Road Grids + Astronomy = Photographic Opportunity

Having just come back from Morocco, I have a renewed appreciation for the way older cities are laid out. The narrow, winding, organic order of the streets lend older cities a lot of character, charm and idiosyncrasies.

Toronto is laid out on a grid (as are many other North American cities - or most cities less than 300-400 years old). While that can make a city easier to navigate and for traffic to flow, it can also be a little bland...sometimes.

But today is not that day. Today (for Toronto at least) is one of two days every year where the city’s grid aligns perfectly with the setting sun. The golden hour this evening will give photographers a chance to capture some truly spectacular lighting. So, let’s all hope for good weather this evening as Toronto aligns with the setting sun to become Torontohenge. The day where we celebrate the Toronto-solstice.

The idea of cities aligning with the setting sun was popularised by Neil deGrasse Tyson when speaking for New York's own Manhattanhenge. He writes:

What will future civilizations think of Manhattan Island when they dig it up and find a carefully laid out network of streets and avenues? Surely the grid would be presumed to have astronomical significance, just as we have found for the pre-historic circle of large vertical rocks known as Stonehenge, in the Salisbury Plain of England. For Stonehenge, the special day is the summer solstice, when the Sun rises in perfect alignment with several of the stones, signaling the change of season.
For Manhattan, a place where evening matters more than morning, that special day comes twice a year, when the setting Sun aligns precisely with the Manhattan street grid, creating a radiant glow of light across Manhattan's brick and steel canyons, simultaneously illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street of the borough's grid.

Check out past-year’s pictures of this phenomenon and tell me you don’t have any urge to photograph this semi-annual event.

If you’re reading this, and you aren’t located in Toronto, here are some links to some other cities’ solstices:

If your city isn’t listed, just try googling something like: [city name]henge (all one word) to see if something pops up. As long as your city has a few roads running in a straight-line in a generally easterly/westerly direction, there will be an alignment at least twice a year.

Just be careful making a photo in the middle of the street!! Plan and then be quick about it.

Please tell me about your city’s unique, astrological related photographic opportunities in the comments below. I would love to know!

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Feature Photograph of the Week - Koutoubia Sunset

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  The almohad-style minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque is a landmark. At 77m tall it can been seen from many quarters throughout Marrakesh.

The almohad-style minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque is a landmark. At 77m tall it can been seen from many quarters throughout Marrakesh.