DPP Home Profiles Scott Markewitz: Go Large Or Go Home!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Scott Markewitz: Go Large Or Go Home!

Scott Markewitz is one of the top outdoor sports photographers in the world. He takes a studio photographer’s approach to shaping light and applies it to action sports.

This Article Features Photo Zoom
Extreme sports photographer Scott Markewitz began on the other side of the lens. As a professional photographer for more than two decades, his success is due to a prodigious talent for producing stunning results regardless of conditions. He also credits his successes to a network of athletes and great industry contacts who have helped him to stay ahead of the competition. Above: Using strobes and modifiers to shape the light, Markewitz freezes the action to capture the decisive aerial moment in the snow.

It's not everyone who can mount successful back-to-back careers in separate, highly technical, highly competitive industries, but that's exactly what Scott Markewitz has done. His first career was professional snowskier, but these days he photographs skiers—as well as runners, bikers and just about anyone else involved in action sports and outdoor life.
You really have to connect with the right people," says Markewitz. "You have to shoot the right athletes, you've got to know the people in the industry.

"Funky fashion" taken for a personal project in the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah.
"When I was a pro, I skied in several ski movies," Markewitz says, "and for quite a few ski photographers of the time. I was used to working with cameras on the other side of the lens, so I understood a lot of what it takes to shoot. I picked up a lot of the basics of setting up a shot and what to look for. And I'd see the results; I'd see how a photographer would set up a shot and then I'd see it printed in a magazine, and you can kind of relate. 'Oh, he set it up that way, and this is what came out of it.' I always had an interest in photography, but actually working with these pros and seeing what they do, it piqued my interest, and I realized that it was something I could do. I bought some gear and started shooting and had no real expectations. But things went pretty well pretty quickly for me."

That was 25 years ago. Industry connections from his pro skiing career meant Markewitz was able to show his work to those who could use it, and since his prowess was obvious even at that early stage, he was hired for catalog and advertising assignments. His work evolved from there.

From the beginning, he incorporated a studio photographer's meticulous use of light as a shaping, texturizing, storytelling tool in his sports photographs. It helped set him apart from the competition then and even more now in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Pro mountain biker Paul Basagoitia launches into the air in this image of athleticism. Markewitz relies the most on his lighting, but will use basic postprocessing and HDR as needed.
"You really have to connect with the right people," says Markewitz. "You have to shoot the right athletes, you've got to know the people in the industry. It's true; there are a lot of people who get some nice shots, but when you look at the whole picture, there are only a handful of photographers who can go out and get great shots every time on assignment. It's like, okay, well, you went out and got a good shot in perfect conditions with a great athlete doing an amazing thing.

But now here you are, and the weather is terrible and conditions aren't perfect, and all these factors aren't really working in your favor. Now what are you going to do? It's one thing to make some nice photos, and it's another to be able to produce on the spot every time. These companies know who's gonna come back with good stuff.

"I think that's been one reason I've been able to keep going all these years," Markewitz continues. "People hire me and I always come back with good results. I've gone out with some of my clients on shoots, and it's really foggy or ugly, and they look at me, like, 'What are we going to do? Is this okay?' And then we come back with something, and they're really surprised. Once you understand how I work with certain situations, there's usually a way to come up with something pretty productive."


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