Highpointing: Mount Arvon, Michigan
April 15, 2017
Mount Arvon was a challenge. The opening shots by the lake in Baraga did not turn out as I had hoped, we first shot it early in the morning and the footage was dark. When we had returned later to reshoot it, the sun wrecked havoc on it. By that point we were rushing and I just wanted to get something in the can. I think the phrase I used was, “I’ll fix it in post.” We can see how that turned out. On the plus side, the geese flying through the frame was a stroke of luck.
Weather didn’t cooperate at all. After two wonderful days of shooting in Illinois and Wisconsin, Mother Nature finally decided to bring a bit of havoc on us. I knew from weather reports and talking to other highpointers the day before at Timms Hill, the chances for an inclement shoot were pretty high. I hoped if we got to Mount Arvon early we could shoot it quick and beat the weather. That hope was dashed as it started raining on the drive to Baraga. Once onsite, sporadic rain, wind, and rifle shots were the biggest challenges. Timing became key, when all three would pause long enough for us to attempt a decent take and hope that I didn’t botch my lines.
Of the three, wind became the biggest factor, easily visible in a many of the shots, at times it pushed the deadcat on the microphone to the limit. (Little did I know a year later Nebraska and Texas would really push it to the limit.) I ended up stabilizing a lot of clips in post because the wind was giving my cheap tripod the shakes. Of course, as soon as we wrapped, the sun came out and the remainder of the day was a bright and sunny. (Hence the problems with the reshoot at the lakeshore.)
Technically this was a straightforward shoot. My sister Misty got her directorial debut and her children Ruby and Mateo made up the rest of the crew. With the weather conditions not being ideal, it was more important to get shots completed than to do anything fancy. The one thing I was going to do was another mounted camera sequence on the car, having done it successfully for the other two episodes shot over the weekend. With this episode the driving shots were to be spliced in between various stops on the way.
Several factors came into play. First was the road condition, the bumpiness kept bouncing the camera around too much to get anything of quality. Second was road length. This is a long drive. While I had been there before, I had forgotten how long a drive it is from the turnoff at the church to the summit. That meant a lot of footage that even sped up would be boring to watch. Finally this episode turned out longer than I had estimated, so the additional footage would have been more filler. Maybe it will work its way in for a director’s cut.
The other thing planned was live shots at two previous Michigan highpoints. With time, distance, weather working against me, and frankly being tired from shooting over the whole weekend I opted for a different approach. In the end I substituted stills, a crafty map shot, and voice over. Not quite the effect I wanted but it works.
After we wrapped up we grabbed lunch at the Hilltop Restaurant in L’Anse. I made sure to get a cinnamon roll the size of my head. It was delicious. The biggest tip for visiting Mount Arvon is to rely on a map instead of GPS. If you depend on the latter you may very well end up lost in the woods. Also, get the cinnamon roll.