Because powerful photo-editing software like Photoshop is so common these days, it’s easy to explain away any unusual picture as being ‘shopped. And that’s certainly true for a large percentage of the physics-defying photos you’ll come across on the internet. But, that doesn’t mean magical photos can’t be taken the old fashioned way, with a little bit of ingenuity. In his PetaPixel tutorial, Ted Kinsman explains how to utilize a unique trap door mechanism to take pictures of floating Scrabble tiles.
The photos show the Scrabble tiles floating in midair, as if they’re mysteriously suspended by some unseen force. When replicating this, you can’t just toss the tiles up in the air and hope you manage to snap a shot while they’re oriented properly, and these pictures aren’t composites. They were taken by releasing the tiles from a 3D-printed trap door mechanism and timing the camera shutter to trigger at exactly the right time.
To achieve this effect, you’ll need a solenoid-actuated trap door. Kinsman and his students used one purchased on eBay, but you could pretty easily design and 3D print your own. The solenoid is controlled by an Arduino, and a high-speed flash is timed to go off right after. With the camera set to bulb mode, the shutter is opened right as the flash goes off. All you need to do is arrange the letters in the trap door, and push a button to trigger the release!