The sun peeks between the slabs of Stonehenge during the solstice.
The sun peeks between the slabs of Stonehenge during the solstice. (Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Any photographer will tell you that the most important factor in creating a great image is the quality of light. After all, that's why the golden hour and the blue hour are such revered shooting times.

While it can be relatively easy to carve out a few minutes in your daily schedule to photograph a sunset or sunrise, you might need to do a little extra logistical planning if you're hoping to photograph, say, the sun perfectly aligned with a mysterious prehistoric monument.

Here are a few precisely timed moments of solar alignments from around the world that never fail to attract hundreds of people every year.


Manhattanhenge

The sun shines through New York City during the Manhattanhenge event.
(Photo: JaysonPhotography/Shutterstock)

Twice a year, New Yorkers are treated to the stunning sight of the sun aligning perfectly with the city's east-west street grid. Hundreds come out to photograph the phenomenon, dubbed "Manhattanhenge," so if you want to witness it for yourself, be sure to get there early to get a spot!


Yosemite Valley's 'fiery' Horsetail Falls

The "fiery" cascade of Horsetail Falls in Yosemite National Park.
(Photo: Peggy Sells/Shutterstock)

Perched atop Yosemite Valley's El Capitan, Horsetail Falls is an ephemeral waterfall that only occurs in the late winter or early spring (typically February) when snow on the mountaintop melts and cascades down the side of the cliff. Depending on the weather conditions, the waterfall takes on a brilliant golden-orange hue, transforming it into a "firefall."

You might think this breathtaking natural event is named for its resemblance to a fiery waterfall, and while this is certainly true, it's also a nod to man-made firefalls that used to literally rain fire down from the mountain top. That's right — starting around 1872, bonfires were actually lit on the El Capitan summit every summer night and after burning down to glowing coals, they were swept off the cliff ledge to the delight of park visitors.

Obviously, this wasn't the most natural of park activities, which is why the National Park Service put an end to the nightly summertime spectacle in 1968.


MIThenge and the Infinite Corridor

MIT's Infinite Corridor is lit up by the sun during the biannual "MIThenge."
(Photo: Frank Hebbert/Flickr)

Designed to be the "central spine" of the MIT campus, the Infinite Corridor is without a doubt one of the most traveled thoroughfares in the elite scholastic institution. However, that's not the only reason it's so remarkable.

For a couple of days each year, the sun lines up perfectly with the long corridor, allowing for a bright, unobstructed beam of sunlight to shine from one end of the hallway to the other. The phenomenon first became known to the larger college community in the 1970s, and since then, it has consistently attracted hundreds of collegiate spectators.


Stonehenge

Revelers gather at Stonehenge to witness the winter solstice alignment.
(Photo: Mark Grant/Wikimedia)

Of course, no list of spectacular solar alignments would be complete without Stonehenge, a mysterious prehistoric monument in England that perfectly lines up with the sun during the winter and summer solstices. Built more than 4,000 years ago, the purpose of the structure and the details behind its construction remain a bit of a mystery, but many scientists suspect that it was first built as a burial ground or funerary monument.

These days, the monument is a popular gathering place for druids, tourists, scientists and others hoping to observe the solstices in a party-like atmosphere:


Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.