Lame Adventure 474: Shooting the Sun

Twice a year, just before and just after the summer solstice, the setting sun aligns perfectly with the Manhattan street grid illuminating both the north and the south sides of every cross street. This phenomenon is called Manhattanhenge, a term coined by Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History. For photographers that know what they’re doing with a camera, they can capture the most magnificent light shining through the glass and steel canyons. If you’re hoping to find images like that here, read no further.

Manhattanhenge first occurs around Memorial Day, this year that was on May 29 and 30. The weather was lousy both days so the magnificence was a no show. The second time it happened was during Major League Baseball’s All-Star break, this week on July 11 and 12. Skies were clear. The best locations to take pictures are wide cross streets where one can see straight through to New Jersey: 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd and 57th Streets.

On Monday evening, July 11, when I was walking up West 72nd Street en route to the subway, I noticed a guy walking ahead of me carrying a nice digital camera. I was certain he was going to shoot Manhattanhenge photos, so I decided it would behoove me to follow him. Was he going to take his pictures on 72nd Street? I felt sucker punched when he turned right on Broadway and entered Trader Joes.

I entered the subway station where I caught the 1 local to 59th Street. Fifteen minutes later, I joined a crowd of fellow sunset chasers at 57th and Broadway. Many were chumps like me, prepared to shoot pictures with just their iPhones. Several seemed content to just take selfies. I observed one guy with an ancient point and shoot camera that he carried in a plastic sandwich bag. Possibly, when he’s not using it, he stores it the cupboard next to the mustard.

I exchanged small talk with Megan, a very personable young woman who told me that she had just arrived from Dublin, Ireland the week before; this was her first time visiting New York. She was here for a year. I thought that was wonderful. Here she was in this dynamic city that never sleeps, mixing with the nerds. I wanted to ask her if she had seen the film, Brooklyn, about a young Irish woman who visits New York, but I suffered a brain freeze and inconveniently blanked on the word, “Brooklyn.”

What I predominantly observed as I stared at the sun was fierce retina burn and this fleshy fellow lugging tons of camera gear running frantically from the curb to the center of the street several times while angry motorists honked their horns.

Flirting with disaster.

Flirting with disaster.

I was fully prepared to photograph him bouncing off the hood of a taxi.

By sunset, the street was flooded with onlookers raising their cameras upward and West, in observance of the magnificent glow of the radiant round ball. Unfortunately, my best shot at that magical moment resembled a study of runny scrambled eggs.

Scrambled egg sunset.

Scrambled egg sunset.

The next day, Tuesday, July 12, with my iPhone SE in my pocket and invisible bucket of insanity planted on my head, I returned to 57th Street. That evening, the sight was a half sun setting on the grid. I decided I would try my luck one block further east at 57th and Seventh Avenue, across the street from Carnegie Hall.

Practice, practice, practice taking a better sunset shot.

Practice, practice, practice taking a better sunset shot.

The slight change of surroundings did not reveal a vastly different result, but I hit some button on my phone that produced images that were indeed better, or more accurately, better on the low end of mediocre.

The sun at 7:58 pm.

The sun at 7:58 pm.

Crowd at 8:10 pm eager to get the shot.

Crowd at 8:10 pm eager to get the shot.

Hit some button shot at 8:12 pm.

Hit some button shot at 8:12 pm.

Fellow sunset chasers.

Fellow sunset chasers.

Hit button shot at 8:15 pm.

Hit button shot at 8:15 pm.

As for seeing the enchanting sight of a half sun setting on the grid, even though I was there, somehow I completely missed it.

As I was leaving, I realized that all was not lost. Something did catch my eye: this guy’s satchel.

That's an interesting satchel!

That’s an interesting satchel!

So I set out to photograph a natural phenomenon and end up with an image of a sling bag shaped like a station wagon that can hold a six-pack. That’s not something I see everyday. It’s comforting to know that I was finally in the right place at the right time to get that shot.

