An Exhibit of Photography & Storytelling
Based on the groundbreaking book of the same name, My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago celebrates the natural wonders of the Chicago region in dramatic fashion. Visitors will be immersed in the beauty of Chicago as photographer and author Mike MacDonald ignites a love for nature inside nine chapters of pictures, poetry, and prose.
While experiencing the immersive photographs within the exhibit, we invite you to explore the narrated stories below to give meaning and context to the inspiring and whimsical images portrayed on the projected screens.
Jump To: Image Gallery · View The Narrated Stories
This gallery of images gives you a taste of what you’ll find in the inspiring short videos in the section below.
Every day, nature puts on breathtaking performances in “theaters” across the Chicago region. Step through the invisible drape and discover a secret stage.
This is Sagawau Canyon, an intimate fern-lined chasm located in Lemont, Illinois. Though the canyon itself is small, learn why Chicago nature is grander than the Grand Canyon and all the other national parks.
This is skunk cabbage, the first plant to grow even in the snow. Learn how it deals with the cold and how it got its skunky name.
Chicago is home to plants that smell like Froot Loops cereal, mint, anise, skunk, and vomit!
Prairies are treeless expanses covered in a kaleidoscopic array of wildflowers and tall waves of grasses. And to find rare prairies rich in biological diversity, there’s no place like home.
These are the strange spherical flower heads of rattlesnake master, a neighbor you can find living in Chicago’s prairies and savannas. Learn what it has to do with rattlesnakes. Wait, Chicago has rattlesnakes!?
This purple flower melts into liquid only hours after it blooms.
This is eastern prickly pear cactus. Learn what this desert plant has to do with Chicago.
Chicago nature is home to the oak savanna, one of the rarest habitats on Earth, where you can feel the hug within the outstretched limbs of majestic bur oaks.
Mike tells stories of his encounters with dew and his morning pilgrimage into earthbound clouds.
While hiding inside his floating photo blind, Mike can wait for hours before a bird arrives. Learn what goes through his mind as he passes the time.
Learn about bottle gentians, bumblebees, and other fascinating things that make you ponder the miracles of nature.
Light can have a transcendent effect that dramatically transforms our visual perception of matter and our appreciation of the natural world.
Mike shares his secret for finding dew-covered dragonflies.
Miracles of nature abound around “That Toddlin’ Town.” Learn Mike’s trick for discovering them.
Observing nature can spark your imagination and take your mind to wonderful new places.
Winter is fantastic and bizarre, a whimsical time when Mike fully indulges in Mother Nature’s shenanigans.
After seeing how wildfires improved the biological abundance, Native Americans long ago began setting fires of their own. Today, prescribed fire is our most effective ecological restoration tool.
Hundreds of volunteers across the Chicago area pitch in to rehabilitate the natural landscape. You are the key to healing nature. And nature is the key to healing you.
Chicago is the birthplace of ecological restoration and a birthplace of hope.
View The Narrated Stories
This series of short videos corresponds to the nine chapters projected on the exhibit walls, each with its own theme and collection of short stories. Mike will be your guide as you enter each chapter. Get ready to take a rich and enlightening journey into the wilds of Chicago.
Second City, Second to None
Springtime in the City
Oaks & Dewdrops
The Wonder of it All
Enjoy the Ride
Lessons & Observations
You are the Hope
All images are property of Mike MacDonald and Mike MacDonald Photography, Inc. Please visit ChicagoNature.com for more information.
The design of My Journey Into the Wilds of Chicago is led by Alvaro Ramos, Chief Curator, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and the Nature Museum exhibits team, in partnership with experiential media company Visual Feeder.