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 it inspires students to take their photography 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 subject matter. This includes the use of  custom graphics and animations to help students visualize, imagine, and absorb even the most complex material.

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.

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. It 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.

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 editions of the 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 Chicago 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 so many people admit feeling like they’re inside the photograph. 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.

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

Media Appearances:

Watch story about Mike’s photographic style on WTTW Chicago Tonight.
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 share his love of nature on WGN-TV Midday News.
Watch Mike’ talk about Chicago nature on CBS 2 Chicago’s Sunday Morning News.

Listen to Mike’s interview about winter magic in Chicago nature on WBEZ’s Morning Shift – Jan. 7, 2019.
Listen to Mike’s interview about his book on WBEZ’s WorldView – Feb. 8, 2016.
Listen to Mike’s interview about ChicagoNatureNOW! on WBEZ’s Worldview – Apr. 18, 2017.
Listen to Mike talking about Chicago nature on WBEZ’s Morning Shift – Oct. 17, 2016.
Listen to Mike talking about photography on WCGO-Radio – Dec. 2, 2018.

Daily Herald – Jan. 17, 2019
The Herald News – Dec. 6, 2018
Make It Better magazine – Aug. 5, 2016
Chicago Sun-Times – Mar. 26, 2016
Chicago Tribune – Jan. 17, 2016

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