Introduction: "Magic" Rabbit in a Hat Photo Trick

Picture of "Magic" Rabbit in a Hat Photo Trick

So here's the "magic" trick. A rabbit made of ice sits on top of a magician's hat. The ice rabbit melts away and is gone forever...

or is it.

Because inside the magician's hat it is revealed there is a photograph of the rabbit as if it has reappeared on paper.

Of course there's no magic to the trick and I know, I know I could have had the photo there the whole time. But in this case the ice is what helps makes photograph. This is based off photographic process from the 19th century and it uses water to help the image develop onto the paper.

Step 1: Supplies

Picture of Supplies

The basics of what you need can be divided into 3 parts:

1) Hat, which serves as a way to hold water and needs to be light safe

  • container with larger lid
  • black spray paint
  • drill or poking tool to make holes in lid

2) Mold, that will hold water to make ice sculpture

3) Photographic supplies

  • a cyanotype kit or sun sensitive paper, I used a Sunprint Kit
  • computer/printer to make negative
  • paper or clear plastic sheet that you can print on

Step 2: Fill the Mold With Water

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Fill the mold with water and stick it in the freezer. Best not to fill the mold all the way to the top. If you can use a pitcher to fill mold in freezer do it. That way you won't spill water everywhere on your way to the freezer (don't ask how I know that tidbit).

Step 3: Paint Hat Container

Picture of Paint Hat Container

Spray paint your container to make it light safe and when you do this it looks a little like a magician's hat. Poke holes in the lid with a drill or poking tool so when the ice sculpture melts the water goes into the bucket and onto your print.

Step 4: Take Photo and Make a Negative

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First take your frozen sculpture out of the freezer and place it on the hat. Now take a picture. Then either put ice mold back the freezer or start a new one because you've got several more steps until the finale.

Take your picture and use your favorite photo manipulation software and make the photo black and white. Then invert the colors so they make a negative. You'll probably also want to bump up the contrast. You will also want to size your negative to a little less than the bottom of your container.

Next, print it out. Now technically you can do this with a paper negative printed onto standard computer paper, which is what I started with. I had better luck in the next step exposing with a negative printed on clear plastic sheet. The clear sheet I used was not designed for printers so it left some lines in the print that showed up on the final image. If you can print on a clear substrate it makes the exposure easier. Since I had some trouble printing on the plastic I used I don't have a specific product to recommend for printing a clear negative.

Step 5: Exposure

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This step takes a little guess-and-test so you probably won't get it right on the first try.

Cut some sheets of your sun print blue paper to the size of your negative. Try to keep everything out of the light as much as possible because the paper is light sensitive. I did everything in standard lighting but I used a trash bag to conceal some of what I was working on and to store the excess sheets.

The Sunprint Kit comes with a thick piece of acrylic to hold down the exposure, you could use glass otherwise.

From top to bottom: clear acrylic/glass > negative you printed out > Sunprint or similar paper > hard surface.

Once this setup is ready take your negative/photo sandwich out into the sun. Exposure using a clear negative only took 1 minute in midday sun. The paper starts off blue, then chemically reacts with the sun turning it white.

For the guess-and-test phase you'll want to fix the image in cold water and see if you got your exposure right. The water causes another chemical reaction that will turn the blue parts white and the white parts blue. Too dark is underexposed and too light is overexposed. You want to have as much detail in the image as you can get. Once you do get the timing right take one final exposure but don't put the paper in the water. Save it for your trick!

Step 6: "Magic" Trick

Picture of "Magic" Trick

Take your exposed sun print and put it inside the empty bucket. Put the lid on top of the bucket, loose but covering the container, and then set your ice sculpture on top of the lid.

Now let time do it's thing and melt the ice. Since my ice sculpture rabbit is so big I resorted to a hair dryer to speed things up.

As the ice melts it is fixing the images onto the paper. Once it has completely melted pop off the lid to reveal your image. The ice rabbit has "reappeared" onto the paper inside.

Note: This is not necessarily the best way to process a sun print image because the Sunprint Kit instructions say to only rinse with water for 1-5 min. This took considerably longer but you get enough of an image in the end to get the idea that it's the ice rabbit from before.

Step 7: Ta Da!

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