What Is Manhattanhenge?

Do you know what a barm or a zarf are? They're two items seen practically every day but rarely called by their real names. A barm is the foam head on a beer, and a zarf is the cardboard burn prevention sleeve. This brings me to Manhattanhenge. Can you believe it’s a New York City sunset?

Having been one of those photographers who has had a bucket shot in their head and who will go to extremes to reach it, normally, that includes traveling great distances, standing around for hours, waiting for that special moment, and sleepless nights. That is exactly what Manhattanhenge has become for most photographers and anyone with a smartphone. This two-minute, twice-a-year phenomenon has become a bucket shot.

Manhattanhenge occurs across the city when the sun perfectly aligns with the grid layout of the island of Manhattan, getting its name from Stonehenge, but debatably coined "Manhattanhenge" by everyone’s favorite astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson. It is mistakenly referred to as Manhattan Solstice. Technically, this type of sun alignment happens a few more times depending on the time of year.

Brian Greene on the World Science Festival channel explains a much more in-depth view to explain how and why Manhattanhenge occurs. He, unfortunately, spoils the belief that the great architects of New York planned this when building the city.

This does not take away the fact that photographers crave this shot for their bucket list portfolio. Battling the crowds only makes it a more coveted shot during the summer months, and while it may be tricky, thinking ahead may help you capture the phenomenon.

Travis Meier's picture

Travis Meier is a Minneapolis freelance photographer, videographer, and drone pilot. Having traveled to over 45 countries and around the world twice. He has photographed some of the most popular events to some of the most remote places in the world. Normally in unforgiving temperatures...woof...

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1 Comment

Brilliant video. Loved it. Thanks.