Photograph by Corey Arnold
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Tethered to a highline, Tyler Meester, a backpacking guide, traverses a 65-foot span over a precipitous drop in California’s Yosemite National Park. He’s one of many millennials who work in the national parks to be near some of the best hiking and rock climbing.
Photograph by Corey Arnold

Nice Shot! A Good Day for Highlining

A photographer captures the adrenaline rush of a sport performed hundreds of feet in the air.

For my assignment, I'd been looking for a well-rounded view of what the millennial generation does for fun in the national parks. In Yosemite, highlining (walking on springy rope stretched across an elevated surface) has become more then just a fringe sport. Many local climbers and slackliners also dabble in the challenge and adrenaline rush of highlining from time to time.

Taft Point, where this shot was taken, is a popular place for highlining as there are several options—from short spans to much longer, more challenging ones—with sweeping views of Yosemite Valley.

Via Instagram, I met Dakota Snider, a naturalist and park guide, who then connected me to Tyler Meester, an avid climber and slackliner who was planning to try highlining for the first time. When I heard these guys were heading out to Taft Point a day after I arrived in Yosemite, I rushed up the hill to find them and document the scene. I was hoping to capture a moment of danger that defines the more extreme users of the parks. The most experienced of the bunch, Michael Blackwill, set up the highline over a 65-foot span several hundred feet above the valley floor.

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I was particularly impressed with the concentration of hard-core young athletes living in Yosemite National Park, working concessions, service jobs ... whatever it takes to live the simple life and have daily access to one of the world's best outdoor playgrounds.

Capturing this shot in harsh midday sunlight was a challenge, but I found ways to make this light work as best I could. I used a large aperture to gain some depth and found a frame where Tyler and his pink shirt stood out against the blurry bluish backdrop of the horizon.

I spent several hours trying out different angles and photographing a few of the others attempting the highline, but ultimately this shot of Tyler locked in intense concentration mixed with the harmonious color palette and his friends all looking on, fell beautifully into place.

I loved watching the determination mixed with adrenaline and fear coming from Tyler's face. It is always a challenge to capture natural emotion when a person knows they are being photographed, but intensity of highlining wipes away any self-consciousness, and what is left is pure grit and determination that shows through.

Corey Arnold is a photographer and commercial fisherman by trade. You can see more of his work on his website and follow him on Instagram.