Insights and ideas from Scott Markewitz, Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® user
Action sports and lifestyle photographerVisit this innovator's website
Ready for action and adventure
Scott Markewitz has lived many places over the years, from California to England, but he settled in Salt Lake City, Utah, because everything he loves to do—skiing, mountain biking, and climbing—is nearby. A professional skier and model at a young age, he was in front of photographers and videographers as their subject. His interest in photography soon took hold. He has now been shooting professionally for more than 26 years. Here, Markewitz talks with Photoshop.com about his action photography as well as his decision to move into portraiture, lifestyle, and commercial photography, where he captures the essence of other adventure athletes.
Photoshop.com: Can you talk about your journey from professional skier to photographer?
Scott Markewitz: As a sports model and professional skier, I was very comfortable in front of the camera. But, after watching photographers at work for a while, I realized I also loved the process of capturing the right shot, so I started trying photography on my own. Although I took one photo class in college, just to get credit, I didn’t have any formal training. Instead, I preferred to experiment. With help from my connections, I found that my work was embraced and I was published quickly. I learned that my viewpoint as an athlete and part of the sporting and skiing world makes me approach action sports photography with a different understanding, and that comes out in my work. People say it has a more authentic feel to it.
Photoshop.com: What sports do you cover?
Scott Markewitz: I started out covering skiing and other winter sports including snowboarding, snowmobiling, and hockey. I soon moved to covering summer activities like mountain biking. Mountain biking was a natural step from skiing for something to do and shoot in the summer. There are many similarities in the action. They both involve speed, jumping, and mountains. And it's an activity that many skiers do in the off-season, so it's always been easy to find mountain bikers to shoot with. I’ve shot Richie Schley, Wade Simmons, Brett Tippie, and some of the early freeriders. Since then, I've stayed connected with the sport and have been able to shoot with most of the top riders progressing the sport every year.
Photoshop.com: You were known at first as an action photographer, but now you have a broader portfolio. Can you tell us more about the work you do?
Scott Markewitz: I love doing lifestyle and portrait work in addition to action sports photography. I think I have a knack for capturing the spirit of my subjects and really conveying what they are experiencing at the time. There’s a certain light behind their eyes—a sense of adventure and fearlessness that I try to convey in my shots. Those fleeting moments of emotion and human interaction shine through. When I capture them, it’s a tremendously rewarding feeling.
Photoshop.com: How would you define your style?
Scott Markewitz: It’s genuine. Whether I’m shooting action or lifestyle work, I try to keep it authentic, not posed or staged. I strive to capture a real moment in all of my shots. I want to document lively moments and feelings that draw the viewer into the shot. I want to show the joy that comes from being immersed in nature and doing things that many people on earth have never done. My experiences as an athlete have given me a new perspective on action photography. I did, and still do, what these amazing athletes do. I may be a bit slower and older, but I am immersed in what it’s all about.
Photoshop.com: What would you say to new action/adventure photographers who are starting out today?
Scott Markewitz: Action and adventure photography can get cookie cutter pretty quickly. It’s hard work and as a profession it can be difficult to make a mark. Advice-wise, I’d say stay in shape! When I’m doing action photography, I often have to ride two hours over some crazy technical bike trails with a heavy pack of photography equipment to get to where I’ll take the shot of the athlete. And of course, develop your own style—one that is recognizable at a glance. Make it stand out. And try to become part of the culture and the way of life. Whether you’re shooting skiing or baseball, you need to understand the sport and what viewers, athletes, and fans consider amazing. If you don’t understand the sport, then you won’t be able to capture its essence.
Photoshop.com: How does using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 software help with your action and lifestyle images?
Scott Markewitz: Lightroom is an easy-to-use tool that is very useful for giving images different treatments. A big hurdle in action shots is images shot in flat light or bad conditions. Lightroom helps me transform them into interesting and eye-catching images. I use it to balance highlights and shadows and mid-tones. I really love the ability to have presets and sync them to a whole batch of images—whether they involve bright light bouncing off snow or darker images of climbers—so I can get started on a level playing field and work through large numbers of images quickly.
I use the Develop module to process images, and then I export them as DNG files that I store in an archive on a server. I occasionally use the Slideshow, Print, and Web modules to show images to clients. The Graduated Filter and Adjustment Brushes are two of my favorite tools in Lightroom, because I can dodge and burn as I would in a traditional darkroom to help make shots that have extreme contrasts more intriguing and subtle.
Photoshop.com: You’ve provided a preset for our readers to download. Can you describe what it does?
Scott Markewitz: I created my Cool Winter preset to emulate a cool, desaturated look, and it works really well on a bright winter day when there is a lot of blue and white in the image. The idea is to desaturate the image with extra emphasis on the blue tones, add vibrance to enhance the desaturated blue tone, and play with the highlights and shadows to give the image the right balance of contrast and detail. Every image is different so I use all of my presets as a baseline and then adjust them individually to get the look that works best on each image.
Photoshop.com: Describe your Superman Seat Grab image and how you captured this shot?
Scott Markewitz: This is a shot of Paul Basagoitia performing a superman seat grab with his bike at his private training track in Minden, Nevada. It’s one of those shots where everything lined up exactly as I imagined before I shot it. We had been shooting all afternoon. As the sun went down, I asked Paul if he could do a few more jumps for me after I set up some strobes. He was skeptical because it was pretty dark at this point and the clouds were threatening to rain. But I assured him it would be a cool shot. This was the first frame we shot, and when he saw it, he went back and hit it at least 10 more times until it was really too dark for him to see the jumps anymore. What really grabs me about this shot is the way the lighting and composition come together perfectly. Paul's perfect position in the air above the shape and texture of the jump stand out perfectly against the layers of dramatic clouds, sky, and dark mountains in the background. This trick happens really fast and the timing is critical. It looks like he's flying through the air like Superman, but he actually snaps the bike out in front of him and brings it back to his feet in a flash, which makes it a tricky move to shoot with strobes. I was really happy that I nailed it on the first try.
Photoshop.com: Can you talk about your expansion into more commercial work?
Scott Markewitz: I started out mostly in editorial, but today I work a lot in commercial areas. I really enjoy the entire process of it. I get to be more involved in developing the initial set up for a shot based on what I envision the end result will look like. Shooting, seeing the results, and delivering the end image—there is nothing more rewarding for me than when a client is happy with the result and really feel it in their gut, too. I am always pushing the limits to develop a unique style, wherever I am, no matter what the conditions.
Photoshop.com: Are you using other Adobe apps to create your commercial work?
Scott Markewitz: Absolutely. It’s more important than ever to stay on top of current image trends and have the most up-to-date software. Getting new updates and features instantly as part of my Adobe Creative Cloud membership is a great advantage over having to constantly buy software upgrades. It helps me get the newest innovations quickly, as soon as they are available, rather than waiting for an entire new version to come out, and that’s wonderful. I already use Photoshop CC for some photo retouching, and I use Adobe Bridge, InDesign CC, Acrobat XI Pro, and Illustrator CC software for portfolio layouts. So everything I need is available in Creative Cloud.
Photoshop.com: What’s next for you?
Scott Markewitz: I’m very interested in moving into video with Adobe Premiere Pro CC and After Effects CC software. They are included in Creative Cloud, which is great—no extra expense! I have a good understanding of how video is set up and I know the post-production process, so I’m ready to roll when I have time. So stay tuned. My aesthetic will probably never change, but it’s going to be exciting to see what happens when it’s put into motion.