Morning Dallashenge – maybe a couple days early

I am not a morning person and when my alarm went off at 5:15 it took more than a little effort to drag myself out and about. I was worried about the weather, but at the train station I saw stars glinting here and there through the thick city night sky soup and I knew it was cloudless. But as I waited for the train, I saw the telltale glow in the east which quickly grew into the start of a salmon-colored dawn and I began to think I was not going to make it in time.

The train arrived and I climbed aboard, wedging myself in with the morning’s crop of sleepy commuting workers, having to make room for my backpack filled with a camera and my folding tripod across my lap.

It was April 19, the morning Dallashenge. I first came across this concept well over a year ago, when I read about Manhattanhenge – the day that the setting (or rising) sun lines up with the east-west street canyons of central New York. In a city (like Chicago) where the streets run exactly along the points of the compass, the henge date is on the spring and fall equinox – but in cities like New York (or Dallas) where the downtown street grid, for geologic or historical reasons, is a few degrees off-kilter, the dates will fall somewhere else.

Using the very useful website,, I was able to calculate the henge dates for Dallas – an evening henge falls on February 15, and a morning henge on April 19 – at about ten minutes to seven.

In February of 2012, I went downtown in the evening and took some shots of the henge. It was sort of fun. Now I wanted to do a morning “henge” and Friday, April 19th was on its way. For a long time I worked on finding a suitable perch where I could look down the long downtown streets. I thought about the parking garage and the jail, but one day I discovered that there was a walkway along the infamous triple underpass in Dealey Plaza that had a great view down main street.

After some test shots I was ready.

Despite my worries I made it down there in time. I set up my tripod and waited while the sky grew lighter and lighter. I wondered if my calculations were correct. Was I at the right place at the right time?

I was and I wasn’t. The sun did peek up right down main, but before the entire disk came up over the asphalt it had moved off to the side. I think a better photograph might come a couple days later, when the whole disk of the sun will appear over the dead center of the street.

So, maybe Sunday. I’m not sure if I can get up that early on a weekend morning… but we’ll see.

The morning Dallashenge from the Triple Underpass in Dealy Plaza. Maybe a couple days early.

The morning Dallashenge from the Triple Underpass in Dealy Plaza. Maybe a couple days early.

Morning Dallashenge from the Triple Underpass in Dealy Plaza.

Morning Dallashenge from the Triple Underpass in Dealy Plaza.


Dallashenge Photographs

The day was here, Wednesday, February 15, 2012. Dallashenge. I had done the calculations via I had done the test shots.  And now, today, according to my best ciphering, the sun would set exactly in alignment with the canyons of highrise buildings in Downtown Dallas.

It would not be as spectacular as the very well-known Manhattanhenge, of course. As far as I know, I am the only person that recognizes this phenomenon in Dallas.

The forecast threatened thunderstorms. All day the sky was cloudy; fog wrapped the city. I had set 3PM as my decision time (I was thinking that maybe Friday would be a better day anyway for photographs) and as if by magic, the Texas sun burned the fog away, leaving the sky blue with only a few wisps of long rope-like clouds. The best I could hope for.

So I left work a little early and lugged my tripod and camera downtown on the train. It was very awkward – I need to find a way to carry/strap my tripod in/on a pack with my camera. After my test shots, I had decided to set up on a little spot of sidewalk at the intersection of Pacific, Live Oak, and St. Paul. It wasn’t the most “canyon-like” intersection, but it was impressive looking, gave me a spot to stand without dashing back and forth across the street, and Pacific Avenue isn’t blocked at the end by the Lew Sterrett Jail like the other downtown streets.

I set up the camera and tripod right at six and waited for the sun to set. gave the sunset time as 6:13, which turned out to be the time the last bit of sun dropped below the horizon. Even on Pacific, the horizon isn’t unblocked, so the apparent sunset time was earlier; I took my last picture at about 6:10. It happened quickly – I was snapping, changing the camera position, adjusting the exposure, zooming in and out, and checking my photographs on the screen on the back of the Nikon.

I saw nobody else that was aware of the ‘henge. Only one person paid any attention to me. A man out walking his dogs stopped and I told him what I was doing. He said, “I walk my dogs every day at this time, and I noticed the sunsets were looking nice recently – but I didn’t realize it was because it was setting along the streets.”

Dallashenge (click to enlarge)

(Click to Enlarge) This is my new desktop wallpaper

Dallashenge (click to enlarge)

The Henge through a bus window.

I think I was there a day or two early. Even if this is the “official” henge date, the sun will be a little higher and a little more to the right in a couple days and that might make for better pictures. Next evening henge date I’ll go a little later. Also, I want to try some other intersections, especially the Elm and Harwood intersection by the Majestic Theater. I want to try and get into that pedestrian overpass – that should give a good shot.

This summer, on August 23 (6:57 AM) is a morning Dallashenge. Looking at the city maps, there is a parking garage at Lew Sterrett that might give a great view straight down Elm and Main. Sometime over the summer I need to check it out – see if the garage is public, how high its guard wall is, and if it is open at that hour of the morning.

