Water In Front of M.C. Escher


As a regular Mighty Optical Illusions reader, you’re all certainly familiar with what is undoubtedly one of M.C. Escher’s most famous works – Relativity. We’ve featured the piece recreated in LEGO, papercrafts, animated gifs, even in billboards, but this is undoubtedly the first time someone has been able to show us what the image looks like when shot through a drop of water!

Artist who goes under the nickname of “smsilton” captured this amazing image after about two hours of attempts. All in all, he said that it probably took him about 150 shots to get it right.

If you were wondering what kind of a set-up a person needs to actually achieve something like this, here’s this picture of his Escher-shooting studio. Smsilton used a 60mm macro lens at f/2.8. He shot the image at ISO 640 and 1/250. But figuring out the right settings for the job wasn’t even the hardest part:

The hardest part was focusing. In the set up picture you can see a piece of string above the eye dropper. I would let that hang down off the eye dropper and focus on that, then move it and squeeze the dropper and the shutter at almost the same time. I have like 30ish more pictures with the drop clearly in the shot but the sketch behind it isn’t in focus, this was the clearest one I got.”

Personally, I’d think the hardest part was being patient enough to shoot water drops for two hours just to get the one magical shot, but that’s why I’ve never had any interest in being a professional photographer.

  • This is an AMAZING Picture! The fact that someone was able to imagine this in their mind and then figuring out how to set it up and actually make it work is what’s AMAZING about this picture! Love It!!!!!!!

  • HI

    wow that`s very interesting to see. I like how you posted how the shot was taken!

  • Dave

    Nice shooting!

    To lengthen the focal length and get the print in better focus; you would need to gain higher f-stop numbers.

    To accomplish this, increase the ammount of light by adding more lights, moving the lights closer, or using larger wattage bulbs.

    With greater light, you can keep the exposure short (1/250th of a second) and get a higher f value by closing down the iris a bit more.

    That should give better focus on the print behind it.

    I thought it looked pretty cool with out the print in focus but now that you mention it, i wonder how it would look the way you intended.

    • lkasdlh

      i think he wouldnt need a better focus on the print behind it.
      or if what u mean is about the print behind in the water then aperture doesnt really matter, because the water itself hold the clear image of the print behind it, so its not a camera problem anymore, what camera needs to capture is the clear image of the water.but he knows what hes doing so the shutter speed and aperture are calculated to match the light he had.
      another setting must be perfectly done is the right timing and placing for both camera and water to get the image he wanted.

  • illusion lover

    i dont get it

  • Eric

    well thats nice – but its nothing compared to the drawing of the same style by Escher – where he drew his reflection in a ball

    The photography is a great illusion
    – But credit where credit is due
    Escher did that how long ago?

  • I love your stuff, don’t get me wrong. But I have one complaint. None of your images ever open up big enough to really examine them. You need a full screen option or something. Otherwise thanks for giving me one of the only internet pages I check out on a daily basis.

  • brad

    very nice =D!

  • essayn

    Well, it´s ok…I guess.

  • IggySorcha

    Ha….just saw this on reddit a week or so ago, I was wondering if it’d get on here!

  • Grace

    Wow…… dude you are amazing!

  • Figures it would be a fellow Talking Heads fan that would seek to make Escher’s funk even funkier. Love it! Sand in the Vasoline, Water Drops o’er the Escher.

  • ramiro

    that is so kool ima try to do that

  • bets

    It’s a pretty neat shot. M.C. Escher is one of my favorite artists. I wonder why smithson didn’t just lie the photo flat when taking the picture.

  • eee efff geee


  • That is awesome!

  • Von CerBau

    More than a illusion it’s an awesome picture.

  • Aianna

    No interest, and yet you try to get that perfect shot for two hours? That’s insane.

  • Parvesh

    This is amazing ‘thing’ and really great kind of work. I would like to see more graphics inside a drop.

  • Steve

    Until I read the photographer’s comments, I didn’t realize the drop of water was in freefall when the picture was taken! I assumed that it was taken vertically with the camera above and the drop of water on a glass plate. This is an amazing feat – well done!!

  • Care Bear

    It’s 8:30 a.m. on a Monday. What an intersting way to start the week. My eyeballs aren’t even focused and I see this? If it’s an omen of the week to come I’m in for a bumpy ride.

  • becky

    thats really cool.i find it amazing how he could get the shot at the right moment at the right angle

  • jack

    Hey, i found an illusion on a coca cola can. If you turn a the upside down there are 2 faces. The 1st face is in the “coca” word because the first c is hair, the o is an eye, the other c is a nose, and the a is a mouth. The 2nd face is in the “cola” word because the c is hair and 2 eyes, the o is nose, and the l and a are his hand I think.
    I hope you see it and put it on the website! =)

  • Sergio

    I would have taken a video and then a shot out of that. Duh…

  • Kyla

    I don’t believe for a minute that this is real. Photoshopping or rendering this would be a million times easier than getting a perfectly round drop of water as it moves. It should be anything but perfectly round in freefall. Then make a nice stand that supposes to explain how one shot it and youhave your “illusion”. Nice photoshop work though

  • Bethany

    Amazing job… certainly captured the whole picture! :-}


    awesome!! the best illusion i never seen

  • For those interested in M.C. Escher’s work

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