20 Cool Pics That Are Basically Optical Illusions

Long exposure shot makes passing train look like a ghost
reddit | TimebombChimp

Everyone can appreciate a good optical illusion. Wait, scratch that: everyone can appreciate a good optical illusion that's decipherable — not one of those inscrutable, impossible-to-figure-out illusions from hell.

With that out of the way, who wants to see some fun illusions? These might not all technically be optical illusions, and yes, some of them might be a bit baffling. But all in all, they should give your brain a little workout.

"1,400 feet above Central Park."

Image of Manhattan and Central Park from 1,400 feet up
reddit | Driftershoots

Central Park is an absolute treasure, an oasis in the middle of Manhattan. Part of what makes it so striking is the stark contrast between the skyscrapers of concrete and glass that surround it and the green serenity of the trees within it.

"I have had this picture for 8 years from a time a friend caught me on TV. I recently shared it at work and was asked about the giant head to my left. I never noticed this and also, I cannot make sense of it at all!"

Image of man on TV with seemingly giant head behind him
reddit | Murderbear71

This guy is looking for help in figuring out what's going on here. I've got nothing. Maybe there was a genuinely giant-headed dude sitting behind him.

"ITAP of a midnight sun rainbow in Norway."

Rainbow viewed under midnight sun in Norway
reddit | 1337look

Some parts of Norway above the Arctic Circle don't see the sun set for four months of the year. This means that you can see the ultimate rarity: a rainbow in the middle of the night.

"A single photo of some trees and water."

Single photo of trees and water appears to be two photos
reddit | sarazond

If you're ever out and about and spot a natural scene with an oddly straight dividing line, make sure to take a picture of it. It's pics like this that keep the Reddit and Instagram economies going.

"The morning mist over the hills at Alpe di Siusi, Dolomites, Italy."

Morning mist blanketing rolling hills
reddit | philipslotte

You often hear that mist 'blankets' the ground, but you really get to see the phenomenon in action in a landscape with rolling hills. It almost looks like frost here.

"Few weeks ago I posted here this image of sky that looks like a body of water."

Image where sky appears to be distant water

I don't know what, precisely, is going on with the sky to cause this effect. But the illusion is definitely complete, because that sky looks exactly like a large body of water.

"A tree tunnel."

Many trees overhanging a road, creating a tunnel
reddit | Racemepls

If you live somewhere where these droopy willow trees are the norm, you're probably used to sights like this. But for the rest of us, seeing nature turn a roadway into a tunnel is a special sight indeed.

"My friend and his scuba diver doll."

Perspective trick makes it look like man on beach is a giant
reddit | mcrkid

Sometimes, you take a picture of your friend and any people in the background look simply like people in the background. Other times, you might take a pic and the people in the background look like little tiny dolls.

"Flying cruise ship's illusion (fata morgana) spotted today."

Fata morgana illusion makes ships appear to float
reddit | LSD25hoffmans-potion

The fata morgana effect is one of the more common mirages you'll see, one that makes it look like distant ships are floating over the water, rather than on it. It has to do with how light bends close to the horizon.

"Burnt down camper or vinyl wrap tree design?"

Burned-out camped van looks like it has intricate tree decals
reddit | yellowbellee

Since the caption for this pic asks a question, I thought long and hard about whether this actually was a vinyl wrap. After some careful study, it's a burned out camper van...at least, I think it is.

"Witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen while on a walk last night."

Sunset bathing whole landscape in orange light
reddit | LastReyOfHope

The sun sets every day, but not all sunsets are created equal. When the sun and clouds conspire to make it look like the world is on fire, it's quite a thing to see.

"It fits."

Drink in front of beach umbrella makes it look as though beach umbrella is in drink
reddit | oxy_bg

We've all seen the little rinky-dink mini umbrellas that get plunked in tropical cocktails, but this is more to my liking. I want more authentic, palm-fringed, potentially gigantic umbrellas placed in any drinks I'm sipping on while on the beach.

"Not two separate pictures."

Building on hill looming over building at bottom of hill
reddit | kostaGoku

There are actually two illusions in this pic: the illusion that these are two different pictures, as well as the illusion of this being some old-world European scene. It's actually the Château Frontenac in Quebec City, basically the most European-looking part of North America.

"The shadow from this plant makes it look like there's a decal on my friend's car."

Tree shadow on white car looks like a decal
reddit | fidlaria

There's something about seeing clearly defined shadows at nighttime that just hits differently. It obviously isn't a decal, but if it was a decal, it would look pretty cool.

"For a split second, I thought Derek Truck’s guitar cable was coming out of my TV and I was very confused."

Cable from on-screen guitar appears to be coming out of the screen
reddit | skaternewt

I see the illusion here, but I'm also curious if the person who posted this had imbibed any substances before making the connection.

"He's just on top of the closet."

Cat sitting in top of closet looks disembodied
reddit | YassarZ

Cats can be snake-like little monsters, finding ways to stretch and contort themselves into seemingly impossible positions. Sometimes, you might even think your cat lost its whole body. Don't worry, it's probably there somewhere.

"This is not a glitching image."

Image of multiple identical skyscrapers
reddit | blackreaper007

You'll find blocks of identical apartment high-rises in pretty much every densely populated city in the world. But if you remove the context of sky and ground, looking at these blocks can get more than a little bit mind-blowing.

"The way you can see the truck through these pipes."

Truck cab is visible through trailer full of pipes
reddit | wiegandster

It's pretty cool that these long pipes, each with only a few inches of visibility and only from certain angles, can still show the shape of the truck through them.

"This strange lighting under a bridge at the San Antonio River Walk."

Unique lighting taken under a bridge while looking at a river
reddit | Photoproguy

I'm sure a pic taken from further away would explain this — perhaps there are some different textures on the bridge to create these different shadows. But without that context, all we can do is feel weirded out.

"A long exposure shot on my phone made this ghost train."

Long exposure shot makes passing train look like a ghost
reddit | TimebombChimp

The long exposure tool is an underrated toy to play with in every smartphone camera. I mean, it has the power to turn trains into ghost trains, which is nothing to sneeze at.