in pursuit of action and adventure: a q&a with photographer scott markewitz
Considered to be one of the most influential action and outdoor photographers of his time, to say there's a lot to learn from Scott Markewitz would easily be an understatement. We sat down to chat with him about photography, skiing, techniques, and how he stays active. Here's what he had to say.
R: You transitioned from professional skier to photographer. How did you make the leap?
S: I always had an interest in photography growing up, and as a professional skier I spent a lot of time in front of the camera skiing for many of the top photographers and filmers of the time. I asked questions and learned a lot watching them set up shots, and sometimes even shot a second camera. So, with that background, I decided to buy a camera and a few lenses and go out and try shooting on my own. That spring I went out and shot with some of the pro skiers I knew and sent a few of my favorite shots to Powder Magazine. Later that summer I went to Europe to coach a ski camp, and when I came back to the US I walked into a magazine shop and did a double take when I saw one of those shots on the cover of Powder. I was blown away. My first published shot was on the cover of Powder! Things took off from there and I was able to transition to photography full time pretty quickly.
Image via Scott Markewitz
R: You’ve shot in hundreds of places around the world. To date, where is your favorite place to shoot and why?
S: Photography has taken me to incredible places and given me so many unforgettable experiences with truly inspiring people. It’s really hard to pick one favorite place, but when it comes to skiing there is no better place to ski and shoot than Alaska. The combination of big mountains, steep lines, great snow, and beautiful light make it not only the best skiing in the world but also an amazing place to shoot
R: You say you shoot a lot of skiing and mountain biking? How are the shooting techniques similar/different?
S: I shoot a lot of outdoor sports and lifestyle activities, but skiing and mountain biking are two of my favorites. There are a lot of similarities in shooting techniques between the two. They’re both adrenaline sports where you’re often focused on capturing speed, air, fun, and excitement in the shots. There are a few differences between shooting the two, starting with the light. When you’re shooting skiing everything around you is either white snow, blue sky or dark trees and rocks. It’s generally a bright environment with a lot of light, which is great for capturing vivid colors. With mountain biking, you have more variety of lighting situations to work with, from bright open areas, dark trees, and many shades of color in different environments. There can be a lot more contrast in the lighting, which is a challenge to get the right exposure but also opens up creative opportunities that you might not have with skiing.
R: When you’re on a shoot do you typically work with a set shot list or are you more spontaneous? Which do you prefer?
S: Every shoot is different, and the requirements can vary a lot depending on client and project needs, anywhere from a very detailed shot list to complete freedom to shoot any creative option I like. Both approaches have their plusses and minuses. I like the challenge, and the variety, to be able to shoot both ways. The set shot list limits your options but forces you to be creative with fewer options which can be rewarding when you come through for the client. It’s also great to have the freedom to shoot spontaneously and really push your creativity.
Image via Scott Markewitz
R: You’re an outdoorsman at heart. If you had one free day, what would you do with it outside?
S: I got into this as an athlete and still love to get out and play in the mountains regularly. In my free time, I either go skiing in the winter or mountain biking or trail running the rest of the year
R: What’s your favorite way to sweat?
S: I like to go uphill, so whether it’s biking, running or skiing as long as I’m going uphill, that’s my favorite way to sweat.
R: Do you have any tips for budding outdoor photographers?
S: Photography has changed so much in recent years, and is evolving rapidly all the time. There are more and more photographers getting into the business and the barriers to entry are getting lower, so it’s more competitive than ever. You can learn a lot by studying what’s out there and what kind of images are getting published, but to stand out in a crowded market your images must be technically proficient and you need to develop a style and vision that’s all your own. Get out there and shoot a lot, pay attention to details and shoot what you’re passionate about.
It’s a real challenge, a constant hustle, and you have to be dedicated to continually push yourself to improve your skills and expand your vision, but it’s an amazing way of life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Image via Scott Markewitz
To see more outstanding photography from Scott, follow him on Instagram: @scottmarkewitz