Aaron Peterson, a contributing photographer, shares the story behind the photograph he captured at Lake of the Clouds in Ontonagon Michigan, for Paradise Found, a feature in Michigan Travel Ideas, 2011.
I generally work alone on assignment, but I decided to make this Lake of the Clouds photo shoot a family event with my wife, Kristen, and year-old son, Josiah.
As residents of the Upper Peninsula, we frequent the Porkies. I had stayed at the Lake of the Clouds cabin—a state park rental on the lake—about a mile hike from the popular overlook, and I knew this was where I wanted to be for this shoot. The cabin comes with a rowboat, and if paradise is going to be found, there’s certain to be a cabin and a boat nearby!
Before our son, Kristen and I had looked forward to the days when we’d have a family and could take camping trips together. Why not start now?
Well, on this trip we learned that work and camping with a toddler doesn’t always mesh. Josiah didn’t sleep well. He woke up several times because of my stumbling around gathering gear and clothes in the pitch-dark cabin. And we found out the hard way that turning on a headlamp is not the same as turning on a night-light at home. I must have looked like the boogeyman when I switched on my headlamp to find his bottle to help him fall back asleep. I wonder what the campers on the other side of the lake thought. As soon as he’s asleep, I head out.
The dramatic view of Lake of the Clouds from the escarpment overlook is one of the most amazing in the Midwest. The major challenge on this assignment was shooting a scene that has been photographed a lot and showing it in a new light. The awe-inspiring view of Lake of the Clouds from above is so tempting to shoot (and easily accessed) that it’s hard to pass up to find a different perspective.
However, I chose to take the road less traveled and photograph the lake and surrounding mountains from the more intimate lake level. Hiking down the cliff with gear and supplies really makes you commit to shooting a perspective and limits the ability to be flexible with weather and light conditions. It’s hard not to think about that classic shot above when the light isn’t working. The reward, however, is getting an image that compels readers to go beyond the scenic overlooks and delve deeper into the park’s wilderness.
Freelance writer and photographer Aaron Peterson lives and works in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a land carved by the forces of the Great Lakes and warmed by the spirit of its unique and resilient people.