How to Get the Best Photos on the High Line
Representing both NYC’s past and its future, the High Line is one of the city’s best attractions. The 1.45-mile-long elevated linear park, greenway and rail trail created on a former New York Central Railroad spur on the west side of Manhattan lures in both tourists and locals alike, and it is a frequent location request for portrait shoots. But with over five million annual visitors and very little space to escape the masses, you need a plan so you can get the most out of your photo shoot here. In today’s blog post I will be sharing with you photos from Peggy, Mark and Phoebe’s recent portrait session and the High Line family portrait tips I used to capture the day.
Sunset is the ideal time to shoot. Being located so close to the Hudson River, the High Line is the perfect vantage point to photograph sunset. As such, scheduling your photo shoot at ‘golden hour’ (one to two hours prior to sunset) will give you the best light for your session. Keep in mind, however, that everyone else has caught on to the fact that the High Line has the best sunset in town so this is also the most crowded time of the day to be there.
Crowds are a huge factor. You will need to pack your patience if you plan to take photos on the High Line. The main problem is the lack of space for getting away from the masses. Since the High Line is only as wide as a railway track, you don’t have many exit options. Know this ahead of time and plan to have to wait between photos for people to move out of the way or to wait your turn to take photos on the perfect corner. The wait is worth it.
Don’t bring anything with you. Space on the High Line is limited for people, much less for any stuff you bring. For my portrait sessions, families often show up with a lot of outfit changes or toys for the kids, including scooters. The High Line has no additional space to park a scooter. With so many people walking past you, your items are likely to become a trip hazard, or worse, get stolen. Make sure you leave everything at home and just bring yourselves to the photo shoot.
Check the High Line calendar for events. I noticed on the High Line website that the park has been scheduling more events. Make sure you take a look at the park calendar ahead of time to ensure your portrait shoot doesn’t conflict with any space-hogging events.
No rain backup location. As with Central Park, the High Line doesn’t have any spots to hide under in case of rain. The only place possible to duck away from inclement showers is underneath the Standard Hotel. Heed my warning and have a back up location in mind.
Take full advantage of the different crosstown views. The High Line’s vantage point above the city offers a unique perspective on the street below. In particular, the views cutting across the streets giving you a canyon-view of the city around 14th Street shouldn’t be missed. Also, make sure you take a sunset photo through the buildings to the waterfront around 16th Street.
Use the entire neighborhood as your background. While the High Line is fantastic, don’t forget that you have a wide variety of backgrounds surrounding the park. In addition to the obvious waterfront and Hudson River Greenway park on the west side, you also have the cobblestone streets and brownstone staircases of the West Village at your disposal. In terms of the waterfront, your closest park access is at Pier 51, and this is also where you will find a playground. For the West Village, Horatio Street has your closet brownstone staircases, but if you can walk a bit further, Bank Street is your best bet for stairs and cobblestones. And if you are looking for a gritty, New York edge feel to your shoot, you are surrounded by graffiti and industrial storefronts in the Meatpacking District.
Find your favorite section of the High Line. To get a full perspective on the High Line (and New York City), make sure you visit the entire length of the park. While most of my portrait shoots have concentrated on the area of the park from Gansevoort to 16th Street, the High Line has been extended to 34th Street. Near this end of the park you will find more skyscrapers, as well as a beautiful view of the Hudson Yards. The bright lights, big buildings may be more your jam versus the small, cobblestones and historical buildings of the Meatpacking District, so get to know both sides of the High Line.
Construction is everywhere. Finally, know that the High Line is a continual work in progress. During my portrait session with Peggy, Mark and Phoebe, construction on the High Line was going on every few feet or so, especially near the Standard Hotel. This means that you will likely have more walking during your portrait session as there will be a farther distance between ‘good’ parts of the park where there are no construction detritus. Again, pack your patience and some comfortable shoes.
The High Line is open on a seasonal schedule:
- Summer hours: June 1 through September 30, 7am – 11pm
- Fall hours: October 1 through November 30, 7am – 10pm
- Winter hours: December 1 through March 31, 7am – 7pm
No photo permit is needed, unless you need exclusive use of an area of the park or will be bringing in large equipment.
Restrooms are conveniently located at Gansevoort Street, 16th Street, and 30th Street.
Enjoy the photos and give me a call if you would like to schedule your own High Line family portrait session!
If you would like to see more examples of my family photojournalism, then please visit my website – www.KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com