How to get the perfect Manhattanhenge photo? Patience, folding chairs and no water

Winston Zhou, 52, from left, Josh Nguyen, 28, and Glen Viglone, 64, wait Thursday for the Manhattanhenge sunset phenomenon at the Tudor City overpass.
Winston Zhou, 52, from left, Josh Nguyen, 28, and Glen Viglone, 64, wait Thursday for the Manhattanhenge sunset phenomenon at the Tudor City overpass. Photo Credit: Jump Bikes

While Manhattanhenge for most is a biannual event to take selfies and gush over the Manhattan skyline, for some dedicated (and paranoid) New Yorkers, it’s a lot of watching (the clouds) and waiting.

For some, it’s unacceptable to saunter out of your home minutes before the sunset is scheduled to occur. Foresight and preparation is key.

“Manhattanhenge is one of those unique photographic opportunities that you have to go out of your way to capture,” Glen Viglone, 64, said Thursday, while waiting at the Tudor City overpass. “You have to take time out, you have to be there.”

The overpass, on 42nd Street between First and Second avenues, has always been a popular spot for those wanting to capture the majestic phenomenon when the sunset directly aligns with the Manhattan grid, sending many who witness it into a flurry to document its beauty with a photograph. To get a spot on the overpass, however, is an art only the patient have mastered.

The site offers an unobstructed view looking west down to the Hudson River, which is why expensive cameras and tripods start appearing on the streetwide overpass early in the day — sometimes as early as 12 hours before the sunset. Thursday, it will be at 8:20 p.m.

One such diligent photographer, Stephen Bookin, 69, traveled from Westchester County to Manhattan to set up his Nikon camera at a quarter to 8 Thursday morning. He had read about Manhattanhenge in The New York Times earlier in the year, and decided to make the trip.

By 1:30 p.m., Bookin had already read Thursday’s Times cover to cover, taken some shots of the gargoyles on the Chrysler building and munched on some granola bars his wife had packed for him. With each man on his own in the highly coveted, cramped space, the trick for most photographers is to not drink water so they can avoid having to use a bathroom.

Bookin had seen photos on the internet of Manhattahenge viewing spots, which he says were overwhelmingly crowded with cameras and iPhones.

“I said ‘Oh my God, I’m never getting in there,’ ” said Bookin, as he dug through his New York Yankees cooler. “To get a great shot, take a shot yourself, that’s the difference to me. I can look at a beautiful picture on the internet, but they’re not mine.”

The first Manhattanhenge of the year happened in May, but unfortunately for some documentarians, the cloud cover ruined the opportunity for a good picture.

“I’ve been coming here for many years and I have never gotten that photo,” Winston Zhou, with the North America Photographers Association, said in frustration. “Either there is no space or there are clouds. I need to get it one time.”

Zhou is refraining from drinking water, too.

Reading “The Count of Monte Cristo” and intermittently talking photography with other enthusiasts was Greenpoint resident Josh Ngeyen, 28. At 3 p.m., he was holding the fort for his friends, whom he had invited to come take some shots.

“It’s a scarce event that occurs and so it adds value,” Ngeyen said. “It’s kind of like the planets aligning.”

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