontal landscape, Mike created what he likes call “The Prairie Style,” an immersive style of landscape photography designed to give viewers a hyper-realistic experience of any scene. He uses an approach that fuses macro and landscape photography to transform a seemingly flat (prairie) landscape into a rich, three-dimensional panorama. This is why many people say that they feel as if they’re inside the photograph. Simplicity and emotion are also characteristics Mike’s 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.
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