2022 Retrospective: Infrared Art and Architecture #3

February 10, 2023  |  La Crosse, Wisconsin

Ellen Hixon by Mike Martino in La Crosse, Wisconsin. October 2022

Category: Infrared Art and Architecture

The sculpture above honors Ellen Hixon, the driving force behind rescuing the Grandad Bluff area from quarrying in the early...

Ellen Hixon Pondering Her Legacy

The Subject

Ellen Hixon's practical philanthropy and public service played a significant role in literally shaping the landscape of La Crosse. She was instrumental in founding a home for children, helped fund the La Crosse Hospital and led the efforts to save local bluffs from quarrying in order to preserve it for the recreational use of future generations. She personally financed most of the land acquisition and gifted it to the city of La Crosse - land we know today as Hixon Forest and Grandad Bluff. It is used by hikers, bikers, skiers, snowshoers, birders and many others all year long.

This statue by La Crosse sculptor Mike Martino shows Ellen in a thoughtful pose. Her right hand holds a pine bough, symbolic of the fact that the Hixons made their fortune in the lumber business. Most folks view the statue from the front, with the views of neighboring bluffs and coulees, the city of La Crosse and the Mississippi River valley stretching out behind her.

The Composition

As I explored ways to photograph this statue from a different point of view I stepped around back and began to experiment with some lower angles. I was immediately struck by the point of view that the seated Ellen Hixon had - one that looked out onto her enduring legacy.

The detail in the sculpture even from behind is marvelous: the garment, the hair - and the hand resting on a granite bench. Symbolic of the local granite that would not be harvested, forever altering the landscape. It would remain untouched and become the foundation for a public space enjoyed by many generations outdoor enthusiasts. Those were the thoughts running through my mind as I crouched down behind her statue that morning.

I experimented with a variety of angles, and this one combined all the elements in a way that seemed to express the my thoughts that morning.

Creating the Image

This image combines a set of three exposure bracketed shots into one HDR (high dynamic range) image which was then converted to black and white in Lightroom. Some selective noise reduction and sharpening were done in Topaz AI tools. Additional basic adjustments to light and shadow, cropping and application of a slight vignette were done in Lightroom.

Infrared Image Capture and Processing: Filter Selection and White Balance

I use an R72nm filter for all of my infrared images with auto white balance. This results in a raw file with reddish hues with some very slight shades of yellow and blue. I prefer this to simply putting the camera in black and white mode and shooting jpg, as converting in Lightroom gives me more options for how I handle various parts of the scene, and raw gives me more latitude in dealing with noise or softness in certain areas of the image.

Bonus: Walter "Babe" Weigent

Another great piece by Mike Martino. This statue honors a local longtime coach and athletic director. It is located in Weigent Park, site of the old Central High School, and now home to a ball field, tennis court, playground and multi-use field space.