Tilt-shift photography is not a cheap hobby, as we've highlighted before, but with a few inexpensive parts from the plumbing aisle and an old lens, you can create a cheap optical toy to pull neat shots from.
Bhautik Joshi, an amateur photographer tinkerer by night and, fittingly, an engineer for Industrial Light and Magic by day, is on his second version of a DIY tilt-shift focus system made from plumbing parts. The first incarnation, The Plungercam, was a lot of fun, but the design made it completely impossible to recreate the settings you'd used for a previous shot. That ruled out time-lapse photography and other experiments, but resulted in a a second prototype, Plungercam 2. The whole thing is built with little more than an old lens, a rubber pipe coupler, and two hole clamps, and the time lapse video below shows off its possibilities:
If you have a spare lens laying around, you'll be out under $US10 for the whole project, including the lens mount. If you need a spare lens, you'll want to hit the flea market or online auctions and look for an old manual focus lens. You should be able to score one for $US10-20 or less. Last time I was in the market for a spare lens, I picked up a whole box of 50mm manual focus lenses off eBay for $US60.
If you've experimented with modifying cameras and lenses, let's hear about it in the comments below.