Matthew Wheeler’s photos illustrating his love for macro photography are on display at the Valley Museum and Archives in McBride. /ANDREA ARNOLD

By Andrea Arnold

McBride photographer Matthew Wheeler was invited by the Valley Museum and Archives in McBride to display some of his macro photography to kick off 2022.

The subject matter of this series of photographs draws from particles of nature and experiencing the world as particles of nature ourselves.

“We are all connected,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said the photos were all taken through a window of some kind, either house or vehicle. In fact, he keeps his house cold during the winter months so that he can watch and document the growth of the ice crystals on the windows.

“It can’t get too cold though,” said Wheeler. “If the ice gets too thick, then the images are not as clear.”

Wheeler has been taking macro photography since even before he had a camera that could perform to his standards. When he was about 18 or 19 he got a Pentax K1000 that he fitted with plumbing fixtures that allowed him to pursue his passion for documenting tiny things. Prior to that, he had used magnifying lenses to create images.

Some of the photos that are on display have been created through a process called focus stacking.

Wheeler takes many photos of the same image, moving the focus point through the image for each capture. Then, using computer software, he stitches them together to create a clear and detailed image.

“It’s a similar idea to a panorama photo,” he said. “But instead of going from side to side, these images go from back to front.”

In the images, ice crystals grow like ferns or trees, in others, frost spots take on the appearance of birds taking flight in the sunrise. One image illustrates water droplets, and the next, a macro closeup of one of those droplets.

To go along with the photos the museum has a collection of old cameras on display, and a magnifying glass that allows visitors to look beyond the surface of the photo.

“I like to give people an opportunity to see the world the way a very small creature sees it,” said Wheeler.

Aki uses a magnifying glass to take a closer look into the photographs to see what other shapes and images are hidden below the surface. /ANDREA ARNOLD