I first started taking photographs at 8 years old when I was given a simple Nikon Coolpix L20 as a Christmas gift from my grandmother. I have loved photography ever since.
As I learned and evolved, I began to outgrow the capabilities of my old camera, so I saved up to get an entry-level DSLR. With the improved setup, I could exceed the limits of my previous camera. However, as my photography improved, my expectations began to grow with it. Larger resolution called for better image quality, more control over settings called for more settings to control, and an 18 – 55mm kit lens called for larger zoom range and wider aperture.
When it came time to upgrade, I realised buying new equipment when I was 15 was not an option, as I didn’t have enough money. So I decided to create my own. Through trial and error, I was able to see how each adjustment affected the final image. I slowly gained a greater understanding of my equipment, enabling me to fully understand how each part functioned before buying. It also gave me greater appreciation and respect for each piece of equipment.
I took it upon myself to study how optics work and learnt how to calculate the needed focal distances, aperture, and lens elements to create an effective optical system. Then, I used whatever materials were available to me, such as black paper, lenses from magnifying glasses, my microscope, and my grandfather’s old sunglasses. Having watched my grandfather work at his small milling machine, I decided that maybe I too could learn the same skills. I took an 8-month machining course followed by a year of competitive machining training.
With these skills, I learned how to make parts that were more durable and precise, compelling me to take on the challenge of creating my very first piece of equipment — a macro lens adapter. I constructed one using whatever materials I could find at home. I found some sheets of hardened black paper and some magnifying glass lenses to create a 3-part modular macro lens adapter that fit on the hood mount of my lens. The 3 parts, each with their own lens elements, could be attached to the camera lens individually or combined together in any order or configuration. They would then be attached to the lens for different magnifications and focal distances. This way, a different magnification could be achieved by rearranging the lenses, adding 2x, 4x, 5x, 8x and 10x magnification to my lens. After making an addition out of what used to be my microscope, I could also add a 300x, 600x and 1200x magnification to my existing lens.
Occasionally, being limited by my tools, resources, and skills was frustrating. But when my plan for improving my range of photographs actually became a reality, it made it all worth it. For me, the most important part is to keep focusing on learning and expanding my knowledge. Having learned how to draw CAD/CAM drawings and machine parts on a traditional milling machine and lathe, I have progressed on to learning about CNC machining in order to create more precise and complex parts.
Scratching the surface of the ingenuity behind modern photographic technology has helped me better understand my camera and has completely changed my view of imaging technology. Taking good photographs is not just about capturing the moment, nailing a composition or editing during post-processing. It is also about understanding the limits of your equipment and appreciating the functions of every miniscule part, whilst finding various ways to exceed them using the resources available to you. Ultimately, this extended knowledge will help you become a better photographer in the long run.
Photographed with a Nikon D3400 and the AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR with homemade filter made from sunglasses. ISO 100 | f/22 | 30s | 16mm
Photographed with a Nikon D3400 and the AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR with homemade paper lens on hood mount. ISO 100 | f/10 | 1/200s | 55mm
Anthony Reimche is an 18-year-old photographer based in Taiwan. Cultivating a keen interest in imaging technology from a young age, he has not only developed a passion for capturing beautiful pictures, but also for getting into the nitty gritty details of making camera parts from scratch.