Weekly Photo Challenge: Through

By Vladimir Brezina

This week’s Photo Challenge is Through.

Crowds of photographers gather as the magic moment draws near. What are they waiting for?

It’s Manhattanhenge! On two days in the year, for a brief moment before it sinks below the horizon, the setting sun is perfectly aligned with the cross-streets of Manhattan’s rectangular street grid and sends its last golden rays straight through its canyons…

These photos are from the first occurrence of Manhattanhenge last year, on May 30, 2011. More photos are here and here.

This year’s magic days will be May 29 and July 12!

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Some other nice interpretations of “Through” I’ve seen:

51 responses to “Weekly Photo Challenge: Through

  1. I never knew. You know, it was probably built that way on purpose…

    • :-)

      It is fascinating to think how what we see today was channeled by previous decisions. When they laid out the street grid in 1811, it would not have occurred to them even remotely to predict such a phenomenon as Manhattanhenge—even though the astronomy could have been calculated as easily then as now—because it would not have occurred to them that there would ever be such things as skyscrapers overshadowing the city’s streets. It was when they came along, a hundred years later, that the phenomenon of Manhattanhenge came into being…

  2. Northern Narratives

    Wow, that is very interesting.

  3. The orange sky is breathtaking…lovely pictures

  4. Wow, did you reenhance the colours on this one or was it actually that orange? Impressive

    • Don’t you know that the camera never lies? ;-)

      Yes, I did increase the color saturation of these images somewhat, as I usually do when starting with RAW images which typically seem to me to be less colorful than the actual scene was. (Of course, it might be that the camera is right and it’s my brain that’s jazzing things up, especially in retrospect…) I lost my inhibitions against such adjustments when it became clear, especially now that images are digital and displayed on computer screens, that there’s absolutely no way to make sure that everyone sees the scene “the way it really was”. The same image looks very different on the various computer monitors that I have at home and at work. And it’s interesting that you and other commenters have said that the color of the sunset is orange: to me, on my computer now, it seems to be bright yellow…

      So I can’t swear to the exact color. However, the light really was that intense, as it often is at sunset, especially given the contrast between the flaming patch of sky and the dark walls of the canyon…

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  7. Wow – fascinating!

  8. Amazing! I’d never heard of this before.

  9. Vladimir, Thank you for your post on Manhattanhenge. I’ve heard of it, but didn’t know when it would occur. I put the dates on my calendar and will be in Manhattan with my camera.

    • Be sure to check out Neil deGrasse Tyson’s article to get the exact dates and times—the exact day depends on whether you want to see the half-sun or the whole sun on the grid—and also advice on which cross-streets offer the best unobstructed views. And of course weather trumps astronomy—if it’s cloudy you won’t see anything!

  10. A perfect set of through images!

  11. Interesting, I never knew about this occurrence. We learn something new every day!Thanks for sharing.

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  13. Amazing! Had not heard of this either! Is traffic stopped during sunrise and sunset?

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  15. Very cool but dangerous for the pedestrian!

  16. Very cool indeed. Nice photo of the photographers,catching our interest, wondering WHAT is going on?

  17. WOW! I’ve never heard of this, amazing, beautiful! Thank you for being a little sunshine to my day! :)

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  20. I actually have family in NY and had never heard of this! Very interesting, informative post that is great for this challenge! :) (Just as an aside – it looks more yellow than orange on my monitor as well… lol)

  21. great 34th street event!

    • These photos were taken from 34th Street and Park Avenue. 34th Street is the classic cross-street for Manhattanhenge because you get the Empire State Building in the picture. But several other cross-streets in Midtown Manhattan also have unobstructed views. In any case, you want to be quite far east to get the full canyon effect.

  22. Never knew about this! Looking forward to the ones coming up soon! Is this only on those streets? And will there be a similar scene with the new towers they are building on formerly known as Ground Zero? Would be interesting how they do the architecture with that. I was down there and saw the news buildings, but I didn’t notice how the sunset would reflect off of them. Would be curious to know your thoughts. Thanks!

    • Well, it should work, in principle, on most of the long streets of the 1811 street grid—that is, north of 14th Street or so. Those streets are all parallel to each other, so the setting sun should be visible at the ends of all of them simultaneously. Unfortunately, you have to pick just one street on which to observe the brief magic moment…

      And, although all those streets are aligned right, many of them are not good for the Manhattanhenge observation. There is obstruction along the street somewhere, or the street slopes upward, rather than downward, going from east to west… The recommended streets are those where you can position yourself far east and still see the sun setting all the way to the west, at the end of the long, unobstructed canyon of tall buildings. In my photos taken from the intersection of 34th Street and Park Avenue, where there is a convenient little hillock, you can see clear down 34th Street, across the Hudson River, and see the sun setting behind the high ground in New Jersey:

      And on 34th Street there is of course the presence of the Empire State Building as a bonus.

      South of 14th Street, in the West Village and farther south, the streets are aligned at different angles, change direction often, and have lots of obstructing buildings. So the Manhattanhenge phenomenon really doesn’t appear there.

      Still, when the buildings around Ground Zero are finished, they might well create interesting solar effects of other kinds. The old World Trade Center towers certainly reflected the sun spectacularly at certain times. I am looking forward to what emerges!

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  25. Interesting yet beautiful photographs. I like the last one a lot. Great post.

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