Taking pictures of something this fleeting is sort of an all-encompassing activity. One henge day I want to go without a camera and just look at the thing.

Test Shots for Dallashenge

According to my calculations, this Wednesday, February 15, at 6:13 PM will be this spring’s Dallashenge moment. That is when the setting sun will be aligned with the canyons of Dallas’ downtown streets, which do not run exactly east-west (if they did, Dallashenge would occur on the equinox). Of course, it’s called “henge” in reference to Stonehenge, another man made arrangement of objects aligned with the heavens. Manhattanhenge seems to be a pretty big deal in the Big Apple, but I have not found anyone other than me working out the date for Dallas.

Unless the weather makes this impossible, I plan on heading downtown to take pictures on Wednesday (If you are interested in meeting down there, contact me). I had a couple of questions, though – how hard would it be to grab a photograph while crossing at the light and which street would be the best canyon to photograph.

Test shots were in order.

I was downtown last weekend so I walked across the street grid, taking photographs at each intersection. My first question was easily answered – there is plenty of time during the time the little walking guy appears on the crossing light to dash out into the center of the lane, snap a couple pics, and then dash back before the cars are unleashed.

There are four major east-west canyon streets in downtown Dallas. From south to north: Commerce, Main, Elm, and Pacific.

Looking west from Commerce and St. Paul Streets in downtown Dallas.

Main Street and St. Paul

Elm and Harwood Streets. I like this view. I'm not sure if the pedestrian bridge will ruin the shot. Also, the Lew Sterrett jail is at the end of the street and may block the sun's orb..

Pacific and St. Paul, at the end of LIve Oak. This location has the advantage that it isn't in the street and I can set up a tripod and take photos on my schedule instead of rushing out when the light changes.

Of the four, I like Elm a lot. I tried to get up into that pedestrian bridge, but it is closed to the public. A shot from street level would be cool, especially with the Majestic Theater there to the right.

My favorite is the Pacific shot, though. There is a big advantage there, too. At the end of Live Oak street (Pacific/St. Paul/Live Oak) there is a bit of sidewalk that juts out into the middle of the street. I can set up a tripod there and take photos at my leisure.It has a nice canyon in the middle and they the sky opens with some glass mirrored ‘scrapers sticking up – if there is a nice sunset, it will look cool.

I’ve never done this kind of shooting before… any advice would be appreciated.

So, weather permitting, I plan on taking the DART train downtown and setting up on the sidewalk there at Pacific and St. Paul (I might dash on over to Elm too, I’m not sure how the timing will go) to get some pictures of the sun setting down that man-made canyon.

I’m not an expert on this and I may be reading the ephemeris tables wrong. Friday might actually be a better evening – the sun’s orb will be a little higher up and might make for a better photo. I could go back again, Friday would be easy. Again, if the weather is bad – too much cloud cover – I won’t even bother to go down there.

So we’ll see. I’ll keep you appraised.


A few days ago I read about the phenomenon of Manhattanhenge – the phenomenon that occurs several times a year when the rising or setting sun happens to align perfectly with the canyons of New York City. It is called Manhattanhenge in honor of Stonhenge… which is in putative alignment with its own set of heavenly circuits.

Image from New York Bridge and Tunnel Club

I really never thought about the fact that the streets of Manhattan don’t run perfectly East-West. They are aligned with the long axis of the island itself, about thirty degrees off of the meridian.

I began to think about Dallas, so I pulled up a map. The streets in downtown, the ones that run between the skyscrapers – Commerce, Main, Elm – don’t run perfectly East-West either. I don’t know what the layout is based on… probably where the deer and the antelope used to roam. Looking around the internet, I found, which made it easy to find the directions of sunrise and sunset at different times of the year.

According to in 2012 Downtown Dallas, the Sunset Stonehenge moment will be at 6:13 PM on February 15, and the Sunrise Stonehenge will be 6:53 AM on April 19th. That’s when the sun will rise/set right along the canyons of buildings along the streets downtown. I’m going to try to remember and be there to take some pictures.

One big question is where. I’m going to have to go downtown and walk around and look for good places. Commerce, Main, and Elm all have a lot of tall buildings lining the sidewalks, but it’s hard to tell where the best spot is. One problem is the Lew Sterrett Center sticks up at the west end of Downtown; the jail will block the sun.

Another problem is how to get the picture without getting run over. The streets of downtown are busy at the evening hour and I’ll have to wait for a walk signal, run out into the street, take a snap, and then get the hell out of Dodge. Looking through Google Maps I found this:

Googlemap Streetview

Maybe that pedestrian overpass would be a good spot. I’ll have to check it out and make sure it’s open to the public and that the glass is clean.

It would be cool to have a group down there taking photographs. If any of y’all are interested, get with me, and we can talk.

If the weather is bad, another Stonehenge Sunrise will come on August 23rd (6:57) and another Stonehenge Sunset will occur on October 25 (6:43).

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Chicago is interesting because its streets do run straight East-West. Therefore, their “henge” is on the equinox.