“St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church” by Mike Kukulski

My wife and I were returning from a Door County, Wisconsin vacation last week, and decided to take the smaller roads home paralleling Lake Michigan, instead of the quicker interstate, even though this added some driving time to our journey home. South-bound Rt 42 had numerous detours due to a bridge being washed out and under repair/construction, so we were getting relatively disoriented as we wound our way south on many smaller rural farm roads towards the Chicago area.

This entire area was an enchanting drive showcasing the best of the rural Midwest, Wisconsin farm land and towns off the main highways, far from the typical tourist routes, and relaxing in its embrace of a simpler time in the United States. As we progressed south on Rt 42, I glimpsed this church just east of the road and was struck by its simplicity and remote church charm, and quickly circled back to take a photograph. The mid-morning light cast nice hard and angular shadows, and the sky offered a bit of clouds for background structure and some interesting depth.

I initially shot this with a Voigtlander 21mm, but switched to the Zeiss 28mm for a bit less distortion and a tighter composition. I considered using a tripod, but the bright conditions allowed for fast shutter speeds and good handheld sharpness.

The photograph was initially processed in color, but the strong contrast of the shadows against the stark white church siding called for a black and white interpretation. Using Capture One and Photoshop for post-processing, I corrected for a bit of tilt distortion, darkened the skies to emphasize the black versus white contrast, and employed a bit of dodging and burning to punch up the foliage. Upon completing the processing of the image itself, I added white framing, my watermark, and image titles – I only do this for images that I believe are my better work, and I think this helps to better present the image and makes a more professional impression.

What do you think are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!

The strong contrast of the white building against the dark sky makes positive use of the relatively hard light on this mostly clear day – I think that this hard contrast is the defining characteristic of the photograph. Even with the hard contrast, however, there is bit of punchy glow on the building and window edges, and in the cross on the steeple, which gives the image depth and a bit of evocative atmosphere. The dark lines of the trees on both sides lead your eyes to the centered building, and then the vertical windows lead your eye to the cross on the steeple.

If you would be able to make this photo once again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?

Since I was on my way home from vacation, I did not spend very long making this photograph – maybe 5 minutes. I did not even walk around to the other side of the church to see if the entrance side of the church offered a better view. I could definitely have worked the scene a bit more and perhaps found some other interesting compositions. I also wished I had marked the GPS location, as I have been unable to determine via Google search and Google maps exactly where this church is on Rt 42 – my Google searching revealed that there are numerous Lutheran churches named St John’s, and even searching on the pastor’s name (on the sign) did not yield any useful information on where exactly this church is located.

Mike Kukulski shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.


Mike Kukulski, Grayslake, Illinois, USA


Equipment and settings

Leica M10, Zeiss ZM 28mm f2.8, 1/250 sec.

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