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51 responses to “Lame Adventure 474: Shooting the Sun

  1. HA! I am posting about sunsets today too. Tis the season, I guess. I had no idea there were sunset chasers in Manhattan.
    Great to see you blogging again, V! I love your lame adventures.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think your best shots were of the worshippers with their raised hands and phones. It is an interesting phenomenon the Druids would appreciate at Stonehenge.

    One of my favorite shots is of the family members lined up to photograph a couple of kids doing something sweet.

    I wonder what the guy had in his bag. Maybe a trombone?

    Liked by 3 people

  3. “I felt sucker punched when he turned right on Broadway and entered Trader Joes.” — basically the story of my life, V. But, seriously, I didn’t know about Manhattanhenge — quite a phenomenon — and, so, I’ve enjoyed your pretty sunset shots, textured with the sunset chasers and station wagon satchel. Thanks. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Samantha. I was clueless about Manhattanhenge until this past May when I read about it in the Times on the 7 train one morning on my way into The Grind. It had Lame Adventure written all over it, but the weather was lousy on those days and I was still in recovery from my epic move. I’m glad I had a second shot at it this month. And yeah, that satchel is rather eye catching.

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  4. I like your photos, LA… but were you in the middle of all the traffic like the guy who nearly bounced off the bonnet? I remember when I was in New York once, I was crossing a street when the lights changed suddenly, so I had to run the rest of the way. Only my knee gave way. I stumbled forward. Luckily, I never fell and got across in some kind of safe fashion… but I always remember the traffic.
    Back to your photos, you’ve captured the sunset magically!

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  5. I always miss this phenomenon. I’m usually back in the borough that shall not be named by the time the sun sets in the summer.

    CNN has a very cool pic on their site (not that yours aren’t great, though). 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You have your priorities straight considering that you do have a hungry hound to feed.

      I was there two nights in a row, and I didn’t see it once, but I did have plenty of retina burn.

      Thanks for the CNN referral!

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  6. Pictures are pretty good, V. Beautiful sky for sure. Seriously, how cool is that bag? Flashback to my childhood. Always had one of those wagons… Only in NyC would you see that bag.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. There are times, nearly always, when accidental pictures are the best pictures. These are the ones we end up loving.

    I enjoyed yours immensely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Val! Having been there two days in a row, I regret not getting a single shot of what the actual event was supposed to look like, but it’s very elusive and looking straight into the sun HURTS! At least looking at that satchel was easy on the eyes.

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  8. I actually like your scrambled egg sunset photo because you can see how the buildings on both sides of the street light up in that one, and wasn’t that the whole point? After all the sun sets every day. It was the lighting of both sides of the street at once that make those particular days special.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s exactly the point, Lois. The sun is supposed to be dead center and both sides of the street equally lit. The problem I had was I did not know how to capture an image of the setting sun looking like a big centered round ball on the first day and a centered half-ball on the second day. It just looked like a blindingly bright mass in the distance. I couldn’t tell what I was looking at, much less ascertain the shape of the sun. It was all so Lame Adventure.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s interesting that the two Manhattanhenges every year happen so close together. Two chances, but the weather has to cooperate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s linked directly to summer sun in Manhattan. Apparently there are other of these henges in other places, but this being the Big Apple, this one’s the big kahuna of henges. A New Yorker, Neil deGrasse Tyson, hit on the name. It’s now in the dictionary unlike Bakersfieldhenge, if one occurs there.

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      • I got a discount flyer in the mail for “The Front Page.” Have you seen that cast? Yikes! And Mr. Sulu is doing Pacific Overtures at CSC. Double yikes!

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        • Yeah, I got that flyer, too, yesterday. I thought the same thing about the cast. Milton and I want to see it. I would love to score tickets at rush price but we’ll probably have to open our wallets on that one. We also heard about Pacific Overtures. I usher at CSC. I would love to score that gig. We dropped a wad on our Public tickets for next season. Lucky for me that The Boss allowed me to go through the torture of ordering them at my desk when they went on sale. They had a virtual waiting line that took over an hour to survive, so 10% of my brain was on work and the other 90% was freaking out about getting tickets to all the shows we want to see, but we got everything. This included fourth row center seats to Plenty. Score!

