My friends Claudia, Janice and I took the A train way uptown to 190th Street in Manhattan to visit a museum known as The Cloisters .  This stately representation of a medieval monastery,  sits atop a hill in Ft. Tryon Park with views of the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge. Both Claudia and Janice have been there several times before but this was my first visit and was very exciting.

With most museums the lighting is low or in this case dark and the use of flashes or tripods is not allowed. So, it was a bit of a challenge to get images light and sharp enough without too much noise. Using an 18-270mm lens on my camera I set the shutter speed to 1/60th (the fastest I could get hand-held) and the aperture between f5.6 and f6.3 (this is not a fast lens.) The ISO was between 1000 and 1600 and changing the white balance depending on whether there was natural or electric light.

I tried to capture the essence of this lofty museum by focusing my camera on the ornately carved lintels over the door and passageways, the gorgeous pink veined columns surrounding the gardens, the mullioned windows and the many ancient religious artifacts and bits of architecture that date back from the 12th through the 15th centuries.

At one point I entered a room filled with statuary of saints, bishops, cardinals and other religious figures. I was especially intrigued by the emotion on the face of each statute carved in stone or wood. The detail in the hair, clothes and eyes; especially one bishop with extreme lines and creases under his eyes.  I converted his image to black and white adding a lot of grain to heighten those details.

Along one wall by the gardens was a  grotesquely carved head of a human or animal protruding from the wall and dripping water from its fanged mouth that both repulsed and amused me. This antediluvian yellow face was crusty, pockmarked and worn with age and I deepened the color during post processing to highlight these preposterous features even more.

The most beautiful and colorful objects in this cloister and the ones that afforded enough light for a sharp photo were the stained glass windows. I zoomed in on these wonderful works of art filling the frame with their rich color and texture.  They must have been welcoming bright spots in a monastic building of grey stone back in the “Gothic” day.

The gardens surrounding the cloister were obviously not in bloom yet but a tree bereft of leaves against a background of blue sky and white clouds is a subject I never tire of photographing and then converting to stark black and white for a very dramatic effect.

I hope you enjoy the photos below and the rest of the gallery at


4 thoughts on “The Cloisters

  1. I have visited The Cloisters on a couple of my trips to NYC. It is ranked at the top of my favorites places to visit in Manhattan. It is one of the few quiet spots around and is so inspirational and beautiful! Even the setting on the hill overlooking the Hudson is inspirational in itself.


  2. Cate has captured the essence and mood of this medieval cloister with great insight and inspiration. It is a glorious place which I have enjoyed for many years and still find it intriguing and mysterious not to mention fascinating and provocative As with any great museum, there is always something new to discover no matter how many times you visit. This is a gem of medieval beauty in New York City not to be missed and brought to life by an accomplished photographer who can present the mood and appreciation of such a wonderful place. Great wrok!


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