Since 2018, you might have seen on Instagram epic pictures of the sun directly in the center of the NYC grid. First coined by the astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson this phenomenon is called Manhattanhenge, and it’s when the setting sun can be seen aligning precisely between the buildings of Manhattan’s grid.
The exact dates vary slightly year by year, but it occurs twice a year with the first Manhattanhenge usually happening on May 28 and then the second set on July 11. Between May and July, the American Museum of Natural History also coined the “Manhattanhenge Effect” which is where the sun appears between the grid of New York City since it’s low in the sky, but it doesn’t quite “kiss” the grid-like it does on the actual Manhattanhenge dates.
Since Manhattanhenge happens during sunset, it’s necessary to stand east facing west. Ideally, find a spot as far east as possible. For best results with a wide-open view, go to one of the two-way streets of 14th, 34th, 42nd, or 57th Street. Tudor City Overpass on 42nd St. and First Ave. is the most popular location. My favorite spot is actually at Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City because you can include the NYC skyline. If you want to get ‘the shot’ you should get to your shooting location two to four hours early to stake your spot. No, I’m not exaggerating about the time. Be prepared for crowds everywhere on the streets, especially at Tudor City Overpass. Everyone acts like animals when it’s a clear day and the sun is setting.
Believe it or not, this phenomenon is not unique to New York City! I’m making it my mission to compile a running list of sun henges around the world, but here’s an introductory list.
The OG of this spectacle event. The sun rises behind the Heel Stone during the summer and winter equinoxes and brings in tourists from everywhere to witness.
If you want to avoid the insane crowds and take pictures from the New Jersey side there is also ‘Reverse Manhattanhenge’. Just like the main event in the summer, this happens twice, but it’s in the winter months of November and January. It also happens during sunrise around 7 am instead of sunset. Talk about pain!
The best spot to take pictures of Reverse Manhattanhenge is from Weehawken looking down 42nd Street.
The Windy City has its own sun henge occurring in late March during the spring equinox. Unlike New York City where the henges for sunrise and sunset are spread throughout the year, Chicagohenge’s sunrise and sunset both happen on the same day. While the main event is in March, there is another chance to see it in September during the (you guessed it) autumn equinox.
One of Taiwan’s largest cities, Kaohsiung, has a similar grid structure to Manhattan and it occurs in November. This actually aligns with the first set of ‘Reverse Manhattanhenge’ mentioned above. With Taiwan on the literal opposite end of the world from New York City, Kaohsiunghenge happens during sunset. If you want to opt for warmer weather and a later day, book that flight to Taiwan! The city government uses this opportunity to promote tourism to the region and even blocks off certain roads to allow for safer viewing experiences.
Here are some recommended settings to get started with. As always, experiment on your own depending on the environment and lighting conditions. Also, since you’re dealing with the literal sun do not look directly into it!! Sharing my camera gear here which goes over what I typically shoot with in all situations.
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