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          • I heard the ticket-procurement process at The Public is a nightmare. They need to clean that mess up. Joe Papp would’ve rolled some heads.

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            • It was a nightmare! The phone lines were jammed and the virtual waiting room screen didn’t refresh, something it was supposed to do every 20 seconds. Eventually, I figured out that by hitting the back button, I could gauge our position in line. The screen announced that the waiting time was 38 minutes. In reality it was closer to an hour and 18 minutes. It was nerve-wracking, but in the end, we got very lucky.

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  10. I admire your persistence. We don’t have anything as near as cool as Manhattanhenge in Goshen, Arkansas, but living in a rural area does have its advantages when it comes to nature photography.

    I am very much an early morning person and we’ve had some amazing sunrises lately. Connie captured one recently where the sky was a fantastic salmon/corral color. The photos simply didn’t do it justice. I’m sure the same was true in your case. Great post. Thanks for sharing another Manhattan Moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure the sunsets are spectacular in your hood, Russell. In fact, you may not have been semi-blinded by yours. Between the aggressive crowds vying for position and all the heavy vehicular traffic clogging the street added to my not being able to determine what I was looking at, I’m amazed that I was even able to photograph that guy’s station wagon satchel.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. How cool this Manhattanhenge exists. The things I learn on your blog! Personally, my favorite shots are the ones with the people taking photos. It’s like a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the event, which I always like to know about. I’d say your persistence paid off. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Amy, this site is light with educational content. Seriously, I was clueless about Manhattanhenge until I read about it one morning last May on my way into The Grind. Where the crowds are most dense for a good glimpse of this rare sight i.e., when the weather cooperates, is 42nd Street. That’s the Times Square area, also home to Manhattan’s theater district. If I don’t have to be down there for a show or play, I avoid it. It is crowd-central.

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  12. Three LA in 3 weeks I’m glad to see. You can make a happening so funny. I like the background pictures, especially the one with you (I’m taking a picture here) facing traffic. What a brave woman even if they were stopped! Carnegie Hall pic is nice with it two skyscraper condos separated by the RTR. Have you been to the RTR? Small talk with Irish Megan nice. It’s what great about NYC.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t give me performance anxiety, Tom; there might not be another LA again until 2017. I can assure you that there was plenty of safety in number when I shot my pictures. I do not have a death wish. No, I’ve never been to the Russian Tea Room. Apparently, it hasn’t been the same since it changed ownership in the mid-90s and it’s since changed ownership when it was sold back then. It appears that the Times last reviewed it in 2006: http://nyti.ms/29HFIEy.

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  13. You had me wrapped up with Manhattanhenge (something I didn’t know about) …. but all that made the satchel pic even better!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m sorry you missed the perfect “half-sun” shot, but at least your picture of a satchel shaped like a station wagon was almost equally dramatic.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Ms Virginia Lameadventure-maybe you could post something sort of funny cause I really need to see a weird pigeon or some gum on the sidewalk or even a Jesus shaped piece of tile from the Grind cause I need a good laugh. No pressure.

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    • Sarah, I’ve been feeling numb since Election Day. Milton and I take turns telling each other how much we fear the next four years, or worst, eight. I managed to drag myself into The Grind The Day After. He took the day off from his Grind, so he watched Hillary deliver her concession speech live. He told me that It was such a great, emotional speech, when she had that catch in her voice, he wasn’t sure if he was watching Hillary Clinton or Meryl Streep playing her. That ‘s the best I’ve got for now. Maybe one day I’ll resume writing this blog. Thanks for checking in.

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  16. Hi LA! I don’t know whether you still call by the blog nowadays, but just wanted to call by and wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! (I did have a pre-prepared comment to use as I’m hurtling through Blogland, but decided just to add a comment here.) Hope you’re doing well and Feeling Good! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Sure do miss you! Was in NYC before Xmas and saw “SOMETHING ROTTEN” and the train at the Botanical Gardens, Wow what a nice safe place for a beautiful walk. Please write some more Lame Adventures for our enjoyment. Wishing you the best for 2017!

    Like

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