Meet Scott Markewitz
- Scott Markewitz: Recognized as one of the most influential outdoor photographers in the industry. He has traveled the globe with an unfailing eye in search of action and outdoor adventure in some of the most dramatic locations on Earth.
- Motto: “Smooth is fast” – It’s more productive to take the time you need to set up the shot and get it right the first time.
- Client list: Adobe, HP, Tag Heuer, J Crew, Charles Schwab, Salomon, Mountain Hardwear, Red Bull, Thule, Oakley, Specialized, Descente, Giro and many others. Scott’s images have been featured on more than 400 US and International magazine covers.
- Awards: World’s Greatest Adventure Photographers (Men’s Journal), Ski Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Skiers of All Time list, and Ski Utah’s Excellence in Journalism Award recipient. Additional awards from the APA, PDN, The International Pano Awards, and The Spider Awards.
- Scott lives with his wife, Veronique, and their son, Julien, in Salt Lake City, Utah and Provence, France.
Case Study Breakdown
Client :: Mammut North America
Creative :: Falcon Productions
Job Description :: Shoot a project series on Mammut ambassadors (all mountain guides or mountain safety professionals), to show how Mammut products help keep them and their clients safe, and how they approach safety in their personal and professional lives.
The Project :: Falcon Productions, a production company I helped start with a long time producer friend, was hired by Mammut North America to shoot a project series about Mammut ambassadors called “The Safety Keepers”. We did the first shoot in January with Holly Walker, a mountain guide in BC, but the rest were postponed due to scheduling conflicts and Covid. I worked as DP on the video and shot all photos on this shoot.
Behind the Scenes
- The first challenge with this shoot was scheduling. Holly is a busy guide, in high demand, and booked pretty solid through the winter, so it was difficult to find a big enough block of time for us to be able to shoot the content we needed. We finally agreed on a 4 day window in mid-January where we would have 2 days exclusively with her and 2 days to shadow her with a client. It was a tight timeline, but just enough if everything went well
We arrived in Whistler to bitterly cold temps and a lot of snow in the forecast. After a day to prep and meet with Holly, we started out the next day in the dark for a 2 hour drive north to Mt Rohr, a popular backcountry ski destination. It was -23C when we started out from the trailhead, and with a long day ahead in the backcountry, everyone had to be vigilant to stay warm, keep an eye on each other and avoid frostbite. We hiked 3,000 vertical feet uphill for almost 3 hours through thick forest to reach the summit ridge where we planned to ski down on some open powder slopes back to the road. Even with normal temps, this day would be a big challenge, but the cold added an extra layer to that (no pun intended).
The days are short in BC in January and you can only go so fast hiking uphill with 40-50 lbs of camera gear on your back, so we had to be really efficient with our time and only shoot what was essential to telling the story. Rather than rushing in these situation, I try to follow the motto, ’smooth is fast’. It’s more productive to take the time you need to set up the shot and get it right the first time. It was a challenge keeping hands, feet and faces from freezing, but it wasn’t too bad as long as we kept moving and minimized setup times between shots. At least the snowfall had backed off and there was sunlight breaking through the cloudy skies to give the shots an ethereal quality. After getting some skinning, product and establishing shots on the ridge we made our way down the mountain, leapfrogging sections of the slope to get some action ski shots, and moving safely one at a time to minimize the avalanche danger. There was some tricky skiing along the way, but we made it back to the road before dark to finish off a challenging but productive first day.
The next day, Holly was booked with a client, so we all met at a local coffee shop and headed up Whistler Mountain for what was supposed to be an easy day of ski touring. When we got to the mid mountain lodge, the winds were ripping at 40+ mph and the upper mountain was closed. We made the best of it by shooting guide/client interaction in the lodge while we waited it out. After a couple of hours, the winds abated and we were able to ride to the top of the mountain, where we hiked out of bounds in search of some untracked powder skiing. The temps had warmed slightly to single digits, but the wind was howling and the top of the mountain was covered in clouds, so we had to make our way in a cold white out. There wasn’t much to shoot in these conditions, but eventually we found a protected slope in the trees, below the clouds and had a great, but short session. With the earlier delays, we were way behind schedule and had to cut the shoot short, and after a long trek back, it was dark by the time we made it back to the base. After two long, cold, strenuous days in the backcountry, we took a much needed break from the mountain the following day to focus on interviews and personal lifestyle. These were important shots, but the challenge was that Holly had to guide her client again all day and we weren’t able to start shooting until 5pm.
All “Behind the Scenes” shots courtesy of Scott Markewitz
The next day was clear with calm winds and normal winter temps. The sun was shining, the mountains were covered in fresh snow and it was a perfect day to shoot. There were so many incredible shots to be had, but since this was the last day of the shoot and we had a fairly long list of shots that still needed to be accomplished, the challenge was to avoid getting sidetracked and just focus on the essential shots. It was a methodical process, running down the list one shot at time and getting it done, but as much as we hated passing up other incredible shots, it proved to be a really effective strategy and allowed us to wrap up the shoot with enough content for a complete edit.
- Every shoot in the mountains brings a unique set of challenges, including unpredictable weather and the physical and technical challenges of moving around with heavy camera gear.
- This shoot with Holly pushed our limits in many ways, but we were able to adapt to these challenges as a group and come out of it with a successful shoot.
- It’s important to go into a shoot like this with a solid plan, and then be ready to blow it apart and pivot to make the best of whatever the situation throws at you.