High Times on the High Line

Tsq_green_chairs_jehWhen NYC does something wrong, it does it really wrong. For example, the pedestrian plaza in Times Square. Closing midtown blocks to vehicular traffic so tourists can gawk at the neon signs must have seemed like a good idea to someone. I’m sure visitors enjoy it but New Yorkers regard the area as they would a toxic waste site.

But when the city does something right, it’s sublime. The High Line is an elevated park installed on the old West Side freight rail line. It’s a quaint pedestrian promenade dotted with art installations, unique horticultural displays, eateries and more. Many classes are held in (on?) the park including REI‘s basic photography/wine tasting class that I took last week.

Two instructors welcomed 11 shutterbugs and one guy who admitted he was only there for the wine. It was a beautiful August evening; the park was crowded but not too crowded and the light was superb. After a quick lesson about exposure, shutter speed, f-stops, and ISO, we meandered along the concourse, snapping experimental shots.

To get his huaraches in focus and blur the skirt, I used a very slow (1/40) shutter speed.

To isolate one section of a photo and blur the rest, set the camera to aperture priority and choose a large setting (small f-stop).


Play with the ISO setting when you need to balance light and dark areas of your shot.


Compose the photo with your subject off-center. It makes it more interesting.


A sunset is always pretty. Try to find a new way to frame it.

Then we headed back down to street level and strolled over to the Chelsea Wine Vault, located inside the historic Chelsea Market. Four different wines were ready and waiting for us in the tasting room, an atmospheric space with high ceilings and exposed brick. Our instructor, Steve Lieder, crammed a ton of information into the hour-long class. For example, he talked about why rosé is relatively unpopular in the States – it stems from an unwarranted association with the vile white zinfandel. He also demonstrated the importance of letting a wine breathe. We tasted each of the 4 selections and then dove back in for a second sip after they’d sat for awhile. Each of them (sauvignon blanc, rosé, chianti classico and syrah) tasted better, as if they’d somehow become more of what they were meant to be. A 10% discount on purchases assured we went home heavier as well as wiser.

With September only a few days away, it’s natural to have back to school on the brain. Why not grab a marble notebook (not really necessary but it’s always fun to buy one) and take a tasting at the Chelsea Wine Vault. Or try a class on the High Line – current offerings include evening stargazing and morning garden talks. It’s a great way to enjoy a fun Manhattan neighborhood that’s blocks away from Times Square.


12 thoughts on “High Times on the High Line

  1. I haven’t been to the HIgh Line yet! I worked in the Chelsea Market back in ’03 when it had just converted to shops & offices (it stank, was vermin-infested and there was hardly anything else in the area). Your pix are wonderful — what a difference a decade makes!

  2. I was just reading about the High Line and have vowed to see it my next NYC visit – if only for a fraction of it – it just sounds lovely. jealous again.

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