Category Archives: 7 – A Public Space

A Public Space

The High Line Park on a Summers Afternoon

HL-pic1The High Line Park is a public park that has been constructed on a disused elevated railway line in Manhattan. I first visited the Highline a few years ago when I took pictures there when I was working on the Art of Photography Course.  In those picture I tried to capture the park in the context of the surrounding architecture as in the picture on the right.  I really was not completely happy with the pictures I took on that visit so when I was in New York again this year I went back this time with the idea of capturing the locals and tourists in the park.

After the railway closed in1980 and before it was turned into a park High Line was really the American photographer Joel Sternfeld captured a series of images in his book “Walking the High Line” that showed the high line as an unknown oasis of nature surrounded by the intense development on Manhattan Island.

At the time Sternfeld took his pictures the high line was really overgrown and largely ran through a very dilapidated area that had once been a manufacturing area of New York City. You can see in the examples of his work below the lush vegetation surrounded by empty and decaying buildings. Since Sternfeld’s pictures were taken the highline structure has been extensively renovated and careful planting has taken place to make it an attractive and increasingly popular site. The area along the line has also undergone considerable renovation becoming an area of smart apartments with a number of art galleries and restaurants.


For this exercise I wanted to capture the people in the park and their activities rather than capture the sense of how the park fits into its environment. To start with I choose the picture below showing the two girls looking over the rail at the side of the old railway line at the artwork on the building beyond. I particularly liked the humour in this picture and that it gives some sense of the height of the park above the surrounding streets.


The long narrow nature of the park means that there is a lot of opportunity to take shots of people walking purposefully from one end to another looking at the sights. Of all the shots I took of this type I like the one below with the two women shading their eyes against the glare afternoon sun. I guess the locals tend to walk the other way so the sun is behind them all the way.


The park is about a mile and half long, many people take a rest part way, the man below looks like he is breathing heavily, I wonder if had jogged through the park.


While they are relaxing these two women are taking a time out to write up their journals or diaries of perhaps write a postcard?


The High line is a great place for shots of couples and perhaps these two capturing memories of their vacation .


The couple below are sharing a joke and were completely oblivious to everything around them.


Finally on the High Line there are people taking time out from work, this women catching up on email or perhaps face book while the tourist behind is busy eating. This picture has nice contrasts between the woman calmly working on her phone and the one in the background stuffing here face. I also like the way the leopard skin pattern of women in the foregrounds skirt seems to be at odds with her fairly austere hair style and formal black jacket .


Another  two office workers taking a break from work and share the latest office gossip.


This was an interesting exercise; I tried very hard to capture good pictures without being obtrusive. I ended up with a few people scowling at me but most people that noticed me taking their picture looked happy some even broke into a smile.

From a technical perspective getting these shots was relatively straight forward; the bright light enabled me to use an aperture small enough to get a reasonable depth of field and a shutter speed that resulted in sharp images without increasing the ISO too much. Most of these were taken at ISO 400, f5.6 to f8 and shutter speeds between 1/100 & 1/800.

I am happy with the set of pictures presented here, I do think they capture the different types of people that were on the highline that day. They are reasonably composed, have acceptable exposure and are sharp. That being said when I go back and look at all of the pictures that I took that day there are some that I would have liked to include but which are not sharp enough. When photographing in this type of situation I believe I still have to learn to relax more and take the time for the camera to be still before pressing the shutter. There are still too many shots ruined by me quickly bring the camera up to my eye and shooting too quickly