Homebrew tech: what stuff are you, or would like to, goofing around with in camera tech?

Is there anyone else here that enjoys tinkering around with home-made digital photo tech? That’s a pretty short lens for such a huge topic, but I’d like to know what others are up to in working out new ways to get better or new type of shots by using/modding/hacking existing gear into some interesting solutions?

I was inspired to ask this based on my recent purchase of a new (used) smartphone, a Samsung Note 10 Plus. Nothing really too new in this package as compared to other Note models I’ve owned, but one thing that I only recently discovered was the new ‘Night Mode’. I had read that it was not nearly as good as people hoped it to be but I read about how it performs a kind of image stacking technique to reduce noise levels in a long exposure and decided to give it a shot, or two.

This is the view of my backyard at around 10pm a few nights ago using just standard photo mode:

Then there’s this shot, in night mode, which was a 14 sec exposure taken by holding the phone against a window frame for steadiness.

Same shot, tweaked with Curves, through Snapseed:

Wow. That was pretty impressive for a phone. It’s an interesting result that makes me wonder how I could adapt it to field-observing. Yes, it requires anywhere from 2 to 14 sec (not user choosable, that choice seems to go by the phone sensing the steadiness of the phone before shooting), but hmm… a low-light-level bug trap? Or…?

Anyhow, this is just one example of what I’m talking about. What kind of stuff are you messing around with in trying to develop novel shooting setups? Please share!



I have been thrilled with the results that I have achieved with the digiscoping rig I put together with little more than a cheap Celestron cellphone mount, an ancient tripod, my old Nikon Acculon binoculars, and my iPhone.

There’s some slight distortion because of the optics. but filming things like hummingbirds at 240 fps is simply breathtaking sometimes.


Wow! That does sound really cool. Any chance of sharing a shot of the setup and maybe a sample of that hummingbird vid?

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Since, like some other folk, we are filling winter time, we are starting to go through old video (2007-2020) of family trips, mostly to Yellowstone NP, Grand Teton NP, and Badlands NP but probably also Glacier, Banff, Jasper, and others.

We took video mostly until about 2020 and left camera work to our children, so to make iNat observations out of the old video footage, we are attempting to extract still photos and audio of species that befit our iNat moniker: Wild West Nature! Ha!

So Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Moose (alces alces), Elk/Wapiti (Cervus canadensis), Gray Wolf, Coyote, Red Fox, Pronghorn, Badger, Burrowing Owl, Golden Eagle, and many others.

We have a Windows computer and know how to extract still photos from video with software included with the computer. Then we will do basic photo editing only as needed to improve identifiability. Megafauna are easier to identify when blurry and/or in poor lighting than some other species; and audio can be identifiable even if there is no accompanying photos (ie bird calls in the background and foreground of videos).

Our greatest challenge not photo-related will be to sleuth out date and location approximations. The old equipment didn’t keep any of those data. Dates may be approximate but will be within generally a week, if not days or hours, of when the footage was taken (we know when we traveled via saved itineraries and old emails with hotel dates). For Yellowstone and Grand Teton, we know the parks well enough to know pretty specific locations of many of the videos. One of our children has a geospatial memory that is very reliable. And, with gratitude, we sometimes edited and labeled the old videos or a child narrated while we were recording so that some of the metadata are available that way. But for some observations, we may have to choose to either use a gigantic radius or just not upload them. To be honest, if it’s another Black Bear, we may not upload it if we don’t know where it was observed since we saw a lot of them every year and they were seen where they are known to exist.

Not sure how far we will get on this project since it’s one we always intend to start and then fizzle out. But we have begun.


THIS! There are Cinnamon hummingbirds in the garden and I can sometimes get a lucky, halfway decent photo but I reallyreally want to improve, plus I think there is another type of hummingbird that comes from time to time that I have not had a good shot of yet. Thus I would be extremely grateful for any setup advice, with and without binoculars @lordcaravan.

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I am utilizing a rig comprised of the following:
Vintage tripod (I recommend investing in something produced after 1985)
Binocular-tripod mount
Celestron Smartphone adapter
Tilting ball head from cheap monopod
smartphone (Despite what the website says, that video above was absolutely not shot with a GoPro)



There seem to be a few tinkerers in topic: Macro Flash Diffusion material

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@broacher what an experiment! I’m definitely going to try something like this!

I love how you’re repurposing your old family media memories into something new and totally unexpected.

It also made me wonder of the sheer volume of the naturalist observational data lurking in attics, bookshelves and basement boxes out there!

For those interested in exploring this, I recommend checking first with your public library. Many now have little media labs and most of these include videotape to digital file setups that are free to use.

Oh, one more thing. Would you mind sharing a sample of one of your frame captures here for others to see, and maybe be inspired?

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2012 Grand Teton NP


Awesome! Wow. If I had stuff like this in my old videos I’d be crawling into my basement crawlspace for sure.

Now, for the obsessive photo rescue compulsion I have, would you also have something less spectacular in terms of image quality? I would like to see what my new AI tools could do with this.

Oh we’ve got terrible ones lol


Ooh, nice challenges! Thanks very much.

As a certain cyborg once said, “I’ll be back.”

First? Deer me.


Worth more than one in the hand.


The unbearable lightness of being… a bear.

This is fun! I’ll do the rest later.


wow! It was like a double vision before. It would not have been something we want to post but now it is. Thanks

They dined on mince (and slices of quince).

The wolf who cried “Boy!”

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cool thread. discussion. but might want to change the thread title. I thought this was going to be a discussion about taking pictures of your beer/mead/wine/cider brewing process.

After getting the chance to play with my mother’s 600mm lens that cost far more than my budget, I’m finding myself looking at mirror lenses.

Mirror Lenses: Lightweight Super-Telephotos that Are Affordable | B&H eXplora (bhphotovideo.com)