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

A group of Salomon Jib Academy athletes, 16 years and younger, holed up in the Mammoth Mountain ski area in California.
"Generally, I use as few lights as we need," he says. "A lot of my stuff is with battery-operated Broncolor Mobil 2s. Extra lights can be really heavy when you're going way out in the backcountry, and sometimes we bike the stuff in. I did a catalog shoot for a bike company last spring, and there were three of us, each with probably 50-pound packs, and we were mountain biking, climbing uphill for an hour, just to get to these locations. It's a lot of work just getting the equipment into place. Sometimes you're really making a big effort just to get the equipment in place, and then you've got to set up the shot."

As prominent as strobe lighting is in a Scott Markewitz photograph, his equipment must meet rigorous technical standards. He has to deliver light across long distances, at high intensities, with short durations and consistent output. These aren't your father's flash tubes.

"The Mobil 2s are so nice," he says of his kit. "You've got so much adjustability, they're really fast, and they're powerful for a battery-operated system. You need to throw light, you've got to have short durations, and you have to understand the dynamics of motion to minimize ghosting—because that's what you're trying to avoid. Sometimes you can get away with slower durations depending on the direction of the movement.

"Now with PocketWizards," adds Markewitz, "with their new TT5 for Nikon, you can adjust them for HyperSync. I don't know the real technical details, but basically you adjust the delay on the transmitter so that it fires a fraction of a second early, so that the flash is already going when your shutter opens. So you get away from that 250th-of-a-second sync, and you can actually push your system. I can get a 500th easy, and you can get higher. I've gotten it to an 800th-of-a-second at full power, and you really don't lose much exposure value out of it. It's awesome."
A lot of times, the weather isn't perfect," he says, "but if we bring in some artificial lighting, we can make a really cool shot—like with the 'Superman' shot of Paul Basagoitia.
Markewitz is clearly not a "fix it in post" kind of guy. That's not to say he's above digital magic, however; after all, he's in the business of providing his clients with polished perfection. With another dramatic image of mountain biker Basagoitia—this time photographed upside down in midair—he uses a fairly unlikely device for someone who prefers a natural post-production style: HDR.

"There's a little bit of HDR in that shot," he says, "but not much. It's mostly the strobe-ambient mix. There's a little bit of HDR just to get a little more drama in the clouds. When I use HDR, I don't like that cartoonish look, so the rider and the ground here look pretty natural. When I use any kind of post, I like to keep it looking pretty natural. I do mostly Lightroom work, not actually Photoshop work.

"When I started, the style of photography, in general, was pretty posed and artificial and set up," Markewitz says, "across the board, not just in sports. When you think about photography in the '80s and early '90s, it was pretty artificial, just not real. As a skier, I always felt like I wanted to capture what it was really like to be a skier, to make it more authentic, more real. And I think I've always stayed true to that. Even though shots are completely set up, I've always tried to keep my work authentic and really true to what it is."

See more of Scott Markewitz' photography at www.scottmarkewitz.com.


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